Expert group meeting on ‘Gaps, traps, and opportunities: exploring access to justice and human rights for women affected by HIV in the context of plural legal systems’Published on Friday, 18 July 2014 10:02
[Contributed by Caitlin Boyce, UNDP] On 16-18 July 2014, UNDP organized an expert group meeting on ‘Gaps, traps and opportunities: Exploring access to justice and human rights for women affected by HIV in the context of plural legal systems’ in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The three-day conference focused on the intersection of women’s rights and plural legal systems, and specifically on the rights of women affected by HIV under various configurations of plural legal systems.
The meeting identified key strategies, programmatic areas, and actions (including collaborative action) for future initiatives, as well as provided background, principles, and strategies for engagement to form the basis of a toolkit that will be produced by UNDP. The expert group meeting served as a productive space for those working on various aspects of these issues to share ideas and situate their work as part of a larger project of increasing access to justice for women, and particularly those affected by HIV. The meeting also played an important role in strengthening the capacity and networks of partner organizations that are well placed to implement UNDP policies and programmatic work on HIV, health, development, women’s human rights, and legal empowerment. The meeting was attended by a diverse array of stakeholders, decision makers and experts on the intersection of women, law, informal legal systems and HIV.
The group included representatives from 21 different countries, drawn from legal practice, academia, donors, women’s rights groups, grassroots women’s organizations, UNDP, and other UN agencies. Presentations highlighted experiences from Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific regions, covering issues as diverse as gang justice in Jamaica, land grabbing in Kenya, and witchcraft trials in Papua New Guinea, as they relate to HIV and women’s access to justice (or lack thereof). The sessions were designed to advance discussions of policy and practice through exploring challenges encountered and extracting lessons from successful (and unsuccessful) endeavors in the area, with an eye towards identifying common strategies for future engagement.
The first day of the conference highlighted national examples of the impact of legal plurality on women in the context of HIV, and featured presentations by experts from multiple regions as well as breakout sessions focusing on points of commonality and transferable lessons. Day two was dedicated to promising practice models for engagement, and began with presentations on effective practices and successful methods of engagement in the field. The afternoon sessions were dedicated to drawing out what practices work and why, and how these practices address the contentious issues that often hamper work in the context of plural systems. The final day of the meeting was dedicated to charting a way forward – exploring how to guide the strategic process to ensure that essential elements raised throughout the meeting were incorporated into and addressed by future interventions, and attempting to form structured means of identifying key questions to ask in developing these interventions.
In terms of next steps, the UNDP is now working to develop a guidance tool for practitioners, drawing upon the promising practices elaborated in the meeting discussions. The tool will be practical and action-oriented, containing guidelines for governments, civil society, country level partners, and UNDP country office staff working on HIV, gender equality, human rights and legal empowerment.
Related meeting materials: