The 31st Board meeting of the Global Fund is a historic meeting – the Board adopted the New Funding Model (NFM) and it is now “The Funding Model” – from this point on the Global Fund will provide its finances in this way, hopefully having a far greater impact on HIV, TB and malaria.
For women’s rights advocates it is also a historic meeting as gender equality has been high on the Board’s radar. On 3rd March, the eve of the Board’s pre-meetings – where intense briefing and lobbying takes place – the Communities Delegation to the Board invited Women4GF to facilitate a workshop for all delegations to the Board [view a PDF of the agenda] to brief the Board on the Gender Equality Strategy and urge them to take action to translate the fine words into action. The Global Fund secretariat used this as an opportunity to launch the Gender Equality Strategy Action Plan (GES-AP) [view a PDF of the plan] and its summary, which highlights the perspectives of people involved with Women4GF [view a PDF of the summary]. Three days after the meeting, Global Fund donors – led by the UK DFID – convened a meeting attended by over 50 people from most donor countries, technical agencies as well as from Women4GF who are determined to do more to deliver on gender equality.
The Chair of the Global Fund Board, Indonesian Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi (known to all as “Ibu Naf”) opened the workshop. Ibu Naf is a long-standing advocate of gender equality, having previously headed up WHO’s Department of Gender and Women’s Health and she spoke with warm encouragement about the vital importance of the Global Fund delivering a stronger response on gender equality, both because it is an issue of human rights, and also because it will deliver stronger better programmes. She urged the Board to do better sating that “documents and discussion today make it clear we have done some good work related to the issues of women and girls. But I am not sure we have done equally well related to the diseases we fight and the men and transgender communities with whom we work. I am firmly convinced that progress for women depends on understanding the gender dynamics at work but they too will benefit from lifesaving, transformative gender-informed work with the men who are their partners, their husbands, their fathers, their brothers.” [download the remarks]
Kate Thomson, Head of the Community, Rights and Gender Department at the Global Fund Secretariat, described the many ways in which the GES-AP is committed to concrete action over the next 3 years [view a PDF of the presentation] She stressed that delivering the GES and its Action Plan means a strong partnership between the Global Fund secretariat, technical partners, the Board and women and other gender equality advocates working at country level.
Women4GF speakers explained how the GES directly effects their work Kay Thi Win from Myanmar explained how Key Affected Women need to be central to the GES and that it is not acceptable to draw distinctions between “Bad women” and “good women” and high lighted some of the priority needs for transgender women, women who use drugs, sex workers, migrants and incarcerated women. [download the talking points]
Tendai Mhaka then spoke about the ways in which she had worked with women in Zimbabwe to make sure that their voices and needs were central to the Country Dialogue and Concept Note writing process – and she highlighted some of the challenges for making this involvement real. [view a PDF of the presentation]
Thokozile Phiri explained the importance of making sure that gender equality is central to National Strategic Plans – this work needs to happen long before the Global Fund specific processes start. This can be challenging for many women working at community level, given the power dynamics and inequalities that exist in most countries [download the talking points]
Arie T Surya Mihari discussed the great work that Indonesian civil society is doing to prepare for their Country Dialogues and Concept Note submission, and the real importance of advocating for Community System Strengthening (CSS) so that more resources can support community organisations to deliver their work [download the talking points].
Finally Laxmi Thripathi highlighted the vital role of mobilizing women at grassroots level and showing respect for the diversity of women’s lives, their human rights and putting in place truly inclusive programmes that make a distance. [download the talking points].
The French and UK governments highlighted their commitments to addressing gender through their funding streams. Of particular importance, the French government that aims to help organisations working in their priority countries to strengthen gender equality aspects of their programmes. Submissions are due by end April.
There was huge interest from Board members in doing more to deliver the GES-AP, and a keen appreciation that a key aspect of this will be supporting people working at country level to get involved actively in the new ways that the Global Fund delivers its resources to make sure that these investments reach priority programmes.