The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) in collaboration with the Vietnam Sex Workers Network (VNSW) organised a training from the 22-24 August in Hanoi, Vietnam on the Global Fund. Seventeen sex workers representing 12 sex worker-led organisations from across the nation attended the training.
The Global Fund has made significant changes in its implementation of sex worker programmes and projects in Vietnam by directly involving sex worker organisations in its intervention and grant making processes. Currently, 17 sex worker-led organisations are working with sex workers as Sub-Sub-Recipients (SSR) of Global Fund funds. In all these organisations, sex workers are meaningfully involved in the delivery and evaluation of sex worker services. Nine of these seventeen organisations attended the training.
Vietnamese sex workers report that although they are meaningfully involved in the implementation of Global Fund programmes, they rarely have access to workshops which focus on increasing their knowledge and awareness of the structure of the Global Fund. One sex worker stated, “after we signed the contract one representative came from the Sub Recipient (SR) organisation for few hours and taught us how to fill out all the forms related to programme and that was the training we received.”
The APNSW training focused on the technical aspects of the Global Fund, its functions and processes. The training helped sex workers gain a clearer understanding of the history of the Global Fund, its role as a funding body, its internal accountability processes, and how communities can participate in the Global Fund.
Sex workers have mentioned many challenges related to Global Fund implementation, including:
- Documentation processes are very complicated and long. Programme and finance reporting deadlines are tight and there are no extensions provided. Also, if’ signatures are slightly different between reports, the report with the questionable signature will not be accepted and will be returned to the sex worker organisation.
- A lack of training and capacity strengthening for sex worker staff. One sex work stated, “I am working for Global Fund for over a year and until now there has not even been training for a single day.”
- Sub recipient organisations provide targets that are not always achievable or manageable. Some sex workers report experiencing high stress and tension that they need to be constantly achieving targets that are not realistic. Similarly, they feel as though much of their effort is going into achieving impressive statistics, or “numbers on paper”, rather than focusing on the quality of services.
- Sex workers are often aggressive toward outreach workers because they feel outreach workers ask too many questions when collecting data, including personal questions. The registration form is very long and sometimes sex workers do not engage because they feel frustrated by the length of the form.
- The budgets of many SSR sex worker-led organisations are very limited, particularly against the number of activities being required in funding agreements. For example, many budgets do not contain money for transportation to and from activities or meetings. Similarly, each sex worker organisaation is granted $10,000 USD per/year to create one organisation. Sex worker leaders report that it is very difficult to create new and sustainable groups with such a limited budget. Each peer educator needs to reach 70 sex workers per-year and they are only paid $50 USD per/month, with no contribution towards transportation costs, and a mere $5 USD/month for water and other related outreach costs.
- Condom distribution is sporadic and there is not a standard supply of health promotion commodities. Many sex workers have reported that there are “not enough [condoms] for all”. This is because it takes a long time for sex worker networks to receive condoms and other health promotion products. One participant stated, “last year I had no health product at all and this year I got a lot and it’s impossible to distribute them all this year.”
- Sometimes the target areas are very large, including some mountain and rural areas where sex workers speak different languages and dialects. This makes it hard for outreach workers to speak with sex workers.
- The Global Fund only provides services and does not provide treatment for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and as a result many sex workers are infected with STIs.
Sex workers face many other challenges. However, there is positive news in Vietnam. Sex workers are managing community-led outreach programmes almost everywhere in the country.
During and following the training, almost all the participants made comments and provided feedback about the content of the training. Comments included:
- “This training was completely different from other training. The facilitators and participants were very friendly and we all understand each other, so it was easy to learn because all the sessions were clear and easy for sex workers.”
- “All the sessions were very useful for the sex worker CBOs, especially those who are implementing projects through the Global Fund grant. Previously, there was no training on Global Fund and this was the first comprehensive GF training in Vietnam.”
- “The training is useful for all the sex workers in Vietnam, and if there need to be any changes make, then that would involve more sex workers in future.”
- “I am very lucky and happy to be able to participate in this training. I am implementing a Global Fund funded project for the last 2 years and I had no idea about Global Fund. I liked all the sessions but I would most like to share information about community empowerment, OIG, and sex workers human rights with the other staff in my office.”
- “The training was very interesting because there was a fun, friendly environment, which made my interactions with people very friendly. I learn a lot from this training and it will be useful in carrying out my work.”
The training was finalised with an action plan to meaningfully involve sex workers in the Global Fund process at country level, and an agreement that the Vietnam Sex Workers Network will actively work to implement the country’s national action/ strategic plan.