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AFRICA: Women's rights groups push for more AIDS funding


Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN
Not enough women's groups are approaching the Fund with proposals
JOHANNESBURG, 8 March 2007 (PlusNews) - On International Women's Day, local and international women's and human rights groups urged donors to devote more funding to HIV/AIDS programmes aimed at reducing women's vulnerability to infection.

A report released on Tuesday by 'Women Won't Wait', a new international coalition of women's groups, cited the sexual violence and coercion women experience at the hands of their male partners as a leading factor in the increasing "feminisation" of the AIDS pandemic.

But the report, 'Show Us the Money: Is Violence Against Women on the HIV and AIDS Funding Agenda?', noted that while funding for HIV/AIDS programmes has increased dramatically in recent years, the main donor agencies have failed to address the link between violence against women and HIV infection.

Funding for programmes aimed at promoting women's rights and access to reproductive and sexual health services has actually decreased.

After evaluating the funding process and policies of several large donor agencies, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); and UNAIDS, the report's author, Susana Fried, concluded: "For all of the donors this report examines, the scant funding made available for gender-based violence efforts is largely separate from, rather than integral to, programmes to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS."

Despite making strong statements about the links between violence against women and HIV/AIDS, commitments by donor agencies tended to "evaporate" at the level of implementation, making it difficult to track spending on violence against women and hold donors accountable.

A campaign was launched this week by the Johannesburg-based civil society organisation, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), and its international partner, the Open Society Institute (OSI), to increase the flow of Global Fund grants to HIV/AIDS projects for women and girls.

OSISA has called on women's rights and HIV and AIDS organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe to form national coalitions and develop proposals for Global Fund grants. OSISA and OSI will provide funding and technical support to assist the coalitions to develop strong proposals and submit them to the Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCMs) of the Global Fund.

"If you do an analysis of how much Global Fund money is going to reducing women's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, it's not significant," said Sisonke Msimang, HIV/AIDS programme manager for OSISA. "We're also still not seeing enough women's organisations approaching the Fund with proposals."

The complex guidelines and rules of CCMs often made them inaccessible to grassroots organisations with limited capacity. "We're encouraging collaborations between AIDS organisations that may not be addressing gender, and women's networks that may not have the technical skills or strong leadership but know the issues," said Msimang.

The 'Women Won't Wait' report congratulated the Global Fund for its efforts to promote country ownership of the funding process, but said the consequence was that CCMs were free to ignore guidelines concerning gender: "The result is a vast disparity among CCMs in terms of gender balance, and minimal representation of women's organisations."

Dawn Cavanagh, director of the South African-based nongovernmental organisation, Forum for the Empowerment of Women, endorsed the report's findings.

"I think it validates what we, as activists on the ground, have been saying - that we've been battling to get funds."

She believes that in recent years a shift in focus from women's rights to the more general 'gender issues' has negatively affected efforts to address related HIV/AIDS issues.

"It's not an agenda that's come from the grassroots level," Cavanagh said. "That backlash has been reinforced by donor thinking at the international level, and that's the thinking that has underpinned where resources are going."

Women account for 59 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNAIDS.

To download the report, go to: http://www.womenwontwait.org/

For more information about the OSISA campaign, go to: http://www.osisa.org

ks/he/kn



Theme(s): (IRIN) Gender Issues

[ENDS]

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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