Jennifer Bushee
Kim Brice
Publication Date
November 1, 2008

This report explores the Gender Development Project (GDP), undertaken in Kenya and Indonesia is an effort to address the increased vulnerability of women and girls to HIV/AIDS through evidence-based approaches. GDP is an initiative of STOP AIDS NOW! (SAN!), an independent organisation formed in 2000 by Aids Fonds, Hivos, Interchurch Organisation for Development Co-operation (ICCO), Cordaid, and Oxfam Novib. GDP is financed under the programme "Development of a strengthened response to HIV/AIDS in developing countries", which is supported through the 2005-2008, "Thematische Medefinanciering" (TMF) or "Theme-based co-funding" cycle of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The review summarised here can be understood as seeking to answer the question of whether a second phase of the GDP was necessary or desirable.

The SAN! GDP Project Coordinator conducted this review with the assistance of a consultant based in The Netherlands who helped develop a survey and a framework for a set of self-evaluation workshops held with the GDP counterparts in both Indonesia and Kenya in June and July 2008, respectively. The workshops and the surveys examined the following main parameters: experiences with the approach and strategy of the GDP; successes and challenges in implementing the GDP activities with beneficiaries and the broader community (including experiences in involving men and boys, and involving women living with HIV); capacity building in the GDP; the impact of the Project on the counterparts, in particular with regard to mainstreaming of gender, HIV, and/or human rights issues; the quality of the networking among counterparts; the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the Project; and the management of the Project at the level of SAN! and of the local coordination. The review also involved interviewing the SAN! partners to get their views on the GDP.

The initial sections of the document explore the design and development of the GDP, which seeks to add value to the HIV/AIDS and gender policies of SAN! partners - community-based and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - by identifying promising local-level strategies and interventions for HIV prevention that integrate promotion of egalitarian gender-based attitudes, behaviours, and norms, and women's rights. In keeping with other SAN! development projects, the GDP takes place in two countries, one with a generalised epidemic and another with a nascent or concentrated epidemic. This particular two-country choice is designed to allow for comparisons and to provide opportunities for actors in the AIDS response in the low-prevalence country to learn from the experiences of their counterparts in the high-prevalence country.

As detailed here, GDP was designed from May through September 2006, with the first introductory workshop taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, in December 2006, and in February and March 2007 in Jakarta and Jayapura (Papua). The workshops trained the participants on the issues and the approach of the GDP. They also included a local needs assessment. The workshops facilitated establishment of local coalitions in each project location (Kenya, Java, and Papua), and the selection of a local organisation to be "Coalition Coordinator" (serving as the principal liaison with SAN!, managing the GDP locally, and coordinating the activities of the coalition). In Java, the Coalition Coordinator is Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia. In Papua, it is Forum Kerjasam LSM Papua (hereafter, "FOKER"), and in Kenya, Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK).

Once these structures were in place, local groups interested in participating were invited to submit proposals for HIV prevention activities that integrate promotion of gender equality and women's rights. The GDP activities are intended to take place at 3 levels: the individual, the community, and the networking level. GDP activities vary widely, ranging from HIV counselling, dialogue and theatre, and provision of legal services for cases of violence, to campaigning and advocacy activities. Local implementation began toward the end of 2007 (September in Kenya and November in Java). SAN! has emphasised the groups should adapt the framework of the GDP to suit their ways of working, including integrating the GDP within their already existing activities and adapting the GDP to the local context and cultures in which they implement their activities.

GDP has created an integrated approach to addressing HIV and promoting gender equality and women's rights concurrently. One implication of this approach is that HIV can be understood not solely as a health/public health issue, but as a social issue as well. This philosophy also entails that, if a group does not see a ready way to introduce HIV into its activities with its beneficiaries, for example, it is able to do so by connecting to one of the other GDP issues first. GDP's networking strategy involves joint lobbying and advocacy, mutual capacity-building, and sharing of information and experiences.

Some of the key lessons from the review are the following:

  • Use of tangentially relevant entry points for dialogue with communities helps lead into discussions on HIV/AIDS. Such entry points currently used by counterparts include such issues as economic empowerment, education, and religion. The use of such entry points also help get men and boys become involved in discussions.
  • It is important to involve men and boys from the start of an activity. This helps create greater acceptance of the activity, and to ensure their overall greater participation as well as that of women and girls.
  • It is important to integrate activities that address the economic well-being of beneficiaries. The struggle for day-to-day survival still hampers the involvement of women (and men) in awareness raising activities around HIV/AIDS. This point is especially relevant in relation to women living with HIV.
  • It is helpful to create or link beneficiaries living with HIV to existing people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) support groups. This helps increase the confidence and knowledge of beneficiaries to take action to live positively and better manage their lives with HIV.
  • The involvement of community leaders such as teachers, cultural custodians, and government officials in projects is key to the greater impact and sustainability of the changes the GDP is seeking to achieve. Such leaders have the influence to promote and/or implement change and the legitimacy and respect of communities to influence their thinking and behaviour.


Given the fact that "developing new forms of cooperation and partnership" is a key pillar of the GDP, further attention needs to be given to the coalitions, according to evaluators. One of the expected outcomes of the coalitions is joint collaboration in activities beyond the GDP project such as advocacy and lobbying, for example. To date, however, no campaigning or specific lobbying activities have taken place in Kenya. In Indonesia there have been several successful advocacy events, and the Papuan coalition has helped draft an ordinance that is currently under consideration by local parliament. For the coalitions to be more effective in the next phase of the Project, members need to articulate a common vision and more tangible outputs. The coalitions also have the potential of being an effective mechanism for exchanging knowledge and skills and learning. In order for them to achieve this, communication needs to be improved, and tools and mechanisms for generating learning need to be developed.


