ActionAid’s current strategy, RTEP, has a strong focus on women’s rights.
However often it is not clear at programme level what this commitment means in practice. Many programmes seek to include and benefit women. But very few challenge the underlying causes of women’s unequal position in relation to men in their communities.
Thinking about power and rights in new ways so as to include women’s rights, ActionAid programme staff need to understand and address inequalities between women and men as one of the most challenging dynamics of power and a critical factor in all situations of poverty and injustice.
If we are going to practically put women’s rights in the centre then we have to think about rights and power relations in new ways so as to include power relations betweenwomen and men.
Initial conceptualisations of rights even within the UN Declaration of Human Rights did not include women’s rights among all the rights enshrined in that document.
It was only through struggles by organised groupings of women who campaigned that ‘women’s rights are human rights’ that bodies such as the UN began to take notice of and to address women’s rights.
Initial rights struggles by independence movements in Africa, Asia, and Latin America did not include women’s rights within their agendas.
It was only when women within these movements campaigned and insisted that the men in these movements take up women’s rights that a shift began to take place within these movements.
And within development organisations even today there are some who do not think that women’s rights are an integral part of human rights.
In almost all societies that we know of women as compared to men of the same race, class, ethnicity etc., have less power and authority, less access to resources, and a greater work burden.
Women’s subordination is reinforced by an internalised sense of inferiority. developing skills To design And implement programmes to advance women’s rights ActionAid programme staff need to develop their knowledge of women’s rights and their skill in designing, implementing and evaluating women’s rights work.
Women’s rights can be promoted and advanced within broader programmes – for example, on food rights or education rights and through separate programmes that focus on women specifically – for example, programmes to end violence against women, or to increase girl’s access to education.
In conducting an analysis with the rights holders, the programmer needs to ensure that attention is given to how women are affected differently from men by an issue because of their location within the gender division of labour,because of their less privileged access to resources, and because they often do not have the same access to power and authority as their male equivalents.