Traditional and cultural expectations, low economic status or lack of access to healthcare and education are persistent and major barriers for women and girls. These barriers remind us that we need to change the structures and policies that continue to hold women back. With this as the backdrop, the Impact Initiative is launching its campaign #Policies4 Improving Life Choices for Women, proposing policy ideas and innovations that could empower women.
The campaign will highlight the evidence and research funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID) Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research and the Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems Research Programme that should inform decision making and interventions.
In particular, in a study from SOAS, University of London and Oxford University on menstruation among adolescent schoolgirls in Uganda, girls reported that they had limited access to clean sanitary products, and that the cloths they used were often unreliable and a deterrent to attending school since they risked embarrassment from leaking in the classroom. Yet, by providing reusable sanitary pads; and education about menstruation, school attendance was improved by an average of 17 per cent, which equates to 3.4 days out of every 20. This demonstrates the need to reassess not only the provision of sanitary products, but also menstrual management in education for girls.
At the 62nd Commission for the Status of Women (CSW62) a panel of researchers and NGOs, will argue that adequate policies, programmes, and investments in women’s health and education not only lift women’s living standards but also pave a way towards gender equality.
The panel, chaired by Thokozile Ruzvidzo, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Gina Porter, Durham University, Nicola Ansell, Brunel University and Barbara Kalima-Phiri, World Vision International will propose policy ideas to better empower women to make choices about their own lives:
- Schooling fails to help girls make choices for the future: the purpose of schooling is often presented in relation to a very narrow range of careers (nurse, teacher, police officer). Schools need to expand knowledge of and skills for other possible futures, if they are to widen girls’ choices.
- To end exploitative practices with much older men marrying young girls, there needs to livelihood opportunities, access to markets and support to families living in extreme poverty NOT a universal age limit for marriage that ignores the context and complexities of marriage.
- Girls have much less access to means of transport than boys, which limits their opportunities to go to school, receive health care, or get a paid job. Improved school boarding for girls, reduction of domestic load-carrying, tackling gender-based violence and improvements in female status are fundamental.
The body of research and evidence provides a unique opportunity to propose policy ideas to inform a diversity of responses to challenges in empowering women and achieving gender equality.