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International Women’s Day: How ICS is tackling gender inequality around the world

Gender equality is at the heart of many ICS projects, as well as the fifth Sustainable Development Goal. From Bangladesh to Zambia, we look at four different approaches young people are taking to encourage female empowerment and equality across the globe.  

Tackling early marriage through theatre in Bangladesh 

Bangladesh has the fourth highest rate of child marriage in the world. This can be devastating for the education of young women and girls, who often drop out of school early or have low attendance rates.  

The problem is particularly widespread in rural areas, where 59% of girls get married early and face risks to their sexual health and education. To tackle this issue, ICS has teamed up with Theatre for a Change in the region of Birampur, Dinajpur, where ICS volunteers are being trained in innovative and exciting interactive theatre for justice techniques.  

Group of people in Bangladesh in a circle with their hands touching
Theatre for a Change have piloted a new project that uses Interactive Theatre for Justice to raise awareness of the risks of early forced child marriage and its consequences.

Using theatre and workshops, volunteers are raising awareness in the community of the impacts that child marriage can have for girls, women and overall development in the area.  

After watching and participating in the sessions, members of the community are expressing new concern over the importance of treating sons and daughters equally, the harm caused by early marriages and the importance of education for girls. 

A participant in Birampur, Kazi Sadekul Islam, spoke of the importance of these sessions and the impact they will have for the local community. 

“I wasn’t sure of myself as a leader, but now I feel confident to make a difference in my community through theatre”. 

Using radio programs to raise awareness of gender-based violence in Zambia 

In a country where women are more likely to live in poverty than men, a focus on gender equality is vital. ICS volunteers in Zambia are carrying out a variety of community action days in order to engage and raise awareness among the local communities in the region of Samfya.  

ICS volunteers stood next to eachother smiling outside
© Elina Eriksson
ICS volunteers working in Zambia.

Last year, ICS volunteers in Samfya celebrated International Women’s Day by focusing in on recognising, preventing and eradicating gender-based violence. As well as creating and distributing leaflets and participating in a march, volunteers went a step further and organised a radio program where they were able to reach a wider audience to discuss pressing issues surrounding gender equality in Samfya. The radio program allowed members of local and more remote communities to phone in and send text messages to discuss problems with the panel of volunteers as well as ask for advice. 

Investing in women’s livelihoods in Kenya 

In many parts of Kenya, there’s a cultural reluctance to invest in women and girls. They can be excluded from economic activities and find themselves dependent on others. For example, whilst women make up 65% of the agricultural workforce, they only own less than 1% of the land. 

Focusing on those aged between 15-21, the Siaya Livelihoods project focuses on girls and young mothers who are not in education or employment through support and providing skills for entrepreneurship.  

In Siaya, ICS volunteers team up with national Change Maker volunteers to run a variety of activities such as awareness raising and training so local youth can gain new knowledge, skills and abilities to improve their lives. 

Woman in Kenya stood outside market stall selling cereals
Lilian sells cereals on Sirongo Beach

Lilian Anyango Guya, a 23-year-old mother from Siaya who is involved in the project, now sells cereals for a living to keep herself financially independent.  

“The life skills training I received greatly enhanced my self-esteem. In addition, the cereal selling business has increased my income and I am sufficiently able to meet the needs of me and my child.”  

“Unlike before now I save money regularly both in my bank account. My vision is that I be one of the biggest suppliers of cereals in this beach.” 

Clamping down on sexual harassment in Nepal 

ICS volunteers in Nepal have been making serious headway for gender equality thanks to their work alongside the VSO project, Sisters for Sisters’ Education. Volunteers, including 23-year old Tonicha Pinnock from London, spent three months in the village of Dashratpur engaging with the local youth alongside in-country volunteers.  

By running after-school classes, extracurricular activities and building a close relationship with the community, volunteers are emphasising the importance of educating, staying in school and issues surrounding sexual harrasment.  

“The response was really positive. Students said that events were fun, interactive and interesting."
ICS volunteer in Nepal
two ics volunteers stood in the road holding signs

“Throughout our sexual harassment awareness raising event, we asked the students to get into groups and mind-map what sexual harassment meant to them, who they think the victims of sexual harassment are, what are the causes and the possible solutions” said Tonicha.  

“The format of the event allowed us to gain an insight into attitudes surrounding sexual harassment, as opposed to just dictating information. It was also much more engaging for the students, as we asked for active participation from everyone involved," she added.

Young girls sat in a classroom in Nepal
Somu, 14, studying in her class. Somu is a little sister on the sister for sister programme in Nepal.

“The response was really positive. Students said that events were fun, interactive and interesting. Feedback after our public speaking awareness raising was particularly positive. One boy asked that we continue to do similar events as they were informative and interesting. He particularly liked that everyone had an opportunity to speak in front of the class," said Tonicha. 

Join VSO's International Women's Day webinar

In a month of celebrating women, join VSO’s webinar on 3 April, 10-11am BST as professional and ICS volunteers talk about how they’re helping achieve gender equality from Bangladesh to Zambia.

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Funded by the UK Government.

ICS is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which projects the UK as a force for good in the world, including reducing poverty and tackling global challenges.

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