The adage that African women are the conduits of change was at play during the dinner hosted by the Right to Know African Communities Program. The event saw over 25 African women come together to celebrate and to support the Right to Know project.
The dinner was a social event for Calgary’s African women from different countries to share their ideas and experiences with HIV and AIDS. This group of women, representing 13 African countries and ranged in age from 21 to 70, enjoyed a fun filled evening in a casual manner. These women discussed how their communities are responding to the HIV messages that AIDS Calgary is sending to them through the Right to know project.
The collective support of the project was expressed by most, if not all. A 70 year old grandmother and retired teacher from Zimbabwe challenged the women that, “It takes women to change social and cultural beliefs of our communities. If we do not learn enough about this disease and teach our families on how to protect themselves, the burden will ultimately fall squarely on us as wives, mothers and grandmothers to care for the members of our families that will be affected through lack of knowledge. In our African culture, women are the ones who take care of all the family members when they are healthy or when they fall sick”.
A young Sudanese woman pointed out the belief by most youth that the disease is for older people and also mentioned that youth think they are invincible.
Another member of the group recommended that doctors and nurses in health delivery system receive training on HIV because “most of them know very little about the disease. We as Africans are often getting a raw deal when we visit health care centres. They always assume we are infected because we are from endemic countries. The Canadians are also at risk because they have communities where there are high rates of drug use. We should all be urged to go for testing. This is not a blame game. The disease does not care who you are or where you are from. Collective responsibility is called for here and we all should fight this disease together” she emphasized.
The group of women suggested another get together in summer. They wish to share more information on HIV and AIDS while doing beadwork and exploring art work from their different countries.