4 women smile together

5 programmes putting women and girls at the centre of development

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge, recognising that “a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change”.

Bond members in the Gender and Development Network (GADN) highlight just some of the many programmes that are putting women and girls at the heart of development. If you’re a Bond member, find out how you can get involved in GADN’s Programmes Working Group.

1. Helping young women raise their voices on economic exclusion

The Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA) was a joint initiative of Plan Nederland, Terre des Hommes Netherlands and Defence for Children. In Uganda, the programme addressed economic exclusion by strengthening processes that enable girls and young women to enhance their economic inclusion.

As one of the implementing partners, Restless Development Uganda partnered with government, private sector institutions, civil society organisations, community youth advocates, and young women in all their diversity. This was done through youth-led research, networking, lobbying and advocacy. The programme built a network of 30 women’s groups with access to funding from government economic empowerment programmes. Private sector companies in involved also complied with inclusive labour laws: 50% of private sector institutions set up breastfeeding rooms, 97% of the private sector institutions offer employment contracts, and 70% offer 60 days’ maternity leave.

2. Building feminist networks to address agricultural and ecological issues

SCIAF partner CANTERA worked with organisations and communities in Nicaragua to establish a network of female and male agroecological promoters. These promoters worked together in Community Ecological Brigades to identify and address ecological and agricultural problems in the community.

These activities have contributed to the recognition of women’s experiences and knowledge in relation to land and nature, the improvement of soils and the restoration of the environment and natural forests, as well as more active participation of men in household work and of women in community activities.

3. Supporting women with deafblindness to access work

More than 200 million women with disabilities remain below the poverty line and face challenges including access to education, healthcare and employment. Women and girls with deafblindness/multi-sensory impairments (MSI) are also at greater risk of being abused and are under-represented in politics and decision-making processes.

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Sense International supports girls and women with deafblindness/MSI to access healthcare, inclusive education and vocational opportunities, as well as supporting mothers caring for children with deafblindness/MSI. Two women of these women include Mwanaasha, who started a soap-making business that has thrived since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Tanzania, and Namuddu, a teacher who started her own school for children with disabilities in Uganda. Both are challenging perceptions about what women with deafblindness/ MSI can achieve.

4. Challenging barriers to girls’ education through girl-led community groups

ChildHope is putting girls at the centre of programmes by partnering with Ethiopian NGO, CHADET. Dr Wossen Argaw, CHADET’s deputy director and an education specialist, has worked in gender and education for 15 years, advocating for girls’ rights and challenging the barriers girls face in education.

Dr Wossen has supported girl-led community groups to help girls amplify their voices. 16,000 girls have received a quality education in Ethiopia through CHADET’s programmes. Dr Wossen has also challenged and overturned early-marriages, rallying government ministries, community, and religious leaders. “Through education you can empower a girl, develop her self-esteem, you can help her in a positive way; that is the impact,” she says.

5. Supporting women to advocate against FGM/C

Female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) affects women and girls in at least 92 countries. It can negatively affect women and girls’ physical, mental, psychological and sexual health from the moment of the cut and for the rest of their lives.

The Orchid Project works with entire communities and grassroots partners in Kenya, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali and India. The community-focused programmes aim to shift social and gender norms, which undermine women and girls’ agency and bodily autonomy. Those who lead the change are women who come from within affected communities. Black women and women of colour are champions for ending FGM/C at the community level and through tireless advocacy in global fora.

If you’re a Bond member, find out how you can get involved in GADN’s Programmes Working Group.