The gendered utilization of women's volunteered labour in psychosocial support interventions for people living with HIV/AIDS: a case of Kawempe Division, Uganda
Nikityo, Immaculate Lwanga
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Volunteering is very important component of modern service delivery since majority of the population in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda depend on collective action between the government, NGO and people’s organizations. The introduction of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPS) coupled with the onset of HIV/AIDS at the beginning of the 1980’s further constrained the health sector, increasing the demand for services in terms of quantity, quality and complexity. As a result, many community initiatives started by community, national and international voluntary organizations have been established to provide service with support from community volunteers. The study aimed at assessing how gender relations (the gender division of labour and women and men’s position in society) influence the use of women’s volunteered labour (in terms of opportunities available and choices made) in HIV/AIDS psychosocial support interventions in Kawempe division. The study was carried out in Kawempe Division in Kampala district. The study was comparative in nature involving volunteers in psychosocial support activities at household, community and health centre levels (supporting community outreach programs), mainly using qualitative and participatory research approaches. The findings indicated a growth of the voluntary sector in health service delivery among PLWA and their families. Community members of all age groups, religion, marital status and education background were increasingly being trained to support psychosocial activities like counseling, adherence, writing of referral and day to day care. One of the key findings was that women’s contribution in such programs was way above that of their male counterparts. It was also clear that majority of these programs were not gender sensitive and therefore ignore the influence of the GDOL and women and men’s positions in society on their choices and opportunities available to them as volunteers. Findings indicated that provision of care and support to relatives living with HIV was considered an obligation rather than a choice. It was also clear that though women and men were taking on responsibilities that are traditionally outside their mandate, it did not however necessarily imply a change in gender relations within the society. Findings also indicated that the use of volunteers helped to improve the quality of life for PLWA and their families. Volunteers were key resources in such programs working as counselors, knowledge brokers and at the same form part of community safety nets in urban centres. As a result, programs using volunteers helped to build community’s capacity to provide care and support for their own families and community members by strengthening community support structures. Findings also indicated that there was a need to improve program design and implementation if PLWA and their families were to effectively benefit from voluntary services. There was need to comprehensively train volunteers, improve the selection criteria and reduce stigma and discrimination. Such programs should strengthen male involvement, PLWA support groups, nutrition and livelihood for PLWA and volunteers and provision and coordination of technical support and service.