There are more than 3.5 billion women and girls in the world today — women and girls made in the image of God. At World Relief, we envision a world where women and girls are free from violence and oppression, and have the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential.
We asked World Relief female staff working around the globe to share their perspective on women in their nation. Here, they discuss the challenges they face, the opportunities they have, the potential they carry to shape culture and society and, finally, the hope they have in advancing issues of gender justice in their respective countries.
Below is a Q&A with five female staff from World Relief in Sudan, South Sudan and DR Congo — Muraa Rose, Reproductive Health Officer; Puru Jeska Mario, Roving Finance Officer; Suad Yuasif Ibrahim Idriss, Nutrition Coordinator; Esperance Ngondo, former SGBV & HIV/AIDS Program Officer
What is the biggest challenge women face in your country?
The challenges are many — social, economic, emotional and domestic violence against women. Women are often neglected and disrespected in the community and even their homes. They are often excluded from important decisions, under-valued in their families and in some places even deprived of rights such as attending school.
Women have no power or agency. They are expected to defer to their husbands or fathers in every single decision without question. This includes how finances are spent and resources such as crops and livestock are used.
Young women in our country face early and forced marriages. Many parents rely on daughters to bring an income home so girls are restricted from attending school. When girls don’t attend school, they are also more likely to be forced to marry early in order to fetch a bride price for their families.
In the Congo, we live in a society which has become very violent — and where women are considered as prey. Women are the main victims of war because sexual violence is used as a weapon of war. This is likely a result of our culture, which considers women to be incompetent and restricts their rights to almost everything including inheritance, access to school and even their own bodies.
How do you see the influence of women shaping culture/society?
I am hopeful that we will see a power balance in workplaces as well as more equal employment opportunities for men and women. This would help to empower our women economically. I can see women playing a key role in the economic development of South Sudan. I hope one day women’s rights will be practiced nationwide, particularly in decision making, professional spheres and even politics.
In the past, educating both boys and girls was not a priority. But now, families are investing in both boys’ and girls’ education. Because of this, we are now beginning to see female community leaders and women supported by their families, attending school as adults and even husbands supporting their wives..
Because of our ongoing health program, the maternal mortality rate has decreased in South Sudan. Another aspect of our health programming is education around family planning. More couples are practicing planning and having fewer children, which has resulted in more boys and girls able to attend school.
Despite all the challenges that women are facing in our country, they are not staying silent. They are fighting to regain their rights with the support of churches, NGOs and the UN. Currently, there are many proceedings and legal processes beginning that are focused on promoting the rights of women.
How is your office empowering/providing opportunity for women?
We respect and honor the dignity of all women, practice equal opportunity employment regardless of gender, and we strongly encourage women to apply.
Our nutrition program depends on community volunteers from villages. 75% of those volunteers are female. The success of these programs significantly transforms communities as they see how successful women are in their roles. We also seek to empower mothers and other caretakers through different educational topics in order to improve health for her family.
Our most effective way to provide opportunities empowering women is through trainings such as employment opportunities, health services and Bible studies.
We have implemented support programs especially for women, many with the objective to reduce the instances of sexually based violence against women and promoting gender equality.
These programs include:
SGBV & HIV Programming — medical, psychosocial and economic support to women survivors of sexual violence. The major objective is to reduce the incidence of sexual violence and HIV, and promote gender equality
Peace Building — Women are now members of local Village Peace Committees, chosen by community members.
Dana North serves as the Marketing Manager at World Relief. With a background in graphic design and advertising and experiences in community development and transformation, Dana seeks to use the power of words and action to help create a better world. Dana is especially passionate about seeking justice for women and girls around the world.