Learnings from our Women’s Rights Programme

  • Date: 08/12/2023
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

We’re delighted to present our learnings from our Women’s Rights Programme 2017 to 2022.

ActionAid Ireland’s Women’s Rights Programme, funded by Irish Aid, aims to increase the safety and security of women and girls and improve their economic wellbeing in Ethiopia, Kenya and Nepal. Phase II of the programme ran from 2017-2022 and the current phase runs until 2027. Over six years, ActionAid Ireland supported 7,131 women and girls to experience greater safety and empowerment. We engaged 1,930 men and boys as allies to reduce violence and discrimination. And we supported 29 organisations to champion women’s rights.

Read some of our key successes below or download the full learning paper here:

Key successes

Violence is reducing

Violence reduced against women and community elders in all three countries. There were reported reductions in different forms of violence against women (e.g. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), child marriage, domestic violence, sexual harassment in public places). An average of 33% of women and girls reported feeling safer. In Ethiopia, 21 women watch groups (community-based networks) managed 333 cases of GBV (reporting, referral, and access to justice). In Kenya, the Women’s Rights Network managed 243 cases of incest, rape, child sexual abuse, sodomy, domestic violence, child marriage; 72 cases of FGM. And in Nepal, 301 survivors of domestic violence, rape, early child marriage, abuse, polygamy, harassment successfully obtained legal justice from the district to supreme court level.

Livelihoods are improving

Marginalised women are taking part in income generating activities — kitchen gardens, poultry rearing and goat rearing. With support from the programme, women in Ethiopia formed 10 new savings and credit cooperatives benefitting 2,855 women. Women in Kenya are borrowing up to KSH 200,000 for new businesses. In Nepal 45 women formally registered new businesses and 176 have shifted from traditional farming to commercial agroecology.

Reaching the furthest behind women and girls

This included Hard-to Reach women and girls who were geographically isolated, with little access to public services or political representation, and those from marginalised ethnic groups. As part of the programme we worked to build their confidence and agency to claim their rights. This reach was evident in the increase of gender-based violence cases being reported. The strengthening of women’s leadership. And the establishment of different community women’s groups.

Women are advocating for issues that are important to them

Women are advocating for issues that are important to them and their communities in all three countries. In Ethiopia, ActionAid and the Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organisation successfully advocated for reform in court practices to protect and safeguard child survivors. In Kenya, ActionAid and the Women’s Rights Network successfully advocated for two county gender policies, which include a strong focus on GBV. And in Nepal, ActionAid and the National Women’s Forum have advocated for improved access to justice for survivors across the country resulting in justice for 56 survivors and their families, and punishment of 29 perpetrators of heinous crimes such as murder and rape.

Power brokers are more supportive of women’s and girls’ rights

Men and boys at household, community and district level, religious leaders, service providers are more supportive of women’s and girls’ rights. These allies are sustaining changes. For example, religious leaders challenging are child marriage. Men no longer supporting practice of isolating women and girls during menstruation. Transport providers are monitoring and deterring violence). In Ethiopia, there was a 50% increase in the number of men and boys (435) supporting women and girls in relieving the unfair burden of unpaid care work. In Kenya, over 300 men now support an end to FGM and over 30 religious leaders have publicly condemned the practice. And in Nepal, 305 men and 137 adolescent boys have begun sharing and dividing household work, ending controlling behaviour, reducing alcohol consumption, and engaging women in decision making while 53 religious leaders spoke publicly against child marriage.

How we will use these learnings

In phase III of our Women’s Rights Programme, ActionAid will strengthen our survivor-centred approach to ensure key elements are considered in every programme intervention. This includes both hard and soft skills including deconstruction of biases and preconceptions about survivors, clear communication and giving survivors information they need to make informed choices, respecting confidentiality, and investing time and funds in resources and referrals so that they are available to survivors. This guidance will be rooted in an intersectional feminist approach to regularly dissect the structural causes and
power imbalances at the root of gender inequalities and abuses.

Finally, ActionAid Ireland is also committed to better integrating our programming work with our priorities around gender justice, economic justice and climate justice.

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