Working to Advance Health Equity in Africa


Structural interventions for gender equality and livelihood security: A critical review of the evidence from southern and eastern Africa


Introduction:Young people in southern and eastern Africa remain disproportionately vulnerable to HIV with gender inequalities and livelihood insecurities being key drivers of this. Behavioural HIV prevention interventions have had weak outcomes and a new generation of structural interventions have emerged seeking to challenge the wider drivers of the HIV epidemic, including gender inequalities and livelihood insecurities.

Methods:We searched key academic data bases to identify interventions that simultaneously sought to strengthen people’s livelihoods and transform gender relationships that had been evaluated in southern and eastern Africa. Our initial search identified 468 articles. We manually reviewed these and identified nine interventions that met our criteria for inclusion.

Results:We clustered the nine interventions into three groups: microfinance and gender empowerment interventions; supporting greater participation of women and girls in primary and secondary education; and gender empowerment and financial literacy interventions. We summarise the strengths and limitations of these interventions, with a particular focus on what lessons may be learnt for young people (18_24).

Conclusions:Our review identified three major lessons for structural interventions that sought to transform gender relationships and strengthen livelihoods: 1) interventions have a narrow conceptualisation of livelihoods, 2) there is limited involvement of men and boys in such interventions, 3) studies have typically been done in stable populations. We discuss what this means for future interventions that target young people through these methods.