WOFAK - A successful gender transformative approach story

WOFAK - A successful gender transformative approach story

Women fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK) runs seven centres. They provide comprehensive care and support to women and children living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. In addition to coordinating the Gender Development Project in Kenya, WOFAK also ran field activities through its centre in Bumala in Nyanza Province.

Continue reading to learn how WOFAK responded to high levels of poverty, gender-based violence and discrimination women living with HIV face by empowering and training them to become Human Rights Champions. 

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

WOFAK Bumala’s response

WOFAK responded to the high levels of poverty, gender based violence and related stigma and discrimination that affect women living with HIV by training and empowering them to become ‘Human Rights Champions’. WOFAK trained a core group of women living with HIV as champions, with the role of educating others on issues including: the right to inherit and own property; the right to education, training, and employment; the right to have children; and addressing harmful cultural practices. They also covered health issues such as living with HIV positively, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. 

The Human Rights Champions also engaged in community advocacy on gender, HIV and women’s rights, targeting men and youths. They led discussions at Chiefs’ barazas (public meetings) and at support group meetings of people living with HIV. They also made emergency home visits to address violations or threats of violations to the human rights of women living with HIV. Through their advocacy work, the Human Rights Champions became a point of reference to community members on HIV, gender and rights issues. In collaboration with other organisations (including FIDA, Kenyatta Hospital, Rural Education and Economic Enhancement Programme and the Kenya Red Cross), they also handled referrals for women in need of legal, medical or social assistance in response to rights violations.

 

Nairobi Kenya WOFAK

The main activities were

  • An introductory two-day workshop for ten members at each of the three project locations (Siamia, Busia and Siaya districts) and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and TAPWAK. This was to train the members as Human Rights Champions.
  • Monthly rights and empowerment sessions took place in each location. They covered issues like widow cleansing, property inheritance, and stigma and discrimination. These sessions were run in collaboration with the local administration, Ministry of Health and other HIV/AIDS organisations. Participants include women from the community and the Human Rights Champions.
  • The Human Rights Champions took part in community meetings of around 200 participants every two weeks, and advocated for the rights of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • WOFAK Field Officers provided collaborative support to the Human Rights Champions’ advocacy work, visiting them to discuss the issues that had arisen.

 

Results of WOFAK Bumala’s work

WOFAK witnessed an empowerment process taking place among women living with HIV. For example, some women chose for themselves whether they wanted to be ‘inherited’ or not. Others sought action on violations of their property rights, both for current threats to remove them from their homes or take property from them and for seeking redress for past property rights violations. The empowerment sessions raised the self-esteem of the women, helping them see themselves as human beings with rights rather than as movable property. In addition, more women became involved in community development committees. Prior to the Gender Development Project activities, women were not encouraged to participate in such spheres of power in the community. Women were not viewed as sufficiently competent decision-makers. Since the project, women are not only welcome in these committees, some of them have sought and obtained positions of leadership within them.

The women were supported to act on their new attitude because there were also changes in the broader community. A large percentage of the community now feels that, despite men being custodians and heads of families, women deserve a chance to make decisions previously only left to men. In addition, more girls have been able to go on to secondary school without the resistance which community members had previously shown. Shifts were also seen in gender roles in terms of men becoming more involved in caring for people who are ill. And, with regard to family planning and HIV prevention, WOFAK saw greater appreciation and condom use among men. 

There were also specific outcomes related to the direct intervention of the Human Rights Champions in situations where women’s rights were being threatened or violated. In one case, direct intervention and requests for help from the elder in the community resulted in a woman being allowed to keep property which had belonged to her deceased husband. The information spread within the locality and served as a deterrent to similar cases.

WOFAK attributes the successes to targeting advocacy to the people in a position to bring about change, such as elders, cultural custodians, opinion leaders, and local administrators. Involving men during sensitization sessions and having them reverse gender roles during role plays also proved useful, as it allowed them to understand better what women go through. WOFAK also worked with the police and government officials to improve follow-up on rights violations, such as cases of rape. As with C-MEDA, the fact that the Human Rights Champions ensured follow-up and referral of cases doubtless contributed to the positive impact. Women living with HIV saw that breaking the silence on rights violations could benefit them directly.

Woman Gender Transformative Approach

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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