In education in conflict and crisis (EiCC) situations, community members often take on new roles to provide essential education and psychosocial support services to children. This is especially true for female teachers, who are expected to provide academic and nurturing care to their students while also caring for their families and coping with their own social, emotional and material needs. This is a tall order, and female teachers do not receive the support they need to be as effective — and engaged — as possible.
Much has been written about the gender gap in mobile phone usage, specifically on why women are less likely to have access to this technology than men; why women are less likely to be technically literate than men; and why women are less likely to be aware of the many potential benefits of a mobile phone. We recognize that there is a gender gap, as high as 38 percent in South Asia. Within the development community, there is no disagreement that this digital gender divide needs to be addressed in order to drive women’s economic empowerment and ensure a more equitable future. However, there are varying points of view on how to close this gap.
A version of this post originally appeared on Locus. Reposted with permission. Locus is a coalition of organizations dedicated to advancing evidence-based solutions to global development challenges that are integrated, driven by local communities and based on shared measures. FHI 360 is a member.
Here’s a development scenario you’re probably familiar with: Imagine a young girl growing up in a remote rural area, raised in a poor family. Girls here are not typically encouraged in the same way as boys are to imagine themselves having exciting future careers, nor even the more vanilla option of working at the sole local factory. Virtually all the local authority figures are men. Contraception (especially for adolescents) carries a shameful stigma and is difficult to access. The girl’s school is chronically underfunded. Some of her peers get pregnant early, some drop out of school, some marry early. In short, she faces several financial and social barriers to a healthy, stable and productive future. Now be honest: were you picturing a young girl from a poor country in Africa or Asia? If so, you’re wrong.
That girl was me. Who grew up in America and is now a healthy, educated woman with a successful career. Does now knowing that the girl in the story was American make the happy ending less surprising? Probably so, and that illustrates a fundamental problem with the way we approach empowering women and girls in the developing world. Indeed, clearly the privilege of growing up in America provided me with a deeply significant advantage in overcoming those initial roadblocks to a healthy and happy life. But what about all of the other various ingredients, that when combined together became my recipe for success? Shouldn’t girls and women be supported in the same way, no matter where they live? Let’s break it down.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which happen each year from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, offer an important opportunity to step back and consider what we can do all year long to put an end to gender-based violence.
Globally, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Roughly 20 percent of women have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18, while just over 7 percent of women and girls older than 15 have experienced nonpartner sexual violence. This violence has immediate and long-lasting impacts on the health and welfare of women and children, with ripple effects in the broader community and country.
Gender-based violence is a significant barrier to the achievement of every development outcome. Sustainable Development Goal 5 recognizes that gender equality is the foundation for a “peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world” and that this includes a world free of gender-based violence. Goal 5 explicitly calls for the elimination of “all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres.”
The push to advance women’s economic empowerment around the world is not a fashionable procurement exercise. It is not a way for governments, private sector investors or implementing partners such as FHI 360 to look good. It is necessary and urgent. It is a lifeline to women, families, communities and countries struggling with health and food security, environmental degradation, economic growth barriers and political turmoil.
Economic empowerment is a universal human right that protects women and people of all genders and social identities from sexual harassment, exploitation and gender-based violence.
At FHI 360, we take a 360-degree perspective to addressing the most complex human development needs. We envision many pathways to girls’ and women’s economic empowerment — through education; training; access to resources; and the elimination of social, political and gender-related barriers.
To increase equality between girls, boys, women and men, we believe that a gender perspective has to be integrated into every aspect of all development programs.
FHI 360 supports women and girls living in poverty, through cutting-edge interventions in health, nutrition, education and economic development interventions. Not only are we implementing some of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) flagship projects on HIV care, prevention and support — we are also working with multiple donors implementing girls’ education projects as a pathway out of poverty.
We are addressing women’s poverty in value chains, small and medium businesses, and micro-lending and savings and loan activities. Equally important, we work to engage men and boys as partners and agents of positive social change.
Why prioritize attention on women and girls? For FHI 360, it comes down to three simple reasons:
- It is the right thing to do.
- It improves project outcomes.
- FHI 360 has strong political will to do so at all levels of the organization.
We aim to impact in the short, medium and long term the lives of women and girls in many countries. We want to improve women’s and girls’ current access to resources, their economic empowerment, their levels of education and their resiliency in the face of hardship.
The most effective 21st century international development organizations will be those that ask — and come up with workable answers to — the right questions about gender. The right answers are ones that boldly empower women and girls, engage men and boys as partners and don’t shy away from approaches that disrupt business as usual. The organizations that get gender right will be the ones that truly transform lives.
On June 16, 2014, more than 200 gender experts, funders, policymakers and development organizations will convene for the inaugural Gender 360 Summit in Washington, DC, to explore approaches for empowering women and girls and prioritize gender equality in our work. It is an opportunity for the international development community to examine the roadblocks, reflect on what we are doing well and where we are failing, and push ourselves to do better.
What have we learned about gender inequalities in different social, cultural and geographic settings? Beyond investing resources, what role can funders and their implementing partners play in elevating the importance of integrating gender considerations into all their work? What are the indicators of success and how do we measure them? These are just a few of the questions that need actionable responses.
Gender is not just about women and girls. Understanding gender means understanding the differences, in particular the economic, social, political and cultural attributes, constraints and opportunities that are associated with being female and male, and in some places, a third (or other) gender. It also means understanding how the social and economic forces unleashed by modernization (and abetted by development programs) affect women, men, boys and girls and the interactive relationship among them.
An Interview with
What prevents girls in Nigeria from receiving a quality education?
Girls in Nigeria face many obstacles. These include high school fees, gender inequality and other social pressures that cause them to drop out. Security is a big risk for many girls, especially since the recent kidnappings. Some girls are just too afraid to go to class. The conditions at school can also be a challenge. My class has 50 students and no fan. Some classrooms have no ceiling, no fan and even more students. At certain times of the day, like when the sun is directly overhead, it is too hot for students to even sit in the classroom and impossible for them to concentrate and learn.
Some policies also limit girls. If a girl is pregnant, she cannot return to school after she has her baby. One mistake should not be the end of a girl’s education.
The need for better HIV prevention options for women has driven the search for a microbicide, a product that could be used to reduce the risk of HIV infection. Microbicides hold promise as a new method that women can control — or at least initiate —to protect themselves from HIV.
Progress in clinical trials suggests that an effective microbicide, which could be inserted in the vagina or rectum, may be within reach. But as we prepare for the eventual introduction of a microbicide, we must recognize that women will still face gender-related barriers to its use.
With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, FHI 360 conducted two gender analyses — one in Kenya and another one with Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa — to identify these barriers and ways to address them. We reviewed microbicide studies, analyzed HIV and gender policies and population-level data, and interviewed key stakeholders. Results of the analysis were presented today at the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa. Notably, many of the barriers identified are not exclusive to microbicide use; they also apply to other areas of women’s sexual and reproductive health and can be addressed now.