Today (8 March 2018) is International Women’s Day; a day to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women around the world. But perhaps more importantly, it’s also a day to acknowledge that women still face challenges and we need to stand together for change. Programme Funding Manager, Peg Bavin, explains why she believes change is possible.

It’s a sad fact that, over a 100 years on from the first International Women’s Day, women are still paid less, have limited access to education and experience gender-based violence. A recent Global Gender Report found that, at the current rate of progress, it will take over two centuries to achieve gender parity across the world. That is simply not good enough. Progress must come faster and Send a Cow is playing our part.

Our approach

Two thirds of the African farmers we support are women and gender training has been a foundation of our work for many years. A strength of our approach is that we involve men, women and children in our workshops and conversations, helping to rebalance workloads for women and girls, and decision-making within marriages, families and communities. It’s not just the mind-set of women that needs to change for them to feel more confident and empowered, but for the men in their lives to see them differently too.

We know it’s not Send a Cow’s place to tell individuals how they should view or treat each other. Instead we see our role in facilitating conversations so families identify gender inequalities for themselves and come up with their own solutions. Only through discussion do husbands realise the sheer number of chores their wives carry out on a daily basis, or the unfairness that women, despite their vital contribution, have little say over how money is spent or land is used. It’s an approach which works, helping to change attitudes and behaviours in a way that not only improves women’s lives, but also strengthens marriages and family life.

Women like Agnes

I’ll never forget Agnes, who I met in a small village in Uganda 11 years ago. She was married but unable to have children. Because of this, she was constantly told that she was useless – by her husband, her family, people in the community…and worst of all, she believed them. She lived a harsh life, picking wild herbs on the edge of fields for food because she was so poor.

The day I met her, she was a new person leading a very different life. She told me how she had joined a Send a Cow women’s group and learnt agricultural skills which transformed the way she saw herself. She was no longer ‘useless’, but a respected woman making a success of her land. Her husband’s view of her had also changed. He told me how they now made decisions together, how he valued her opinion. Agnes stood in front of the kitchen which she built and told me proudly:

Because of all this, I am now a woman of some standing.

It was a moment that has stayed with me, and still moves me, even after all these years.

Looking to the future

Send a Cow is not alone in working hard to address gender inequality. There are countless organisations, community groups and individuals across the globe pushing for change. Just yesterday, the Department for International Development released their strategic vision for gender equality entitled ‘Her Potential, Our Future.’ It acknowledges the challenges women face today, but is also filled with hope and optimism for the future and a world where women have the same opportunities as men. When I read it, and when I think about Agnes, I too am filled with hope that change is possible.