Advocates championing stronger measures to ensure more meaningful inclusion of women in the Global Fund's processes met in December in South Africa to harmonize efforts and develop a more results-based approach to integrating gender issues into national concept notes under the New Funding Model.
The Women4Global Fund project launched in July 2013 aims to push the Global Fund towards a more effective implementation of its Gender Equality and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policies. Equally, however, the project seeks to build capacity at the country level to ensure that smart programmes targeting women are included in national strategic plans and in proposals for external funding.
"The Global Fund is focusing on reaching key affected populations and we are insisting that all sectors of society, including women, must be included in the development of country programmes so as to effectively fight the three diseases," the Fund Secretariat's executive director, Mark Dybul, said after meeting with members of the group.
There are nearly 16 million women worldwide infected with HIV, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV infection also carries with it tremendous stigma when, attached to harmful gender norms and persisten gender inequalities, compounds women's vulnerability. Women who have experienced intimate partner violence are 50% more likely to be living with HIV.
"AIDS continues to be the leading cause of death and disease for women of reproductive age. The inequalities women face further compound these vulnerabilities as we are treated as second-class citizens," the group said in a statement.
Prevention, treatment and care programmes that target the specific needs of women and girls is rarely a priority in national strategic plans despite international encouragement for countries in sub-Saharan Africa to emphasize them.
A recent UNAIDS report found that fewer than half of countries allocate funds for women's organisations; most also fail to integrate HIV into the slate of sexual and reproductive health services.
One of the drivers of gender inequity at the core of health programming, both externally and domestically funded, is the paucity of women's representation in decision- and policy-making circles. Despite inroads made by many countries to improve the number of women sitting in high-level positions in government, most programming and budgeting decisions are made predominantly by men.
The Global Fund's adoption of a Gender Equality Strategy in 2008 was designed to increase the scope and quality of programming, to root out gender inequality and address the challenges women and girls face daily. The strategy has, however, been hampered by poor implementation, the group said.
A more concerted and consistent inclusion of gender issues in national development of concept notes under the NFM going forward will both respond to the Fund's goal of "investing for impact" and the particular needs of women and girls in the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria.
"Gender equality advocates and women in all our diversity commit to joining forces with the secretariat and other partners to ensure implementation happens, to track processes, and to take the strong action required to increase the quality and success of gender programming in Global Fund grants," the group said in its statement.