How we’re fighting for gender equality this International Women’s Day

08 march 2017

As we gather to mark International Women’s Day, we want to highlight some of the ways that Dóchas members are working towards the achievement of gender equality. 

We know that achieving gender equality is central to development. That’s why Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) specifically focuses on the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Women and girls make up half the world’s population, and all over the world, the inequality they face is holding back social progress.  We simply cannot and will not end poverty or hunger without advancing the cause of women and girls.

Dóchas members are working to achieve gender equality through innovative schemes and programming in regions all over the world—in the global south and also here in Ireland.

Here are some of the ways that just three of our members are working for women.

Women’s Leadership with ActionAid

Jane Lokorngole, 58 - Jane lives in West Pokot, Kenya. She is a former cutter; her mother was also a cutter. She stopped cutting when a girl she cut died from complications during childbirth due to FGM. Jane's own child was cut in the head with a knife when the doctor cut her to open the birth canal, a complication caused by FGM; her child was disabled as a result and later died. Jane is now part of an ActionAid supported women's group that advocates against FGM.

Photographer: Jennifer Huxta/ActionAid

Throughout its programme work, ActionAid prioritises the leadership of women, especially those living in poverty and exclusion.

Their long term Irish Aid funded programme in Kenya, Malawi, Vietnam and Nepal has focused on ending violence against women and supporting women to earn an income. The introduction of credit and savings schemes among women’s groups has resulted in women starting small sustainable businesses that help them to send their children to school.


ActionAid also works in areas of emergency. During emergencies, women become more vulnerable to sexual violence and mothers give up their food to allow their children to eat. Women’s leadership in humanitarian situations is crucial to ensuring that the needs of women are met.

In April 2015 when an earthquake hit Nepal, women trained in leadership as part of ActionAid’s Irish Aid funded programme were among the first responders delivering the right emergency supplies. Right now in the Horn of Africa, ActionAid is working with women leaders to distribute food supplies and build resilience in drought affected communities.

Work in Ireland

Gender inequality is not just a problem for the global south. According to an ActionAid Ireland study from 2016, 2,639 girls living in Ireland may currently be at risk of undergoing Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C). ActionAid Ireland is supporting women and girls living in Ireland to reject the practice through the “Against FGM/C through Empowerment and Rejection” (AFTER) project funded by the Rights, Equality & Citizenship Programme of the European Union. ActionAid Ireland will be using learnings from its project in Kenya, where the programme has reduced FGM/C by 27% since 2012.

Extending basic services with VSO Ireland

Martha Lokuda, Sarah Saum Nakayenze, Nancy Ayoo, Grace Akello, and Fatuma Nafuma at Kasimeri Primary School in Moroto, Uganda where VSO volunteers are promoting inclusive education.

This photo was taken by Ginny Latul.

VSO Ireland runs health, education and business programmes that extend basic services to marginalised girls and women.

Women in countries like Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda are at a much greater risk of dying in childbirth as a result of poorly trained staff and a lack of resources. VSO volunteers train local doctors and nurses so they can provide a higher standard of care to mothers and babies and help save more lives. Stephanie Galvin from Westmeath, who helped to establish a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Jinka Hospital, Ethiopia, is one such volunteer.

VSO is also addressing the barriers facing girls’ education in areas like Northern Uganda, where only one in ten girls are able to finish primary school. Research carried out by VSO volunteer Dr Pauline Faughnan (Dublin) has been crucial in understanding the cultural norms, like early marriage, and attitudes which prevents girls from getting an education. This research will help to inform VSO’s future education programming in sub-Saharan Africa.

Women in Agriculture with Self Help Africa

Kalkidan Kiflu (11), Tiliyi Gerbi Kebele, Lume Woreda District, Ethiopia. Gorta-Self Help Africa, 2017.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the hand that rocks the cradle also tills the field. Women are the engine of agriculture, working on small-scale farms that support more than three-quarters of the continent’s people. Women till the soil, plant the crops, weed the fields, harvest the produce, transport the goods and prepare the food.

But although Africa’s women carry out up to 70% of the manual labour on small-farms, they receive only a fraction of the available support. They are denied access to land, training, seed, knowledge and markets.  As a result, yields for women farmers are 20–30% lower than men.

Self Help Africa is a leading international development charity that uses its expertise in small-scale agriculture and family-farm business, to help smallholder farmers change the lives of their families and level the playing field when it comes to gender inequality. Reducing the gender gap and levelling the field for women is crucial for the continent's future: women invest 90% of their income in their family, providing their children with an education, medical care and a better future.

For over a decade, Self Help Africa has supported a network of micro-finance cooperatives to distribute loans to almost 75,000 people, mostly women, in Ethiopia. The Scaling RuSACCOs (Rural Savings & Credit Cooperatives) programme is improving access to rural finance for smallholder female farmers in three low-productive and drought-prone zones of Amhara, Oromia and SNNP regional states.

The project is contributing towards a movement that promotes higher levels of financial inclusion for women through sustainable, community-owned financial institutions. In a region of the world where only 34% of households have a bank account, and just a small fraction of these are in rural areas, the RuSACCO movement enables rural women to save for leaner times, invest in productive assets and income generating small businesses, both on and off-farm. Ultimately, access to credit and savings helps rural poor women to diversify their incomes and achieve a greater degree of financial, and food security for their families.

Read more about how some other Dóchas members are working for gender equality:


A Partnership with Africa

Brighter Communities Worldwide

CBM Ireland

Christian Aid

Irish Family Planning Association

Misean Cara


Nurture Africa

Oxfam Ireland

Plan Ireland

Tearfund Ireland



World Vision Ireland

Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence

Additional reading:

See the Dóchas Gender Empowerment Knowledge Hub for why gender empowerment is so important in international development.

Find out more about Goal 5 and what it means for gender equality here.  

For more how women are affected by each of the Sustainable Development Goals see the UN women and the SDGs briefing

From International Women’s Day 2016 - Why Gender Equality is Key to Development.