Spices and silk: Stories from South Asia, South East Asia and Pacific

‘Slap! The vendor smacked the fish’s head onto his stall, while pulling out his knife. Manbira barely gave it a glance. She was used to this man. She came here every time she visited Kamalgonj to work with New Life, the community-based organisation she supported.’

This may sound like the opening line of a short story, and indeed it is. But it is no ordinary short story, and it is certainly not fictional, as it documents the experience of an HIV/AIDS technical consultant in South Asia. The publication Spices and Silk is a collection of 11 very readable stories, rich in cultural context and reflecting the dynamic experiences of HIV/AIDS technical support providers.

The stories allow consultants to describe in colourful ways the complex processes and contexts in which Global Fund grants operate. It also shows their real-life experiences and how they respond in challenging situations. For example, what happens when you turn up to advise on programme management to find a needle exchange without any needles? What do you do when a community-based organisation refuses to see why keeping records is of any importance?

Through these stories we see how consultants are often asked to make the impossible possible, demonstrating why a pool of skilled local and regional experts is critical.


The book came about following a ‘writeshop’* in 2012. The process allowed technical consultants to explore their experiences through writing stories and brought colour to the complex process of providing technical support to Global Fund grant implementers. It was the culmination of an eight-month initiative for regionally-based consultants who provide support through the Alliance’s South Asia and South East Asia and Pacific Technical Support Hubs

Global Fund grants

Technical support has been vital to build the skills of Global Fund grant recipients to manage, implement and report on the grants. Over the past decade the Global Fund portfolio has increased dramatically, now spanning 151 countries. The significant amount of funding, coupled with the need to demonstrate impact and value for money, has made more detailed reporting requirements essential.

Capacity building hubs

Through the Technical Support Hubs we are able to support civil society organisations beyond the Alliance. On average Linking Organisations receive 57% of the Hubs’ support; the remaining support responds to requests from other civil society organisations and governments, as well as the Alliance secretariat.

South-to-south technical support is provided on a needs-driven basis.

* A writeshop is an intensive process which brings together people with different perspectives on a subject. Written materials can be produced in a very short time by people who do not have the time to write extensively.

What happens when you turn up to advise on programme management to find a needle exchange without any needles?

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