Women in Action
Women in Action
Women make up half of the world’s population and represent 70% of the world’s poor.
Women make up half of the world’s population and represent 70% of the world’s poor. They are more likely than men to be poor, illiterate, and at risk of hunger as a result of the discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets.[i] They have less access than men to property, credit, training, and employment and are paid less than men for their work. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence.[ii] Economic policies and institutions often fail to take gender disparities into account and with too few seats at the tables where decisions are made, women have limited opportunity to influence policy.
When positive changes are made and women are empowered, whole families and communities benefit; these benefits bring ripple effects to future generations.[iii] The empowerment of women and the unity between men and women is a crosscutting issue that forms part of all Humana projects and will be highlighted on Humana People to People Day 2012, “Women in Action”.
Employment, income, and economics
Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours and produce half of the world's food. They represent 40% of the global labor force, 43% of the world’s agricultural labor force, and more than 50% of the world’s university students. Yet they earn only 10% of the world's income and own less than 1% of the world's property. On average, they earn half of what men earn.
Global productivity will be raised if women’s skills and talents are used more fully. Greater control over household resources by women can enhance countries’ growth prospects by changing spending patterns in ways that benefit children. Eliminating barriers that discriminate against women working in certain sectors or occupations could increase labor productivity by as much as 25% in some countries.
Humana People to People members run 11 vocational schools in 6 countries. Through their work at the schools, women and men are trained and supported to start a career in agriculture, construction, mechanics, business administration, and other subjects, thus expanding the skilled labor force and creating economic development. Women learn to be entrepreneurs in fields often dominated by men and learn how to collaborate with their male colleagues to achieve the best results possible while their male colleagues learn to work side-by-side with them, to complete group tasks as a team, and to understand the important role that females play in the workplace.
All three of Ajuda de Desenvolvimento do Povo para Povo (ADPP) Angola’s vocational schools began special vocational courses for young women in 2010. Aside from vocational training, the women have life skills education and carry out community development activities. Two of the courses (Hotel & Catering and Administration) are exclusively for female students to encourage women to prioritize education. In addition to increasing the number of educated females in the area, the courses cover gender issues in theory and in practice, thereby influencing attitudes related to gender throughout the area, as the students share new attitudes and experiences with others.
Humana People to People Farmers’ Clubs are currently working with 50,000 farmers in seven countries, training small-scale farmers to grow more efficiently, diversify their crops, work with others, manage their resources, and sell their surplus. Historically, females have comprised 55%[ix] of participants in the Farmers’ Clubs. Combining the 50,000 farmers currently working with Humana People to People with the 55,000 who have previously worked with Humana therefore demonstrates that nearly 60,000 women have joined, actively participated in, and gained invaluable knowledge and skills through a Farmers’ Club.
Farmers’ Clubs strive to enroll both the wife and husband and train both in farming techniques, planning and economy. This empowers women to acquire an equal standing as men as they gain the knowledge to contribute in the planning and management of land and resources rather than solely working in the fields.
Leadership and decision-making
In many countries, women - especially poor women - have less say over decisions and less control over resources in their households. In most countries women participate less in formal politics than men and are underrepresented. Empowering women as economic, political, and social actors can change policy choices and make institutions more representative of a range of voices. Leveling the playing field so that women and men have equal chances to become socially and politically active, make decisions, and shape policies is likely to lead over time to more representative and more inclusive institutions and policy choices. And as women’s decision-making power increases, the welfare of their children and families also increases.
Humana People to People runs 65 Child Aid projects in 15 countries. These projects now have 360,000 active member families and its activities reach more than 700,000 families. These families work together to address health and sanitation, income generation, education, district development, environmental awareness, and the participation of children. Many of the active member families are female-headed households and there are thousands of women and girls involved. Child Aid is thus making strides in working with women to make actual changes in their families and communities and also in educating other women and girls about their options and possibilities for the future. Men simultaneously learn about the importance of gender equality and the essential role that women play not only in providing for their families, but also in bringing development and opportunities to communities.
Humana People to People’s One World University provides advanced training and courses in two degree programs: education and a community development-focused program called “Fighting with the Poor.” In both programs, the male and female students learn about the importance and power of gender equality and how to educate others about its importance. These graduates in both degrees are working shoulder-to-shoulder with the poor in the communities. They are bringing new perspectives to classrooms and communities, educating others about development and gender inequality, and serving as role models and leaders.
Ninety-nine percent of the 500,000 women who die in childbirth every year live in developing countries. Of all the adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, 61% are women. And 90% of the 14 million adolescent girls who become mothers every year live in developing countries.
In many countries and societies, women and girls are treated as socially inferior. Behavioral and other social norms, codes of conduct, and laws perpetuate the subjugation of females and condone violence against them. Unequal power relations and gendered norms and values translate into differential access to and control over health resources, both within families and beyond. Gender inequalities in the allocation of resources, such as income, education, health care, nutrition and political voice, are strongly associated with poor health and reduced well-being. Women’s health may also be at risk as a result of their traditional family responsibilities: women prepare most of the family food, for instance, and where solid fuels are used for cooking, girls and women often suffer as a result of exposure to indoor air pollution. Women are also disproportionately responsible for collecting household fuel and water and the time spent collecting household fuel and water is time that could be spent on income-generation, education, or care for family members, all of which are related to the health status of women and of their families.
