Author: Eleanor Gall

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Refugees Are Welcome

A couple of weeks ago, on a grey, rainy Sunday, I walked up to my front door to find a little crowd gathered outside. There was music coming from speakers on the pavement and two young men stood on ladders, painting on the wall beside the Indian restaurant below my apartment. A few hours later they were finished. People stopped and looked up as they walked past and pointed it out to children who tilted little heads back to take in its scale. People stood and talked and took photos with their phones. The painting shows a mass of people and faces, in orange, yellow, black and brown. Around the people there are outlines of houses, or maybe they could be tents, and on those in thick black capital letters it says “Refugees Are Welcome”, “Support Calais Jungle”, and “Homes for Humans”. That last one is repeated several times. I Instagrammed it, hashtagged StreetArtLondon, and felt a pride that I knew was unjustifiable. I ignored that bit. I basked in the easy, cosy warmth of …

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How to Reduce Violence? Celebrate the Young Women Who Do It Every Day

Wherever you are in the world, statistics on gender-based violence are overwhelming – if not terrifying. At a time when 1 in 3 women will experience some form of violence over the course of her life, reducing the figures can seem like an insurmountable task. For an individual especially, it’s all too easy to feel like no match for a problem of this scale. But there is a simple thing we can all do to make a difference; we can celebrate the young people who are increasingly choosing to devote their time, energy and skills to eliminating violence and protecting vulnerable people in their communities. Young people like 25-year-old student, Stephanie Moniz. Stephanie is currently studying for a Masters in Clinical Counseling Psychology at Brenau University, and as part of that she’s completing an internship at Gateway Domestic Violence Center. When she’s not in class or doing her internship, she spends her time working at the shelter as an employee. I talked to her about her studies, her work, and her thoughts on gender-based violence. So first of all, can you tell me a bit about your internship? …

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The Role of Youth: Reflections from #AIDS2016

“We need to give young people a seat at the table” was a phrase I heard frequently at the 2016 International AIDS Conference  in Durban last month. It’s a frequently heard phrase at other conferences too, and in meetings or discussions which include youth participation. The strange thing is, the more often I hear it, or read it in an article or see it in a Tweet, the less I feel sure of what the person using it is actually talking about. What does it really mean, to give young people a seat at the table? And are we doing it well? Are increasing numbers of young people well-positioned to engage and participate in issues that affect their lives or the lives of their peers? During #AIDS2016 I spoke with many young people – attending the conference in a whole range of capacities and from all over the world – about youth participation in the fight against HIV/AIDS. None of them mentioned seats at tables. What they talked about were concrete examples of how, when and why young people could and should contribute to the global …

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What We Need to Know About HIV & Adolescent Girls

The term ‘adolescent girls’ encompasses, in theory, all those aged 10-24. In reality, the lower section of that age bracket – the 10-19 year olds specifically – receive the least attention and are therefore the least comprehensively catered for when it comes to HIV/AIDS information and services. So what do we know? There is no country in the world where we don’t have adolescents living with HIV, and adolescent girls remain disproportionately affected. There are 990,000 girls between 10-19 years old living with HIV globally. For boys of the same age, that figure drops to 770, 000. Every hour, 26 adolescents are infected with HIV – two thirds of these are girls. Adolescent AIDS-related deaths are increasing. Very young adolescents are generally overlooked, since at this age they face a relatively low burden of disease. However, 10-14 is a critical life phase for shaping future health and development. And what don’t we know? There are HUGE differences between 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 year old girls, but we don’t have data that represents those differences by being divided up into …

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To #EndHIV4Her: Tackle Child Marriage

To say that child marriage and HIV among adolescents are linked feels a lot like stating the obvious. But I learned today, at Day 3 of the 2016 International AIDS Conference, there is very little formal knowledge to back that claim up. The overarching message from this morning’s discussion was a simple one; it is really difficult, if not totally impossible, to tackle HIV unless you tackle child marriage. On the one hand, girls and young women make up approximately two out of every 3 new HIV infections among people aged 10-24 years. On the other, 15 million girls per year are married before they turn 18. Two global problems of colossal scale with two sets of similar causes; gender inequality, poverty, rigid social norms, lack of education, inaccessible health information and services. And yet until recently, the relationship between the two has remained pretty much ignored. It was even suggested at one point that this session may well be a historic moment – recognition at last of their interwoven nature. Girls Not Brides, who hosted the panel, have created a fact …

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Welcome to #AIDS2016!

