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Presentation on theme: "ENGAGING MEN AS PARTNERS IN ADDRESSING GBV AND HIV VULNERABILITY OF WOMEN By Steven Iphani- Coalition of Women Living with HIV & AIDS (COWLHA)-- MALAWI."— Presentation transcript:


2 BACKGROUND INFORMATION HIV and AIDS have affected everyone in Malawi. But women are a section of the Malawian population that has been hit harder by the epidemic. About 58% of people living with HIV in Malawi are women. Hence, HIV and AIDS wears a female face more than a male one. Its is against this background that the Coalition of women Living with HIV and AIDS (COWLHA) was formed in 2006 to address the gender specific implications of HIV and AIDS on women.

3 WHAT IS COWLHA? The Coalition of Women and Girls Living with HIV and AIDS is a membership organization of women and girls that are openly living with HIV in Malawi. The coalition was formed in 2006 to create a platform for a united voice of women living with HIV in addressing the challenges that affect them with women’s rights as a major focus. The membership of the coalition is currently at 15,000.

4 BACKGROUND INFORMATION CONT. COWLHA’S MISSION COWLHA seeks to enable its members lead productive lives by promoting sustainable livelihood programmes and strengthening their capacity to effectively lobby and advocate for issues affecting their lives. COWLHA’S VISION A society where women and girls living with HIV lead a healthy life, are empowered, self reliant and their rights fully respected, protected and fulfilled.

5 CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS Unequal relationships between men and women and societal norms of femininity and masculinity have significant influence on the HIV epidemic. Power imbalances between women and men cover all aspects of personal, social and economic relations – from access to education and property rights to the negotiation of condom use. HIV and AIDS make women vulnerable to gender based violence while at the same time GBV makes women more vulnerable to HIV and its impact

6 CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS CONT. Culturally endorsed perceptions of masculinity of condoning multiple sexual partnerships for men increase HIV infection risks for both men and women. Low risk perception among men also contributes to risky behaviors that enhance HIV spread.

7 COWLHA’S RESPONSE TO THE INTERSECTION OF HIV & GBV The Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (COWLHA) has implemented two projects between 2010 and 2011 that have addressed the intersection of GBV and HIV by engaging couples in addressing the two issues. The focus of the projects was to protect the rights of women living with HIV and women in general from HIV vulnerability or its impact resulting from gender imbalances by engaging men.

8 WHY GBV & HIV INTERVENTIONS? Gender-based violence or the threat of such violence hinders women’s ability to negotiate risk reduction or to engage in safer sexual practices. It limits women’s abilities to seek HIV testing, treatment, care, or support, and can hinder them from disclosing their HIV status The interventions garner efforts to prevent violence are essential in view of gender inequalities. Hence, the COWLHA projects of engaging men to challenge gender imbalances that infringe on the rights of women.

9 ENGAGING MEN THROUGH STEPPING STONES APPROACH COWLHA’s earlier approaches for addressing women’s rights violations either sidelined men or simply taken them as perpetrators. As a result, the impact of such approaches did not produce the best of results COWLHA as a women’s rights organisation recognised that it is crucial to involve all relevant stakeholders in all efforts to eliminate violence against women.

10 ENGAGING MEN THROUGH STEPPING STONES APPROACH In January 2010, COWLHA started the implementation of a project aimed at reducing GBV in intimate relationships in 8 districts across Malawi under a UNAIDS led initiative funded by UNDP. The project aimed at stopping heaping all the blame of VAW on men by instituting dialogue, communication and partnerships among couples. Men and women (couples) were trained as trainers in the Stepping Stones approach to communities.

11 HOW MEN WERE ENGAGED In previous projects COWLHA only trained women on their rights issues of GBV but never engaged men which did not yield encouraging results because their environment remained the same. But through the said project, 132 trainers of trainers were trained in the Stepping Stones methodology of which 61 were men. The trained men served as champions for women’s rights within their communities and are examples to their peers.

12 HOW MEN WERE ENGAGED CONT. At community level, 885 men were trained alongside 1737 women in stepping stones as couples where relevant.

13 ENGAGING MEN THROUGH STEPPING STONES APPROACH CONT.. C ouples were invited to Stepping Stones sessions where they were questioned on why they behave the way they behave and what needs to be changed to enhance violence free relationships. Stepping Stones helps couples to improve on their communication skills, sex and sexuality education among others. As a result, the project improved the sexual lives of couples because families became institutions where the needs and wants of both the husband and the wife are mutually met. The project also improved positive prevention which is one of the reported challenges by COWLHA members that their partners (men) were usually refusing to use condoms.

