Cross-cutting issues: Gender

Gender refers to social and cultural understandings of biological, sexual categories. As a social and cultural construct, gender refers to society’s widely shared norms and expectations about men and women’s appropriate behaviour, roles and characteristics. It differentiates men and women and defines the ways in which they interact with each other. Gender relations are concerned with how power is distributed between men and women. Due to social devaluation and weak social position of women (both a cause and a consequence of the devaluation), gender roles and relations, men often hold considerably more power at all levels. Gender concepts and roles are relative to culture, historical period, and place. They are fluid, changing, and importantly, able to be changed.

Key driver of HIV

Gender inequality is a key driver of the HIV epidemic. Women face barriers in accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care services due to limited decision-making power, lack of control over financial resources, and restricted mobility. Women and girls are often the primary care-givers in the family, including for family members living with and affected by HIV, which can limit their economic opportunities. Violence and the threat of violence hamper women’s ability to protect themselves from HIV and have power in sexual decision making. In addition, women living with HIV experience more gender based violence than their HIV-negative counterparts. Men can also be disadvantaged due to their sex and related gender roles. Therefore, sustainable changes are most fully realized through activities focused on engaging both men and women to transform harmful attitudes and behaviours.

Integrating gender in our work

Aidsfonds (previously STOP AIDS NOW!)’s has years of experience in working towards gender equality. In our Gender Development Project, which ran from 2006-2010 in Kenya and Indonesia, we worked in a gender transformative way, addressing gender relations, issues of power and violence, and tackling the discrimination girls and women face in terms of their opportunities, resources, services, benefits, decision-making, and influence.

Aidsfonds (previously STOP AIDS NOW!) aims to integrate gender, as well as the other cross-cutting issues GIPA and stigma and discrimination, within all our programmes, as they are critical to the outcome and impact of all aspects of the AIDS response. A minimum requirement for integration is to conduct a thorough situation analysis with a focus on gender. Based on this, a well-founded decision can be made as to how and to what extent to integrate gender in a particular project. Gender, for instance, plays an important role in our work on linking SRHR and HIV, HIV prevention for youth and Treatment as Prevention.