At Action on Poverty we want to see a world where every person is empowered to reach their full potential. An area that seems to have challenged development practice is the need for gender equality, Sustainable Development Goal 5 is committed to this cause. While a record 143 countries guaranteed equality between women and men in their Constitutions by 2014, another 52 had not taken this step. In many nations, gender discrimination is still woven through legal and social norms. Women are then left excluded because they are seen as the inferior gender.
Our work celebrates women and gives opportunities for them to strive in a world where they are often discriminated against. We have identified a strong correlation between women’s ability to earn, their household power, and levels of empowerment. With International Women’s day coming up, are taking the time to highlight this synergy and how our projects serve to empower women.
Our core focus at Action on Poverty is to enhance the livelihoods and working opportunities of people living in some of the poorest regions across the globe. We have found that creating opportunities for women to gain income can have a great impact on their levels of empowerment.
Our projects have allowed women to gain income, grow their businesses and access greater resources. Earning an income provides much more than financial relief to women, it allows them to contribute to their homes. This is something that they say has allowed them to gain more bargaining power within their households. It has the potential to balance the division of labour within a household, as women are now able to able to work and contribute financially.
One of our projects in Sierra Leone with our partner MAPCO offers beneficiaries human rights education in addition to improving their incomes. We work in some of the most remote communities to build capacity and create opportunities. Informative training and workshops are held to provide both men and women with information on their rights, entitlements and how to access them. Women were particularly grateful for education on equality and inheritance rights. Prior to this, many widows were being cheated out of their land, now, armed with the knowledge gained in these workshops women feel more empowered to stand up against these actions.
As gender inequality stems from deeply rooted social beliefs and structures, it is also critical that men’s attitudes and behaviour begins to change. We were glad to observe that women and men in our communities’ were in agreement that the women had gained improved inclusion in decision making.
We can report that communities are progressing well, in terms of generating gender equality, considering that the men have dominated for years without challenge. The men in the communities explained that it has taken some time to get used to, and they initial found it difficult to sacrifice some of this control. It has had an impact on attitudes to violence on against women – now men acknowledge they should not beat their women, and that they will be punished by elders if they do.
Hasssan attended human rights workshops in his community.
“I have learnt more patience. As the heads of our households we have a responsibility to our family and children. A husband and wife are a team and we need to learn how to consult with each other.”
Women also credited education in rights for a reduction in domestic violence and beatings.
“We are now more confident in our place within the community, we have the confidence to stand up for ourselves and against actions that harm us. We now know we have the right to challenge these issues.” – Hawa (pictured above)
Our work in Kenya also shows evidence of this synergy, in a project which aims to enhance the effectiveness of the camel milk production chain. This can prove to be a vital nutritional resource during the lengthening and worsening droughts that are ravishing the Garissa region of the country.
(ABOVE: Camel Milk trader and a customer in her shop premises)