We work across 45 countries and represent a global movement of people claiming their human rights and campaign against injustice. ActionAid works to strengthen the capacity and agency of people living in poverty and exclusion, especially women, to assert their rights.
Around the world, we partner with local women’s organisations, who know exactly what changes their communities’ need – and we support them to design and lead programs that will make those changes happen.
What We Do
We work to address three major priorities that contribute to injustice for women around the world:
Addressing the Cause of Gender Based Violence
Violence against women and girls is a fundamental human rights violation, affecting around one in three women and girls around the world. Millions of women and girls face many forms of violence throughout their lives, including rape, female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual exploitation and child marriage. ActionAid works with communities to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls and create sustainable, long-term change. We fund women’s groups and networks across the world, who train parents, teachers, local police and legal advisers to recognise the signs of violence and to report it. We also campaign for changes to laws and polices to help end gender-based violence.
In humanitarian crises, ActionAid works to promote women’s leadership, ensuring women are empowered to make decisions about the needs of their community. We know that women bring vital skills, resources and experience to humanitarian response. And when crises happen, they are often the first responders, taking risks and playing critical roles in the survival of families and communities. Localisation is a process of shifting the power from North to South, international to local and from a male-dominated system to one where women play a central role, and this is part of our approach to humanitarian response.
Feminist Alternatives for Economic & Climate Justice
ActionAid fights for more equitable redistribution of the world’s resources to achieve economic justice for women living in poverty and exclusion. This includes decent work and education, the recognition, revaluing and redistribution of unpaid work; women’s increased access to and control over productive resources; and accessible gender-responsive public services funded through progressive taxation systems. To avert the climate crisis, the world needs urgent transformation away from its polluting energy, agriculture and economic systems. We believe that climate transitions should be feminist, green and just.
We use a range of cross-cutting methods to achieve our vision of a just and caring world where women’s and children’s human rights are respected. Please read below about how we go about our work.
Human Rights Based Approach
ActionAid has a distinctive human rights based that centres on active agency: supporting people living in poverty (particularly women and young people) to become conscious of their rights, to organise and claim their rights and to hold duty bearers to account. Our human rights based approach flows from our values, our feminist principles and our strategy. It builds on international human rights law but goes beyond a legal or technical approach to rights. We support people to analyse and confront power imbalances and we take sides with people living in poverty and exclusion.
We place people living in poverty and exclusion, particularly women and young people, at the centre of our Human Rights Based Approach. We believe that people can only claim and protect their rights when they organise themselves and mobilise as a constituency, aware of their rights, and conscious of why their rights are being violated. They need the tools, knowledge and capacities to advance their case. But raising awareness and mobilisation are not enough on their own. We need a wider movement to challenge the structural causes of poverty and injustice, and shift power – and this creates a vital role for solidarity action between citizens at all levels.
In our Human Rights Based Approach, we think and act globally and locally. The roots of a human rights violation at the local level may lie elsewhere in a complicated and inter-connected global system. For example, people living in poverty in Kenya might be thrown off their land to make way for a biofuels crop grown by a European company as part of their efforts to promote a green economy. In building our programmes and campaigns we need to be aware of how the local links with the national and global. And we need to reform institutions at every level, working collectively as a federation.
Reflection Action:Reflection Action is a set of core programmatic tools we use in ActionAid to bring about social change. It was formulated by ActionAid and developed through innovative pilot programmes in Uganda, Bangladesh and El Salvador between 1993 and 1995. It started as a fusion of the political philosophy of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, with the practical methodologies developed for participatory rural appraisal (PRA).Reflection-Action harmonises the different approaches to transformative practice, including in programming and research, that use participatory tools and processes to challenge and shift power.
Our transformative vision of a just and caring world where women’s and children’s human rights are respected requires transformative feminist leaders: leaders who enable others to lead, building power with them instead of over them. To develop this approach, we have adopted a set of 10 feminist leadership principles. These principles cross-cut across our organisation where it influences how our staff interact with each other and members of the public, how we conduct our programme, to how we fundraise.
Learn more about the principles here: https://actionaid.ie/actionaids-ten-principles-of-feminist-leadership/
Decolonising aid is a movement to address and dismantle racist and discriminatory structures within the aid system and we believe an urgent, and long overdue discussion needs to be had so we can transform the system. More broadly we want to connect changes needed within the aid sector with overhauling the economic systems that were built on colonialism. We are committed to look both internally and externally at how we can advance decolonisation.
Image of women on the front lines of climate change in Senegal, taken by Senegalese photographer Ina Makosi as part of ActionAid’s Women by Women campaign.
ActionAid fights for a fairer world by encouraging the public to challenge the national and global policies and practices that keep people poor. Embedding policy work in our programme approach helps to address the structural causes of vulnerabilities in the communities we work in such as poverty, discrimination and exclusion. By looking at wider policies we ensure that our programmes are just and equitable, and that change is sustainable. We work alongside local communities, women’s networks, governments, institutions and multinational agencies to ensure women and communities know and can claim their rights.
Image of a Nepalese youth-led anti-child marriage campaign. Photo taken by ActionAid Nepal
Where we work
ActionAid Ireland has a long history women-led programming in the Global South and more recently in Ireland.
Heading image: Pictured is Florence, the Executive Director of the ActionAid-supported Tusitukirewamu Women’s Network in Kampala, Uganda. Florence believes that violence against women and girls must end with her. Florence joined the Network when she was 18, and is now its Director. When she first joined, there were 10 women, but now the group has more than 470 members (400 of them are woman). Photographer: Esther Mbabazi/ActionAid
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