ActionAid: Contributing to the future of women

The Annapurna Express

The Annapurna Express

ActionAid: Contributing to the future of women

On this International Women’s Day 2023, ActionAid International Nepal has mobilized 5,519 women and girls to lead action against violence and secure justice. It has facilitated 121 cases of violence against women and girls through the legal process, and has empowered 448 local government representatives to improve labor-related systems and services. Our efforts have also resulted in capacitating 2030 women laborers on labor rights, leadership, advocacy, and campaign.

To reduce the burden of care work on women, AAIN has established 27 alternative models such as Community Child Care Center, community mill, and community tap/well. We have also capacitated 1443 individuals on Unpaid Care Work to promote culture to recognize, respect, redistribute and reduce the burden of unpaid care work.

Interview with Sujeeta Mathema, Executive Director, ActionAid International Nepal 

Can you introduce ActionAid International Nepal and its mission?

ActionAid International Nepal is a human rights-based organization dedicated to fighting poverty and promoting social justice. Established in 1982, we have been actively working to support communities on the ground and advocate for policy changes. Our focus areas include women’s leadership, unpaid care work, organic farming, quality education, and youth and women leadership in emergencies. We have pioneered several approaches, such as promoting local partnerships, using participatory methods, employing a human rights-based approach, conducting social audits, and promoting feminist leadership.

At ActionAid, we believe that change is necessary, and it should be transformative in nature for us to achieve sustainable development. We believe that this change should be led by the people themselves, and our role is to facilitate this process. We work with different categories of people, including women, children, Dalits, informal sector women laborers, and smallholder farmers. Our organization operates in 45 countries globally, and 13 districts of Nepal recognizing the power of people and the importance of community-led development.

Can you explain how ActionAid International Nepal strengthens the Nepali community? What are the specific areas that your organization focuses on?

At ActionAid International Nepal, we believe in taking an integrated approach to uplift and strengthen the Nepali community. Our Country Strategy Paper V identifies four key thematic areas that we prioritize: education, livelihood, disaster resilience, and women’s and girls’ rights. We recognize that no single area can address the challenges faced by those who are marginalized or oppressed.

Based on our expertise, skills, knowledge, and financial resources, we focus on several key areas, including women’s rights, disaster risk reduction, sustainable livelihoods, and quality education. We believe that promoting gender equality and empowering women is essential for creating a more equitable and just society. We also work to reduce the risk of disasters and support communities in becoming more resilient to the impact of natural calamities.

Additionally, we promote sustainable livelihoods by supporting organic farming, small businesses, and community-led economic development initiatives. Finally, we prioritize quality education to ensure that children and youth have access to the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life. Our program impact framework concentrates on the 4R approach, with a focus on promoting the rights of marginalized communities, ensuring their representation in decision-making processes, advocating for equitable redistribution of resources, and building their resilience to external shocks. The center area of our work is empowering girls and women, who are often the most vulnerable and marginalized members of communities. We believe that by prioritizing their needs and promoting gender equality, we can create a more just and equitable society for all.

Can you elaborate on how ActionAid International Nepal is working to end violence against women and girls, which is one of its priority areas? 

At ActionAid International Nepal, women and girls are at the center of our work, and we focus on promoting their safety, security, and dignity by creating a safe and violence-free environment. Unfortunately, in Nepal, deep-rooted patriarchal mindsets, cultural beliefs, and traditions perpetuate gender-based inequality and violence against women and girls. It is estimated that one in two women has experienced some form of violence in their lifetime in Nepal.

To address this issue, we believe that women’s collective action is crucial for challenging and transforming patriarchal power structures and ending violence against women and girls. Our approach involves empowering women and girls to raise their voices against discrimination and injustice through organizing and mobilizing. We also work to promote women and adolescent girls’ leadership in stopping violence against women and girls and accessing justice. As a team, we at ActionAid International Nepal are actively engaged in agency building, collaborating with government, civil society organizations, and community members to promote social justice and empower communities. We are excited to announce the construction of our new agency building, which has been designed with sustainability in mind. The building will serve as a hub for our programs and activities and will provide a safe and accessible space for community members to engage in our work. By having a physical presence in the communities we serve, we aim to build stronger relationships and better understand their needs and priorities. We are committed to working together towards a more just and equitable society, and we look forward to welcoming community members to our new agency building.

In addition, we engage with men and boys to foster feminist leadership, challenge patriarchal values and harmful traditional practices, and transform behaviors. We also collaborate with government bodies to strengthen prevention and response mechanisms to ensure quality referral pathway services and justice. Finally, we engage with various civic alliances, agencies, feminist leaders, and stakeholders to promote the culture of safety, security, and dignity of women and girls.

Can you tell us how ActionAid’s programs and activities complement the government’s policies and priorities, especially in the area of eliminating violence against women and girls?

Absolutely. At ActionAid, we work with a human rights-based approach that focuses on the rights of the people, which aligns with the government’s priorities in ensuring fundamental rights as per the country’s constitution. Our programs contribute to various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including gender equality (SDG-5) and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development (SDG-16). We also engage with government authorities to strengthen local government systems and services that address pro-poor, gender-responsive issues and rights.

