What we do

Across the world, women and girls are affected the most by poverty. From the moment they are born, girls face inequalities and injustice in almost every aspect of their lives.

Girls and women experience violence, female genital mutilation, rape, early forced marriage, death through childbirth, unpaid labour, neglect and abuse. Often they don’t get the chance to go to school, earn a living, or even have any rights over what happens to their own bodies.

From more than 40 years of experience, we know that helping girls into education is the key to changing lives for good. An educated girl is more likely to grow up to be a healthy, empowered woman who can make her own choices, earn her own income, and protect and educate her own children.

ActionAid puts women and girls at the centre of our work across 45 countries. We make sure girls go to and stay in school, we work with communities to end gender-based violence, and we train women in the skills they need to earn a living. We also help women prepare for and recover from disasters, at a time when they can be at their most vulnerable - women like Shreya, pictured above, who gave birth to her baby girl shortly after the Nepal earthquake in April 2015.

Learn more about the challenges women and girls face, and how we’re working with them to build long-term solutions.

On this page

Getting girls into school

Education isn’t a privilege, it’s a right. But 32 million girls are still missing out on school and with it, the chance of a better future.

There are lots of reasons why girls don’t go to school, or have to drop out. Parents often struggle to meet the costs, such as books and uniforms. Girls are often expected to support their families instead, either by doing child labour or through arranged marriage. In some countries, female genital mutilation is very common and usually means the girl doesn’t return to school as she will become a child bride and a mother instead.

Sometimes schools don’t have proper facilities like separate, safe toilets for girls. And even the journey to school can be dangerous – girls are at risk of being attacked, raped or even abducted and murdered.

So we work with communities to promote education for girls, help parents afford the costs, build better school buildings and toilet facilities, and run girls’ clubs to support them through school.

Read more about our work on education


Helping women earn a living

Without an education behind them, many women don’t have the skills they need to earn an income. In some cultures, they are not allowed to work or own land or property so they have to depend on male family members for survival. And if they do work, they’re paid less than men for the same number of hours, have no workers’ rights and often face harassment.

We help women get fair wages and a safe environment to work in. We offer women training in the skills they need to survive – such as fishing, sewing, business, or sustainable farming techniques. This is so that they can earn a living, feed themselves and pay for their children’s education.

In 2014, we helped 3,500 women to earn their own incomes, and supported 100,000 women in gaining access to land so they can grow enough food for their families.

Read more about how we help women earn a living

Ending violence against women and girls

One in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. Many women and girls living in poverty are threatened with violence every day: at home, at school, at work, on the streets, and on public transport.

Violence against women is often considered acceptable, and offenders aren’t punished. This means there is often nowhere that women and girls can truly feel safe or get help.

We’re helping women and girls to tackle violence and stand up for their rights. We provide services and demand justice for survivors of violence, and support programmes to empower women. We also train local community volunteers to stop female gential mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, and tackle sexual and domestic violence and child abduction.

Read more about our work to end FGM

Supporting women affected by disasters

When a disaster strikes, our experience shows that it is women who are hit hardest and are the worst affected.

During conflict, or after a natural disaster like an earthquake or flood, it's even harder for women to get food, clean water and shelter, and to support their children. Menstruation and pregnancy make women and girls more vulnerable to infection and health risks, and in the days and weeks after the initial crisis, sexual violence against women and girls often increases.

So we provide emergency food and shelter, and ensure that women’s specific needs are met – from giving out sanitary towels to setting up special tents for women to look after their children and protect them from violence.

We put women at the front of our emergency response work, as often they know what their families and communities need the most. So they're the best people to influence decisions about how to rebuild their communities and prepare for future disasters.

Read more about how we support women after disasters

Photo credits: Kishor K. Sharma/ActionAid