By Naimah Oneal, Regional Co-Chair, PWN-USA-Ohio
I came to Fort Walton Beach with great expectations about the PWN-USA Summit, and learned that I am surrounded by some amazing women.
I stepped off the plane to a beautiful surrounding with palm trees and sunshine that I had time to enjoy before the bus took me and other women to the hotel. I have been to summits and conferences, but I have never been to a summit that was totally planned, supported and presented by fierce women living with HIV and their allies. To experience that will forever hold a place in a heart, mind and soul. My only regret is that more women from Ohio could not attend the Summit. This is a goal of PWN-USA-Ohio.
The workshops that I attended were outstanding and I believe that HIV criminaliztion was by far the best workshop – just behind a great workshop entitled #StompOnStigma. A lot of the information I have read in emails, but I was unaware of some of the work and women that belong to PWN-USA. They are knowledgeable, fierce, and making their voices heard in this country and the world. I saw firsthand the board, the staff, and our kick-ass Executive Director of PWN-USA. Talking on the phone is one thing, but a face-to-face view is priceless. I was amazed by how women become involved with PWN-USA, grow within the supported walls of PWN-USA, and continue to encourage other women to see that the sky and beyond is the limits of what can be done with your life. I had never been to a beach, but more important, I was in a place surrounded by women all about the work of assisting all women to find and raise their voices to the world.
“Nothing About Us without US” is something that has lifted me to new levels of awareness within myself. And people say that when a bunch of women gets together, there is always trouble. Well these people have never met the amazing women of PWN-USA. We come from all walks of life, together creating a collective voice for women living with HIV. We run agencies, boardrooms, sit on presidential advisory boards, and have our own businesses. I was surrounded by women sharing their stories of encouragement, strength, and unfading commitment to ensuring women with HIV, including themselves, fight for the rights of women and girls to be heard. “Nothing about Us without US.”
Lastly we networked, played, and shared tears together. I loved the experience of the PWN-USA Summit because it had so much to offer. “Nothing About Us without US” is a fitting way to end this blog. I came with health issues of my own and left feeling better, because my soul had been transformed. My body still had issues but my soul has found strength to continue on in the fight. “Nothing About Us without US”!