12 July 2012

Africa: Focus More on Sexual and Gender Minorities, Civil Society Groups Tell Global Fund

Civil society organisations are apprehensive about the impact that the reorganisation of the Global Fund Secretariat will have on the Gender Equality Strategy and on the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities (SOGI) Strategy. The CSOs also expressed concern about what they see as insufficient progress being made in the implementation of both strategies.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) from around the world are concerned about the impact that the reorganisation of the Global Fund Secretariat will have on the Fund's Gender Equality Strategy and the Fund's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities (SOGI) Strategy. In two letters sent to the Fund's General Manager Gabriel Jaramillo on 8 May 2012, CSOs also expressed concern about what they see as insufficient progress being made in the implementation of both strategies.

Each letter was signed by a large number of CSOs; some, but not all, CSOs signed both letters.

Gender Equality Strategy

In the letter on the Gender Equality Strategy, the CSOs urged Mr Jaramillo to state how the revised approach to grant management and the restructuring of the Secretariat will allow for meaningful implementation of the strategy.

Despite the fact that HIV is the leading cause of mortality among women of reproductive age, the CSOs said, there has been no significant increase in funding to address the gender dimensions of the pandemic. "Many looked to the Global Fund as one of the key institutions to fund this response - but implementation of the Gender Equality Strategy has been limited," the CSOs said.

The letter expressed concern that when the most-at-risk populations (MARPs) funding stream was established in Round 10, women and girls were not classified as a most-at-risk population. The CSOs consider this to be an obstacle in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The CSOs noted that although the Gender Equality Strategy called for mandatory gender training for key staff at the Global Fund Secretariat, only an optional training module has been made available. The CSOs are concerned that this training has not been widely accessed by staff in the Grant Management Division.

The CSOs said that now that the restructuring at the Secretariat is complete, it is not clear whether there is sufficient staff capacity to support implementation of the Gender Equality Strategy and provide technical support, including training, on gender issues to Secretariat staff.

The CSOs asked Mr Jaramillo to indicate who in the Secretariat is responsible for encouraging country level implementation of the activities outlined in the Gender Equality Strategy; and how the Global Fund will ensure that it can stimulate demand from countries for "gender transformative activities" in the current environment of scarce resources.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities Strategy

In the letter on the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities Strategy, the CSOs asked Mr Jaramillo how the Global Fund will maintain and expand the implementation of rights-based HIV programmes targeting sexual and gender minorities now that the reorganisation of the Secretariat is done. The global HIV epidemic, they said, has placed a disproportionately heavy burden on sexual and gender minorities, with men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender communities having been especially hard hit. Despite this, the CSOs said, for the most part these communities have not been prioritised in decisions concerning where funding should be allocated.

Even when funding for these communities has been included in approved proposals, the CSOs said, research shows that the amounts spent on programmes for these communities when the grants agreements are signed and the grants are actually implemented are often reduced, due to a range of structural barriers at country level, including homophobia.

The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities (SOGI) Strategy is intended to help ensure that investments more effectively reach MSM, transgender populations, male, female, and transgender sex workers, and women who have sex with women. However, the CSOs pointed out, it remains unclear how the SOGI strategy will be implemented going forward or who is responsible for that work. "A plan that operationalizes the goals of the strategy is desperately needed to ensure the Global Fund's long term success against the three diseases," they said.

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