Women & Gender

An estimated 400 people gathered in Asram, Togo, to watch a ceremony introducing 250 newly-trained community health workers -- part of the Action for West Africa Region II (AWARE II) project, supported by USAID and led by MSH.

Joanie, a woman from Linden, Guyana who is mentally ill, was diagnosed HIV positive in 2005. Her mental illness prevented her from accessing health services and support. Her HIV remained untreated. She rejected the attempts of relatives and friends to assist her, and spent most of the day on the bank of the nearby Demerara River, refusing to wear clothes.

Three decades ago, life in the lakeside village of Zambo was calm.

"Leading a community to become healthy is not just a male thing," says Águida Curo Vican, president of the Local Development Committee of Tutumbaru in Peru’s Ayacucho region.

A couple from Malawi receives counseling from a Community-Based Distribution Agent (CBDA)

In Kasungu District, Malawi, trained Community-Based Distribution Agents (CBDAs) gather for their final and perhaps most challenging training: couples counseling.

With HIV, couples often do not freely discuss issues and concerns. “Where communication has been a problem for couples, CBDAs in underserved areas will help in risk reduction,” explains Jane Ngwira, MSH’s Kasungu District Coordinator.

Lucia Afiki and Esther Goodson are living positively with HIV. They are counselors for family planning and HIV & AIDS at Salima District Hospital in Malawi, where they openly tell their clients that they are HIV-positive. “When we are open with them about our status,” says Afiki, “people say, ‘Come closer, we want to learn from you.’” Goodson adds: “They say, ‘What should I do to look as good as you?’” The counselors tell them to visit a doctor and join a support group. This is an approach that saves lives. It also transforms social norms about health and gender.

InterAction Forum 2011 Panelists (left to right): Willow Gerber, MSH; Belkis Giorgis, MSH; Diana Prieto, USAID, Mary Ellsberg, ICRW; Reshma Trasi, ICRW. Photo credit: MSH.

Gender, gender, gender.

Everyone is talking about it, but are they really addressing it?

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and Management Sciences for Health (MSH) collaborated to bring experts to the InterAction Forum 2011 to discuss gender integration in health programs.

While much is known about how gender-based constraints adversely affect health, social, and economic development, successful models that integrate gender into programs have not been widely documented or evaluated.

Fatima preparing bean cakes for her business, Nigeria

 

HIV-positive women in Nigeria are the primary caregivers for their own families and other people living with HIV. This disproportionately high burden of care has detrimental effects not only on their health but also on their economic well-being.

The MSH-led, USAID-funded, Prevention Organization Systems AIDS Care and Treatment (ProACT) project in Nigeria has helped establish HIV support groups whose participants are 80 percent women. These groups have started providing income-generating opportunities for participants through savings and loan associations, registered with the Nigerian State Ministry of Commerce and Cooperative Societies.

Mary's 120 square foot house, purchased in 1992 (Mala Persaud/GHARP II)

Mary* was married at the young age of 13 in her hometown, Crabwood Creek, Region 6, Guyana. At age 15, after she gave birth to her first child, her husband deserted them. Mary was left to provide for herself and her child. She tried a few odd jobs, but they did not work out. In 1989, at age 15, she turned to commercial sex work. At this time, Mary had never heard of condoms and had never used one. Her earnings were adequate, as much as $300 some weeks. However, heeding the advice of many of her older friends, she chose to leave sex work in 1992, spent her savings on a 120 square feet house, and started fishing to support herself and son.

GNU Fellow Marzila Mashal (far right) of Afghanistan attends Leadership Development Program in Egypt

Editor’s Note: Marzila Mashal, an Administrative Coordinator working in Kabul, Afghanistan, was awarded a month long fellowship that is awarded to two MSH staffers each year. The Fellowship was established in honor of Carmen Urdaneta, Amy Lynn Niebling, and Cristi Gadue who on February 3, 2005, died in a plane crash outside Kabul, Afghanistan. The Gadue-Niebling-Urdaneta (GNU) Memorial Fund was established to further the work to which these remarkable women dedicated their lives. Each year, the GNU Fellowship provides MSH employees based in the US and the field with an international public health opportunity at another MSH location.

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