THE COVID-19 pandemic has forced many community-led organizations working on HIV to shift their work and focus on mobilizing funds to provide basic humanitarian assistance, such as food, shelter and medicines to people living with HIV and members of key populations severely impacted by the pandemic.
In order to enhance the capacity of key populations and community organizations to face hardship, UNAIDS launched a US$ 250 000 Solidarity Fund in January 2021 to support social enterprises led by people living with HIV and members of key populations, including sex workers, transgender people, people who use drugs and gay men and other men who have sex with men, as well as young women from key affected communities or facing special hardship, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Twenty-four local social entrepreneurs across five countries have been selected for grant seed funding to empower them to scale up existing or develop new business initiatives that can generate economic value and social impact for their communities.
The first call for proposals from the Solidarity Fund saw applications from a diverse range of social enterprises led by networks and organizations of key populations. A global Solidarity Fund Review Committee, composed of representatives of UNAIDS, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners, including community representatives and country, public and private sector representatives, reviewed and assessed high-potential proposals for social enterprises. The 24 final grantees have demonstrated their commitment towards developing sustainable solutions to address the socioeconomic barriers that key populations face.
“The pilot phase of the Solidarity Fund will allow for the testing of innovative models, providing key communities with an opportunity to adequately address the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and create sustainable income-generating activities,” said Pradeep Kakkattil, the Director of the UNAIDS Office of Innovations, as social entrepreneurs from Brazil, Ghana, India, Madagascar and Uganda begin the establishment of their enterprises.
Movimento Nacional das Cidadãs Posithivas, Brazil
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil, Movimento Nacional das Cidadãs Posithivas (MNCP) has been working to minimize the challenges posed by the social isolation measures imposed in the country and the subsequent economic impacts on the lives of women living with HIV. “In general, people who sought help are mostly in need of food, including poor people, people living with HIV and who had no formal work and were unable to continue working during the pandemic,” said Jacqueline Côrtes, an Executive Coordinator at MNCP.
With the support of the Solidarity Fund, MNCP is aiming to train and fund more than 35 women living with HIV across Brazil on sewing and marketing traditional cloth dolls. The goal is to support the women to establish and lead a production network with regional representation. MNCP will also promote economic empowerment and female entrepreneurship through online courses and vocational training.
As one of India’s first transgender-led start-ups and online artist aggregator platforms, Nachbaja.com aims to ensure that artists from the community receive fair and complete remuneration for their services. Keeping up with the ever-evolving needs of markets, Nachbaja.com will integrate its offline operations and create a new artist platform by developing an online application through the support received from the Solidarity Fund. It aims to directly connect talented artists with event organizers, alleviating the need for agents, who would normally take a significant share of the artists’ income.
“The growth of India’s events industry presents an opportunity to set up Nachbaja.com as a digital platform allowing artists from the community to take increased ownership of their skills and reduce dependence on agents,” said Reshma Prasad, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nachbaja.com. In addition to providing opportunities to earn a livelihood, Nachbaja.com will also integrate Global Positioning System-enabled tracking to ensure the safety and security of the artists from the transgender community.
Fikambanana Vehivavy Miavotena eto Madagasikara, Madagascar
Fikambanana Vehivavy Miavotena eto Madagasikara (FIVEMIMAD), a network of sex workers, has been working since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to improve the living conditions of sex workers in Madagascar and to increase their social reintegration at the national level. “We believe it is important to leverage our network of association subsidiaries in the cities of Toamasina, Foulpointe, Toliara and Diégo to implement social entrepreneurship projects to ensure the ownership of the diverse social enterprises led by the sex worker community across Madagascar,” said Germaine Razafindravao, President of FIVEMIMAD.
Through this network of association subsidiaries in four cities, FIVEMIMAD will promote the establishment of sex worker-led social enterprises. It will provide training on mosquito net production, Malagasy art-making, sewing and embroidery skills and fruit processing to provide local community members with an opportunity to achieve financial independence and improved living conditions.
Let’s Walk Uganda, Uganda
Let’s Walk Uganda (LWU) was established to support gay men and other men who have sex with men facing discrimination and marginalization, which has been enhanced by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. To improve living standards, create more sustainable economic revenue mechanisms and reduce exposure to harmful practices, LWU started its Jump Start Project, which aims at creating a business-oriented community of 20 gay men and other men who have sex with men living in three urban slums in Kampala equipped with the necessary skills to start, manage and maintain a social business. They will be engaged in fashion and design, handicraft and liquid soap production training and will be helped to set up sustainable small social enterprises. “In addition to entrepreneurial skills, we recognize that it is important to nurture financial literacy and inclusion among men who have sex with men. Therefore, LWU will also support the set-up of small savings and investment groups to improve access to group loans and savings to ensure the sustainability of these enterprises,” said Ndawula Eric, the Executive Director of LWU.
Hope for Future Generations, Ghana
Using a strategic amalgamation of empowerment, a rights-based approach and innovative participatory strategies, Hope for Future Generations (HFFG) has facilitated and worked towards improving the health, education and socioeconomic status of women, children and young people in Ghana since 2001. Through a specially constituted youth network under its purview called the Young Health Advocates Ghana (YHAG), HFFG empowers young people living with HIV to use their voices in advocacy for their rights and to build their entrepreneurship capacity. “Our social enterprises will be developed, led and sustained by young people living with HIV and young female sex workers. It is great to see ideas such as a greenhouse farm and a fashion design enterprise come to life from this network of young people,” said Cecilia Lodonu-Senoo, the founder and Executive Director of HFFG. The enterprises established will be specially designed to promote leadership, equitable employment and income-generation opportunities to fellow members of the YHAG community.
Community organizations and their networks require sustainable resources and technical support to be able to continue to play their roles, scale innovative community-led solutions, create sustainable revenue mechanisms and reduce widening inequalities. As grant-implementation efforts are under way, UNAIDS is working closely with community networks and partners such as UNICEF and Social Alpha to create and provide tailored support around capacity development and mentoring to the social entrepreneurs.
The complete list of grantees of the UNAIDS Solidarity Fund is:
- Aastha Parivaar, India.
- Alliance of Women Advocating for Change, Uganda.
- Asha Darpan, India.
- Associação de Apoio e Amparo as Pessoas Vivendo com HIV/AIDS do Estado do Espírito Santo, Brazil.
- Associação Social Anglicana de Solidariedade do Cerrado, Brazil.
- Fikambanana Vehivavy Miavo-Tena eto Madagasikara, Madagascar.
- Gaurav Trust, La Beauté & Style, India.
- Grupo de Trabalhos em Prevenção Posithivo, Brazil.
- Health and Rights Initiative, Uganda.
- Hope Alliance Foundation and OHF Initiative, Ghana.
- Hope for Future Generations, Ghana.
- Lady Mermaid, Women-Up Social Enterprises, Uganda.
- Let’s Walk Uganda, Uganda.
- Movimento Nacional das Cidadãs Posithivas, Brazil.
- Nachbaja.com, India.
- Réseau Association des Femmes Samaritaines, Madagascar.
- Simma Africa Creative Arts Foundation, Uganda.
- Solidarity Foundation and Navajeevana Sanghatane, India.
- Thozi, India.
- Tranz Network Uganda, Uganda.
- Uganda Harm Reduction Network, Uganda.
- Usha Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited, India.
- Vijana Na Children Foundation, Uganda.
- Women of Dignity Alliance, Ghana.