W4GF Statement to the Global Fund Strategy Committee

Women4GlobalFund (W4GF) wishes the Global Fund’s Strategy Committee a successful 15th virtual dialogue. As you review progress on Strategic Objective (SO) 3 as well as the outcomes of the Partnership Forums and the
Strategic Framework, we trust you will keep gender equality and the priorities of women and girls at the centre as you move forward to develop the new Global Fund Strategy.

Here we highlight key recommendations made by the W4GF Strategy Working Group ahead of the Partnership Forum as well as key priority interventions made by W4GF Advocates during the Partnership Forums themselves. Direct action is needed if the Global Fund is to successfully deliver on the promise and principles of Strategic Objective (SO) 3. The new Strategy should reflect the need for a sharper focus and demonstrate operational follow up by the Global Fund if it is to make a real impact in the lives of women and girls in all our diversity – in relation to all three diseases as well as to COVID-19.

Our observations and experiences align with the Technical Review Panel (TRP), which noted in regard to Window 1 and echoed in Window 2 that gender equality was the weakest aspect of proposals: “of particular concern were the areas of addressing gender-related barriers to service, where only 44% of funding requests in Window 1 were assessed as good or very good (versus 56% in the 2017-2019 cycle)”. We highlight the following key priorities and requests for the new Global Fund Strategy:

  1. Maintain a focus on promoting and protecting human rights and gender equality as a stand-alone Strategic Objective, in order to reverse the slippage and stagnation. Gender equality should be addressed specifically and measurably through all Global Fund policies, programmes and actions and remain at the heart of everything the Global Fund does. Generalised approaches such as ‘mainstreaming gender’ will result in a dilution of complex issues and fail to advance robust action to address the priority needs and concerns of all genders.
  2. Sharpen a focus on gender equality. Whilst we celebrate the focused investments in HIV prevention that have increased in the 13 priority countries focusing on adolescent girls and young women or in the 20 Breaking Down Barriers focus countries and acknowledge the 20 TB CRG Assessments that have begun to enhance our understanding of gender in TB, all of this is a far cry from what is required. Supporting women’s rights across the Global Fund portfolio requires a more strategic focus on specific sub-groups including intersections of women and girls from key affected populations who remain neglected and, in some countries, invisible – this is especially true for women who use drugs. This means showing leadership in supporting efforts to challenge patriarchal norms that prevent or inhibit women from articulating and advocating for their needs and priorities to be met through quality programmes and services. This means doing more directly to remove legal, human rights and other barriers that get in the way of an enabling environment for all women and girls to access health care and other rights. The Global Fund must do more to leverage its purse strings to challenge human rights barriers,
    including those which are gender-related.
  3. Step up action on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The new Strategy should invest in accelerated actions to advance SRHR –which are central to human rights, gender equality and the SDGs. Whilst
    this is currently part of SO3 it has been a missed opportunity. ECHO gave us clear and strong evidence that integrated SRHR-HIV services are an essential component of effective responses to HIV prevention – but what
    changed in how the Global Fund did business? W4GF calls on the Global Fund to expand its mandate under the new strategy and scale up funding for SRHR programming – inclusive of the full range of sexual, reproductive, contraceptive and violence reduction and mitigation services that are needed by women and girls in all their diversity, and that lay the foundation for realising many global health indicators. COVID-19 has highlighted the insecurity of access to contraceptives and other reproductive healthcare services, including safe abortion care,
    underscoring the fragility of SRHR, including for men.
  4. Finish our shared agenda on HIV, TB and malaria. We look to the Global Fund to “go the final mile”. We strongly agree with our colleagues in the Asia-Pacific region who call for resources to be augmented to include
    addressing pandemics as an additional barrier to ending the three diseases rather than as a separate agenda. This is especially true given that COVID-19 caused significant disruption, particularly for women who have seen increased risk of domestic violence during lockdown and far less access to essential sexual and reproductive health and rights services – especially for women from key affected populations. We remain disappointed with the Global Fund’s response to address these social inequalities and hope to see more action in the future.
  5. Include a robust accountability framework on gender equality to hold the Global Fund accountable to deliver human rights and gender equality across its portfolio. This could start with minimum gender equality standards as per the minimum human rights standards for all Global Fund grants. For TB, the TB Gender Investment package and for malaria the malaria matchbox can be guides. Only through regular measurement and evaluation will countries remain focused and deliver effective programmes and make decisions to improve results. We look
    to the Global Fund to reignite a data revolution, taking innovative steps to measure needs, including community – led monitoring initiatives, to add equal value to qualitative evaluations on inequities in comparison to quantitative data and priorities; and to stay focused on progress at national and subnational levels so that countries remain dedicated on programme improvement throughout implementation.
  6. Reaffirm county ownership that respects the involvement, expertise and rights of all stakeholders in the partnership, especially women and key and vulnerable populations most affected by the three diseases. The CCM model was noted as a successful model in the Partnership Forums, but it was also observed – and we agree – that more needs to be done to remove barriers to equal participation and influence. It is important to
    remind you that even when we are sitting at the same table, our voices are not equal. Only structural change will create meaningful engagement and respect so that resources support programmes that meet the needs, priorities and rights of women and girls in every country. This is especially during grant making, where civil society are excluded from key decision making.
  7. Clearly acknowledge, promote and support the principle of local ownership and the community-led approach to deliver services. The Global Fund cannot deliver on its mandate without better ensuring that
    women-led, key population-led and community-based organisations are supported to enhance capacity and lead our own programmes for services and advocacy. In addition to and as part of this strategic emphasis, communities systems strengthening (CSS) must become the backbone of robust responses – and especially as the Global Fund transitions out of countries, making the need for sustainable systems led by and delivered to women, in particular from key and vulnerable populations, even more urgent. As part of this we note the significant development of TB Women – and call on the strengthening of this network at the global level, and implementation of their strategic plan in all TB high burden countries.
  8. Bring more focused allocation to support women-led community networks and organisations responding to HIV, TB and malaria. The Global Fund must follow in the footsteps of UNAIDS and work towards
    achieving the target of 80% of service delivery for HIV prevention programmes for key populations and women to be delivered by community-, key population- and women-led organizations. In addition to securing more focused community allocations, the new Strategy could include a quota system or should more clearly direct all partners toward the importance, in terms of successful outcomes, for community-based and other local civil society organisations to become Principal Recipients, Sub-Recipients and sub-sub recipients. This could require more directive requirements regarding dual-track financing and also ensuring that communities and other civil society partners are supported with increased and more sustainable capacity-building opportunities.

Whilst W4GF recognise tremendous gains within this current strategy we also acknowledge that we are not where we should be. We must make sure that efforts RESULT in programmes and services that change – for the better – the lives of women and girls.

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