Acknowledging the Barriers around Women's Equality

March 06, 2015
International Women's Day 2015. Photo of a young woman.Photo: USAID/Kasia McCormick

International Women’s Day is a global awareness day and call to action commemorating the economic, political and social achievements of women worldwide. This year’s theme is “Make it Happen,” encouraging individuals and organizations to stand together in advancing and recognizing women, as well as acknowledging the barriers to gender inequality. Among these barriers are gender-based violence (GBV), female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), and access to family planning (FP) services. Through our work in Guyana and Kenya, Advancing Partners & Communities (APC) is working to protect and advance women’s rights by decreasing instances of GBV and FGM/C through the capacity building of local organizations. In addition to our work in capacity building, APC also supports community-based family planning (CBFP) programs which is a critical component of gender equality. By bringing vital FP information and methods to women where they live, CBFP increases access to and choice of contraceptive methods for women in underserved areas giving them the ability to decide the timing and spacing of their pregnancies. Together, family planning and gender equality lead to poverty reduction and economic growth both at the family level and at the national level.

Gender Based Violence

GBV is a human rights violation and public health challenge that knows no social, economic or national boundaries. Victims of violence can suffer many negative consequences around sexual and reproductive health such as sexually transmitted infections including HIV, forced and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, traumatic fistula and even death.  In order to combat these issues, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), through a grant awarded by APC, is helping to strengthen the capacity of local organizations in Guyana to provide HIV and GBV prevention, care, and treatment services to key populations at heightened risk of HIV infection and violence. In Guyana, while little data exists on GBV, available resources indicate that the prevalence of GBV is very common, with as many as two-thirds of all women facing abuse at some point in their lifetime. During a rapid assessment of the local NGOs, most organizations expressed a need for additional training on and materials to address GBV. To fill this critical need, ICRW is currently developing and piloting a GBV screening tool package with the local NGOs. In May 2015, ICRW will also be offering a training session to build the local organization’s capacity to offer support and services to clients experiencing GBV.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

According to the WHO, FGM/C “reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.” FGM/C is a human rights violation that leads to negative health outcomes including cysts, childbirth complications, infertility, and sometimes death. Unfortunately, FGM/C is still practiced in many countries around the globe and more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut.

In Kenya, the University of Nairobi received an award from APC through which the University founded the African Coordination Centre for FGM/C Abandonment (ACCAF). The center holds training sessions and consultative workshops on healthcare and prevention of FGM/C, providing a platform to learn more about the dynamics of culture regarding the practice of FGM/C while at the same time teaching and equipping communities to continue the fight for FGM/C abandonment in their area. ACCAF’s goal is to advocate for and create a supportive environment for FGM/C abandonment, creating partnerships with the grassroots organizations and individuals, training of community leaders as agents of change, and also identifying knowledge gaps and stimulating further research on the practice.

By building the capacity of local organizations to provide prevention, treatment, and care for those who have experienced FGM/C or GBV and increasing access to CBFP, APC is helping provide a safer and more equitable environment for women. To learn more about APC’s programs visit and to read about the success of individuals and organizations in helping to obtain gender equality around the world by following #MakeItHappen, #womensday, and #IWD2015 on Twitter.