The Issue

Women and girls face many barriers to reaching their full potential simply because they are female. Just a few of these barriers include: denial of access to education and training; limited job opportunities; restrictions on freedom of choice and movement; denial of access to necessary health services; trafficking and exploitation; and physical and sexual violence. These factors and more contribute to a cycle of women and their families remaining in poverty.

A 2013 report concluded that more than one in three women worldwide had experienced physical or sexual violence – but the real figure is likely to be much higher. Women who experience sexual violence are more likely to contract HIV, and victims of violence are more likely to be poor, or remain in poverty, which affects the wellbeing of their children, families, communities and nations.

The empowerment of women and girls, and their participation in decision-making and peacebuilding, has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities in developing countries.

Beyond direct violence, women are affected by discrimination and ignorance, or a refusal to prioritise their health needs. For example, in Gaza, social, cultural and religious factors and fears can mean women are reluctant to discuss breast cancer openly or agree to having a clinical breast examination, and in societies around the world women continue to die unnecessarily from preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth.

Sources: WHO; UN Women (here and here).

What we are doing

We are working with partners in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific to support women. In South Africaour project empowers women to develop resilience, self-reliance and security, working to promote increased awareness of rights and reduced violence against them. In Gaza, our partners are overcoming stigma about breast cancer and giving women access to early diagnosis that can save lives. In India, women in slum communities are learning employment skills as an alternative to engaging in sex work, and in the Pacific, we are using solar lights to increase safety and give women access to business opportunities in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. In Kenya, we are helping to provide pre and post-natal health services for pastoralist women, and in Ethiopia we are working with the Afar Pastoralist Development Association to provide a radio station for the largely illiterate Afar people. In Myanmar we are working to develop community-based savings and loan groups for Karen repatriated refugees from Thailand.

 Get the Facts

  1. In South Africa there is an epidemic of violence against women, with one woman being killed every six hours by an intimate partner.
  2. In the Pacific, 60% of women and girls have experienced violence at the hand of an intimate partner or family member.
  3. In Gaza, the five-year survival rate for women treated for breast cancer is 40%, compared to 80% in Australia.
  4. A woman in Sierra Leone is 100 times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman in Canada.
  5. In Vanuatu the number of female members of parliament in 2016 was zero out of 52. Similarly in Solomon Islands this was 1 out of 50.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Where we are doing it

In South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, the Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown’s Department of Social Responsibility is working to support vulnerable women by increasing their ability to feed their families through permaculture skills, and building community intolerance towards violence against women and children through the Grahamstown Diocese Women’s Empowerment Program.

A major part of the project is the development of Safe Persons Networks, in which key women are trained in gender issues, women-centred responses to violence and abuse, HIV/AIDS issues, the Sexual Offences Act, citizen forums and counselling. They focus on vulnerable groups within their community: survivors of rape, elderly people, youth and children, teaching them about the laws that are in place to protect them. They also train police, health, and justice staff about their duties under these laws.

Funding: This project is funded by grants from the Australian Government’s aid program and donations from the Australian public.

Working with the Mothers’ Union of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, we’re using solar lights to improve safety and create income-generation opportunities for women and girls through the Bringing Light to Rural Communities in Solomon Islands project and Livelihoods and Women’s Empowerment in Vanuatu project.

Lack of access to electricity and reliable lighting has a huge impact on poor communities. Women and girls are at greater risk of physical and sexual abuse in poorly lit areas, and many children don’t finish school because they are unable to study at night.

Business training and loans of small numbers of lights allows women to start small businesses selling lights, which helps them to become more financially independent.

In Solomon Islands, the project has contributed to the complete elimination of kerosene lamp use in Makira Province, and Ysabel Province is not far behind. Buying kerosene places great strain on the limited income of poor families, where women are often the income earners, so the elimination of kerosene lamps takes pressure off women.

Funding: These projects are funded by grants from the Australian Government’s aid program and donations from the Australian public.

In Gaza, a range of factors mean that women have a high death rate from breast cancer, and a combination of ignorance and cultural beliefs can leave women with the disease isolated. Our response is Women’s Health, Women’s Rights: improving breast cancer survival in Gaza, a project led by Al Ahli Arab Hospital, an Anglican institution run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The project helps women affected by breast cancer, encourages early screening and detection, and educates men about the realities of the disease and why supporting women is important.

Funding: This project is funded by grants from the Australian Government’s aid program and donations from the Australian public.

In Myanmar, we are supporting the work of Five Talents, the Anglican Church of the Province of Myanmar, and Mothers’ Union Myanmar to develop community-based savings and loan groups for Karen repatriated refugees from Thailand to Hpa-An in Myanmar. 

The project involves repatriation of refugees to new communities and includes literacy and financial training, as many of the participants will have had little access to education.

The goal of the project is to empower and provide the micro-entrepreneurial training for 200 repatriated refugee families, impacting at least 1,000 people, by 2019.

Funding: This project is funded by donations from the Australian public.

Working with the Afar people in northern Ethiopia, the Supporting Community FM Radio project is establishing the first ever FM radio station in the region.

The station has the full support of the Afar Pastoralist Development Association but operates as an independent entity with its own Board of Directors. The station is aiming to be fully independent by June 2018.

The Afar region has the lowest level of development in Ethiopia. The literacy level is approximately 23%, so the nomadic community is greatly benefitting from the radio station by allowing them to engage in dialogue about development.

Funding: This project is funded by donations from the Australian public.

Building on the foundations of the highly successful five-year AACES project, the Pastoralist Friendly Health Facility project has the dual approach of improving facility services and changing community attitudes towards them.

90% of pastoralist women across the Horn of Africa do not access pre or post-natal health services. 60% of these women seek the services of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs). The reason they choose TBAs is because of cultural norms and because TBAs provide support before, during and after birth.

The project will therefore be piloting culturally relevant birth centres for pastoralist women, who currently usually give birth at home with all the risks associated with maternal and newborn death, and other complications.

This is a very respectful approach, which honours the women’s preference for a traditional birth attendant, but also aims to provide a birth centre with a skilled midwife.

Funding: This project is funded by donations from the Australian public.

In India, lack of skills and jobs leads to the exploitation of men, women and children in slum communities, but women particularly have less choice, often being forced into sex work to survive.

In Kolkata, Cathedral Relief Service’s Women’s Empowerment Project is leading skills training in tailoring, beautician work and other livelihoods opportunities for more than 300 women in slum communities so they can provide for themselves and their families. The project also includes financial literacy and savings club training, along with gender-based violence awareness raising.

Funding: This project is funded by donations from the Australian public.