Global Gender Policy: is it working for HIV/AIDS?

Shannon Olinyk 1

Shannon Olinyk


Andy Gibbs

HCD alumnus Andy Gibbs is a senior researcher at HEARD in South Africa (
He recently worked with Shannon Olinyk (right) on her HCD dissertation, which has now been published in the African Journal of AIDS Research. )
The paper evaluates the effects of UNAIDS policy on accelerated country level action on women, girls, gender equality and HIV.

HCD graduate Sharon Njavika sets up AJANI handmade, a social enterprise

HCD graduate Sharon Njavika has set up a social enterprise in Nairobi called AJANI handmade  ( )which markets handmade natural hair Sharon-Njavikaproducts specifically for natural black hair as well as general natural hair care.

Sharon writes: “The business model is grounded in perpetuating messages and images of worth, beauty, agency and capacity by and for African women. We offer a natural based handcrafted hair and skincare product line aimed at catering to the demands of a growing natural and organic hair and skin care market for the self-aware and environmentally conscious, promoting an informed and conscious way of self care. Through participating in and facilitating conversations online and otherwise, we aim to address the sometimes ignored, often dynamic, social narratives that affect young African women.

 “The social enterprise is only a few months old and so far we have collaborated with another social enterprise, AM Café (that deals with baking and providing safe and inclusive spaces for marginalised groups) to host a dialogue event to address a number of issues surrounding women in Nairobi. One key goal was to address the topic of self image and how it affects our interactions in social and economic spaces. This helped us integrate our knowledge of hair/haircare and talk about the politics, history and issues surrounding black/African hair and it helped with diving into the issues of self-image.

You can read more about the event here :

“We hope to bridge socio- economic gaps by getting together women (and other individuals) from different social and economic backgrounds to interact in informal settings over food, drink, comfort (safe and inclusive spaces) and facilitating both personal and professional connections by sharing their experiences given the context of the topic at hand, using these conversations to share and learn from each others accounts and experiences. We also aim for the events to serve as networking opportunities that can get young start- up owners (like myself) and women from more disadvantaged backgrounds to access more established social entrepreneurs and established business in an informal learning space that they wouldn’t necessarily get access to in regular circumstances.”

We wish Sharon all the best in this work!

People’s Climate March in Dar es Salaam

Climate Change is a topic of growing interest to the department of Social Psychology.
PhD graduate Sharon Jackson is both a climate change researcher and activist, and was recently involved in organising a march in Tanzania tagged ‘People Climate March’. A researcher with the Health, Community and Development group, Sharon is in Tanzania conducting fieldwork for her PhD on community responses to climate change and HIV.
Over 300 people attended the People’s Climate March in Dar es Salaam as part of the global day of action on climate change. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets elsewhere around the world to demand action in advance of the UN Summit on Climate Change. The event in Dar es Salaam was organised by a civil society alliance of Climate Action Network Tanzania (CAN Tz), ForumCC, Oxfam Tanzania and Youth Climate Activist Network (YouthCAN). 
The alliance also submitted a statement to the Tanzanian Minister for Environment calling for bold action by developed countries to reduce emissions by 75% by 2035 to keep global temperature increase below 1° C and for developing countries to commit to low-carbon development pathways. They also called for action on carbon finance, priority support for adaptation, support for locally-appropriate and renewable energy technologies and the incorporation of agriculture into global climate agreements.
The Tanzanian event involved hundreds of school students and was covered in national media, featured in global People’s Climate March coverage and even announced from the stage at the tens-of-thousands-strong London march.

Explaining poor uptake of children’s HIV services in Uganda


Sara celebrates with supervisor Prof Campbell (left) and examiners Dr Coast (right) and Dr Seeley (second right)

Sara Belton was yesterday awarded her PhD (with minor revisions) after a gruelling viva by her examiners, LSE’s Dr Ernestina Coast and Dr Janet Seeley from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Sara’s thesis sought to explain low uptake of paediatric HIV services in western Uganda, by exploring the social representations of children and AIDS held by health care workers, adult carers of children and children themselves.

Sara, who was a Registered Nurse in Canada prior to her post-graduate research, is about to take up a position as a Senior Project Manager with the Ministry of Health in her home province of Saskatchewan, Canada.

She and Dr Morten Skovdal have recently coedited a special edition of Children and Youth Services Review on “Children and Youth Growing Up with HIV Infection in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for Health Service Delivery” which can be viewed here.



