Magazine article Connexions

International Networking: Good for All Activists

Magazine article Connexions

International Networking: Good for All Activists

Article excerpt

Taiwan

(An interview with Ni Chia-Chen of the Awakening Foundation by Connexions, August 1994.)

Ni Chia-Chen is an AIDS activist working with the Awakening Foundation, a Taiwan feminist non-governmental foundation. Chia-Chen has been organizing around women's issues since she left university to work with the Women's Rescue Foundation. She is undertaking an AIDS education internship this fall in California before returning to Taiwan.

Q: Tell us about the 1994 AIDS Conference in Japan. Did you go as a representative of a specific organization?

A: Yes, the Awakening Foundation. It was established in 1982, but before 1987 it was primarily focused on publishing our magazine. After 1987 it became a foundation. It is the oldest and biggest feminist group in Taiwan.

Q: Was there much focus on women and AIDS at the conference?

A: I think women were just another one of the issues in relation to AIDS. They didn't especially focus on women and AIDS. The Conference was divided into four tracks. The A track was Basic Science, the B track was Clinical Science and Care, the C track was Epidemiology and Prevention, and the D track was Impact, Social Response, and Education. Of the four, the Committee seemed more concerned with how to develop a vaccine. More concerned with medical theories and clinical care. I could tell by the conference room arrangements. Tracks A and B used the large conference rooms. C and D, well, the plenary in human rights and AIDS was in a very small room, so most of us were standing or in the aisles or outside watching it on a TV.

There were three different presentations in this hall and each of them complained that the Committee wasn't concerned with their issues.

If they discuss women and AIDS, they should focus on the complex relationships between women and their social environment. The question of gender roles. But instead they just categorize women like every other category of at risk for AIDS--drug users, prostitutes, pregnant women.

Q: Did you encounter much pan-Asian organizing among women at the conference?

A: I didn't see much of women organizing. I was just one person attending by myself. I think I missed some things. Other organizations had more than one person attending. There were some small groups, like the Asian Gays and Lesbians, that did meet. There's an International Research Center on Women in Washington, DC that is sponsored by the US and WHO. It's quite clear that at the conference most of the women presenters had their research funded by the WHO or UN. I think most of them have very mainstream views.

For example, when I first saw the list of panels, I chose what to attend. I found one section about women controlling AIDS prevention. I heard not one word on how women can be in control or prevent AIDS. It was just like the government's pronouncements: "Don't be promiscuous. Don't have sex before you get married." I was quite disappointed. It's not women-control, it's government-control or expert-control.

There was another about female condoms as used in an African trial. It was organized by a male doctor, He said that the rate of use was almost 100 percent, but I don't think so. I saw some report that said it was hard to use, that it has technical problems and has to be improved.

Q: Do you think there should be more international organizing by women about AIDS?

A: Yes. This was something that had an impact on my attending the conference. AIDS prevention work has only started in the last two years in Taiwan. When I attended the conference, it made me think about organizing. I saw other countries who have struggled with AIDS for so long. I think we can learn from their experience. If we want to organize an international network, we must first work on the local level. Less-developed countries and developed countries have different situations and cultural backgrounds, social environments, histories of social movements, and concepts of human rights. …

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