Transforming the National AIDS Response: Advancing Women’s Leadership and Participation

The meaningful participation and leadership of women, particularly those most affected by the epidemic, is an essential component of an effective and comprehensive response to HIV and AIDS. Influencing mechanisms and processes by which women become more active partners in defining and implementing solutions at the community, national and global level holds significant potential for transforming the AIDS response and has yet to be consistently implemented as a cross-cutting solution.

ATHENA has undertaken a review on women’s leadership and participation in the AIDS response with UNIFEM that underscored the need for sustained commitment to ensuring women are agents of change rather than as recipients of services. Five key findings emerged from the ‘Transforming the National AIDS Response: Advancing Women’s Leadership and Participation’ report:

1) The involvement of affected communities, particularly women living with HIV, young women and grassroots women, plays a critical role in defining sound policies and programmes.

2) Unrealized potential exists for strengthening women’s leadership and participation in the AIDS response, particularly by those most affected by HIV and AIDS.

3) Significant barriers that prevent this participation, particularly of those most affected, include gender norms, gender inequalities, stigma and discrimination, lack of access to resources, the burden of care and multiple responsibilities in the home, lack of access to information, lack of formal education and training, poor self-esteem, and gender-based violence.

4) Even when women obtain a ‘seat at the table’, challenges to their meaningful involvement include lack of transparent entry points, lack of capacity to substantively participate in formal processes, competing agendas in formal decision-making spheres, and a lack of critical alliances.

5) Sustained investment in women as agents of change and in women’s mobilization, such as support for HIV-positive women’s networks, has proven successful in diverse regions and settings and should therefore be prioritized.

Access the full report here.