Investing more resources for women and girls in the response to HIV and AIDS was a cross-cutting issue discussed at the International Women's Summit on Women's Leadership on HIV and AIDS in Nairobi Kenya, July 4-7.
In a breakout session on July 5, Bhatupe Mhongo, coordinator of UN+, an international organization for United Nations employees who are HIV-positive, advocated for more resources and leadership positions to be devoted specifically for HIV-positive women. She noted that positive women and girls should not be just the recipients, but the change leaders. Mhongo stressed the need to move past tokenism, stating, "When we're talking money, positive women and young women are the guests of honor."
Dr. Christoph Benn, Director of External Relations at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), was optimistic that significantly more resources will be available within the next few years. He based this assumption on the pledge given by G8 (Group of Eight) countries during their June 2007 meeting in Germany to scale up contributions to respond to the world's three leading killers by infectious disease. However, the G8 countries have not always followed through with their commitments to international aid in the past.
Despite the fact that 57 percent of the 1.1 million people GFATM currently supports on anti-retroviral treatment are women, speakers in the plenary "If Women Really Matter, Where's the Leadership and the Money" were critical of bilateral and multilateral donors' support of women and HIV. Citing research on funding for women's rights conducted by the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), Zawdai Nyong'o noted that women-led HIV initiatives are significantly underfunded.
According to AWID's research of over 1,000 women's rights organizations, the majority of women-led HIV initiatives worldwide operate on a budget of less that $50,000 per year, with over one-third of the organizations surveyed operating on less than $10,000 per year. Nyong'o expressed concern that the trend in funding by international bilateral and multilateral donors and foundations has shifted to larger grants for fewer organizations. This excludes many women-led organizations which are operating at the grassroots level.
Nyong'o also presented a list of the top twenty donors for women and HIV in 2005. HIVOS, the Global Fund for Women, Oxfam, the Norwegian government, and individual donors topped the list. Large international donors such as the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) were at the bottom of the list.
One donor agency that contributed more than the World Bank and UNDP was the African Women's Development Fund (AWDF). AWDF is an African wide grant-making organization, led by African women, that funds predominantly small and medium-sized women's organizations in 42 African countries. Addressing the plenary, AWDF's Executive Director Bisi Adeleye Fayemi stated that while large international donor agencies are slow to respond to women's issues, "the future of women's rights lies with individual donors."
The African Women's Development Fund's 13 Campaign, seeking to mobilize resources for women and HIV, was launched in Kenya during the summit. The 13 Campaign targets individual donors and foundations to give a contribution with the number 13 in mind, making contributions such as $13, $1300, $130,000. AWDF's HIV and AIDS Fund, begun in November 2005, has thus far awarded $642,000 to 39 organizations in 22 African countries.
While most international bilateral and multilateral donors and foundations have been especially slow in responding to women's needs in the face of HIV and AIDS, Fayemi noted that, as individuals, we have too. She provided the example of the World YWCA, which is currently fundraising for its $25 million endowment fund. With an international membership of 25 million women that translates to a $1 contribution per person, but thus far the endowment fund only has raised $10 million.
So while we advocate our governments, the private sector and international agencies to scale up the response to HIV and AIDS, especially for women and girls, what else can we do? According to Fayemi, the individual response has been unacceptable. "Let us fund our own revolution," she stated. "We matter. We have the money. We have the leadership."