This week UN member states have agreed that equality for women is – along with eradicating hunger and extreme poverty- one of the greatest challenges for humanity.
At ActionAid, achieving equality for women is at the centre of the way they work, not least with their latest appeal, #SheCan, which works to break the cycle of violence and poverty often affecting women in poor countries.
Anything you donate to the She Can appeal will be matched pound for pound by the UK government.
It’s important to appreciate the scale of the problem we face.
The Billion Rising movement, which many ActionAid programmes around the world supported, has highlighted to powerful effect the fact that one in three women worldwide will experience some form of violence during her lifetime. Further statistics show that one woman in five will be raped, or have to fend off a rapist.
We can all – women and men alike – agree that this shameful situation needs our full attention. None of us want to live in a world where women routinely live with violence, or the threat of it, simply because they are women.
This is why ActionAid are working with survivors of violence to support them as they deal with its immediate effects, as well as working with entire communities to promote equality between the sexes.
Violence against women can often be to blame for trapping women and girls, their whole families and, by extension, entire communities in poverty.
Consider, for example, a young girl from an impoverished background hoping to make her way towards a better life in the best tried and tested way: through education. But if she cannot go to school because her journey to it involves being threatened and harassed, what then? If a woman risks sexual assault when taking public transport to work, how can she make a better life for herself and her family?
Similar stories are heard at ActionAid with alarming frequency, which is why they know that violence – and the threat of it – stops women from working their way out of poverty.
Mwanahamisi Mariamu, who lives on a dumpsite outside Mombasa in Kenya, told them:
“I scavenge at the dumpsite. I collect bottles bottle tops and scrap metal. I don’t know how old I am but maybe 16. I also get very scared at night. The men around here drink a lot and it scares me. At night they roam around looking for girls to rape. It happens to many girls, the men are strong and can be very violent so the girls have to go with the men whether they want to or not. At night I try and stay in the house with my mother and siblings so that they don’t know I am here.
I don’t go to school now and I only reached nursery level but had to leave because there was no money. All I really want is to go to school so that I could become a teacher. I want to learn things and to be able to teach others things that I know.”
ActionAid works determinedly on both eradicating poverty and eliminating violence against women; in fact they see these issues as intrinsically linked, and neither one more important than the other.
The good news is that over the next three months, the UK government has pledged to double any amount raised to support our She Can appeal.
All UK-based individual donations to the appeal between 26 March and 25 June will be matched pound-for-pound up to a ceiling of £5 million.
This means that donations will go twice as far and ActionAid can help more young women to live free from injustice and harm, so that they can fulfil their potential, and work themselves and their communities out of poverty.
Mwanahamisi does not want to live on a dumpsite, in perpetual fear of violence, she wants an education. With your help, SHE CAN make a better future for herself.
Follow @ActionAidUK on Twitter and tweet using the #SheCan hashtag to show your support.
I will be backing this campaign, I hope you can help too.