14 ENGAGING MEN AS PARTNERS CONT. The desire to have children by men sometimes leads to violation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women. E.g. some women are forced to have kids by their husbands or risk losing their marriages even against the advice of doctors. But the engagement of men through Stepping Stones has had a positive impact on both women and men. Ref. case study 1:

15 Flora Chingwalu is a 38 year woman living with HIV from Talandira COWLHA group in Ntcheu said: “before the stepping stones training, my husband was forcing me to bear another child against my will by insisting on unprotected sex. This made our marriage reach a breaking point because we always argued over having another baby. But after we both attended the stepping stones training my husband began to understand that he does not need to force me to have another child against my wish. My husband and I have agreed that we will not have any more kids in addition to the ones that we have and we are happily married again.”

16 Mr. Masautso and Mrs. Loveness Nkhoma are a couple living with HIV from Mchinji district. Mrs. Nkhoma narrates that her husband forced her to have a baby and always refused to use condoms both as a contraceptive and positive prevention measure because his target was to have 8 children. But since engaging him through the stepping stones training, Mr. Nkhoma insists on condom use every sexual encounter and he acknowledges that Stepping Stones has helped him to understand the importance of respecting the sexual and reproductive health rights of his wife. Mr. Masautso is now satisfied with the 4 children that the couple has and has since gone for vasectomy.


18 WHAT ENGAGING MEN THROUGH STEPPING STONES HAS DONE The Stepping Stones methodology has helped to shift making sexual reproductive health being male centered to couple centered, in which case the sexual reproductive health rights of both the husband and the wife are respected. As such, through the project and methodology therein, COWLHA is achieving its objectives of ensuring that the rights of women living with HIV are being protected and fulfilled and inevitably reducing incidences of gender based violence by engaging men as partners.

19 ENGAGING MEN THROUGH THE STAR APPROACH In 2011, COWLHA implemented another project titled “Challenging Culturally Endorsed Perceptions of Masculinity that Exacerbate Women’s Vulnerability to HIV” implemented in Dowa district on pilot basis. The project was conceptualized against the background of patriarchy and culturally endorsed perceptions of masculinity that tend to promote multiple concurrent sexual partnerships among men and make both men and women vulnerable to HIV

20 HOW MEN WERE ENGAGED Just like with the “Stepping Stones” project, both men and were trained both as trainers and at community level. Men were integrated into STAR Circles primarily of women living with HIV but later extended to the whole community. Issues of GBV and HIV are discussed in the circles to find ways that would prevent and mitigate the impact of this “twin pandemic”.

21 THOMAS CHIMWENDO CASE STUDY “Before I joined the STAR circle of my village, I used to drink excessively and I used to have sex with commercial sex workers on a regular basis without using condoms and I was abusive to my wife. In the process I once contracted gonorrhea. After I started participating in the STAR circle sessions, I learnt that I was putting my life and that of my wife at risk to HIV. I decided to go for HIV testing and counseling and I tested HIV non- reactive. Ever since, I remain faithful to my wife and I have never had sex with any other woman. Now I respect the rights of my wife and I no longer drink excessively. I am happily married again”


23 CASE STUDY 2- YOHANE PHELEKANA (28) “Before I joined the STAR circle of my village I was a womanizer because I thought that I would get different experiences from having sex with different women because women are different. Hence, in order to have as many experiences as possible, I used to have sex with as many women as possible which made me to abuse my wife when she asks me about my sexual relationships. But, I have learnt that I can have all the different experiences I was looking for with my wife. As such, I am now faithful to my wife and I realize that I am vulnerable to HIV and I am determined to protect myself and my wife from HIV.”

24 LESSON LEARNT BY COWLHA The fight against GBV can not be won if men are always blamed for perpetrating it without engaging them in a meaningful way. The fight for the protection of women’s rights within the women’s movement cannot be won if men are sidelined. Grouping men and women separately to generate issues of concern to be discussed in plenary is more effective towards generating sober debates on issues and not personalities considering that in local communities, women tend to shut up when men are around due to cultural norms.

25 WAY FORWARD CONT There is need to intensify programmes that engage men in order to create more male champions for the rights of women other than treating men as perpetrators of women’s rights violations….. there is strength in meaningful engagement and partnerships

26 To a hammer everything is a nail!

27 THANK YOU Zikomo Kwambiri!!


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