For our special World AIDS Day 2011 series on women and girls in HIV responses, NGO Delegate for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mabel Bianco, reports on the problems of implementing the Global Fund’s gender strategy and advocates for ways the Global Fund can ensure its Strategy speaks to and for women and integrates their needs in the HIV response.
The Global Fund’s Gender Equality Strategy, implemented as of 2009, recognizes the staggering gender inequalities that fuel the HIV, TB and malaria epidemics and aims to strengthen the response to the three diseases for women and girls through increased funding of programs and activities that address gender inequalities and the creation of mechanisms for increasing their participation in these programs and in the structure of the Global Fund.
But, what are the opinions of women around the globe, who it is supposed to target, on how successful this has been? This is the question that drove the creation of a virtual consultation and focus groups to find out the views, experiences and recommendations of diverse women working on the ground in the response to the epidemics. This consultation, developed in July and August 2011 by the Foundation for Studies and Research on Women (FEIM) and the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (GCWA), complemented a broader independent evaluation also undertaken this year of both the Gender Equality Strategy and the Sexual Orientation and Gender Equality (SOGI) Strategy. The consultation by FEIM and GCWA aimed to strengthen and ensure that women’s voices were adequately incorporated and expressed to better inform the Global Fund’s future actions regarding women and girls.
By working with regional and national focal points, and in eight languages, the consultation gathered the responses of 937 women in 97 countries around the globe. Their overall message was that the Gender Equality Strategy is not known and that much work is needed to achieve the implementation of the Strategy and to ensure women’s knowledge of and engagement with it across the globe.
The lack of knowledge about the Strategy among women respondents, who are engaged in the HIV response and from countries that have been recipients of Global Fund grants, was striking: only 34.8% were familiar with the Strategy. It was also evident in that only 16.3% said Round 9 funding proposals integrated work with women and girls. Only 27% said the grant in their country helped address violence against women in the response to the epidemic, and 46% said it helped strengthen the integration of sexual and reproductive health and HIV and AIDS services. The lack of integration of these services was noted as very problematic, especially for women living with HIV, who continue to face great barriers to accessing family planning, and in exercising their reproductive rights. The ongoing struggles faced by women and girls are not being addressed by Global Fund proposals or programs directly targeting their needs. Most programs reaching women are vertical transmission prevention initiatives or initiatives targeting female sex workers as most-at-risk populations (MARP). Therefore, the benefits that most women and girls receive are often indirect, reflecting an inadequate implementation of the Strategy, from the perspective of respondents.
It was also found that the Strategy’s implementation did not sufficiently result in greater access to funding for networks of women living with HIV or for women’s health and rights organizations. It also showed that a very small percent of women´s organizations, including sexual and reproductive rights organization, had been Principal Recipients (PR) of a Global Fund grant and a slightly larger, but still very reduced number, had been Sub-recipients of a Global Fund grant. Despite the limited opportunities for women to engage in Global Fund programming and structures at country level and the often limited benefits they see from Global Fund funding in their countries, the participants expressed a strong desire to more closely engage and partner with the Global Fund to achieve better implementation of the Strategy. However, capitalizing on this will require more consistent and strengthened prioritization of the Strategy by all levels of the Global Fund.
In summary, the results were synthesized into six key recommendations for the Global Fund. These recommendations need our attention, since their effective implementation requires the support of multiple stakeholders at local, national, regional and global levels, including other donors, UN and bilateral agencies, governments and civil society groups, especially women living with HIV and other women’s groups:
- The Global Fund must develop a strong advocacy and communication campaign to disseminate the Strategy at the international, regional, national levels and community level, working with country partners: UN and bilateral agencies, civil society networks, especially women living with HIV and other women’s groups, and governments.
- The Global Fund Secretariat should ensure that gender equality is included as an explicit component of the next Global Fund Five year strategy.
- The Global Fund Secretariat must engage technical partners, such as UNAIDS and WHO, to develop technical guidance on translating the Strategy into practical programming for women and girls, so that the Strategy will have greater impetus and support for its implementation.
- The Global Fund should put in place mechanisms to ensure that the programs they fund integrate all women and girls as a priority group in themselves – not just MARP -, and that programming is comprehensive, including not just vertical transmission but also sexual and reproductive health, the elimination of all forms of violence, sexual abuse and stigma and discrimination against women and girls and comprehensive sexuality education.
- The Global Fund should dedicate a specific percentage of funding in the next Round to grants that directly respond to the Gender Equality Strategy.
- The Global Fund should take action to strengthen and ensure women’s equal access and meaningful participation in decision-making processes within all of its governance structures.
To read the full report, please follow this link.