Social Psychology researchers continue to set the agenda in leading journals

Social Psychology researchers continue to set the agenda in the fields of community psychology, gender studies and social development with papers in leading international journals.

ro and jvIn a paper for Health & Place (impact factor 3.0) Dr Jenevieve Mannell, coordinator for the Health, Community and Development MSc Programme, discusses how development NGOs translate donor understandings of ‘gender’ into local needs (link to the paper). In the paper, she highlights how practitioners in development organisations often manipulate donor policies on gender, and that while we think of this as bad, it can actually be quite good when it means practitioners are adapting policy ideas to suit local needs. Another paper, also published this year by Dr Mannell in the Journal of the International AIDS Society (impact factor 4.2), explores the thorny issue of how to evaluate HIV/AIDS interventions from a social perspective, again making a case for why we need to pay more attention to local context (link to the paper). 

Fellow HCD Researcher Dr Rochelle Burgess has also just had a paper published in Health Policy & Planning (impact factor 3.44) focusing on how practitioners respond to the mental distress of HIV-affected women and communities in South Africa. Again, Dr Burgess is discussing policy and the need to be aware of the social realities that frame the mental health of AIDS-affected women. For more from Dr Burgess, take a look at her very popular blog about social psychology: Psychology Matters. Together these two HCD researchers are taking the gender and AIDS policy world by storm, and calling into question some of its most basic assumptions. 

Understanding Global Mental Health

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Rochelle Burgess – who started her academic career on the MSc in Health, Community and Development, has just been awarded her PhD by the London School of Economics. Rochelle’s thesis – entitled  Supporting community in an era of global mental health: A Case study of an AIDS-affected South African Community – focused on the challenges facing the newly founded Movement for Global Mental Health, in its efforts to improve levels of mental health worldwide.

Some have argued that biomedical services are not necessarily the most appropriate response to low levels of mental health in the most marginalised settings, where distress is often fuelled by negative social relations such as gender inequality, poverty or conflict. Rochelle’s research looked at responses to extreme distress faced by women affected by HIV/AIDS in rural South Africa, looking at the interface between women’s own personal coping mechanisms, informal family and friendship networks, public sector primary health care facilities and national mental health policy, in the context of wider global efforts.

Rochelle’s work has already been published in several outlets ( and in her co-guest-edited special edition of the international journal Transcultural Psychiatry (, where she introduced the concept of a ‘mental health competent community’ (  Rochelle, who is well known for her warm and unconventional personal style, startled the very formal LSE graduation platform party when she gave LSE Director, Prof Craig Calhoun, a hug in place of the usual handshake.

Graduation 2014 Hug

Rochelle, who is currently working with HCD’s Prof Campbell and Dr Mannell in setting up a study on the role of public deliberation in tackling domestic violence 
( is about to take up a lectureship in Health and Social Care at London Metropolitan University, from where she will continue to be an active member of the HCD Research Group.

New Forms of Social Protest

Cathy Campbell, HCD Director, gave the keynote address at the SIPCO 10th National Conference of the Italian Society of Community Psychology at the University of Bologna. The conference theme was ‘Building Sustainable and Hospitable Communities’. The title of Cathy’s talk was ‘New forms of social protest and new social movements: implications for the theory and practice of community psychology’.

imageThe paper elaborated on themes introduced in the recent special issue of the Journal of Health Psychology (co-edited by Cathy hperlink to my website and Flora Cornish), which focused on new ideas for equipping Community Health Psychology for the 21st century:

9th Annual HCD Mini-Conference

The Health, Community and Development Group recently hosted the 9th Annual HCD MINI-CONFERENCE in the Old Building at the London School of Economics. The day focused on the challenges of creating health enabling environments in settings of extreme inequality.

The programme was organised and chaired by HCD co-director Dr Jenevieve Mannell. The day’s programme consisted of presentations by 11 MSc students, covering issues to do with health, participation, community and gender in countries including: Ghana, Malawi, India, Rwanda, Zambia, South Africa and the UK. All the research was carried out in the context of partnerships between students and community-based NGOs in the research countries.

The day was full of lively discussion. Some of the discussion focused on technical issues, including how to understand and implement criteria for good research (significance, originality and rigorous) and how best to construct compelling narratives to frame research reports. There was also much lively discussion about how best to define and operationalise concepts including human rights, Freirian dialogue and structural violence to produce research that is both analytically rigorous and actionable.

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Female Circumcision: Student publication

A.AbdelshahidAmy Abdelshahid, who graduated on the MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology in December 2011, has had her MSc dissertation published in the JOURNAL OF COMMUNITY AND APPLIED SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, a leading outlet for work in community health psychology. Amy’s thesis sought to reveal the complexity of rural parents’ attitudes to the circumcision of their daughters in Egypt. In a field that is rife with inaccurate generalisations and stereotypes, her paper makes a significant and interesting contribution. Amy is an experienced market and social researcher in London.

Link to the publication online (early view)