Gender equality

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What we're doing

We deliver specific projects that address barriers to gender equality in communities, and strive to ensure that all of our work takes the needs of women and girls into account to ensure they have safe, dignified and meaningful access and participation.

Our goal

Support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Gender on the agenda

How World Vision is working for gender equality

Women, men, boys and girls have the right to healthcare, education, safety, employment and economic opportunity, political participation and representation and protection against discrimination.

Yet, around the world, women and girls are denied these basic rights in their daily lives often because of their gender. Gender inequality does not affect women and girls alone. It hinders the wellbeing, livelihoods and opportunities of children and their families and the sustainable development of countries and societies. But gender inequality is not inevitable.

We believe that the equal partnership between women and men is foundational to strong families and societies. We believe that entire communities — women, girls, men and boys — are needed to end injustice and transform discriminatory practices. We know that investing in girls leads to a brighter future for everyone.

For these reasons, addressing gender equality is one of the key platforms of World Vision’s work. We tackle this issue at a local and international level through our advocacy and development programs in a diversity of sectors including resilience and livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene, preventing gender-based violence, education, health, and faith and development. Because there is not one pathway alone for achieving gender equality.


What does gender inequality look like?


In many countries where World Vision works, girls continue to be kept out of school because educating them is seen as an unnecessary expense and they are not considered a legitimate investment.


Women own just one percent of the world’s property and earn only 10 percent of the income, but they are the backbone of rural economies across the developing world.


In many countries, gender inequality hinders women and girls from achieving mental, physical and social health and wellbeing.

Education is the key to a brighter future

When girls do start school, they might be forced to drop out to earn an income or do household chores. They may miss school or drop out altogether when they begin menstruating, due to inadequate facilities, if they become pregnant, or to avoid sexual harassment at school or on their way to school.

Attitudes and circumstances like this mean that more than 30 million primary-aged girls worldwide aren’t in school and girls are less likely than boys to be enrolled in school, especially at the secondary level.

Yet girls’ education is seen as the best single investment developing countries can make. Studies from the World Bank show that one extra year of secondary school can increase a girls’ future income by 15 to 25 percent.

"Research even shows that sending more girls to school can boost an entire country’s GDP."

— Michelle Obama

Improving livelihoods helps women invest in their families and communities

Women form the majority of the world’s poorest people. They comprise approximately 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries (up to 70 percent in some), contribute approximately 75 percent of the agricultural work, and produce 60‐80 percent of the food.

Yet women face considerable disadvantages and often do not benefit equitably from the effort they put into their daily work. They own fewer assets than men. They have less access to inputs such as seeds, fertiliser and finance through formal financial institutions and savings mechanisms. They have less access to training and advice including agricultural extension services. In some countries, women may be denied economic opportunities through national laws and through gender norms and culture which deny women income earning roles and responsibilities and expect them to remain in the home while men pursue economic opportunities and benefits outside of the home.

In all countries, the responsibility of unpaid care work, including caring for children and the elderly, cleaning and cooking, fetching firewood and water and community work, falls disproportionately on women’s and girls’ shoulders. Around the world, women spend 2-10 times more hours on unpaid care work than men. When paid and unpaid work is combined, women also work longer hours than men. This unpaid care work helps sustain economies yet it is distributed unfairly, under-recognised and under-valued. The disproportionate burden of this work on women can damage their health and deny them opportunities for economic participation, education, political participation, leisure and time for self-care.

Yet the benefits of women’s economic participation are wide reaching. When girls and women earn income, they tend to reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. Access to education, training and income generation projects helps to provide women with more options for their lives and a way to support themselves and their family.

If women had equal access to land, training, technology and other services, there could be 100-150 million fewer hungry people in the world.

All women deserve good health and wellbeing

In some places, girls are seen as a less "valuable" asset than a boy, so they don’t receive medical treatment as quickly.

Women may not be able to pay for health treatment and medicine due to their lack of control over income; they may lack basic health information due to a denial of education and they may be unable to access health services due to time poverty – caused in part by the burden of unpaid care work.

The vulnerability of women and girls to gender-based violence exposes them to the possibility of unintended and unwanted pregnancy, and the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

In many countries girls and women do not have access to menstrual hygiene products and toilets, increasing their vulnerability to developing infections.

Girls who are forced to marry face terrifying health prospects including the possibility of obstructed labour, premature births, stillbirths and fistula. The prospects for the children of teenage mothers are also dire: they are more likely to be malnourished.

Having information regarding health issues is critical – for boys and girls. Yet girls often have less access to information about their sexual and reproductive health.

Gender-based violence

An estimated one in three women worldwide will experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.


Existing inequalities increase the risks for women and girls when crisis hits, and traditional systems to protect the most vulnerable break down.

Water, sanitation and hygiene

About 1.3 billion women and girls in the world lack access to a proper toilet.

Gender-based violence threatens lives and holds women back

Around the world women and girls are at high risk of gender-based violence including physical, sexual and psychological harm, in their homes, at school, at work or out in their communities.

It is one of the most common violations of human rights worldwide and is manifested in such crimes as intimate partner violence, rape, honour killing, sexual slavery, and harmful traditional practices such as early marriage, prenatal sex selection and female genital mutilation. It also exists in subtler practices such as control over choices and resources.