Abundant evidence shows that support to women can lead to improved health status and income levels in both households and communities.[xiv] And when men join in the fight to deliver improved health to women for the benefit of all, they are also empowered to bring better health and futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Humana People to People’s Farmers’ Clubs and Child Aid programs teach women and men about improved nutrition. It not only provides them with the necessary information but also the tools and knowledge on how to provide more and healthier food for their families. Child Aid links mothers with local clinics and supports girls and women in learning about family planning and making positive decisions for themselves.
Humana People to People’s “Total Control of the Epidemic” (TCE) is a community mobilization program focused on preventing HIV transmission. A total of 4,545 Field Officers have been involved with the TCE program in the 98 TCE areas that have completed their 3-year campaign. TCE currently involves 2,054 Field Officers and approximately 60% are women. The number of TCE “Passionates” – passionate community volunteers – is more than 675,000 and approximately 65% are women. This means that more than 440,000 women are engaged in the fight to stop the spread of HIV and support HIV positive people and their communities to deal with HIV and AIDS. Men have also played a crucial role in supporting HIV+ women through their participation in support (“Trio”) groups, assistance with the establishment of gardens and income-generating activities, and community events to educate others about the role of women in the project and in the communities. In all, 7,100,000 people succeeded at becoming “TCE compliant” (well-informed about HIV and AIDS and living according to status) and as approximately 60% have been women, this means a total of 4,260,000 women are in control of HIV in their lives.
Women are more likely than men to die during natural disasters. Climate change is deepening the food crisis for women and their families, as more frequent crop failures mean women work harder and longer days while their families eat less. Climate change has increased the spread of malaria and dengue-carrying mosquitoes. Water-related diseases alone kill over two million people every year, most of them women and children. When unpredictable rainfall makes food, fuel and water scarce, women have to walk longer and farther to collect them; this is time that could instead be spent studying, earning an income, or working to better their communities.
Farmers’ Clubs teach women and men how to sustainably tend and manage their land and crops, to more effectively access and utilize clean water, to protect their environment and land, and to more safely cook for themselves and their families. In Child Aid, women have collaborated in environmental actions in their communities, to educate others about the importance of the sustainable use of forests, soil, and water resources in response to climate change. In Europe and North America, female staff collect, sort, and distribute clothing and help to mobilize more than 10 million people to reduce CO2 emissions by 360,000 tons every year.
Girls account for 55% of the out-of-school population. Over 580 million women are illiterate (twice the number of illiterate men) and more than 70 million girls are not in school. Countries with strong gender discrimination and social hierarchies limit women’s access to basic education and even within many households girls’ education is often sacrificed to allow male siblings to attend school.
Educated girls have fewer children, are better able to care for their children, have better access to health care and information, practice safer sex, have better access to jobs, and are more likely to send their children to school. In 2011, an estimated 1.8 million children’s lives in sub-Saharan Africa could have been saved if their mothers had completed a secondary education. At a national level, each year of additional schooling leads to a 1% increase in annual GDP. Worldwide, 700,000 HIV cases could be prevented each year if all children received a primary education. And 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-income countries left school simply with basic reading skills – equivalent to a 12% cut in global poverty.
Humana People to People members train 3,000 teachers per year at 35 teacher training colleges. More than 18,500 teachers have graduated thus far and approximately 1/3 of the graduates have been women, meaning that at least 6,100 female teachers have been trained. During their training, female and male teachers-to-be learn to work together to complete school work and implement community actions while gaining knowledge about the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of girls and vulnerable children. These teachers are delivering primary education in some of the world’s poorest communities, empowering young boys and girls to combat the cycles of poverty and create better opportunities for themselves while serving as community leaders and mobilizers. These female and male teachers have thus far benefited over 1.5 million young students in some of the world’s poorest communities.
In DAPP Malawi, a team of 120 student teachers was enrolled in June 2011 and this team consisted of 74 females and 44 males. ADPP Angola has been working to increase the number of female teacher trainees and steady improvement is being made at their schools. Four of the schools even managed equal numbers of male and female students in 2010. At each of the 12 schools, between half and two thirds of students on the preparatory courses in 2010 were female. At the teacher training college in Bie, the highest percentage of female students since the school started – 40 % – was achieved. It is the result of a determined effort to recruit more female teachers as the school aims for 50% female enrolment. Culturally traditional attitudes to further education for women coupled with a lack of women with the necessary level of schooling to enroll mean that this is a slow process, but the school is making good progress. From 2008 – 2010, four secondary schools in Angola have empowered 9,000 girls and more than 1,500 girls at the schools have benefitted from extra vocational training and life skills lessons. They have also supported each other in girls’ clubs and carried out peer education in the local communities. In addition, approximately 7,500 girls in local communities have taken part in girls clubs and life skills lessons.
Gender equality implies a society in which women and men enjoy the same opportunities, outcomes, rights, and obligations in all spheres of life. Equality between men and women exists when both sexes are able to share equally in the distribution of power and influence; have equal opportunities for financial independence through work or through setting up businesses; enjoy equal access to education, training, and services; and the opportunity to develop personal ambitions. A critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives while empowering men with the knowledge to support and join the cause of women’s empowerment. Women's empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all.[xix] Humana People to People is making strides to address these challenges to women every day in each of its 475 development projects. As a result of Humana People to People’s work around the world, girls, boys, women, and men are gaining the knowledge, skills, confidence, and support to create better opportunities for all while fighting poverty for their families and themselves.