Companies urged to mainstream Gender in HIV and AIDS at workplaces

by ROBERT TAPFUMANEYI (HAZ Staff Writer)

Mr. David Mutambara

Harare – Private companies in Zimbabwe are scaling up their response to HIV and AIDS by developing workplace policies and programmes that mitigate the impact of the pandemic on their businesses, employees and their dependents.

This was said by the Executive Director of Zimbabwe Business Council on AIDS (ZBCA), Mr. David Mutambara when he addressed stakeholders at the launch of a booklet with guidelines for mainstreaming gender in HIV/AIDS workplace-wellness-programmes, for private sector companies in Zimbabwe .

“These guidelines were developed in response to a capacity gap related to lack of gender sensitive workplace programmes for combating HIV and AIDS, identified among private sector organisations in Zimbabwe that work with ZBCA”, said Mr. David Mutambara.

The guidelines are designed to be used by company wellness coordinators as well as employers and management of any private sector company who have established or wish to establish meaningful and responsive HIV and AIDS programmes.

“The tools make it possible for any private company to analyse its wellness programme culture and to ensure it responds positively to gender issues and makes appropriate proposed changes thereof”, added Mr. Mutambara.

The objectives of the guidelines are:

  • to create an understanding among users, of the importance of promoting gender mainstreaming in HIV and AIDS in workplace programmes
  • to offer ideas on how private sector companies can mainstream gender, i.e take into consideration men’s and women’s issues when implementing HIV and AIDS workplace wellness programmes and
  • to provide at least one tool that can be utilized by private sector companies to monitor their mainstreaming activities.

The guidelines are not exhaustive and users should also reflect on other resources available to help them along the path to mainstreaming gender in their wellness programme.

The booklet also outlines the benefits of ensuring that there is no increased vulnerability of workers and their dependents as a result of private sector practices, so as to develop a healthy male and female labour workforce, which translates to economic benefits.

A baseline survey on the wellness policies of four private sector companies in Zimbabwe (British American Tobacco, Colcom, Hippo Valley Estates and OK Zimbabwe)  shows that the companies are at different levels of implementing HIV/AIDS intervention tools in their workplace wellness programmes.  The intervention tools being implemented include condom promotion, VCT, PMTCT, antenatal health care services, ART, education and training programmes, care support and social dialogue platforms.

All four companies have adopted policies that incorporate gender sensitive interventions, in recognition of the fact that HIV/AIDS  affects men and women differently due to biological and socio-economic reasons.

The Zimbabwe National Strategic Framework for the Private Sector Response to HIV and AIDS (2007-2010) indicates that there is a need to reduce the prevalence of gender-based violence and gender inequality within the private sector by mainstreaming gender into HIV and AIDS workplace policies and programmes.  Furthermore Zimbabwe has ratified the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. The Protocol requires that by 2015, states develop gender sensitive strategies to prevent new infections from occurring, taking account of the unequal status of women compared to men.

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Robert Tapfumaneyi

HAZ Correspondent

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