Persistence of the gender gap in Pakistan is widely recognized, and in the context of a very young and fast growing population young women continue to be at a disadvantage in many ways. Trafficking of women and girls (particularly around the earth-quake affected areas) is a an issue in Pakistan, and in general condom use remains low.
There is a need for much better gender analysis – with an important first step being thorough research and situation analysis that is gender sensitive and able to get beneath taboos on talking about gender related issues. Imran pointed to a communication and HIV analysis conducted by Panos South Asia in Pakistan, which, even though it was quite sophisticated, failed to incorporate a gender perspective or analysis, something which is true of much work HIV and AIDS work to date. Such formative research of this kind should and does always require a significant financial and time investment.
Conversely, many groups specifically trying to address gender issues i.e. women’s groups often don’t also attempt to address HIV in their programming.
The idea of Transformative Change is that work on gender addresses institutions and systems as well as behaviors and attitudes. But finding expertise in social change communications to work at this level is often a struggle. There are only a few groups such as Panos working on this in Pakistan, leading to reliance on consultants or finding resources to deal with organizational capacity development needs.
Lessons from project work
Imran reviewed lessons learned from two projects where peer education had been very successful – the Youth Empowerment and skills (YES!) programme in Baluchistan, Northern Pakistan and a project working with Sex workers in Karachi that was supported by the World Bank. These initiatives required a lot of initial work with peer educators themselves in identifying issues affecting their own lives and communities. Situation analysis research on communication flows, included looking at informal networks, the incidence and types of physical, sexual violence, as well as documenting colloquial terms and cultural associations.
Power analysis helped to understand existing gender relations and notions of masculinities and their impact on street kids, women, girls and adult males. These informed a series of communication interventions including peer education, use of audio cassettes, puppet and interactive theatre – as preferred forms of media for the vulnerable groups. Interpersonal communication techniques, such as dialogue and sensitivity sessions proved most effective with other stakeholders since these provided a safe and trusting environment for reflection and learning.