IMAGE is a combined microfinance plus education program that seeks to explicitly address key structural factors driving the HIV & AIDS epidemic by integrating the delivery of gender and HIV education into the operations of an existing microfinance institution, such as SEF. It aims to assess both the ability of households and communities involved with microfinance programs to cope with the effects of HIV & AIDS and avoid the disease. The initiative has five objectives:
- Expand access to an existing microfinance initiative for women from the poorest households in a group of villages in rural South Africa, using this access as a means to facilitate improvements in household welfare and individual empowerment.
- Develop a participatory approach to gender awareness and HIV education for SEF clients and mainstream this approach into existing SEF microfinance activities.
- Investigate whether the attitudes and skills gained through participation in the program, in combination with its social and economic benefits, can support patterns of decision making that reduce vulnerability to both gender-based violence and HIV.
- Use a range of quantitative, qualitative, and participatory methods to describe and document related processes and outcomes at multiple levels.
- Implement and evaluate this intervention within the framework and policy environment of a South African National Department of Health HIV & AIDS Pilot Initiative.
The IMAGE project received funding from the Anglo American Chairman’s Educational Trust, AngloPlatinum, Department for International Development (UK), Ford Foundation, Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, HIVOS, South African Department of Health and Welfare, and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).