Wednesday 2 March 2016

Action Aid: Change Lives. For Good.

For half of the world's population, it can be a tough life. Tough to find a job that pays fairly. Tough to get an education. Tough to be treated with any kind of respect or dignity. It's an awful truth that if you're a girl or woman, particularly in the developing world, your life is made more difficult based simply on your gender.

If you're a girl in a developing nation, you are much more likely to be expected to look after your family through childcare, early employment or arranged marriage than go to school. If you do work, without the education you were denied you don’t have the skills you need to earn a proper income. You'll be paid less than men for doing the same amount of hours, have no provision to worker's rights and face harassment. In some cultures, you're not allowed to work or own land or property so you'll have to depend on male family members for survival.

Meanwhile, you're much more likely to face physical or sexual violence, either at home, at work or even on the streets. Some cultures see nothing wrong in this, and wrong-doers go unpunished. Forced marriage and the awful prospect of female genital mutilation (FGM) mean that for many women and girls there is literally no safe place to go.

In a world where climate-driven disasters and conflict are becoming ever more common, women are hit hardest. It's tougher to get shelter, food and clothing for you and your children if you're a woman, and menstruation and pregnancy make it easier to pick up disease and infection in areas without sanitation or access to clean water. It's also been proven that in the periods after a cyclone or flood has hit, or in conflict zones, sexual violence against women increases.

All sounds pretty bleak, right? I'd love to say there's some magic button we can press to make all this horror go away. But we can, at least, support the organisations that try to help women worldwide. One of the biggest are our friends at Action Aid, who have been working for the last forty years to try to make a difference across the board.

They work with communities across the globe to help get girls into safe and secure school spaces, and more importantly keep them there. They campaign for women in the workplace, pushing for equal rights and pay and helping to get training in the skills they need to make a better life for themselves. They also offer support for women to get access to land and to farm it sustainably.

Action Aid campaign to curtail sexual violence against women in all its forms. They seek justice for victims of abuse, and fight for an end to FGM and forced marriage. Work continues at the community level to end domestic violence and child abduction.

Action Aid have been most visible recently in disaster and conflict zones, helping women to get the resources they need to survive in the most difficult of circumstances. Sometimes it can be as simple as ensuring access to sanitary towels. But Action Aid have also found that putting women, who often understand the needs of their community best, at the front line of local disaster relief efforts speeds the recovery of these often rural and isolated areas. Women community leaders actively enhance the rebuilding effort.

There is, unfortunately, no instant panacea for the way women are treated. You can't erase prejudices and cultural stereotypes that go back for centuries and are propped up by religion and societal norms. But you can push against them, as Action Aid do, and eventually that does start to make a difference. You can't just marginalise one half the planet's population. Here at the Pier, we're proud to support Action Aid, and the way they're helping to change lives. For Good.

For more detail's on Action Aid's work, visit their website:


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