In our own region, the Asia-Pacific, domestic violence rates are shocking — 46 percent of women in Timor-Leste have reported domestic violence in the past 12 months, and following close behind are Vanuatu at 44 percent, and the Solomon Islands at 42 percent, according to recent UN statistics.

Every year, 13.5 million girls marry before their 18th birthday (that's nearly two-thirds of Australia’s population) and one in nine girls marries before they turn 15 (UNFPA).

At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation or cutting in 30 countries.

For survivors of gender-based violence, these crimes can have a long-lasting impact on their health, psychological wellbeing, education, opportunities and choices for their future, and the wellbeing of their own children.

Women and girls bear a heavy burden in times of conflict and crisis

Estimates suggest that up to 80 percent of people displaced by conflict and disasters are women, children and young people.

In conflict zones and refugee camps, and following natural disasters, women and girls, men and boys may share similar experiences, however women and girls are disproportionately affected.

They are exposed to particular vulnerabilities and dangers, experience often unique and urgent health-related needs and face unique burdens and opportunities, largely because of their gender and existing gender inequalities.

Women and girls are more vulnerable to sexual violence, sexual harassment, early marriage and sexual exploitation in emergency contexts, including shelters and refugee camps. Women and girls in emergencies are often faced with an increase in burden of care tasks, when male family members disappear, are injured, killed or detained. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are unable to access the healthcare and support they need, putting them and their babies in danger.

The chaos and breakdown that characterises conflict zones, refugee camps and communities following natural disasters can also provide opportunities for empowerment for women and girls. Women and girls may assume new, non-traditional roles and build new skills and capacity.

Emergency response programs can provide not only shelters and health services but also education and vocational training opportunities that women and girls may not otherwise have had access to before.

Access to water, sanitation and hygiene are essential for women's health and safety

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by a lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene. In much of the world, women and girls are traditionally responsible for household water supply and sanitation, and maintaining a hygienic home environment.

On average 72 percent of household water is collected by women and 14 percent by children. When water sources are far away, women (including pregnant women) and children have to walk long distances, often away from main roads. This increases their workload, increases their vulnerability to violence and harassment and keeps them away from school or income-generating activities.

Women and girls without access to a safe, private toilet often have to rise before dawn or wait until nightfall to relieve themselves. They make their way in the darkness to fields, railroad tracks and roadsides to defecate in the open or use shared toilets, knowing they may risk rape or other violence. Spending time looking for a place to go to the toilet also forces children to miss school.

For adolescent girls, inadequate toilet facilities at schools may keep them away from school during menstruation, made worse by the stigma associated with menstruation in many countries. It is estimated that more than half of schools in low-income countries lack sufficient toilets for girls or are unsafe and unclean. The indignity of using open defecation and unclean toilets and the inability to care for one’s personal hygiene also affects the self-esteem of women and girls.

Water, sanitation and hygiene are critical pathways to gender equality and supporting women’s and girls’ rights.

From gender-based violence to the burden of collecting water, different facets of gender inequality affect the lives of women and girls worldwide every day.

What is World Vision doing about it?

Our work in improving gender equality isn’t limited to specific projects. We recognise that gender equality underpins our efforts across a wide spectrum of programming including in resilience and livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene, preventing gender-based violence, and faith and development. We work with communities to identify barriers to gender equality and develop approaches to address them. We learn from our programming and gather evidence of effective methods and approaches to ensure even better programming and greater impact among those we are trying to support.

Womens counselling Sri Lanka

Improving women's mental health in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka we're training local community members to be "facilitators and counsellors" to support women who have depression. These women are often widows, whose husbands died during the  civil war, who have been ostracised by their community and families because they are now single. They are also seen as a financial burden. This affects their mental health, leading to further stigma.

The project links with national and local psychologists, and local health services and trains and supports them to provide required services to these clients. It gives women struggling with their mental health hope, a support network, linkages to the right health services, and the potential to move forward with their lives.


Channels of Hope addressing gender-based violence

In the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and here in Australia through our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, World Vision's Channels of Hope for Gender project engages with religious leaders, training them to use their influence and the religious texts they teach within communities to spread awareness about gender equality, non-violence and the need to protect people who have been victims of violence.

The Channels of Hope project model works with perpetrators of violence to help them work through their trigger points and find better ways of dealing with anger. The project also involves governments, service providers and law enforcement, strengthening the support networks available for women and children who experience abuse. Educating community groups is also helping to spread awareness about gender-based violence and supporting the creation of community-wide plans to address it.

s151062-15-Permaculture Home Garden Project-Sri Lanka1

Permaculture as a tool for women's economic empowerment

In Sri Lanka we're assisting families – with a particular focus on women – to run productive nutritious home gardens, so that they can improve their family's nutrition and sell excess produce to earn a small income. To do that, we help them increase the productivity of their gardens, through organic processes, and help them market their goods (collectively) to get the best price.

This project is empowering women economically, which is also leading to their social and political empowerment as they are proving to be excellent money managers. It's also meeting an increasing market demand for organic produce.

Engaging men and boys for gender equality

Sustainable change towards gender equality can only happen when men are invested and involved too. World Vision includes men of all ages in our gender related programming, so they can see the value in breaking down barriers that limit women's roles in society.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030. Show your support and raise awareness through the simple act of sharing.

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Sustainable Development Goal 5: By 2030 we will all have equal chances to succeed at all levels of public life

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