Key to shaping an agenda and a solution to women’s vulnerability to HIV and AIDS is that weneed an analysis that goes to the root of the problem.It’s a fact.Women and girls are morevulnerable to HIV infection.Theyare alsofeeling and bearing the major part of theimpact of HIV and AIDS on communities.We have known this for decades.So, why is women’s vulnerability to HIV deepening? And whyis this so in the context of greater numbers of individuals - women, men, boysand girls, as well as institutions of all kinds“joining”the “response to”or the “struggleagainst”HIV and AIDS and the “scaling up”of efforts and the “mainstreaming”of HIVand AIDS “into development work”?Whilst the answer is complex and layered,GAF see at the root, men’spower over anddomination of women – or patriarchy.Awoman’s limited lack of autonomy over their own bodies, health, and lives means thathealth is, more often than not, not in their own hands.This translates, amongst other things,to a lack of access to reproductiveand sexual health and rights by women and girls.If this is the problem, then wemust workto transform the way power is distributed in society between women and men, between girls and boys.This means that if wework with men andboys,we must enable them to see, confrontand resist their own power overwomen andgirls.They can then be supported to replacedestructive, hegemonic and dominant power with power within, power with and power to. Anything else may “help”but it is simply not good enough to make the problem goaway! Anything else will entrench men’sdomination and women’s oppression.Theproblem so defined does not call for men to simply communicate with their womenpartners about sex, sexuality and sexualhealth issues.It calls for men to becomewilling partners, activists in relinquishingtheir power over women. Again, if we work with women, we must:•Confront women’s oppression or lack of autonomy and inequality;•Work with men and women;•Target and impact on all spheres andlevels of society:personal, intimaterelationships,household, community,workplace, and political, economic andsocial/cultural institutions.The Gender AIDS Forum works ataddressing the core of the problem andworks together with others who arecommitted to the ideal of “
Another World isPossible
,where women and men are trulyequal and where women are free and havetheir dignity respected.GAF choose to dothis through demonstrating that work withwomen can be empowering andtransforming and place the bulk of itsresources into this, testing, learning anddemonstrating this process.The Gender AIDS Forum (GAF) is a Durbanbased South African Non-GovernmentalOrganisation (NGO) committed to enablingadeeper consciousness in women and menabout the links between gender and HIVand AIDS.GAF are an activist organisation,which refers to their commitment totransformation from an unequal societytowards one which is equal.GAF believethat another world is possible where all areequal regardless of race,sexual orientation,ethnicity,geographical location, (dis)abilityand gender.Whilst theyfocus on transforminggender relations between women and men,theyalso stand in solidarity with thoseconfronting inequality based on other characteristics and identities.GAF is a learning organisation and aknowledge creating organisation.In GAF’swords, “We think critically about ourselves;wequestion ourselves,then weagree to andactually act… We plan for and enable growthand development – genuine empowermentof the people in the organisation – board,staff, volunteers and strive to contribute asbest we can to this kind of growth in thework we do with others”.GAF are committed to applying their belief in equality to the organisation as afunctioning institution and as such theywork to create a flat structured organisationwhere they constantly confront power andtry to ensure that they do not use ‘power over’others.GAF try to create a workenvironment where workers are eager tocome to work – an atmosphere which theylove to be in.They try to base relations onwarmth, love, empathy and genuineness sothat they have a safe and nurturing spacefor personal change and transformation.GAF are mainly women – and a few men – who are committed to the freedom, dignityand equality between women and men.They are diverse in terms of race, sexualorientation, geography;they are HIV positiveand HIV negative.GAF are learning how to live and work with diversity.GAF’s values are based on respect for all.Theykeep in mind people,process,participation and power as four fundamentalP’s and work to ensure that the three actionP’s - philosophy, policy and practice - reflectthese values and principles.