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Gender equality

Equality is about the equal value and rights of all people. No one should be discriminated against on the basis of gender or gender identity. Gender equality is an end in itself, but it is also important for sustainable development, and a prerequisite for eradicating poverty. For Sida, gender equality is a priority. The gender perspective permeates most of the projects we support.

Progress has been made

Gender equality receives attention

Gender equality has received increased attention in international development cooperation. There is also a growing consensus that men, boys and LGBTQI people must be included in gender equality work.

Maternal mortality declines

Maternal mortality refers to the death of a women during pregnancy or childbirth. It has declined by more than 30 % in 20 years. Safe and secure care during pregnancy and childbirth is a fundamental right for all women.

More laws and reforms

Many countries have introduced new anti-discrimination laws and reforms. At the same time, the indicia of gender equality, such as the right to safe abortion, is on the decline in many countries.

Challenges remain

Pandemic affects gender equality

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit already discriminated groups in society hard. Resistance to the rights of women, girls and LGBTQI people has increased in many places. The pandemic has increased poverty, which also affects women the most.

Women disadvantaged in education and in the labour market

Although more and more girls are attending primary school and doing well, fewer girls than boys continue to higher education. Many women are forced to work in the insecure informal sector with low wages and poorer conditions. At the same time, women do most of the unpaid domestic work and often take care of the children.

Gender-based violence on the rise

Domestic violence and violence against women and children have increased dramatically in the context of the pandemic. LGBTQI people are also increasingly vulnerable.

Sida's work with gender equality

The majority of people living in poverty are women. Women have lower wages, poorer working conditions and less power and influence than men.

In many countries, laws restrict women’s access to work or give men the right to decide whether their wives are allowed to work.

In low- and middle-income countries, child marriage is still common. Many become mothers while they are still children themselves. Young mothers are often deprived of the opportunity to educate and support themselves.

Sida works to strengthen the human rights of women, girls and LGBTQI people, reduce gender-based violence and increase women’s economic empowerment.

Gender equality – a human right

Fair and sustainable global development depends on equality between women, men, girls and boys. Women, girls and LGBTQI people are marginalised and excluded from society in many countries. Organisations working for equal rights regardless of gender are often prevented from acting independently and contributing to social development.

In recent years, several countries have criminalised gender-based violence and child marriage, but women and girls are still oppressed by social norms, destructive customs and restrictive laws.

LGBTQI people are a particularly vulnerable group. In many places, there are no laws prohibiting sexual harassment or providing protection for LGBTQI people.

Emergency support for human rights defenders

Those who defend human rights are constantly threatened. Sida supports the funds of Urgent Action Fund in Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Pacific and the Women and Human Rights Fund. These provide emergency support to women human rights and environmental/climate defenders who need to leave the country by air, hire lawyers and work on a long-term basis to enable organisations to protect themselves against threats, for example through better IT security. Ninety percent of those who have received the support say it has been instrumental in their continued activism.

The Urgent Action Fund website

Engaging men in gender equality

If women and men are to have equal power to shape their lives, men also need to be committed to gender equality. In the Middle East and North Africa, UN Women is working to engage men and boys in gender equality issues and in changing destructive male norms, such as the Because I’m a Man campaign, which has made a big impact in Egypt, Morocco and Palestine.

Another programme that engages men and boys in gender equality is implemented in partnership with the global MenEngage Alliance and the regional MenEngage Africa network. They also campaign and advocate for changing unequal social structures.

Increasing respect for LGBTQI rights

LGBTQI people all over the world are subjected to physical and psychological violence, discrimination and gross violations. In Eastern Europe, The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights (RFSL) works with local civil society organisations to increase respect for the rights of LGBTQI people, strengthen anti-discrimination legislation and provide support to victims of violence.

RFSL’s website

Raising awareness of sex and sexuality

The UN’s Rapariga Biz programme trains girls and young women to become mentors in Mozambique and other countries. Participants then spread knowledge to other peers about sexual and reproductive health and rights. In Mozambique, Sida also supports a programme that makes safe abortions available to all who need them, through the organisation Ipas.

Financial independence

Worldwide, women earn less than men, and also take on the greatest responsibility for unpaid work in the home. Fewer women than men have a bank account, can take out loans or start businesses, engage in commerce or inherit land. Women are more likely to work in the informal economy without security or the possibility of a pension.

The equal opportunity for women to have formal paid employment is important in itself, but also contributes to more sustainable development.

