© Photo Courtesy of Bigger Than Our Borders
The pandemic has exacerbated the struggles faced by those in vulnerable communities, especially women. Even before the global health crisis, women bore the brunt of poverty. Statistically, women earn less, take on the majority of responsibility when it comes to caring for their families, and often hold less secure jobs. This is especially prevalent in low- and middle-income countries around the world, where traditional gender roles can prevent women from making decisions about their bodies and their lives.
However, with a heavier focus on investing in reducing gender inequality, these gaps can be closed. According to a UN Women report, over 100 million women and girls can be lifted out of poverty if governments implement comprehensive policy strategies to improve access to education, family planning, and equal wages. Women bring with them different skills, perspectives, and ideas. Investing in their equal presence in society leads to better decision-making and benefits for all—and both men and women on the ground exemplify just that.
In Chatorkhand, Pakistan, Adiba gathers peers in her community to discuss issues like gender discrimination. She uses theatre performances to increase awareness about gender-based violence, women’s roles in decision-making, mental health, and maternal health. Her work is funded through the Access to Quality Care Through Extending and Strengthening Health Systems program, supported by Aga Khan Foundation Canada and the Government of Canada. Through this program, implemented in Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, and Pakistan, over 400,000 women and girls gained access to comprehensive reproductive health services, helping them make decisions for their own bodies.
Similarly, in Benin, West Africa, Soumanou Oumarou is working to change the minds of men in his community. Since becoming a peer educator with CARE’s PROJEUNES project, he has supported men in making gender equality a priority while also inviting women to be decision-makers in their homes and communities. As a result, the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls is improved, and early and forced child marriages are reduced.
In Ethiopia, Waga works with other women in her self-help group to create recipes using locally sourced ingredients. The women mix, grind, and sell complementary feeding flour, creating jobs while improving food diversity in their communities. Supported by Save the Children, this work has brought sustainable feeding practices to ten villages and hundreds of mothers, resulting in healthier and stronger children, families, and communities.
Canada’s support to UN Women’s work in the African region has enabled the movement of legislative practices and frameworks to promote gender balance in politics and increase the effective participation of women as political leaders at local, national, and regional levels in countries like Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria.
Communities thrive when we elevate women in all their diversity. Empowering women helps them overcome systematic inequalities in their homes and communities, which is essential to creating a safer, healthier, and more prosperous world for everyone.
With the support of the Canadian government and the hard work of Canadian civil society organizations, women’s rights worldwide will become stronger.
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