Tuesday 13 November 2018 9:55 am

Changing lives for good

When ActionAid decided to launch a five-year strategy that focused on the rights of women and girls, funding from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery proved vital. It allowed us to scale up our work tackling the violence women and girls face every day worldwide.

ActionAid has a long history and reputation for its grassroots approach, working with women and girls across 44 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. We listen and work with women and girls at a community level, making sure their voices are heard. We ensure that they’re actively involved in solving the problems they face and are supported with the tools and skills to be independent and fight what holds them back. We know that when they can claim their rights, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.

However, one in three women worldwide will face violence in their lifetime. The violence can take many forms – for the girls we work with in Ghana the biggest issue is abduction for child marriage, in Kenya it is female genital mutilation, while in Rwanda, one-stop crisis centres deal with a horrifying number of sexual assault and rape cases.

Violence is a product of deep-rooted gender inequality and a system of unequal power and patriarchy means that women worldwide do not feel they can speak out. ActionAid is working to change this thanks to the unrestricted funding we are receiving that enables us to fund women’s groups in communities that train parents, teachers, local police and legal advisers to recognise the signs of violence and to report it. We help run Girls’ Clubs that teach girls about their rights, build their confidence and help them stay in school, and for survivors we offer access to justice by lobbying for more health workers, female paralegals and female police officers to support them through the reporting process. We also support training for government officials to enforce policies to protect girls. This is a framework that sustains long-term change by overturning social norms and empowering women and girls to participate freely in society, without fear of attack.

Examples of this framework include our women’s watch groups in Ethiopia, which have reached more than 42,000 people living in 12 communities; our ‘girl-friendly’ primary schools in Ghana that train teachers on the effects of child marriage; and, our safe houses in Kenya which protect girls at risk of FGM.

Towards the end of November, we will be marking the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence by highlighting some of the inspiring stories of women we have worked with who have defied violence and oppression. From domestic violence survivors in India who have become counsellors, to women farmers in Zimbabwe who have cultivated a livelihood for themselves and their families in spite of local laws that deny widows land rights, we will showcase stories of empowered women across the world. In December, as part of our Christmas appeal, we will focus on the one-stop crisis centres many of these women run to help other survivors access justice and end the violence they face for good.

We are on a bold and ambitious journey to achieve end violence against women and girls and this journey is being made easier thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. It is momentous in its scope and flexibility and represents a profound gesture of solidarity.