Empowering and Sustaining livelihoods of People Living with HIV in the Arab Region: The ‘Karama’ (dignity) initiative

Thursday, 25 June 2015 21:10 Written by 
  • Location(s): Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Near East and North Africa, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Type(s): Solution
  • Theme(s): Health, HIV/AIDS
  • SDG(s): 3. Good health and wellbeing
  • Locations in the Arab States: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Near East and North Africa, Oman, Iran, Mauritania
  • Types in the Arab States: Solution
  • Themes in the Arab States: Health, HIV/AIDS
  • SDGs in the Arab States: 3. Good health and wellbeing

The initiative was designed as a multi-country-pilot initiative aiming to economically and socially empower women living and/or affected by Human Immunity Virus (HIV) in Arab States through micro-lending based Income Generating Activities (IGAs), Leadership and Vocational Training. 

In the context of HIV, the combination of women`s lower social status, including lack of access to education and information, and their limited ability to control decisions about their lives has made them increasingly vulnerable to infection in many countries, including in the Arab region. 

According to UNICEF women and girls represented 2/3 of the people living with HIV (PLWH) aged 15-24 in 2009 and it is estimated that 80% of women living with HIV in the Arab region have been infected within the bond of marriage. The Arab region is the second lowest region in the world on the Gender Empowerment Measurement (GEM), reflecting the vulnerable situation that women face when it comes to HIV infection and AIDS related stigma. 

The Karama initiative is implemented through the following pathways:

  • No one `fits all model` - Solution `profile and maturity` depend on country context (e.g in Algeria, initiative aligned with National Strategic Plan of Fight Against HIV/Aids, which underscores microcredit for PLWH)
  • National-Local Ownership: Importance of strong local actors/CSOs with deep knowledge of community, people needs, challenges and opportunities: In Egypt, WHIA (Women Health Improvement Association) was able to explore the integration of PLWH into its services nation-wide.
  • PLWH Participation and Leadership - Trust-building (CSOs/PLWH) - Some partner CSOs in Yemen and Djibouti are run by PLWH
  • Integrated approaches: combining micro-lending/IGAs with vocational/business/project management training, psycho-sociological support, access to treatment-health and other services (e.g in Algeria and Lebanon)
  • Networking and broad based Partnerships (CSOs, Government (national/local), Private Sector, and other Development Partners): in Algeria, El Hayet partners with the Ministries of Health, of Solidarity, of Vocational Training and the national Agency of Microcredit).

Through regional knowledge exchange and workshops the initiative has mobilized the civil society (17 CSOs to date, both HIV thematic and non-HIV thematic) in addressing the special needs of PLWH, particularly women, in the region and thus, has contributed to challenging attitudes and perceptions about PLWH.

To empower PLWH economically and socially the initiative has provided micro-loans (200USD to 4000USD), vocational training, marketing campaigns and life-skills training that led to 300 micro-projects/IGAs being implemented. Although there are substantial differences between countries, 60% of beneficiaries of IGAs at regional level are women.

First implemented in Egypt, Djibouti and Yemen, nowadays the Karama initiative has reached over 1300 beneficiaries in various communities across 7 countries of the region, namely Egypt, Djibouti, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon and Jordan. 

The initiative has been instrumental in enhancing welfare of beneficiaries and affected families and, critically in reducing stigma, evident from improved family relationships and a powerful sense of integration within their communities. 


UNDP, UN Women, other partners to ensure cross-fertilization of knowledge and experience among participating countries and CSO partners

Contact details: 

Nathalie Milbach
Poverty Practice Leader, UNDP Regional Center Cairo
Tel: +2 010 66558411
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Alyaa Nabil, 
Practice Associate, HIV Practice in the Arab States, UNDP Regional Center Cairo
Tel: +2 012 21634775
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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