Making the HIV response work for women through film: A toolkit for action


Authors/editor(s): UN Women; Queen Mary University of London

Making the HIV Response Work for Women Through Film: A Toolkit for Action Many women and girls worldwide continue to face rejection, prejudice, economic insecurity, rights violations and violence from partners, family members, communities and institutions as a harsh consequence of HIV-related stigma and discrimination and persistent gender inequalities. Using a feature film ‘Pili’ about a woman living with HIV in rural Tanzania, making difficult choices, fighting against stigma and building her agency, this Toolkit for Action aims to support national efforts in identifying key issues women living with and affected by HIV face and actions that are required to address these challenges and existing gaps in the HIV response.

The toolkit will be used by national governments, civil society, various UN and development partners in their efforts to improve gender equality in the HIV context.

‘Pili’ is an original award-winning film led by a female director, female producer, and predominantly female cast, funded by an AXA Insurance Outlook Grant and the Innovation Fund Award of the Queen Mary University of London.


Pili is a feature length drama set in rural Tanzania. The film is based on the stories of real women living with HIV in the coastal region of Tanzania. The film uses real people rather than trained actors and real locations such as care and treatment clinics in which to stage the drama. 65% of the cast self-identify as living with HIV.

It is an original film led by a female director, female producer, and predominantly female cast. The film was funded by an AXA Insurance Outlook Grant and a Queen Mary University of London Innovation Fund award. Pili won the Audience Award at Dinard British Film Festival in 2017. Producer and Director were nominated for a BAFTA Film Award in 2019, and Director for the British Independent Film Awards in 2018.

There are currently very few opportunities to highlight the complexities of the lives of women living with HIV. In contrast to the majority of materials currently available on this issue, Pili offers a human and emotional context to the technical aspects of programming. It also engages with key themes in the gender dimensions of the HIV/AIDS response. During screenings of Pili over the last two years, many viewers have asked for guidance on how to use the film to mobilise stakeholders to address the issues raised. In response, UN Women came up with the idea to design a practical toolkit jointly with the film producer to accompany the film.

The toolkit will be used by national governments, civil society, various UN and development partners in their advocacy work on gender equality and HIV. The specific target audience of the toolkit are decision-makers with influence on policy-making, practitioners and technical programme staff in government agencies across a range of related sectors. The toolkit can also be used with community-based practitioners, but the target should be those with decision-making power, for example, faith-based and traditional leaders,

etc. Using participatory methodologies, the toolkit will support facilitators to use the film as a vehicle for discussions around the key issues raised; how these link to broader processes of change for gender equality and improving HIV outcomes; and how to evoke sustainable accountability towards women with HIV.

The toolkit is structured as follows. The first part sets out guidelines for facilitators, including an overview of participatory methodologies and tips for using the activities. The following three parts describe: prescreening activities; post-screening activities; and follow-up activities. The final part of the toolkit consists of annexes with supporting materials which provide facilitators with the basic background information they need in order to be able to use the toolkit.