Tackling injustice


The big challenges

Poorer countries lose an estimated $200billion to tax dodging every year – more than the international aid sent by all rich countries put together.

US$9 tr
Gender inequality in the workplace costs women in poor countries US$9 trillion each year. This huge inequality exists because women get paid less than men and do not enjoy the same rates of employment.

Only 22 per cent of all national parliamentarians were female in 2015.


ActionAid’s approach to helping communities hold governments and institutions to account

  • 1

    We campaign in the UK and around the world to stop tax avoidance that robs countries of funds needed for public services

  • 2

    We put pressure on governments and corporations to change policies and practices that keep people poor

  • 3

    We help women secure more and better jobs through training and women's networks 


Stopping tax avoidance by big companies

When the tax dodging practices of big brands such as Amazon and Starbucks hit the headlines in the UK, many people were justifiably angry. But the sad reality is that tax avoidance isn’t just a problem plaguing our shores.

Around the world, unfair international tax rules allow companies to duck out of paying billions of pounds of tax in developing countries. By starving public services such as schools and hospitals of funds, it’s the poorest people who suffer.

Paying taxes puts money into vital public services

Every year, poorer countries lose out on estimated $200 billion to corporate tax dodging – more than the entire global aid budget. We don’t think that’s fair, and that’s why we’re part of the global campaign to stop tax dodging. It’s time to make tax fair – everywhere.

Tax avoidance stops girls getting an education

Imagine trying to teach more than 280 children crammed into one stuffy classroom. That’s the daily challenge for teacher Stella who says lack of funding means her school in Malawi is chronically overcrowded. 

There are only 12 qualified teachers for more than 1,700 students. “The future of the children here would be brighter if we had enough teachers, learning materials and classrooms for the pupils,” says the 40-year-old. 

“It is very hard to hear that there are big companies that come to Malawi and don’t pay their taxes.  If they paid their taxes I don’t think we would face these problems.”

A tax treaty from 1955 stops Malawi taxing money that UK companies take out of the country.  ActionAid have been tirelessly campaigning to change this treaty – and recently we received the brilliant news that a new treaty is to be arranged soon. But we won’t stop there. We’ll ensure the new treaty is fairer and allows Malawi to raise the tax revenue it needs to fight poverty.

Standard One teacher, Stella Machinjiri, with her learners in class at M’bwetu Primary School in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, November 26, 2015.


tax justice coalitions and campaigns have been organised

initiatives set up to help communities to monitor tax revenue and improvements to their public services in 2014 1

An estimated US$7,600 billion - or 8% - of the world’s financial wealth is held offshore2


Speaking up for women’s rights

The odds are stacked against women and girls from the day they are born. One in three suffer violence, they are under-represented in politics and positions of power, are worse paid than men, and lack access to education. These constant abuses of their rights keep women in poverty, and hold back their families and communities too.

Supporting women to claim their rights is at the heart of ActionAid’s work to fight poverty and inequality. With activists across the world, we’re changing the policies and attitudes that hold women back.

Campaigning for Safe Cities

Leona Gomo, 31, is the head of Women Speak, a woman’s group established at The United Methodist University in Monrovia, Liberia in 2012. The group has 50 members and meets weekly on campus to discuss issues affecting women students, such as sexual harassment and street lighting.

The group has been working with ActionAid’s Safe Cities Campaign since its inception. It has been pushing to secure better lighting on campus so women students are better protected against sexual violence and harassment during and after evening classes. In 2014 ActionAid and Women Speak successfully pushed the government to fit lights on campus. Lighting has been put up in the corridors, at the entrance and exits of classrooms and street lights have been installed outside campus, where women pick up public transport for their journeys home.  Before the lights were installed only a third of evening classes were attended by women. Now almost half of classes are made up of female students.  Women say they feel safer on campus when the lights are on.  However, due to electricity shortages in Monrovia, the lights are not always switched on. Women Speak and ActionAid are now lobbying the city council to help make electricity for women’s security a priority.
Leono says “I think the men who want to sexually harass women know that they will be found out because of our group and their abuse won't be hidden. This has made a very big difference. It means these men feel they have to be careful in how they behave.”

Documenting ActionAid's Safe Cities work in Monrovia

Ruth McDowall/ActionAid

Why workers’ rights matter

Women dominate the workforce in labour-intensive sectors such as garments in developing countries. 

But deep-rooted gender discrimination means that employers can get away with paying them much less than men would get for the same work.  

Unsafe conditions, exploitative contracts and harassment are also persistent problems. 

ActionAid has been supporting worker’s rights groups in several countries to campaign for fairer pay and safer, more humane, working conditions. 

Campaigning for women’s rights in the garment industry in Cambodia

When Lim left home to get a job in Cambodia's booming garment industry her parents warned her: "Don't join any protests."

Workers in the country's US$5 billion sector have been attacked. In 2014, at least four were killed after police opened fire on demonstrators  demanding better pay.

Lim toiled in the capital Phnom Penh's garment industry for five years. With overtime she earned up to US$90 a month but it was rarely enough to cover spiralling rent and food costs.

Determined to help workers - who contend with dire conditions, including being timed when they go to the toilet - Lim decided to get a post at the Worker's Information Centre.

"For pregnant women in the factory they have a separate toilet for them, but they also have to use a card," says Lim, 23. "They get the same minutes as the usual worker - five minutes only.  Sometimes less than that."

Lim registers workers' complaints and teaches them about labour laws. In 2010 the centre won US$30,000 compensation for pay denied to staff when a factory closed. 

"I wanted to do something to help other people," says Lim. "I tried to tell my parents about it and they are OK with it now, but they still worry."

Lim Srey Mom is campaigning for fair pay and safe working conditions in Cambodia

Savann Oeurm/ActionAid


Top image: ActionAid. Others: Mahmud /MAP/ActionAid, Savann Oeurm/ActionAid

Page updated 24 February 2021