This week, 18,000 people will gather in Durban, South Africa for the 2016 International AIDS Conference. It’s the largest conference on any global health or development issue in the world, and this year marks its return to Durban for the first time since 2000. The progress that’s been made in that time is undeniable, and worthy of celebration. In 2000, fewer than 700,000 people received antiretroviral medicines; today, 15 million people have access to this lifesaving treatment, and HIV infections have declined 35 percent. But it’s far too soon to declare victory on this pandemic; there’s a lot to be done. Many of the obstacles that stood in the way of effective prevention and treatment in 2000 stand there, stubbornly, still in our way today. There is a seemingly endless list of pressing items to discuss in Durban this week. There are many groups of people marginalized and under-prioritized in our current global response. But the AIDS-free world that everyone attending or following the conference this week feels so passionately about achieving is only possible if we address the …

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To Teenage Girls: Compliments Are Good For You

Caitlin Moran writes a column in the Times Magazine every Saturday and very often I buy the paper so that I can read it, and every week that I read it I enjoy it, because Caitlin Moran is A Very Good Writer. Last weekend I was reading it in a café, when all of a sudden tears choked me. Then they poured silently down my cheeks, which made those around me start edging their chairs sideways a bit. The column – addressed to under-confident, compliment-dodging teenage girls – was so accurate, so completely spot on, that I couldn’t take my eyes or my mind off the words. From the grand and wise perch that is 24-years-old, I think about my teenage self the way you might think of an old friend you have gradually drifted apart from, but remain very fond of all the same. When I think of her, I mainly laugh at her, because she wore exceptionally large quantities of eyeliner that made her look a bit like a raccoon. I roll my (more …

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Talking About Gender-Based Violence Shouldn’t Be Unconventional

Earlier this month, Marai Larasi told a room full of people that it’s time to “reground ourselves.” “We seem,” she said, “to have forgotten that violence against women and girls is not inevitable. Systemic and stubborn, certainly, but not inevitable.” The message from the Women Deliver Conference was a familiar one: silence surrounding gender based violence must be broken. It continues to hang too thickly and too heavily. Under it’s weight lurks that same awful statistic: 1 in 3 women have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. And yet, as Vivian Onano so simply stated: “We’re not supposed to talk about it.” How can such smothering silence possibly be broken? “We must,” continued Onano, “work harder to create safe and open spaces to discuss violence against women and girls.” It sounds so simple in theory–a no-brainer. In the same session, Larasi said that “we cannot underestimate the ripple effect of pushing against the tide.” This may well be the case, but the fact remains that even talking about gender based violence constitutes pushing against …

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“Shake S**t Up!”: Kiran Gandhi Talks Stigma

Yesterday morning I stopped by a small shop. I had woken up to my period in the most inconvenient of all it’s forms – the surprise period – so I didn’t have anything in the way of supplies. I picked up a box of tampons, but my heart sank when I saw three men standing behind the counter. I thought maybe I would put the box down. Or maybe I could pick up lots of other things to buy too, as distractions? Or maybe I didn’t even need them, maybe it wasn’t even a proper period? Nope, stomach cramps and inexplicable levels of sweating, definitely for real. Aware of my own absurdity, I told myself I was an idiot and paid, avoiding eye contact with the man behind the desk who picked up the box like you might do an undetonated bomb in your family home. Fast forward a few hours and I sat down to a series of Women Deliver “TED-style” talks. I was excited to see Kiran Gandhi’s name on the list – …

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Story Power

As I travelled to work last week, mentally racing through the growing list of things I had left to do before departing for Copenhagen, I absent-mindedly opened the book I had been filling my train journeys with. On the first page I read, the protagonist describes being told a magical tale by an older sibling. He says: “That story, as all good stories, planted a seed in my soul and never left me.” (The Fishermen, Chigozie Obioma, 2015) I heard those words as though someone was speaking them aloud in my ear, then read them again, but more slowly, in that deliberate way you only ever bother to do when words make perfect sense or no sense at all. They summed up, more eloquently than I ever could, the reason I first began reading Girls’ Globe’s posts, the reason I now love blogging as part of the team, and the reason I believe a global moment like the Women Deliver Conference is so incredibly important to creating a better and fairer world for women and …