A Big Hand for Equality

Gender equality is central to meeting the needs of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people – men and women alike – concludes a new ACT Alliance report launched to mark International Women’s Day on March 8.

 Clapping with Both Hands: 15 Studies of Good Practice in Promoting Gender Equality celebrates innovative ACT programmes championed by brave women and men in 13 countries – from Guatemala to Indonesia, Mozambique to Nepal – that have enhanced the voice of women in workplaces, government and society at large.   Two of these stories are from the work of PWRDF.

“Gender equality and women’s empowerment are at the heart of ACT Alliance’s vision for a better and more just world,” said general secretary John Nduna. “While there has been progress on gender equality in some countries, women in many parts of the world suffer from violence, discrimination and under-representation in decision-making processes.

The case study “Man Enough: Addressing Masculinity in the HIV and AIDS Pandemic” describes how PWRDF, as a member of Canadian Churches in Action (CCA) has been working with partners in Africa to look at the pandemic through the lens of gender, particularly the role men play in the pandemic.

In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 60% of people living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are women.  Gender inequality and the violation of human rights make women and girls particularly susceptible to HIV.  In addition to their disadvantages in negotiating safe sex, women are also more affected by HIV than men because it is the woman’s role to care for those who are sick or dying.  It is women, often grandmothers, who care for orphans.  Women who are widowed by AIDS can face property or custody disputes or be forced into becoming second wives to their brothers-in-law.

In working to address these realities, CCA worked with African partners to develop educational tools and providing training to leaders in communities.  The result was a training toolkit which has been used by eighteen partner agencies in four countries.  The kit contains five modules: an introduction, understanding human rights, mainstreaming gender, human rights and gender in organizations, and Biblical references.

In implementing the program, discussions of how men can best use their privilege and power to promote sexual and reproductive health and men’s roles in promoting reproductive health link to gender equality have helped men to understand the responsibility that comes with their power and privilege.  Men are now thinking about how to protect themselves and their partners from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and also how to support gender equality in the community and the workplace.

Clapping with Both Hands highlights 14 other projects describing a range of programmes from peace-building to women’s political participation to female-run micro-enterprises. In Senegal, young women who are taught safe sex and how to form healthy relationships are becoming mentors to girls in their neighbourhoods.

In Mali, campaigns to get more women on the election trail have resulted in the number of women candidates jumping by 42% in some regions. The report demonstrates how all aspects of life and all members of the community must have the will to change in order for real transformation to occur.

ACT hopes that the case studies will inspire development practitioners around the world and spark new energy for gender equality in different contexts. The report’s title, Clapping with Both Hands, signifies the need for women and men to work together on strategies promoting gender equality and gender justice: that’s when the applause can really begin.

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