INTERSECT HIV / VIOLENCE
AGAINST WOMEN & GIRLS PROJECT
must address power imbalances in every single policy, strategy
and programme related to prevention, treatment and care, if
we seriously want to tackle this global challenge. It is not
simply a matter of justice and fairness. In this case, gender
inequality is fatal."
- Noeleen Heyzer, Executive director for Unifem
INTERSECT has been created to find new and innovative ways of addressing HIV/AIDS, Violence Against Women and Girls, and the social ills that allow these co-epidemics to flourish so relentlessly across the global landscape. I am a writer and an activist both of which give me great joy and the freedom to express myself. Over the years it has been my privilege to join those working to change the social environment in which such injustices thrive.
I was drafted into the AIDS
Movement in the early nineteen eighties when friends and colleagues
in the performing and visual arts came down with a mysterious illness.
Workshops I facilitated and a series of trainings I had designed about creativity at the Actors Institute where I worked, were easily adapted to fit the circumstances. After all, what could require more creativity than facing your mortality? The workshops were called
The AIDS Mastery Workshops. By Mastery I mean simply that the difficult
circumstances of our lives do not define us, they become content
in the whole context of our lives. In other words, you have AIDS.
It doesn't have you.
Two friends, Victor Phillips, his life partner Chuck Baier, (both died of AIDS many years ago) and I founded Northern Lights Alternatives, an international network of AIDS agencies to support the work. Victor was from Montana.
He said that when he was a little boy watching the beautiful display
of light that plays over the northern skies of the planet he had
thought they were a real miracle, and that even as an adult, knowing
the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis was a result of natural
occurrences, his wonder never diminished. Well, that's how I feel
about people with AIDS and those impacted by HIV/AIDS in a myriad
of ways. This community of creative people, working to master
their challenges does so as a matter of course, of growth, sometimes
survival. It is a natural occurrence; nonetheless it has always
seemed and remains today, miraculous to me. The human spirit is
one of our greatest awe-inspiring gifts.
As the years
rolled by more and more women came into the workshops that were,
by the late eighties, being done in over thirty cities in the US,
UK and Canada, and with them came their stories. Personal stories
had always been a powerful piece of the work, but
these women presented a certain theme of their own.
Violence. Many of these women had never
told their stories before. They had never talked about the violence
they endured in childhood, or the violent episode of their infection
or the rapes they survived, or the brutality they suffered from
those who were prejudiced against them because of their condition.
For those who worked in the sex trade or those who were remanded
to drug treatment and then to the workshop through the courts, life
was particularly perilous.
I longed to
do something to address this violence. Then along came "The
Vagina Monologues," which impacted audiences in ways I had
never seen before, so when its playwright Eve Ensler wanted to use
it to do something to end violence I came on board to exercise latent
theater skills and Produce benefit performances of the play for
V-Day, the organization that Eve founded to raise awareness about
violence against women and raise money to support groups working
in the field. I played many roles in V-Day including Director, event
producer and creator of their Worldwide Initiative (now the Worldwide
Campaign), but never was able to leave AIDS work or AIDS activism behind. It was with a seed grant from V-Day that I was able to start up
INTERSECT, brining both HIV/AIDS and Violence Against Women and
Girls into the proximity that reflects their reality.
INTERSECT began in South Africa. Two statistics about women there caught my attention: One in five South African Women can expect to be raped. And 40% of those raped can expect to be infected. The urgency of the situation there called to me as did the serendipitous appearance of people who knew someone working in the field from South Africa, had worked in South Africa, had a best friend with AIDS in South Africa, came from South Africa and knew everybody, or who like Betsi Pendri, Founder of the Living Together Project there and instrumental in initially setting things up for me, lived in both places. Suddenly I started meeting South Africans at UN and other conferences, in my travels and at parties. I already had friends in India working in related movements so one thing led to another, and then another, and then another, the results of which are revealed in the following pages of this website where you can learn how to get involved with an Intersect Coalition, start one, or become otherwise involved in making your world a safer and saner place.
~ Sally Fisher