Defending women’s rights | ActionAid UK

Defending women’s rights

A family celebrate the birth of a baby girl in Dehli, India

ActionAid stands in solidarity and partnership with women in the world’s poorest places because we believe women and girls should have an equal chance to thrive. Yet women suffer huge injustices the world over and there is a long way to go before we reach gender equality. 

We believe in equal rights for women. We support women to understand their rights and power. That might mean challenging laws which prevent women from owning land, or ending harmful practices like female genital mutilation which violate girls’ rights and stop them from going to school.

We believe that supporting women and girls to lead their communities out of poverty is the most effective way of changing lives for good. We invest in women’s groups, mother's clubs, farming cooperatives to grow and sell food, and women’s watch groups which report and tackle violence against women and girls.  

We focus on women because we believe if we achieve gender equality, there is twice as much chance that lasting change will happen, so we:

  • Campaign to change laws which discriminate against women and girls.
  • Encourage women and girls, men and boys to talk about the dangers of female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.
  • Train women in business skills so they can earn and invest.
  • Help women to claim their rightful inheritance to land.
  • Get girls into school and keep them there.

Working to end 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.

ActionAid's work on ending gender-based violence – in numbers

women and girls have been helped by our girls clubs and rescue centres1

women mobilised to challenge violence and harmful traditional practices like FGM2

women and girls reached in 4 countries through our She Can project3


Helping women earn their own income

A strong, local women’s group can change the situation for hundreds of women within a community.

Across the world, women are forbidden to work by their husbands. If the marriage collapses, they can be left with nothing. With the support of an ActionAid group, women in desperate situations can learn farming or business skills so they can feed their children and send them to school.

We help women claim land by learning their inheritance is a right. And we also set up cooperatives where women like Emerance in Rwanda can support each other, start businesses and earn their own money.  

ActionAid's work on helping women earn an income - in numbers

women involved in activities to help them earn an income1

women in 26 countries earned a living through running their own businesses or selling produce2

women’s groups were trained and organised to claim their rights and legal entitlements to land3 

Helping women gain control over their bodies

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a key issue that ActionAid is working hard to end. This traditional practice is the partial or full cutting of a girl’s clitoris and labia, causing severe bleeding, infection, infertility – even death. 

After being cut, girls are often forced to marry, and rarely return to school. Our girls clubs in schools are a safe place for girls to discuss their fears and experiences of FGM – and a place to learn about their rights and join hands against violence.

ActionAid is working with communities to stop this abuse of human rights – and girls like Rose in Kenya are leading the way. 


Reporting crimes and seeking justice

For most uneducated women, reporting a crime or filing a legal complaint is an impossible task, meaning many terrible offences against girls and women never get reported.

ActionAid’s REFLECT groups helps women understand their rights, and gets them access to the legal system. Our trained paralegals work deep in the community, often in dangerous situations, to bring justice to those who have been attacked or threatened. Women are starting to fight back. 

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Banner pic, Lorenzo Tugnol/ActionAid, Crystaline Randazzo/ActionAid, Jennifer Huxta/Actionaid