Why am I not part of my city’s map?

Most of the time, women and girls are left out of conversations. When a city is created, it is created on the emotional and physical labour of women and girls. Women are the ones who do the unpaid care work, who ensure that we are still able to live decent lives in ever increasing expensive city life.   But nobody asks us what we want. How would we like our cities to be? What is that amazing city we would like to create?

At Hidden Pockets, I am trying to create sustainable cities where our stories are also taken into consideration. I want women from marginalised communities, to be part of this work towards creating cities that we would like to build.

In my project with Hidden Pockets, I wanted to specifically work with young positive girls and bring their narratives to the idea of a city. I live in one of the most technologically advanced cities in India, Bangalore, but I don't see women and girls taking any spaces in decision making. I wanted to change that and bring these voices of these girls to the places that matter.

HIV is often a taboo subject. Even within the Sexual and Reproductive Health discussion, there often seems to be separate conversations around HIV that are not integrated into the larger conversations. This exclusion often means that young girls living with HIV are not a part of  these conversations.

Sitting in Bangalore, India trying to find a health service that caters  to the sexual and reproductive health of a young positive girl is not an easy task.  In my project I decided to use the collective knowledge of the positive girls and their experiences for the auditing exercise of these clinics. We would walk around in our city, looking for clinics that provided both Anti Retroviral Treatment as well as sexual and reproductive health services.

When you are a female from a  third world country, your health needs are not seen as a priority. We are not used to asking for our rights. Doctors don’t treat us with respect and visiting a health doctor is often associated with shame. It is an incredibly difficult situation.

What we really need is a language, a language around health, a language around rights and the girls  in project think this is all crazy. The girls and me slowly developed a communication channel between us and were able to open up and talk about issues that are affecting them.

Once we were comfortable with each other. We decided to go ahead and visit the clinics that provided services on Sexual and Reproductive Health. The mere visual of young girls heading towards a Sexual and Reproductive Health clinic, trying to meet a doctor and a counsellor was simply put, radical. These girls were hopeful and genuinely wanted to have better lives.

What we were able to find was a list of doctors spread across our city and map it across for us to know which are the spaces they could feel safe and go ahead and access to services.

These young girls were trying to ensure that their positive status was not going to come in between their right to access to good health services. The shy positive girls had come a long long way. They were out in the communities, auditing health clinics in their cities and ensuring their demands are reflected in the clinics.

By Jasmine Lovely George

#StoriesofAdvocacy