Women, at the center of a long term development
Strengthening the rights of women and minorities is an essential aspect of SWISSAID’s work. Gender is a cross-cutting theme in all our projects. The objective of equality, i.e. fair and equal power relations between individuals, accompanies the work of our staff and beneficiaries.
While respecting local cultures and human rights, SWISSAID promotes personal values and attitudes in all its institutions. To this end, and considering that a gender approach requires specific knowledge, the Foundation offers continuous training for its employees and partners: awareness of the theme, unconscious attitudes, gender discrimination. The status of women is also closely linked to the political, economic, cultural and social circumstances of a country. This is why SWISSAID supports its partners in advocating and defending gender policy with national institutions and civil society.
The UN, in its Agenda 2030, establishes the commitment to gender equality as crucial to sustainable development. Constituting more than 50% of the world’s population, women are the key to this development, which will only be sustainable if its benefits accrue equally to all individuals. Below is the position of women and girls in each of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the responsibility to strengthen that position.
Four ways to equality
In its projects in the South, in its various regional offices and partners and in its commitment in Switzerland, SWISSAID focuses on four specific themes to fight gender inequality.
1. Combating violence against women
We aim to strengthen the capacities of civil society organizations and public bodies to carry out awareness and prevention campaigns. We also train selected organizations and partners to ensure that existing laws against violence are effectively enforced. In some regions, we provide resources to better protect the physical integrity of victims of domestic violence and help them to know and claim their rights.
2. Empowerment and political participation of women
SWISSAID supports women to become politically active, to be elected to administrative or political bodies or to exercise their democratic rights. This is achieved through training in advocacy and management, self-confidence building and training in speaking out in what are often very male-dominated environments.
3. Inclusion of men
Supporting women is not enough to change an entire society. For 20 years, SWISSAID has been working to sensitize men to the dominant forms of masculinity, making them aware of the oppressive and disempowering effects of mores on women and on themselves. The goal is also to change the male attitudes of patriarchal societies and to engage each man in co-responsibility. This can be done through workshops that rethink gender roles, or through accompaniment by psychologists to explore roles more freely and overcome the patterns of violence associated with them.
4. Youth empowerment
Youth are the future. In them lies the possibility of societal change. Empowering adolescents and promoting learning and economic opportunities for girls are effective ways to interrupt the reproduction of gender inequalities across generations.
Our projects include young boys and girls so that they can better articulate and represent gender equality and the specific interests of men and women.
Expertise in the field
SWISSAID is also committed to gender equality in national and international working groups. In Switzerland, for example, we are actively involved in the Gender Equality Network, an expert group coordinated by the SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) that brings together all civil society organizations dealing with this issue. Exchanges within this group allow for better knowledge management and thus have a positive impact on the quality of work in the countries of the South.
Each SWISSAID coordination office in our nine partner countries has its own gender focal point. This person, who is specially trained in gender issues, supports the partners in the field, ensures the proper implementation of all activities aimed at improving equality between men and women, and is involved in the working groups of civil society and their own government.