Institutionalization of Female Empowerment and Gender Equality

July 25, 2012

MS. GIBSON: I want to get into – before we do have to wrap up – institutionalization of these issues, and let’s go to you first, Dr. Shah. If you want to address the men and boys piece you can, but I’d like to know more about – it’s called the Female Empowerment and Gender Equality part of PEPFAR. Could you take us there in terms of how you are institutionalizing these initiatives?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: I think the goal, as you’ve heard from the whole panel, is to really make sure that in every effort, in every program, in every attempt to collect data or information, we are making women and girls central to the task. And this is often called gender mainstreaming, which is probably the least effective label for that term, because it’s really about ensuring that resources we spend to help bring about an AIDS-free generation actually achieve that result, or resources that we spend to collect data on – through the demographic and health surveys actually collect the data we need to make management determinations that will help improve health system performance in countries.

So it’s an effort that across the board is allowing us to do a better job of measuring impact on women, doing evaluations of programs that preferentially assess are the benefits accruing to women. A lot of this – a lot of what has been said here has been known for some time, that women are very much the solution, that there are these power imbalances, violence is a huge challenge and a very important problem. But this giant industry that does health and development around the world for decades hasn’t always done a great job of taking that and operationalizing the focus on women. And that’s why we still have many of these problems and some of the inadequacies of how programs are implemented.

So the gender mainstreaming effort is designed to make sure that we’re always measuring impact and understanding impact for women specifically, that we’re designing tools and strategies to reach women, that we’re prioritizing the training of health workers who are women, and doing that across every activity.

MS. GIBSON: I know, Melanne, Ambassador Verveer, you could give us a long answer on this, because the Secretary’s great legacy, I think among many great legacies, will be the institutionalization of policies on behalf of women and girls around the world. And we know about the QDDR, which was unprecedented, calling on all the embassies to basically show what they’re doing. Could you tell me in brief what the legacy is in terms of institutionalization?

AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Well, I think Raj said it well, and the Secretary has made women a critical cornerstone of foreign policy, development, diplomacy. And this has been manifested, as he said, in a very integrative way, both as Raj has done at AID and as is being done at the State Department. And it literally covers every facet of programmatic and policy endeavor, and that the goal is to really ensure that this occurs so that we can make more effective results in whatever we’re doing.

And I’ll just – quickly, one example is in the whole area of women, peace, and security, where President Obama recently promulgated a national action plan for the United States as well as an executive order to accompany it so that we, across our government, from the Defense Department to Homeland Security to HHS, State, and AID, are working to ensure in all the ways that we engage in areas that are in-conflict and post-conflict situations and grave political transitions that we’re factoring in the role that women play.

And one critical area is protection, because as he said with respect to Haiti, women are most vulnerable. And today, in many, many combat activities where the armed groups are engaged, rape as a tool of war is a purposeful strategy and it is a successful strategy. And unless we factor in how to address that and we – which we have been doing in many places now, we’re not going to be able to help address what the victims are going through, those who are besieged by this problem, as well as forcing justice systems to do what they need to do, and to ensure that security sector reform takes place as well. So that’s just one way, but it is across the board.

MS. GIBSON: And CDC is integral to this, isn’t it, the work of the CDC?

DR. FRIEDEN: I think on the one hand, in terms of sustainability and what can ensure that we’re working consistently for a safer world, particularly for women and girls, making sure that the health systems are serving women and girls effectively, whether that’s prevention of mother-to-child transmission and the so-called B-plus regimen, which means that for a woman who is pregnant and HIV-positive, she will receive antiretroviral treatment immediately and for life. This is a game-changer. It protects her, it protects her children, it protects her partners, it protects her community. And getting this accepted as the core policy in more and more countries makes a huge difference.

Expanding access to family planning is crucially important. We know that there are millions of women who do not want to have more children and who do not have the wherewithal to avoid future pregnancies. But beyond the issue of health services is the healthcare system as advocates – not only as advocates for individual patients, but as advocates for social change – change in laws, change in enforcement of the laws, and change in social norms. And that ultimately is the sustainability when the social norms change from this is an acceptable behavior to it is a loathsome and criminal behavior.

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