Empowering Women

It’s a worrying fact that progress towards gender equality has slowed in many places around the world.  The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then, in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn't close entirely until 2133. So, on International Women’s Day this year, everyone - men and women – are being urged to pledge to help achieve gender parity more quickly - whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias.

In my opinion, achieving gender equality is key to reducing poverty. Women and girls around the world face discrimination and inequality which hurts not only them but also their families, communities and countries. Empowering women is a key contributor to economic development; access to education for girls and family planning and maternal health services for women results in lower fertility and improved economic opportunity.  Healthy, educated girls with equal access to opportunities can take on leadership roles in their countries. In leadership positions, women can help to develop policies that support women and girls, and provide greater opportunities for jobs, education and health services.

Gender and age discrimination marginalises and excludes young and teenage girls from accessing opportunities, services and benefits, particularly the right to equality of education. In India, women work longer hours than men and perform most of the unpaid household work. Gender gaps in education are clear; girls are more likely to drop out of school than boys - poverty and work demands in the home often prevent girls from attending school, a trend which is greatly compounded by child marriage. A UNESCO 2012 report (1) shows that effective literacy rates in India in 2011 were at about 82.14% for men, versus 65.46% for women. A Harvard School of Public Health Survey (2) conducted studies in Gujarat looking at rates of child marriage and found that 12% of girls aged 14-17 were married but only 3% of boys were married at the same age. The study found a strong correlation between marital status and school attendance rates; married children were over twice as likely to not attend school than single children.

Poverty decreases when more women and girls are educated and women are often more likely to spend money on things that benefit children, improving their chances of achieving health and prosperity.  

Giving women a voice

There are many women around the world who are overcoming substantial difficulties and their stories are often unheard. Our latest charity film was produced for All We Can to support their Inspirational Women lent appeal. The film will be shown in churches across the country during lent services and aims to raise money for those tackling poverty and injustice in their communities.

We travelled to the remote area of Jharkhand, India to see the inspiring work of All We Can’s partner, The Srijan Foundation, who are helping marginalised tribal women. The video focuses on the story of Rita Devi who has been helped to build up a small business farming goats and hens.  The sustainable and secure income she has gained has enabled her to feed her family and invest in their future. 

The film shows how the charity is supporting women to overcome significant difficulties and make changes in their own lives, those of their families and their communities. It was inspiring to see firsthand how All We Can and their partners recognise the importance of supporting women to make a difference and to see them recognised and celebrated within society.  It was very interesting travelling to the remote area. The local community has traditionally been involved in opencast mining and due to the closure of many mines; people have begun illegally mining, creating very risky and dangerous situations. All We Can’s local partner is assisting women to plan for themselves and look for alternative incomes alongside improving their self-confidence and improving their position in society.

Strengthening women to be a voice for their communities and act as leaders, spokespeople and entrepreneurs will transform society for the better.  To combat gender inequality, a joint effort is required between governments, charities, international partners and the people. This is a challenge, but it’s great to see how All We Can and their partners are hearing the voices of women, helping to strengthen their capacities and abilities so that they are empowered – and involve men and boys – to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and bias.  You can commit to take action to accelerate gender parity through the International Women’s Day campaign.

We’ve all met women who have inspired us because of the way they are positively impacting the lives of others - women who have nurtured and cared for us, taught us and equipped us, and led us and encouraged us in our lives. We hope the personal stories captured in the film challenge supporters to think about women that have inspired them and encourage them to donate to All We Can’s Inspirational Women Appeal.

Image copyright - All We Can/Laura Cook

(1) Global Education Digest 2012. Montreal: The UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 2012
(2) Bhabha, Jaqueline and Orla Kelly - Child Marriage and the Right to Education: Evidence from India, Centre for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University, 2013

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