Reflections from W4GF Programme Coordinator, Sophie Dilmitis

According to the Global Fund bylaws, the Partnership Forum (PF) is part of the governance structure of the Global Fund as one of the four integral pillars (joining the Board, the Secretariat, and the Technical Review Panel). The PF aims to reach out to an even wider audience of stakeholders, including those who are not normally involved in Global Fund

As part of the Global Fund Strategy 2017 – 2021 Development Process, the Global Fund held its first PF in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 7 – 8 May 2015, with a two-day pre-meeting (5 – 6 May) and half day debrief (8 May) organised by the Community, Rights and Gender (CRG) Department with communities and civil society.

All members of civil society – women and men – present at the PF affirmed my strong conviction in our collective knowledge, expertise and our ability to positively impact the three diseases.

We came to the Partnership Forum, representing constituencies, to influence the Global Fund – advocating for our own agendas. Even though our focus areas differed there was great solidarity amongst communities and civil society, and an understanding that all of us are entitled to rights, and should be supported by the Global Fund to achieve impact around HIV, Tuberculosis and malaria. A number of people at the PF, including key populations from Ethiopia continue to be criminalised, live in fear and are unable to freely express their own sexuality, identity and or profession.

There was wide recognition by the Global Fund Secretariat that the previous Strategy was weak on gender, women and girls and that the new strategy needs to be bolder on women and girls. Donors further reiterated this and are demanding for the new Strategy to better respond for better health outcomes for women and girls.

The PF was a great learning opportunity for many who had not engaged with the Global Fund other than at national levels. Many left with a greater understanding of how the Global Fund works and that it is national level Global Fund processes that need to be more robust to support inclusion and representation of civil society – especially key affected women.  Many women identified new ways of support that they could access by talking to other CCM members such as support for CCM representatives to feedback to constituencies and technical assistance that they could access around ensuring gender equality.

In addition to other key strategic meetings – Women4GF (W4GF) advocates met with Norbet Hauser (Chair of the Global Fund Board), Aida Kurtovic (Vice-Chair of the Global Fund Board), Sandra Irbe (Advisor to the Global Fund Board Chair) and Jennifer Goosen (Head Donor Relations – External Relations Division). The Global Fund requested clear directions from W4GF on what should be done around women and girls, at the same time requested for simple communication products that provide solution-orientated real life examples of key challenges women and girls face in countries.

The PF noted the lack of policy coherence at global, regional and national levels and the lack of alignment between policy, strategy and laws to ensure that human rights, key populations and women and girls are respected.  The slides presented in the final plenary on behalf of the Human Rights, Key Populations and Gender Working Group are available in English and French.

The largest stumbling block facing civil society at the PF was around Community Systems Strengthening (CSS). There was a lack of understanding by many, including PF non-civil society participants around what CSS is. Every time this was on the agenda, it fell off or was defined as something that would work in favour of governments and neglected the role that communities and civil society have in achieving CSS as a collective and holistically.

It was recognised during the PF that achieving gender equality will require political will and financial resources. When countries are faced with stagnant or shrinking budgets – biomedical approaches, (such as important treatment, treatment as prevention and male circumcision) are prioritised over empowering women and communities to have control over their lives and bodies. In addition, key affected women, including migrants, female sex workers, drug users, transgender women and young people – face even more biases in accessing healthcare, thus further disempowering them in seeking support and services.

W4GF advocates want to see a comprehensive package that will address gender and all inequality. There is a huge opportunity for the next Global Fund Strategy to promote and champion investments in communities and for truly gender transformative programming, The strategic areas and objectives on gender equality and especially on women and girls need to be supported by realistic Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) at a country (programmatic) as well as at the Secretariat level. This will make the difference and empower women in all our diversity and enable us to access services, and for health programmes that respects our rights.

 ~ Edited by W4GF Global Coordinator, Rachel Ong