July 3, 2019
Maureen is the African Regional Advocacy Advisor at AVAC.
As in-country planning for the Key Population Investment Fund (KPIF), a PEPFAR initiative to fund programs and organizations focused on key populations, key populations (KP) groups should take center stage in the process. Leaving them behind or out of the process would mean proceeding against their will.
In May, AVAC joined Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Zambia in the kick-off planning for the KPIF. The experience and lessons from the Zambia meeting provide insights into how to fully engage KP groups in the planning process—and the Zambia experience has ignited interest and enthusiasm among KP groups in different countries who are now more than ever eager to engage at all levels.
Different groups in different countries are now reaching out to their KPIF lead agencies to get more details and demand their seat at the table. (See AVAC’s Activist Guide to Influencing and Monitoring KPIF Rollout to see which agency is lead in your country and more.) Malawi is a case in point. KP-led CSOs in Malawi reviewed the contents of a KPIF proposal for Malawi in June. AVAC, joining as an observer, was on hand offering background information and lessons from the experience in Zambia. The result was a set of recommendations that helped key populations to participate meaningfully in the process of implementing the KPIF.
Key populations in Malawi remain at highest risk of HIV infection. Due to high levels of stigma and discrimination both in the community and at facility level, access to HIV prevention and treatment services remain low among this group. More effort to improve service delivery will only yield results if the structural barriers to services are addressed. The KPIF funding can be leveraged to do just that—dismantle structural barriers. Following the news of the $100 million KPIF investment from PEPFAR, KP groups have been pushing to allocate funds to close gaps in implementation and address the dire needs that stem from them.
How are the key populations CSOs engaging with the process in Malawi?
In May, Malawi’s KP groups, led by the Centre for the Development of People, formed a coalition known as the Diversity Forum, to coordinate and unite KP voices around issues affecting them. Members have since used this forum to engage stakeholders on issues that affect key populations in Malawi.
In June, the Diversity Forum took part in a gathering of the KP Technical Working Group (KP TWG) where USAID presented a fully developed KPIF proposal. KP CSOs in the room felt they were left out of the initial process for developing the proposal and asked for time to review and provide feedback. Within days the Diversity Forum had facilitated a process that resulted in beefed-up coordination and a draft statement outlining current implementation gaps and key recommendations for the KPIF implementation.
The recommendations include:
- CEDEP, the Secretariat of the Diversity Forum, should be named the host organization/grant manager for KPIF funds. CEDEP possesses the capacity to manage these funds, and has demonstrated long, sustained, meaningful engagement of LGBTQI+ and key populations. CEDEP maintains positive working relationships with all other LGBTQI+-led organizations, namely those with membership in the Diversity Forum. The Diversity Forum endorses CEDEP as host for the funds.
- The Diversity Forum should be consulted at every stage of planning, proposal writing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of KPIF-related activities and projects.
- The Diversity Forum members should be present at all PEPFAR meetings and consultations pertaining to KPIF in Malawi; PEPFAR should issue formal invitations to the members of the Forum on these occasions.
- PEPFAR should work to develop the technical capacity and ability to provide services of all the organizations that comprise the Diversity Forum.
- PEPFAR should not lose sight of the role of the advocacy and activism undertaken by the organizations of the Diversity Forum in improving service uptake and delivery, mandates at the core of KPIF.
The Diversity Forum will follow up on the statement. The Forum also remains open to further engagement on its content, but the interest of Malawi’s civil society and all advocates working on behalf of key populations will not waver. The KPIF represents a vital resource in the struggle against discrimination and inequity. We can’t afford to see it squandered.