Establishing equality between women and men is vital to unleashing the power of families and communities to transform their lives for the better — but around the world, women, men, boys and girls experience disproportionate access to resources, exposure to risks and control of their futures.
So, with every programme we put into action — in each of the 40-plus countries we work in — we consider the needs of both genders, evaluate the dynamics between them and work to empower those most at risk.
We focus, especially, on helping women and girls find their equal voice in the places where they have fewer rights, because we know that strong women equal strong families — and strong countries. Meet the world's toughest women ▸
Why focus on women and girls?
Women and girls can be catalysts for incredible, positive change. But, traditional gender roles, certain cultural beliefs and few opportunities often keep them from reaching their full potential.
Mercy Corps, in partnership with the MasterCard Centre for Inclusive Growth, creates safe spaces for teenage girls to increase their knowledge and confidence, and become self-sufficient by combining basic business, financial and life skills training, with mentoring and access to vocational training. Learn more here.
In many places around the world, females have unequal access to important resources like information, money, school, jobs and land. And they are oftentimes not allowed to make decisions for themselves or their families, like who they will marry, how many children they will have, how they will spend their time or how to spend household income.
And with fewer skills and tools at their disposal, women and girls also end up being some of the most vulnerable when crises like war and natural disaster strike.
Obstacles to overcome
The challenges that girls and women face vary widely from culture to culture, but one theme is prevalent: Unequal access to opportunities that give them an independent, productive place in their communities.
Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps
While research shows that educated women are less likely to marry early and more likely to have healthy, educated children, girls still face great — and, sometimes, insurmountable — barriers to education, including poverty, inadequate sanitation facilities, gender-based violence, social norms that favour boys’ education and early marriage.
According to UNICEF, one-third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18, and one-third of women in the developing world give birth before the age of 20.
Women and girls also face more hurdles in building fruitful, stable livelihoods: While nearly half the world’s farmers are women, only 20 percent of landholders are. Female farmers also have less access to tools, seeds, fertilizers and financing.
In some economies, laws or social structures restrict the types of jobs women can do or prevent them from working altogether. How women are breaking down barriers in Afghanistan ▸
Photo: Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps
And women and girls bear the brunt of the responsibility for unpaid housework, too, often having to forego earning an education or an income to care for family members, complete home chores and cook meals.
Globally, women spend up to 10 times more time per day caring for children and the elderly than men do, and up to three hours more per day doing housework. In sub-Saharan Africa, women devote at least 16 million hours a day — 5.8 billion hours a year — just to collecting drinking water.
But what if women and girls had the same opportunities as men and boys?
Did you know?
- A 10 percent increase in girls attending school can increase a developing country’s GDP by 5 percent, and an increase in female workers results in faster economic growth
- Children born to a literate mother are 50 percent more likely to live past the age of 5
- If female farmers had equal resources to male farmers, they could feed 150 million hungry people
- Women’s involvement in peace agreements increases the likelihood of them holding at least 2 years by 20 percent
Throughout our programming, we partner with communities to build gender equality, and work to support the drive and resourcefulness of women and girls.
Photo: Slavisa Trtic Trle for Mercy Corps
Our programmes include helping women and girls access education, vocational skills and livelihood assets, like livestock, tools and agricultural training, so they’re able to support themselves and contribute to their families. In vulnerable communities, young women dream big ▸
We work to promote equal household decision-making and community involvement, and increase women’s participation in income-generating activities. Read more: A couple finds their future in chia ▸
Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps
And initiatives like our girls groups and community health trainings give women and girls the tools they need to build healthy, promising futures, including information about delaying marriage, family planning, pregnancy care, nutrition and managing finances.
Informed, empowered women and girls have the ability to profoundly change their lives and families for the better — and with the right support, they can change the world, too. You can encourage even more women and girls transform their communities. Make a gift today ▸
Nigeria: A nightmare ended, a dream realized: How one woman is rebuilding after Boko Haram
After Boko Haram left Jummai's village, she was eager to start a new business to provide for her family. Now she has not one, but two thriving small businesses.
Lebanon, Syria: How a playground helped Farat find her voice
Farat lost her home and her husband to Syria's war. A Mercy Corps project in her community gave her the confidence to keep going.
DR Congo: The ripple effect of clean water
We're working directly in communities to help address clean water access. Women like Noella are instrumental in contributing to our efforts.
Timor-Leste: The dream that launched Lourdes
In the remote mountains of Timor-Leste, 15-year-old Lourdes had a crazy dream. Today, with help from Mercy Corps, that dream is now in motion.
What we're doing to help end global hunger
Mercy Corps takes a multi-pronged approach to helping end world hunger, including implementing programmes that tackle the multiple drivers of food security, while also engaging in policy discussions that influence our programmes. Learn about this work and what is being done to stop world hunger.
Jordan, Syria: Lifting weights and spirits: How a women’s gym forged a friendship
The Syrian refugee crisis is complex and full of challenges. But Lena and Leila's story is proof of one thing we know for certain: bringing refugees and their neighbors together can transform entire communities for good.
South Sudan, Uganda: For a South Sudanese refugee, a place to put down roots
Conflict forced Grace and her family to leave everything behind. While she waits for an end to conflict so she can return to South Sudan, she's learning to grow produce that will help her support herself and her four children.
Afghanistan, Pakistan: Celebrating International Women’s Day with Afghan refugee women
For International Women's Day Mercy Corps organised two community-based events in Pakistan to further help women and girls in their communities build better lives. More than 100 women participated, including many Afghan refugees.
South Sudan, Uganda: In Uganda, two women form a friendship without borders
At Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Uganda, see what happens when a South Sudanese refugee and a Ugandan woman unite to build better lives, together.
7 ways you changed the world in 2017
Your compassion and generosity helped us transform nearly 22 million lives this past year. Here are just a few of the ways you made the world a better place in 2017.