5 steps to develop a gender transformative approach in HIV programming

5 steps to develop a gender transformative approach in HIV programming

If we are to roll back the HIV epidemic, we need to respond to the ‘big picture’. This means we need to address structural drivers of HIV, including gender-based discrimination and rights violations that make people vulnerable to contracting HIV and affect people living with HIV. From a clearer appreciation of human rights and gender issues, we can develop strategies that address key root causes of vulnerability to HIV infection and to the impact of living with HIV. On this page, we set out five steps to developing a gender transformative approach to HIV programming. 

Aidsfonds' renewed Big Picture (2020) is out now! Access the full guide on how to develop a gender transformative approach in HIV programming, filled with approaches, exercises, case studies and loads more. Download guide

Step 1: Analyse and map the interlinkages among gender, HIV and rights in your context

Download figure 2 (here). It places HIV programming within the wider scope of human rights-based work for gender equality. The key aims of HIV programmes are in the circle at the centre. The next circle features some key aims of gender programmes. The outermost circle contains various human rights, all of which are indirectly related to HIV. Responding to the big picture means also taking into account the gender and rights levels in your HIV programming. When analysing the links between HIV, gender and rights, you try to assess who benefits and who is at disadvantage of the specific gender norms in your context. 

The Big Picture of HIV programmes, Gender Equality and Human Rights

Step 2: Begin thinking about your HIV work using a transformative approach

Working on the ‘big picture’ means enabling people to think differently about gender and the position of women and gender non-conforming people, to empower community members to transform harmful gender norms and claim their rights. This is very different from the more familiar strategy of aiming to ‘educate’ or ‘raise awareness’ about HIV and behaviour change. 

We can think of ‘educational’ and ‘transformative’ approaches concerning HIV programming. Not as conflicting approaches but as different ends of a range. Download figure 3 (here). It shows a simplified illustration of this range, presents two starting points from which you can view your organisation’s approach and theory of change. It then gives examples of the types of activities you might do, depending on the starting point. Use it to consider where your organisation currently is, and how it can move towards a transformative approach. 

From Educational to Transformative Approaches

Step 3: Gender analysis

When we do a gender analysis, we ask ourselves what gender-related factors most affect the groups we are working with, when preventing or living with HIV? A gender analysis can identify gaps in service provision, especially for women and key populations, as well as reveal opportunities to improve this. It should identify beliefs, practices and assumptions related to gender that lie at the root of high HIV acquisition, low service uptake, and increased violence. As such, a gender analysis can make HIV prevention, care and treatment programming more effective. Let’s apply this in a practical way. Download figure 4 (here) and go through the analytic process of this step. 

Analysing who to work with to Achieve Change

Step 4: Design your transformative activities

Working on the Big Picture means taking a transformative and holistic approach. In order to create a gender transformative HIV programme, we recommend considering the following activities: 

  1. Discussion sessions 
  2. Raise community awareness to create a gender-equitable environment 
  3. Develop mechanisms to respond to experiences of discrimination and rights violations 
  4. Support women to support themselves economically 
  5. Prioritise community ownership 
  6. Join forces with others! 
People brainstorming Uganda

Step 5: Monitor and evaluate your progress

Monitoring and evaluation are important if we are to measure and learn about the impact of our work, and have evidence to share with others of effective strategies and ones which have not worked. Moreover, gathering and sharing data on our work on HIV and gender is relevant for advocacy and fundraising efforts in the HIV response.

You can apply your existing knowledge on designing a monitoring and evaluation plan for your gender-transformative HIV programme. In order to guarantee you also measure the effects on gender, it is crucial to disaggregate your data on gender and age. Furthermore, Naila Kabeer has developed a set of questions about the anticipated effects of an intervention on gender norms, relations, and power (Naila Kabeer, 1994, Reversed Realities, Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought, pp. 302-303). This is a useful aid when developing programme goals and indicators.  

On the 8 March 2020, we launch our new guide on Gender Transformative HIV Programming, the Big Picture, filled with strategic approaches, exercises and case studies. 

Read more about 8 Days for Gender Equality

For 8 days, from Zero Discrimination Day (1 March) to International Women's Day (8 March), Aidsfonds raised awareness for gender equality with our ​8 Days for Gender Equality Campaign. Each day we covered strategic action that can be taken against gender inequality fueling the AIDS epidemic. We invite everyone to help spread awareness. Join the movement on Twitter by sharing your own experience and approaches on gender equality and HIV using the hashtag #GenderEqualityandHIV. 

Aidsfonds' renewed Big Picture (2020) is out now! Access the full guide on how to develop a gender transformative approach in HIV programming, filled with approaches, exercises, case studies and loads more. Download guide


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