In the specific area of eliminating violence against women and girls, we empower women and adolescent girls to raise their voices against discrimination and injustice. We also promote women and girls’ led actions to stop violence and access to justice. We engage with men and boys in fostering feminist leadership and challenging patriarchal values and harmful traditional practices. Furthermore, we collaborate with various civic alliances, agencies, feminist leaders, and stakeholders to advance the culture of safety, security, and dignity for women and girls.

Overall, our programs and activities are aligned with the SDGs and the government’s 15th national plan, which aims to achieve a safe, civilized, and just society (Goal 6) and development and full utilization of human capital (Goal 2), among others. We also facilitate the development of gender-responsive public services and ensure gender-responsive budgeting and development programs and services.

How will Nepal and AAIN work towards promoting the agenda of International Women’s Day 2023?

The theme for International Women’s Day 2023 is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.” At AAIN, we work with the most marginalized and disadvantaged women and digitalization is a crucial factor for their development and empowerment. However, the women and girls we work with often have lower literacy rates and less access to digital technology than their male counterparts. The affordability factor is also a major barrier for them to access digital technology.

To address the gender digital divide, we have incorporated digitalization in our programs, especially in education, and are raising awareness among women and girls on how to use digital technology to prevent technology-facilitated gender-based violence and inequality.

Our approach to promote gender digital inclusion is comprehensive and integrated. We work to increase digital awareness, access, availability, and affordability of women through informal education and skill development. We also promote programs that ensure market access of gender-sensitive digital devices and services. Additionally, we collaborate with concerned authorities to prevent technology-facilitated gender-based violence, which has been on the rise due to increased usage of mobile phones and other technological devices.

Therefore, our priority is to promote digitalization in our programs, ensuring inclusion, addressing the gender digital divide, and intervening in possible risks of technology-generated violence. As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, we will continue to work towards bridging the gender digital divide and promoting gender equality through innovation and technology.

AAIN in 2022:

5519 Women and girls mobilized to lead action against VAWG and secure justice
121 Cases of violence against women and girls (VAWG) were facilitated through the legal process.
448 Local government representatives have been able to improve labor-related systems and services, including developing guidelines for occupational health and safety, establishing and operationalizing a labor desk, and ensuring equal wages for equal work.
2030 Women laborers capacitated on labor rights, leadership, advocacy, and campaign
27 Alternative models have been established to reduce the burden of care work of women (like Community Child Care Center, community mill, community tap/well)
1443 Individual capacitated on  Unpaid Care Work to promote culture to recognize, respect, redistribute and reduce the burden of unpaid care work
493 Service providers were capacitated to strengthen referral pathways services, OCMCs and develop GESI policy and GBV Elimination Fund at local level.
29 Support provided to strengthen services like OCMC, Primary health post, Toll free no., gender desk, safe house at working areas
69 Adolescent boys, youths, priests, traditional healers, and community leaders capacitated on feminist leadership, feminine and masculine traits, gender equality, and harmful practices

AAIN is focused on promoting social justice, gender equality, and poverty alleviation in Nepal. AAIN is dedicated to empowering marginalized communities and individuals, particularly women and girls, through a range of initiatives and programs. Here are some of the key areas that AAIN focuses on:

  1. Livelihood: AAIN works to minimize violence against women and girls (VAWG) by creating economic opportunities and promoting sustainable livelihoods. By providing women with the skills and resources they need to earn a living, AAIN helps to reduce their vulnerability to violence and exploitation.
  2. Policy level engagement: AAIN advocates for policy changes at the national and local levels to protect women’s rights and promote gender equality. This includes engagement with the OCMC, gender desks, and referral mechanisms to ensure that women’s voices are heard in the decision-making process.
  3. Women leadership: AAIN supports women’s political empowerment by promoting their participation in leadership roles at the community and national levels. By encouraging women to take an active role in politics, AAIN aims to increase their representation and influence in decision-making processes.
  4. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR): AAIN works with youth and women leaders to promote disaster preparedness and resilience in vulnerable communities. By empowering local leaders to take charge of disaster response and recovery efforts, AAIN helps to build stronger, more resilient communities.
  5. Ending Chhaupadi: AAIN supports girls’ initiatives to end the harmful practice of Chhaupadi, which involves isolating women and girls during menstruation. By raising awareness about the negative impacts of Chhaupadi, AAIN works to promote gender equality and improve the health and wellbeing of women and girls.
  6. Adolescent girls challenging child marriage: AAIN supports adolescent girls in challenging child marriage in Parsa, where the practice is still prevalent. By providing girls with education and skills training, AAIN helps them to become empowered and independent, and to make their own choices about their lives and futures.
  7. Breaking gender stereotypes: AAIN works to break down gender stereotypes and promote gender equality by highlighting women’s achievements and challenging traditional gender roles. This includes supporting women’s leadership and entrepreneurship, and addressing harmful gender norms and attitudes in communities across Nepal.


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