International Women’s Day

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As the world watches the progress of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who was shot in the head for wanting an education and claiming that right for every child, and angry crowds gather on India's streets to express their outrage at the brutal rape and murder of a young woman on a bus, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is today calling for a more concerted effort towards tackling gender discrimination and violence by redressing its underlying cause - gender inequality.

“Inequality takes many forms and is rooted in the imbalance of power dynamics between individuals, which can lead to discrimination and violence,” said Bekele Geleta, Secretary General of the IFRC.

“Addressing women’s unequal access to education, economic resources and decision-making power is essential to boosting their resources and capacity to protect themselves, their families, livelihoods and communities.”

The National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies’ youth initiatives promote gender empowerment and equality through their volunteers, using culturally sensitive approaches and working with diverse groups such as youth, volunteers, religious leaders, local administrators and others to help change mindsets and behaviours.

“For example in rural Bangladesh, social norms prohibit women from leaving home in the absence of men even during a cyclone warning. Red Crescent volunteers are continuously working with women’s groups, religious leaders and heads of communities, and slowly they are seeing now the change that is taking place. Women are being empowered to take action, to save themselves and their children when a warning is triggered,” said Bekele Geleta.

This story in is not an outlier but an example of a growing trend being observed by the humanitarian organization through its global network and in particular, through its Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change initiative.

“In Haiti and Malawi, the Red Cross established safe spaces and peer support groups for women and young people to build self-esteem and skills as a way to address many of the issues facing them including sexual exploitation, violence, teenage pregnancy and school dropout. In Honduras, where traditionally men leave the care of the family to the women, the Red Cross is educating young men on pregnancy, birth and post-partum care through its REDES (which means network) initiative. These men are becoming actively involved in caring for children and pregnant women, improving the general health and well-being of their families and thereby transforming stereotypical male roles into new role models of positive fatherhood,” said Mr Geleta.

The Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change programme is the IFRC’s flagship initiative on the promotion of a culture of non-violence and peace, which empowers youth to take up an ethical leadership role in inspiring positive change within their individual selves and their communities. The programme is run by 110 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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