The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, DC hosted a presentation by World Bank Senior Economist, Ms. Kathleen Beegle, titled “Young Women, Rich(er) Men, and the Spread of HIV.”
On April 5, 2007 the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, DC hosted a presentation by World Bank Senior Economist, Ms. Kathleen Beegle, titled “Young Women, Rich(er) Men, and the Spread of HIV.” This is an on-going World Bank project that she is conducting with her colleague Mr. Berk Özler to examine the relationship between gender inequality and the HIV status of individuals in Kenya. Ms. Beegle indicated that in their research they did not observe direct effects of poverty on HIV status of individuals. However, the researchers found that gender inequality in the communities significantly affect the likelihood of people to contract HIV. The researchers studied a group of young females between the ages of 15 and 24, and males between the ages of 20 and 39. These two groups were selected because the research has shown that gender inequality between them was higher than between any other groups. Additionally, women in this age group were found more vulnerable to the negative impacts of gender inequality. Some of the key preliminary findings indicate that: • There is a higher rate of HIV positive females in the communities where gender inequality is larger. • Rricher men with more assets are more likely to have multiple partners. • Communities with higher gender inequality have a larger number of unequal marriages. It is likely, that these factors were predeterminative of the higher rates of HIV positive women in these communities. Although this research is a work in progress and needs further data gathering and empirical analysis, it underlines the crucial role that gender inequality plays in the HIV status of young women in Kenya. The issue of inequality has a high spill over effect, starting from everyday household life and ending with the representation of women in politics. Numerous studies suggest the importance of gender equality in education, health care, and work placement for the overall development and stability of any country or region. Therefore, it is in the interests of governments to promote gender responsive policies, enact gender sensitive budgets, adopt gender considerate laws and secure gender equality through their law-enforcement mechanisms. Promoting women’s participation and representation in decision and policy making processes is one important step necessary for securing gender equality. Often, women are better equipped and are more willing to make gender sensitive policies. As stated by the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, “The role of women in decision-making is central to the advancement of women around the world and to the progress of humankind as a whole.” The equal representation of women in critical decision-making structures will enable them to effectively address some of these critical factors that adversely affect women.