Better conditions in textile factories

One in three women working in the textile industry in Bangladesh has experienced violence or discrimination in the workplace. Sida supports the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) training programme for workers in the textile industry. The aim is to improve working conditions and strengthen the role of women in the factories.

About the project on ILO’s website

Encouraging financial independence for women

Among indigenous women in rural Guatemala, violence is part of everyday life. Sida supports the organisation Helvetas, which gives women the tools to make a living from farming and get away from violence and economic dependence on men.

About the work in Guatemala on the Helvetas web page

Educating women in economics

In Zambia and ten other African countries, migrant women are being trained to improve their economy and run businesses, through a programme run by the UN migration agency, IOM. The programme works to strengthen the health and rights of migrants.

About the work in Zambia on the IOM website

Better opportunities for young mothers

In Tanzania, girls often drop out of school when they become pregnant. This makes it harder for them to get a job and earn a living. Sida gives priority to girls’ education, including through support to the Karibu Tanzania Organisation (KTO), which provides primary education for young mothers and young women.

Article about the project (in Swedish only)

Gender-based violence

It is estimated that around one third of women worldwide have been, or will be, victims of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Women and girls in crises, wars and conflicts are particularly affected. Men and boys are also victims. Child marriage, too, is considered gender-based violence.

Gender-based violence includes:

  • Domestic violence: physical, sexual, and psychological violence or threat of violence
  • Sexual violence: sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment
  • Trafficking in human beings for sexual purposes
  • Child, forced and early marriages
  • Gender-based violence
  • Genital mutilation
  • Violence against LGBTQI persons
  • Gender-based violence online/digital
Preventing genital mutilation

Preventing and combating harmful practices is important in the fight against gender-based violence. In Ethiopia, Sida has contributed to a plan to eradicate female genital mutilation and to the provision of care and counselling for thousands of girls who have been subjected to it. In Burkina Faso, an estimated 175,000 girls have escaped genital mutilation thanks to active monitoring of girls at risk. Nearly three million people in the region have been engaged and actively opposed to female genital mutilation.

About the programme against female genital mutilation on the UNFPA website

Fewer child marriages

Every year, twelve million girls are married off before the age of 18. Sida supports Plan International, which works to reduce child marriage. In Bangladesh, half of all girls are married off before the age of 18. There, Plan International organises youth groups and engages fathers in gender equality work.

About the work in Bangladesh on the Plan International website

Journalistic guidelines for gender awareness

In Liberia, Sida has provided support to counteract negative media portrayals of female politicians, which has resulted in a handbook for journalists for gender awareness in reporting.

Participation and influence in politics

Only a quarter of the world’s parliamentarians are women, but more and more women are being elected to political office today. In most countries, however, there is still a large gender gap at all political levels. In many parts of the world, democratic development is going in the wrong direction, making it more difficult for women’s rights organisations. More and more women’s rights defenders are subjected to harassment and violence.

Budgets and gender equality

In Turkey, women’s political participation at local level has been strengthened through cooperation with UN Women. The work focuses on including gender perspectives in plans and budgets at the municipal level. As a result, the Municipality of Ankara has adopted a gender equality plan that evaluates the gender impact of the budget.

About the project on the UN Women website

Supporting women politicians in Africa

Sida supports the Programme for Young Politicians in Africa (PYPA) in 16 African countries. The programme focuses on gender equality and on ensuring that at least half of the candidates are women. After completing the programme, many have been elected as members of their parties’ boards or have been given other important positions within the party. In several cases, they have been elected to parliament, regional councils, city councils or mayors, as in Malawi.

Article on PYPA on Sida’s website

Reducing the digital divide

In low-income countries, only 35 % of the population has access to the internet. For women, the percentage is even lower. The World Wide Web Foundation works to close the digital divide between men and women. When the internet is accessible to all, people can more easily gain knowledge and meet across borders, thus promoting democracy.

About the project on the World Wide Web Foundation website

Scope of Sida’s work with gender equality

In 2021, Sida disbursed SEK 1.6 billion to projects in the area of gender equality, which corresponds to 6 % of Sida’s disbursed funds. The percentage has remained constant since 2019. Of all Sida’s disbursed funds, 80 % had gender equality as a main or sub-objective. Regardless of the subject area, we work with gender equality in all the projects we support, in line with Sweden’s feminist foreign policy.

The focus of Sida’s work on gender equality is guided by the Government’s strategy for global gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights.

Updated: October 7, 2022