It’s About Time the Global Fund Implemented Its Gender Equality Strategy

23 Oct 2013

The Global Fund adopted a Gender Equality Strategy (GES) in 2008. At the time, the mere existence of the strategy was seen as symbolically important. However, since then, evaluation after evaluation has shown that little progress has been made on implementing the strategy.

Participants at a workshop in Geneva in July 2013 said that the strategy was “commendably progressive on paper, especially in the world of international development,” but that the GES has not been adequately costed or budgeted, that its implementation has been limited, and that no adequate communications strategy has been rolled out to explain or promote it. 

As we reported in a separate article, workshop participants said that “far too few grant agreements specify or fund gender-sensitive or gender-transformative activities, and where they do, progress is not tracked.”

According to a report on the workshop, the Global Fund is preparing a GES implementation plan. This would be the second such plan. A four-year GES Plan of Action was developed in 2009, but few people knew much about its contents. The entire plan was never released publicly; a summary of the plan was included in a report prepared for the Third Replenishment.

For inspiration, the drafters of the new implementation plan need look no further than the 2008 GES Strategy which said that “the Global Fund will champion and fund proposals that scale up services and interventions that reduce gender-related risks and vulnerabilities to infection … and address structural inequalities and discrimination.” The GES Strategy listed nine examples of interventions it said it would champion:

  1. Take into account the different needs and vulnerabilities of women and men, girls and boys, and of men who have sex with men, transgender, bisexual and lesbian populations.
  2. Provide for the specific health needs of women and girls, men and boys, and reduce barriers that inhibit equitable access to prevention, treatment and care (including lack of specialised, targeted and integrated health services, user fees, discriminatory practices and attitudes by healthcare workers, etc.).
  3. Address factors that impose disproportionate burdens of care and support on women and the elderly and put in place programs to mitigate these burdens.
  4. Reduce the risks and vulnerabilities that increase women’s and girls’ susceptibility to infection by the three diseases, and mitigate the impact for those already infected (Including, gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, early or forced marriage, lack of access to education, wife inheritance, increased risk due to pregnancy, discrimination in employment, etc.).
  5. Focus on women who face challenges in being able to access health services, many of whom are at-risk of HIV infection or are particularly marginalised such as sex workers, people who inject drugs, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered women, partners of bi-sexual men.
  6. Include programs that empower women and girls so they can protect themselves, by having access to sexual and reproductive health care (SRH), access to female-controlled prevention measures (female condom, negotiating condom-use, etc.), and access to education. In this context the Global Fund will champion activities that strengthen SRH-HIV/AIDS service integration.
  7. Target the structural issues that increase the vulnerability of women, girls, men who have sex with men, transgender, bisexual and lesbian populations, including  sociocultural, legal, political and economic inequalities and discrimination.
  8. Ensure that men and boys are targeted with appropriate interventions in prevention, treatment and care activities.
  9. Use transformative approaches than involve and or engage men and young boys in the gender inequalities fight.

It seems to me that we already have the recipe. If we could implement these kinds of interventions through Global Fund grants, we’d be well on our way to making a difference.

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