Defending women's rights
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.
Across the world, women are forbidden to work by their husbands. If the marriage collapses, they can be left with nothing. ActionAid helps to set up cooperatives where women can get together, start businesses and earn their own money.
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
projects in 22 countries supported to protect women and girls from violence3
Helping women earn their own income
A strong, local women’s group can change the situation for hundreds of women within a community.
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.
The impact of women's clubs
When Emerance fell pregnant, she was so excited to have her first child. But when her son Blaise was born with a cleft palette, Emerance’s husband and his family cast her out.
"When my husband abandoned me, I wanted to commit suicide. I had nothing,” she says. “Then I joined the cooperative.”
Emerance started working with other women in the rural Rwandan community, weaving baskets, growing crops and cultivating mushrooms to earn money together.
"I didn’t think that a woman like me could earn her own money,” she remembers. "Because of the cooperative I have been able to improve my house. I’ve paid for every brick myself. I paid for my son’s surgery and I can feed him and send him to school. And we have trained people to set up another 30 cooperatives,” says Emerance with pride.
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.
Campaigning against FGM
When Rose was thirteen years old, her father took her away to be cut. As soon as the ceremony was over, Rose discovered she was to be married. In horror, she fled to her uncle who protected her from the forced marriage.
Rose now lives with her mother and 10-year-old sister, Jenna. “My mum sold her cattle to help me go to school. She is against FGM. I like studying and I want to be a doctor,” says Rose.
At school, Rose joined an ActionAid Girls Club where she’s learning about her rights and how to fight against FGM and child marriage.
“I tell other girls about the cut, that they shouldn’t go through it. My little sister will not have the cut. Because I know it’s against the law, I’ll stop it,” she says with pride.
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.
Women supporting women
For 32-year-old Najiba, being an ActionAid paralegal is more than just a job.
“As a child I saw parents not allowing girls to go to school, forcing them into arranged marriages, girls abused by their husband and other relatives,” Najiba remembers. “It upset me a lot and I decided to work for women and girls rights.”
Since receiving ActionAid training in 2012, Najiba has solved more than 100 cases – bringing hope and justice to women and girls across Afghanistan. She’s defended girls faced with honour killings for wanting to marry a man from a different ethnic group. Najiba has stood up to husbands who beat their wives and demand their wages. She’s faced death threats and harassment from angry families – but she’s never given up.
Today, Najiba is the director of the Women’s Shelter in Banyam City, central Afghanistan. In this safe place, women can escape violence, receive counselling and learn skills such as sewing to help them earn an independent wage.
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