Gender Issues Featured at Regional Meeting

19 June 2014

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Gender and human rights concerns took center stage at a regional workshop held by partners in global health from South and East Asia this week.

In vibrant and searching discussions at a three-day meeting held in Cambodia, people from civil society, governments and technical agencies pointed out how the new funding model that is being fully implemented this year needs to factor in gender and human rights concerns in order to be effective. Ultimately, that means reaching more people affected by HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and achieving impact toward defeating the epidemics.

"Why does Gender matter?" asked Hara Zacharoula, a longtime public health advocate in Southeast Asia, who spoke on behalf of the StopTB Partnership. "Because one size does not fit all."

More than 280 participants from 14 countries in the region took part in the workshop, intended to explain aspects of the new funding model, discuss how to effectively conduct country dialogue, stress the importance of collecting accurate data and employ technical assistance.

Several participants highlighted areas where disease circumstances are affected by gender  norms, for girls and boys, and women and men. There was broad agreement that gender inequality exists in every country, and must be recognized and factored into health interventions, if they are to be effective.

Emilie Pradichit, a Bangkok-based Human Rights and Advocacy Officer at the United Nations Development Programme, pointed to human rights concerns as critical to public health, and needing examination during country dialogue and program development.

"How do you address legal barriers?" Ms. Pradichit asked. "How do you keep policy makers informed about the issues that really matter? These are things we need to work on consistently."

Some participants at the meeting are in the process of developing concept notes to apply for Global Fund support for programs that prevent, treat and care for people affected by HIV, TB and malaria. Members of civil society repeatedly raised the issue of fighting discrimination and stigma as essential to defeating the diseases.

People also spoke at the meeting about how hard it can be to ensure that country dialogue includes representatives of people most affected by HIV, TB and malaria. There was also agreement on the importance of supporting community-based responses.

In a presentation on gender issues, Motoko Seko, Gender Adviser at the Global Fund, pointed out that only three percent of people on Country Coordinating Mechanisms in countries that implement Global Fund grants are women representing communities affected by the three diseases.

Nukshinaro Ao, Coordinator of Women of Asia Pacific Plus, exclaimed: "I didn't understand why it is so hard to get gender issues into the strategies, at a country level, in the new funding model. It is supposed to be inclusive, so many of us have been wondering: why it is so hard to get gender included? It wasn't until I saw Motoko's slide that I finally understood why."

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