This Thursday 8th March will be the 101st anniversary of International Women Day. This special day aims to celebrate women’s achievements and denounce inequalities that still exist between women and men in several countries around the world.
In our work at Article 25, we have evidence every day that women play a key role in international development. Even in our own office, the majority of our staff are women who bring their skills in architecture, communications, and international development to solving some of the most challenging problems in the world.
In our projects, women often play a crucial role in determining the success of a built solution. Integrating the roles and responsibilities of women into the construction process and providing opportunities for skills training helps to foster a sense of ownership in the project. As a result, in our project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, when cement was being stolen from the site of our new school in the Kivu Plateau, it was the local women who raised the issue during a community meeting.
Women also have a more astute understanding of the objectives and impact of our projects, particularly the school building programmes, on the future of their children. As the African proverb says “Teach a girl and you will teach a village”. Understanding how women perceive and interact with their environment has an important influence on the way we approach and develop our projects, and enabling economic opportunities for women through our projects ensures that money earned is well spent and invested in the families and communities that will most directly benefit.
We come across some incredible women in our line of work – women like Grace and Agnes in Uganda who have overcome unimaginable hardship to help build a Vocational Training Centre for former child soldiers. We draw inspiration from these women who are so actively investing in their own lives and in those of the future generation in their communities.
Despite all these successes, the reality is that one in five women in the world will still be a victim of a rape or will be a target of domestic violence. These are not just injustices in the developing world, but here in Britain as well. We can continue to work to empower women both in our workplaces in the UK and projects overseas so that they can create and build better lives for themselves.
Each year on International Women’s Day, countries honour the day in various ways. Some hold public holidays for women only, in Cameroon special outfits are created for the occasion or women’s groups host dinners and parties. Men are also involved in women’s cause, many of them participating in initiative such as marathons or rallies organised by associations and organisations.