- Focus areas of our work
- How we work
- Countries we work in
- Examples and results
- The organisation
ActionAid Denmark supports equality between women and men – whether it be social, cultural, political, legal or economic. We support work at the grassroots level, information, campaigning and political advocacy.
When women lack influence
In 2004, Chongwe District Farmers Association in Zambia had a Board where nine out of ten members were men, and where the lion’s share of activities was targeted at the men’s needs, even though half the rank-and-file members were women. However, after a workshop for all MS’s partner organisations, the association began to revise its statutes, hiring – with support form MS – a gender consultant, who trained them to see the gender perspectives in their association’s work and in their own everyday lives. Today, half the Board members are women, and half the association’s activities target the needs of its female members.
Zimbabwe: law prohibiting domestic violence
In October 2007, a law was passed in Zimbabwe prohibiting domestic violence. This was the result of a passionate effort on the part of Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe, a partner of MS Zimbabwe, against the bleak background that one in every four women in Zimbabwe suffers some form of abuse in her lifetime. Before the law was enacted, there were no legal resort to intervene against the assaulter, and culturally many women had no tradition of reporting such violence.
In Chongwe, change came about because both men and women were involved in the process, and because it was taken into account that the men would find it hard to accept equal representation overnight. One activity of the gender consultant was to divide men and women into groups, getting them to draw up a list of what they did from morning until night. It turned out that the women did much more than the men and this made the men acknowledge the women’s work, recognising that female farmers would also have to sit around the table when crucial decisions were to be made, and had to benefit from the association’s activities on an equal footing with the male farmers.
Poor women the most vulnerable
All over the globe, women face inequality both at home and at various levels of society. This diminishes their chances of enjoying fundamental rights, access to resources, and participation in politics and the economy.
The inequality between men and women is also reflected in legislation. In several of MS’s countries of cooperation, women are not allowed to own or inherit land. In some countries, there is no law to prohibit violence against women, so men are not punished for battering their wives. And almost everywhere, there is a long way to go before women become more equally represented, whether it is in organisations, political bodies or parliaments. Women are often exposed to threats and harassment from the community if they run for office in local elections or otherwise become engaged in local politics.
These inequities constitute a barrier to development, which keeps women in poverty to a greater degree than men, and which impinges directly on the welfare of both women and their families. Consequently, a change in the skewed power relations is a precondition for democratic development of society, and for fighting poverty and injustice.
In many societies, men and women perform different roles, and hence tend to be poor for different reasons. In recognition of these dissimilarities, we focus particularly on improving the lot of poor and marginalised women by strengthening their participation in local democracy, and securing them greater influence over their own lives.
How MS works with gender and equality
MS pursues equality between the sexes in various ways and at different levels:
• We assist our partner organisations at the grassroots level in incorporating the gender aspect into their work, as in the case of the farmers’ organisation in Zambia.
• We support organisations that work to strengthen women’s participation in local politics.
• We help larger national organisations to conduct public campaigns for equality through the press and other media.
• We support lobbying and advocacy, for example to change legislation on violence against women, to secure women’s right to land, and to draw the politicians’ attention to their responsibilities towards women.
How MS understands gender equality
Women and men have fundamentally equal rights both to participate in and to gain from economic, social, cultural and political development. This entails:
• Equal opportunities for women and men to participate in and influence political and economic decision-making.
• Equal political, civil, economic and social rights for women and men.
• Equal emphasis on women’s and men’s needs and wishes.
• Equal right and access to resources, such as income, land and other property.
MS has adopted principles for a gender policy including:
• That addressing structural gender inequality is a political project, which requires an active effort at the household, the community and the societal levels in order to succeed.
• That it is important and necessary to engage men in promoting gender equality.
• That it is necessary to address the fundamental causes of gender inequality.
Learn morePolicy on Gender Equality (pdf)