In 2016 we embarked on a journey to figure out in community how we could be of deeper service. We scaled deep if you will, grew deeper roots in community, and we called this journey – The Listening Campaign.
Listening can be radical.
[…]“I am not going to help you because you have HIV and you are a refugee. To receive services, you need to pay $100 and up.”
[…]“You know this room is expensive, but we will give it to you for free because we do not need you to stay together with other people in the room and use the same bathroom.”
See. We Canadians like to think we are nice…and in Edmonton, we love to think that we are “All in this together”. But, when we listen…truly listen, with our full hearts and from the future. When we attend to our shadow, we begin the real work of positive social change. So, we listened in this way, sensing and piecing together stories from people of African Descent across the province.
The silence about Women of African Descent living with HIV in Alberta is deafening once you pay attention to it. In the Ribbon Rouge Foundation’s listening campaign, there were these maddening anecdotes that made one’s stomach churn. So, we got curious about literature on the topic in Alberta to guide our advocacy work. And there was more silence there too. Of course, we had to fix this! We set out to run a PhotoVoice project across the province to listen specifically to Women of African Descent living with HIV.
So far, we affirmed that right here and right now in Edmonton, Alberta, Women of African Descent Living with HIV face: Mistreatment in Health Care Settings, Lack of Confidentiality in Health Care Settings, Health Care Providers’ Incompetence, Difficulties related to immigration and processing, Stigma and Discrimination.
We learned about their Strengths too:
[…]“some days I feel so broken but when I look at that child even (though) I will think about worst things in my life it just stops when that child smiling that’s why I said god know why he gave me that child she is so …she brings so much light to my life she gives me a reason to live as a mother”
[…] “what keep going is my self-confidence I have so much confidence in myself I never called myself a weak I called myself a strong woman every day before I go to bed I give myself a pat on my back even someday I will talk to people and people will look at me as if I am going crazy but they don’t know”
And in community conversations, we learned about the Strategies that they implement to thrive. We are thankful for community social supports.
In listening, we felt deeply with them that sense of resilience and self-determination that many of us were both born and grown in:
[…] “my children and my ambition and my goals in life and I tell myself okay I can I can arrive. I have three children and my children need me I cannot afford to be depressed and then no ja that’s it. My goals I say no I want to do that I want to be that no rise you can there is something that tells me you can you are able you can do it get up it’s over”
Women of African Descent living with HIV in our PhotoVoice project also described their main facilitators to be Service provision and some of their Pre-Migration experiences:
[…] “most it is friends exactly I am a sociable person and I communicate have lot of friends around like […] and everyone like they are mixed from church, from my workplace, from HIV Edmonton[…] I am not as visible that they know about my diagnosis so I am just living a normal life in their eyes either them I don’t know about them we just know each other and then sometimes we go for massage together we go and do some games something like that so that keeps me going”
And though it is a relief that Women of African Descent living with HIV have found these strengths, strategies and facilitators to thrive here in Edmonton, imagine when we live such that being invisible is no longer a facilitator for wellbeing. How might we achieve that Edmonton?
It is World AIDS Day and one of the 16 days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence today.
How will you show up today?
Ribbon Rouge Foundation
#WorldAidsDay #16DaysOfActivism #EliminateGenderBasedViolence #ToZeroNewHIV #ToZeroAIDS #ToZeroMTCT #activism #HIVawareness
Quotes from – The Lived Experiences of African, Caribbean, Black Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Alberta: Barriers, Strengths, Strategies, and Facilitators Community-Based Photovoice Research Final Report. Submitted to Ribbon Rouge Foundation and the Status of Women Alberta by the researchers affiliated to the School of Social Work, Faculty of Health and Community Studies, MacEwan University who conducted the study.
August 30, 2020
This project was approved by the MacEwan University Research Ethics Board on July 09, 2019 to July 08, 2020 (Renewed June 08, 2020 to June 8, 2021).If you have questions regarding your rights as a participant, please contact MacEwan University Research Ethics Board at 780-497-4280 or REB@macewan.ca