October 2, 2014
Client of the Month - VSO
VSO are chosen as our client of the month. We're highlighting their Women in Power campaign in our blog this week
International Development charity VSO was founded over 45 years ago and we have been working with them since 1993. Their work revolves around four development areas, linked to the priorities of their partners, international development targets and their areas of expertise. These areas are health, participation and governance, secure livelihoods and education. VSO are committed to gender equality in all their work so that men and women have equal opportunities to realise their potential.
We want to specifically highlight their current campaign 'Women in Power'.
Women account for approximately two-thirds of the 1.4 billion people globally who live in extreme poverty, but are being shut out of decision making that has a profound impact on their lives and those of their families. VSO see this as an injustice, so they're campaigning for increased involvement of women in decision making at all levels.
Women in Power: Don't let women be a statistic.
Across the world, women suffer disproportionately from poverty but have the least say about what needs to be done to tackle it. Women are effectively being shut out of decision-making from local to international levels. Despite representation being at an all time high, only one in five parliamentarians is a woman.
This is a fundamental violation of women's rights. But, it also represents a missed opportunity to build healthy, vibrant and balanced societies that are informed by the experiences and expertise of all of their citizens. Women's representation in leadership roles can also help to shift discriminatory attitudes and perceptions of women at household and community levels, thereby helping to address other dimensions of gender inequality.
The UN's targets for tackling the world's biggest problems by 2015, the Millennium Development Goals, have focused and driven remarkable progress in poverty eradication. But now the international process underway to develop a post-2015 development framework provides a unique opportunity to address this deeply rooted and persistent inequality in our society; an inequality that is not only a violation of women's rights, but ultimately a barrier to the eradication of poverty.
Habiba Hasheem, above, is the co-founder of a support group KBH, for commercial sex workers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This grass roots group, supported by Women's Fund Tanzania, exists to give a unified voice to women born in poverty forced into a very challenging way of life.
"Women should be placed at all levels of leadership, even if there are only a few in a high position, they might be the only ones who think of those who are discriminated against." Habiba Hasheem, KBH, Tanzania.
Even though national politics can often feel far removed from her life and from the lives of other marginalised women, she believes it is important to join forces with women from across Tanzania.
VSO volunteer Louise Jenkins is working as a Parliamentary Research Advisor, helping to improve the effectiveness of grassroots women's groups like KBH. She said: "In order to support women and girls to become the leaders of tomorrow, they need to feel empowered to do so and what I'm already seeing is exactly that; from the grassroots level, women are now taking action; they're talking to the constitution and saying, 'This is what we want.'"
The Campaigns team at VSO HQ are continuing to build global public pressure to ensure the UN's new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are absolutely the best they can be in terms of Women in Power. The great news is that Justine Greening (Secretary of State for International Development), is making the right noises about a standalone goal on gender equality and women's empowerment, which is really positive. But, VSO are still unsure as to what the finer details will look like in terms of exact targets and indicators. So they're continuing to speak out to put women's rights at the heart of international development.
Demand action from our UN leaders now. Sign the VSO petition for more #WomenInPower today and follow @VSOUK for campaigning updates.