The review finds that "The most valuable resource in this project is the experience and knowledge that counterparts are developing as they progress with their activities. Given the emphasis in the GDP on learning and innovation, it is essential that these two pillars be addressed more systematically. Better structuring learning and innovation can be achieved by setting aside resources and specific moments for reflection and learning within the Project cycle." To that end, the GDP's M&E tools need to be revised to facilitate learning and innovation. The GDP's core evaluation tool "will provide a wealth of information on the effect of the Project's activities on beneficiaries. It is already clear, however, it will not provide information on the strategies and methods that work best to achieve those changes. The other component of the protocol, a six-month reporting mechanism...does not structurally produce sufficiently detailed information on experiences and the lessons learned from them."


The evaluation found that the GDP should maintain its holistic approach but at the same time needs to ensure continuous training and dialogue around women's rights and gender equality issues related to HIV/AIDS with its counterparts and between counterparts. The review stresses that capacity-building initiatives should also enhance the counterparts' ability to incorporate learning approaches into their activities and into the coalitions' activities. Allocations should be made for the development of locally adapted training manuals and tools in a variety of media, including audiovisual. Finally, there needs to be a mechanism in place whereby the learning and insights gathered from the counterparts and SAN! are transferred and made useful to SAN! counterparts and SAN! Dutch partners.


An excerpt from the report follows:

"...[C]ounterparts and SAN! partners were unanimous in their support of continuing the GDP into the next funding cycle. All also agreed a longer implementation period would be essential for producing enough useful lessons...


Positive effects on attitudes, behaviors and norms of individuals and communities

Evidence that counterparts provided suggests the GDP has promoted more egalitarian gender-based attitudes, behavior and norms and an increase in awareness of and concern for women's rights. We can assume, based on the assumptions of the GDP, it has therefore contributed to a more enabling social environment for reducing HIV/AIDS infections rates. Changes have taken place both at individual and community levels.


Counterparts shared many examples of how community leaders, such as teachers, cultural custodians and government officials, who were involved in activities became more outspoken on such negative practices as wife inheritance, early marriage and violence against women, all of which make women more vulnerable to HIV. Their changes in attitude have had a palpable effect on the attitude and behavior of their constituencies towards such issues.


Another significant change that has come about is the increase in knowledge and awareness of Project beneficiaries. This increase has led to greater denunciations against violence against women, more individuals undergoing HIV testing, and higher condom uptake and negotiation. These changes have also led to further tangible behavior changes, such as greater sharing of domestic duties and changes in gender roles. While not all these changes are attributable only to the GDP project, counterparts say the activities of the GDP have significantly contributed to these changes...


There is also evidence there is a greater increase in dialogue in target communities regarding sex, HIV and condoms. Young people and women are more willing to talk about sex, sexual health issues and HIV/AIDS more openly. This change toward increased dialogue and openness appears to be linked to a rise in self-confidence, especially among women. The rise in self-confidence is reflected in an increase of women in leadership positions as well as seeking and aspiring to leadership roles.


Knowledge and implementation capacity of counterparts improved

In general, partners appreciate the holistic approach of the GDP, and there is emerging evidence it has made their activities more effective and has led to changes in approaches to their work in other projects on development issues, such as economic well-being. It has enabled some organizations to see how HIV and gender cut across all activities that concern day-to-day life spheres: economic, health, food security. Due to this broadening it has led organizations to work with and come into contact with a much broader group of people and organizations.


The GDP has also influenced how counterparts address gender in their own organizations. Some of the counterparts say the implementation of the GDP brought to light the importance of taking their internal gender policy more seriously, and to be more sensitive to gender in staff appointments. There is also a greater recognition of the need to pay attention to the participation of men and women in decision-making in their organizations, but also within the projects they support.


Useful approaches that combat resistance and stigma

...[W]orking with men and boys...has helped in fighting the negative attitudes and perceptions that gender issues are about women only, by increasing the understanding of the role both men and women can play in championing gender equality. Although traditional stereotypes and cultural beliefs on the role of women were cited as setbacks to some initiatives, most partners reported significant reductions of negative attitudes when men and women work together.


Some counterparts explained that the use of tangentially relevant entry points for dialogue with communities has helped lead groups into discussions on HIV/AIDS they normally would have resisted outright. Entry points currently used by counterparts include such issues as economic empowerment, education and religion. The use of such entry points has also helped persuade men and boys involved in activities.


Integrating activities that address the economic well-being of beneficiaries also helped enhance the effectiveness of activities. Because the struggle for day-to-day survival is so great in many of the communities in which the counterparts work, the ability and willingness of communities to devote time to discussion groups or other awareness raising activities are limited...


Finally, the involvement of community leaders such as teachers, cultural custodians and government officials in projects has been key to the greater impact and sustainability of the changes the GDP is seeking to achieve. Such leaders have the influence to promote and/or implement change and the legitimacy and respect of communities to influence their thinking and behavior...


Key challenges ahead

...The greatest challenge to be able to produce information on which types of interventions and strategies being implemented in the GDP at the local level are the most promising. So far, we are confident there is a positive effect, but it is hard to say exactly how it is being produced...


The other area that poses considerable challenges is enabling counterparts to network....Communication within the coalitions has been inconsistent and at times ineffective, and therefore the potential of the coalitions can be said to have been insufficiently tapped...


Furthermore, counterparts both in Kenya and Indonesia continue to struggle to implement activities due to the opposition, resistance and stigma they face in their communities and from authorities....These political and cultural realities in Papua, but also to a certain degree in Java and Kenya, make it essential for the GDP to invest further in building counterparts' knowledge and understanding of human rights, gender and HIV AIDS issues, as well as supporting them to create educational tools and approaches that are relevant to their specific contexts."