It was the 4th March, when I walked into a room full of beautiful vibrant women. Straight away I felt at ease as their spirit was warm and their faces were inviting. They all smiled at me.
One lady said ‘Hi General’. I was surprised and humbled that they knew who I was.
I had arrived a bit early, so I had the pleasure of sitting in on their meeting. Silvia Petretti, an activist for women with HIV who had organised the event had the floor Her passion for the cause was clear to see. I sat back in excitement and admiration.
She gave me the floor and we got to Strutting! I delivered a 2-hour STRUT Masterclass, teaching the women how to own their space and walk confidently in their stilettos. Mind you most of them were in trainers.
We went through the dress rehearsal with fun and sass - the transformation was incredible. These were women who had never strutted down the catwalk before. Some were more nervous than others, but with coaching and Chaka Khan Im every woman playing in the background, the ladies began to relax and have fun.
They were stepping outside their comfort zone and grew with every strut. We strutted, posed, laughed and recited affirmations together, such as I AM HERE and Amandla Awethu, which means The Power Is Ours. Together we created a safe supportive space. The room was full of encouragement, passion and love for one another. I felt totally connected with the women straight away.
With just a few days to go until The Power Catwalk I left there confident knowing they were going to ace it. But nothing could of prepared me for the overwhelming feeling of love I felt on the day as I watched in front row these beautiful women STRUT down the catwalk.
Tears rolled down my face as I watched each and every one of them strut into their power. And in that moment, I knew this was much bigger than me. In that moment, I knew this was where I was supposed to be! It’s funny because, although individually they applaud me for my good work, it was they who had taught me. It was they who inspired me, and it is those women who made me want to be a better woman.
We were also entertained by beautiful African dancing from the women and heard beautiful words by poet and activist Bakita Kasadha. Her poems can be found here www.bakitakk.com
It was a powerful and informative evening - their message was clear. They were not weak, feeble victims. They were strong women on a mission to get rid of the perception that women with HIV are weak. Many people share a misconception on what its like to be a woman living with HIV. Many of these women with HIV face violence, poverty and stigma. This day, they showed unity and strength. Women are the second largest group to have HIV, with over 30,000 women living in the UK, the largest in Europe. Please visit www.positivelyuk.org for more information. They run a great support group and other amazing services.
I speak a lot on owning your space and growing through what you go through and that night I saw the words come alive. I have never met a bunch of women who were as brave, courageous and beautiful as the women I saw that night strutting against stigma. They were loud and proud. I AM HERE!!!!
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