Making sense of 'gender': from global HIV/AIDS strategy to the local Cambodian ground.
journal contributionposted on 24.10.2012, 08:55 by Emma-Louise Aveling
Interventions aiming to promote gender equality are a common feature of global HIV/AIDS policies. To develop effective interventions, it is important to understand how globally established concepts (e.g. 'gender') are (re)interpreted and legitimated locally. This paper examines what happens when the concept of 'gender' hits the local ground in the context of an internationally funded HIV/AIDS intervention in Cambodia. Interviews with participants reveal that 'gender' is itself understood to mean equal rights. Some elements of this concept are rejected as inapplicable in Khmer society, while others are hybridised with existing knowledges. The analysis demonstrates how relational, symbolic and material dimensions of the place into which HIV/AIDS programmes intervene shape not only what 'sense' participants make of new knowledge, but also their capacity to use it. Further, the paper argues that to achieve the desired health-enhancing outcomes, international health organisations must avoid essentialising local spaces as static and 'traditional'; rather, they must attend to and build on the ambiguities of existing knowledges and the changing dynamics of the places they enter.