Joining Hands Integrating Gender and HIV/AIDS: Report of an ACORD Project using Stepping Stones in Angola, Tanzania and Uganda

There is a need for everyone – men, women, parents, children, households and communities – to join hands in addressing the immediate needs of those already infected with HIV/AIDS. This disease continues to attack an ever growing proportion of girls and women, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, the worst affected continent. ‘Joining Hands: Integrating Gender and HIV/AIDS’ is the report of a project funded by Comic Relief and carried out by ACORD in collaboration with its partners in Africa that was ultimately aimed at reducing the HIV/ AIDS vulnerability of young girls and women in Africa. This project was carried out in 3 countries - Angola, Tanzania and Uganda. It took 2 years to finish this project – which used Stepping Stones - a gender-focussed, participatory process that involves working closely with ‘peer groups’ – based on age and sex in communities over a period of several months. The process - described as a ‘journey’ - uses a range of participatory methodologies aimed at helping people develop the skills and confidence to understand and challenge prevailing norms and customs that reinforce the effects of poverty and others factors in their environment that make them vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. Alongside the overarching objective of addressing female vulnerability, specific project objectives included: assessing the effectiveness of the Stepping Stones process; building the capacity of local structures to respond; and promoting community led responses through effective partnerships and advocacy actions. Another objective was to find out whether Stepping Stones can be effectively used in non-conventional contexts with a range of population groups, such as with the nomadic Mucubai tribe in Southern Angola, internally displaced people living in camps in Northern Uganda and with the army in the 21st battalion of the Angolan armed forces.