The Catwalk for Power, Resilience and Hope – an initiative started by women with HIV in London for International Women’s Day 2018– is going global next week with a workshop at The International AIDS Conference, in Amsterdam. Here is Laura’s account of why the Catwalk for Power is important.
After diagnosis, I lost my confidence and self-esteem. I couldn’t get myself to think I deserved the best in life.
Being part of the Catwalk for Power was transformative, it was organic; it was us, women living with HIV, everyday women who can often be overwhelmed with social inequalities and intersections that can make us underestimate our abilities, who lead and created the event. Everyday women who sometimes forget how much skills and resources we have as individuals and as a community.
When we started with the idea of the Catwalk for Power, we had no clue how exactly it was going to pan out, as we had no blueprint and we were struggling with finances. But we used our life experiences as individuals, mothers, professionals, peers, self-managers, activists etc., as we went on from organising one workshop to the other.
We all had journeys of self- discovery, finding out what we had forgotten we could do, what we didn’t know we could do, or reaffirming what we knew we could do. Using validation, and encouragement, we gave each of us a chance to participate and make decisions and contribute according to our abilities, taking on bigger roles, building confidence. Week after week, we were like flower buds opening up a little bit more.
We learnt, we socialized we had fun, we challenged each other and we supported each other. Naturally we had moments of doubt and dips in confidence, but we found innovative and creative ways around them. As always, we were resilient and determined to self-care, look after ourselves, and see ourselves as deserving women, who often put other people first.
We had a variety of workshops to give each woman a choice and a chance to express herself the best way she could: we did hand crafts, watched films, discussed and found spaces to play, to be ourselves, ease off.
On the 7th of March 2018, the day of the Catwalk, for the first time since I was diagnosed I felt pride! Pride at being a woman living with HIV and having the opportunity to be part of this incredible group of resilient women who created a valuable safe place. By creating the Catwalk, we invented a space where to meet each other, search, find, be creative and empower ourselves,
We all strutted our stuff on the catwalk that day, even those who had no plans of walking until then, did: because at that moment, we realized that we are all deserving. We are already enough as we are. We are truly worthy.
Now, I will be part of the delegation taking the Catwalk for Power to the global scene at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam – and yes you can still support us by donating here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/catwalk4power. This is something that a year ago I would not have believed I could do… I am now looking forward to the future, full of possibilities, my personal life, career and outlook in life have changed because I have finally started to believe I truly deserve it … this is what the Catwalk for Power has been about for me: we didn’t wait for anyone; we did it ourselves by ourselves. We created an enabling environment as women living with HIV to remind ourselves of who we really are, finding the power within ourselves and our community as women!
What we achieved was a big lesson for me about the power of grassroots, taking ownership, creativity, community, sustainable women spaces, collective will and partnerships.
WE ARE HERE!
Bakita, the activist and young poet who introduced us on the night said; “WE ARE TAKING UP SPACE” because THE POWER IS OURS
Commissioners and providers of services, policy makers and all other stakeholders need to work in partnership with women living with HIV to actively support and fund sustainable women centred peer spaces. These spaces are essential in building women’s leadership and capacity to effectively participate in the decisions affecting us, and in enabling us to live well with HIV
The Catwalk of Power Workshop
22nd International AIDS Conference – Amsterdam
Tuesday 24th July
11:00 am 12:30 pm
Global Village Youth Pavilion
The Catwalk for Power is a collaborative initiative supported by Act Up London and Positively UK.