We need more than donations to achieve equality for women in South Asia

As the whole world celebrates the International Women’s Day, South Asian countries are still marred with gender inequalities. The region is still engaged in child marriages with one in two girls married before 18 years of age according to UNICEF, and according to the World global gender gap index, South Asia is the second-lowest scoring region behind sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the fact, the region having a GDP (nominal) of $3.3 trillion and GDP (PPP) of $11.6 trillion, the disparity in South Asia is continuing.

Women comprise less than five per cent of the police force and less than 10 per cent of judges which amply reflect the social customs and the inequalities women face. However, women are also being left behind when the region suffers from its unique environmental issues.

Research by Women’s Fund Asia, which looked at women’s migration patterns and mobility restrictions, revealed environmental push factors including natural disasters and development-related displacement fuels migration across the region. For example, following the earthquakes in Nepal in 2015, migration among women increased significantly.

According to the research ‘Migrant women workers from socially and economically more vulnerable communities are also more likely to fall prey to exploitation by recruitment intermediaries, traffickers and employers. These women have comparatively fewer options for employment and may therefore be willing to take more significant risks to meet their personal and family needs.’ The violence in this context includes economic, physical and sexual violence.

Amongst the gloom, Women’s Fund Asia is addressing all forms of migration related violence through an explicitly feminist, rights-based and regional approach and confronting restrictions on women’s right to mobility, right to work and right to information; and challenging social and policy practices that undermine and stigmatize women’s work.

For migrant women, mobility is intimately tied to autonomy, security and access to a range of valuable services and resources and the study respondents identified protecting and promoting women’s mobility key to mobilisation.

Even though, the theme for International Women’s Day this year, ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change’, puts innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality, I hope philanthropy in South Asia continues to foster collaboration and empower grassroots organisations to bring equality, whilst also making donations.

First appeared in: https://www.alliancemagazine.org/blog/we-need-more-than-donations-to-achieve-equality-for-women-in-south-asia/