A Gender Transformative Approach
A Gender Transformative Approach
Gender inequality, resulting in discrimination and violence, is a root cause of the HIV epidemic worldwide. Marginalised communities often face multiple, overlapping forms of discrimination, and are thus disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS. Now is the time to implement a sustainable approach that addresses this injustice at all levels of society.
Sustainable Development Goal 5
Gender equality means equal rights and opportunities within all areas of life and valuing different behaviours, aspirations and needs equally, regardless of gender. In SDG-5, the world has committed to ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere. Many organisations, including Aidsfonds, strive to work for a gender-equitable world.
HIV and Gender
Every week, around 6,200 women aged 15-24 are infected with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, 4 out of 5 new infections among adolescents affect girls. Multiple and intersecting socio-cultural, economic and health issues heighten girls’ and young women’s vulnerability to HIV, with the most socially and economically marginalized girls and young women most affected by the epidemic. (UNAIDS)
Gender norms restrict women’s decision making power and control over their bodies, which reduces their ability to protect their sexual health and limits their access to services.
Moreover, gender-based violence increases the risk of contracting HIV and living with HIV increases one’s risk of experiencing gender-based violence. One in five women and girls have experienced gender-based violence by an intimate partner in the past 12 months. This fact of gender inequality and others are listed under SDG-5, illustrating the many ways in which women and girls are affected.
In the fight against AIDS, rigid gender norms do not only relate to women: it affects everyone. While norms vary from place to place, and over time, they have very powerful influences on us. Norms around masculinity also imprison men and boys. Not conforming to these gender norms can lead to stigmatisation or even persecution. The LGBTQ+ community are particularly discriminated against, and homosexual sex is illegal in many countries.
The key populations in HIV often face overlapping forms of oppression for their intersecting identities. To mention some: gender, class, ethnicity, religion, (dis)ability, and (im)migrant-status. Daily stigmatisation and discrimination for those not complying to society’s gender norms is a fact of life for many marginalised communities such as LGBTQ+ people and sex workers. Gender inequality increases violence-related HIV infections and limits access to basic treatment, and is, therefore, a structural driver of the HIV epidemic. A sustainable solution is needed to eradicate this source of injustice.
Transforming gender norms
Aidsfonds’ gender transformative approach focuses on reducing inequalities and seek long-term changes in gender relations and power dynamics at all levels of society. It requires adjustment of policies, norms and practices. This means performing a gender analysis that addresses gender relations, issues of power and violence, and tackling discrimination people face in terms of their opportunities, resources, services, benefits, decision-making, and influence.
Why we believe in working on HIV and Gender
Gender norms shape health-seeking behaviour; uptake of HIV prevention, care and treatment services; and experience of stigma and discrimination. It is crucial to consider these layered realities when creating effective interventions. This entails working to promote changing gender roles and developing relationships that are fair and just in the distribution of benefits and responsibilities between men and women. Advocacy is needed on laws and policies that promote gender equality, human rights and public health.
The time is now to reshape projects and incorporate a gender-based approach for an effective HIV response. Here at Aidsfonds, we strive for gender equality by putting communities first because they know best what change is required. Aidsfonds builds capacity on gender-transformative approaches; for example, we trained the Sexual Right Centre in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, who aim to insert a gender-based appraoch in their organisation’s activities. In addition, we have published an updated version of our guide to working with a gender transformative approach: the Big Picture.
Wish to learn more about it? Contact our Aidsfonds colleague Roanna van den Oever here.