At Practical Action, we believe that gender transformative change is fundamental to creating a world that works better for everyone. Everyone benefits when women and men enjoy equal opportunities to work, to participate in decision-making, to lead and to thrive.
However, gender inequality remains widespread and deep rooted. At current rates, it will take over 200 years to close the gender gap in economic opportunity.
On average, women spend about 2.5 times as many hours on unpaid domestic and care work as men. One in three women have been subjected to physical or sexual violence. And most recently, the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic has fallen disproportionally on women, with unemployment rising for women during 2019 by 19 million, and 47 million women plunged into extreme poverty.
Gender and other social inequalities are fundamental drivers of poverty all over the world.
This has to change.
We believe that everyone should have the opportunity, resources and support to achieve their potential. Gender equality is development. That’s why we champion the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment across our four aims.
Farming that works
Nearly half the world’s farmers are women. Women play a vital role in ensuring food security and nutrition in most communities. Yet women face persistent inequalities in access to and control of productive resources such as land, inputs, services, finance, market information and technologies.
Evidence shows that removing gender-related barriers in agriculture and business could substantively promote growth, accelerate poverty reduction, and catalyse food security.
Energy that transforms
Almost three billion people can’t cook cleanly and one billion don’t have access to electricity. Indoor air pollution is the second biggest cause of women’s deaths after childbirth. Women spend many hours collecting fuel and have to carry heavy loads for long distances, often at considerable risk to their safety.
As key energy users in all contexts, women can shape energy policy and deliver energy services more effectively and efficiently than current centralised and male-dominated models.
Resilience that protects
Inequalities across age, disability, socio-economic status and gender exacerbate disaster risks. Women often have less access to assets and limited decision-making power. Barriers to information can mean women struggle to access warning information or lack awareness of how best to respond. In many contexts, women are left behind to help children and the elderly to safety, but are all too often overlooked in rescue volunteer groups and training.
Despite all the barriers they face, time and again women demonstrate they have the ideas, courage and energy to take action and lead during disaster preparedness and response.
Cities fit for people
The needs of women and children in water, sanitation and waste management are often overlooked. Inadequate services create unsanitary conditions, leading to infectious disease, worsening reproductive health, and higher maternal and infant mortality. Women and girls are disproportionately burdened with domestic tasks like water collection, often at the expense of paid work and education, and increasing exposure to risks of injury and, in some contexts, sexual violence.
Inclusive waste management and sanitation ensures all needs are met, opens new economic opportunities for women, and creates safer urban environments and better health outcomes for all.
We are committed to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment
At a minimum we will ensure that all our work is gender sensitive, seeking gender transformative approaches as our overall ambition and in accordance with context.
Gender sensitive interventions and activities aim to meet the day-to-day practical needs of women and men.
Gender transformative interventions address strategic gender interests. The aim is to achieve greater gender equality by challenging inequalities. Often strategic interests relate to decision-making power or control over resources, such as access to markets, equal wages, political representation, legal entitlement to land, or distribution of household tasks. In this way, gender transformative approaches promote women’s empowerment.
At Practical Action we work with women and men. We work with women to understand how the current system can be changed to better meet their needs, reflect their views and support their lives and wellbeing. We engage and work constructively with men to challenge assumptions, prejudices and behaviours.
Gender is a shared responsibility at Practical Action, and our approach is underpinned by our Gender Policy [PDF]. Our board has 40% women representation and is chaired by a woman. The organisational Senior Leadership Team is made up of 70% women, and led by a woman CEO. We have Gender Focal Points in all offices and an active Global Gender Group that shares learning and experiences across the organisation.
Our Experience Around the World
Practical Action works with communities, development agencies, governments and private companies to promote gender transformative change across its four change ambitions. Flagship examples include:
Farming that works
Livelihoods and Food Security in Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe, Practical Action is working to improve food security, strengthen community relationships and reduce gender inequality. We use the powerful Gender Action Learning Systems (GALS) methodology, a community-driven empowerment model that promotes awareness raising, gender advocacy, life and livelihood planning, and collective action. Using GALS, Practical Action is working intensely with 87,250 smallholder households, in Matebeleland South and Manicaland Provinces. The programme is working to ensure that women take a leading role in asset ownership and decision-making, express their views, and demand for services and rights. A series of participatory visual tools support facilitated group meetings around visioning, analysis, change planning and tracking by individuals, households and stakeholder groups. Locally-based “Gender champions” provide ongoing support to participating households. Our staff in Zimbabwe have found GALS to be particularly effective for engaging with men in nonthreatening and constructive ways around behaviour and attitude change.
Energy that transforms
Women in Energy Enterprises Kenya
In Kenya, Practical Action has successfully supported over 400 women entrepreneurs to establish energy enterprises providing efficient cook stoves, fuel briquettes and solar home systems. Through training on business development skills, empowerment and leadership, participating women entrepreneurs have become clean energy champions in their communities and have created employment opportunities for over 300 other local people to date.
Practical Action has supported the women entrepreneurs to establish and manage village savings and loans associations to support them with their business capital needs. The work has also extended into influencing the enabling environment for gender equality and inclusion. Kenya now has a gender policy for the energy sector at a national level, and the team are supporting county governments to implement this at a sub-national level. Our clean energy programme in Kenya has helped more than 1,130,000 individuals experience the benefits of clean energy, reducing the time women spend collecting firewood, preventing avoidable deaths from indoor smoke and reducing pressures on forest resources.
Resilience that protects
Missing Voices Methodology
The Missing Voices study explores ‘Early Warning Systems’ (EWS) in Nepal and Peru using an intersectional gender lens. The research explores a diverse range of marginalised experiences and perspectives on EWS, including those of cisgender women, transgender women and men, non-binary or third gender people, disabled women, single mothers, elderly women and adolescent girls. ‘Missing Voices’ highlights issues which are invisible in the wider literature on EWS.
The methodology focuses on marginalised groups based on contextual knowledge about the factors which drive marginalisation in a given location. With the support of trusted intermediaries, and via peer referral, telephone contact is made with individuals who are willing and able to speak with us. Interviewees have control over when and where they undertake interviews, which enables vulnerable groups to speak with greater openness and without scrutiny. This significantly enhances the quality of interview data and emphasises the agency of interviewees. We have since applied the methodology in Malawi, Dominica, and the Philippines. We have trained other organisations on the approach, and are producing a manual so others can use it learn from marginalised voices.
Delivering a smart and socially inclusive flood early warning system
Gender and Farmer Managed Seed Systems in Zimbabwe
Strengthening Gender Responsive Urban Sanitation: Public and Community Toilets in Bangladesh
Strengthening Gender Responsive Urban Sanitation: Faecal sludge management in Bangladesh
Women's empowerment and agriculture in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
Mainstreaming Gender in National Energy Policy and Plans: Learning from Kenya's journey and success
Partner with us
We’re a global change-making organisation that was inspired over 50 years ago by radical economist E.F. Schumacher – who challenged the conventional aid thinking of the day.
Although we start with local communities, we think ‘big’ – analysing the factors that can change the underlying systems and identifying where we are best placed to effect change. And who we can convene and collaborate with more widely – governments, international organisations, and increasingly the private sector – to help take proven approaches to the next level of scale and sustainability.