Achieving gender equality

Gender equality is one of Switzerland's main international cooperation objectives. 2017 saw major steps towards gender equality in the areas of financial inclusion, reducing unpaid labour, empowering women in local politics and fighting sexual violence.

A group of women members of communal and municipal councils pose for a group photo holding a banner.
Training for women members of communal and municipal councils in Benin. © FDFA

Without gender equality: no sustainable development, no peace and security

Although some progress has been made, no country in the world has yet achieved gender equality: women and girls still enjoy fewer rights, economic prospects and political influence than men. They are also subjected to various forms of sexual and domestic violence. In line with the 2030 Agenda and the FDFA's new strategy on gender equality, the SDC is helping in numerous countries to fight gender-based violence and to empower women politically and financially, especially those living in rural areas. 

Unpaid domestic labour: an obstacle to women's economic empowerment

Raising children, caring for elderly and infirm relatives, cooking and cleaning, fetching water and firewood – it is still primarily women and girls who are doing all of this unpaid labour. Worldwide, they spend 200 million hours each day fetching water: time not spent in paid work. The SDC is involved in rural development and infrastructure projects such as improving access to water. In the Rasht Valley in Tajikistan, newly installed water collection points and pipes to village households both improved residents' health and reduced the amount of time spent fetching water: 30 minutes instead of four to six hours. The time saved has enabled girls to go to school more regularly and for longer. Women are free to concentrate on income-generating activities. What they earn from milk produced by their herds they invest in their children's education and the upkeep of their homes. These incomes improve women's standing in their families and villages, and their influence grows in the local committees that manage water resources. 

Women in local politics: making a difference in the face of social norms

In Pakistan the SDC is supporting the women’s caucus of a provincial assembly in collaboration with UN Women. Out of 124 seats on this assembly, 22 are allocated for women and three for minorities. Those not elected to political office still have an influence on legislative affairs via this network without political affiliation. 

In Benin, negative attitudes towards women who engage in politics is one of the main obstacles to their participation. Politics is considered a man's game: a dirty, corrupt world. Women in politics become ostracised in public and in their own social circles. One of the key elements of the SDC-backed project in Benin is to raise the awareness of husbands, families and communities: "Without their support, it is almost impossible for a woman to assert herself in politics" stresses SDC gender expert Ursula Keller. Women's political participation at communal level is essential because it has a direct impact on families' daily lives. The SDC encourages women to get involved in public finance, budget planning and communal public spending strategies. For Ursula Keller "to bring about lasting change in gender relations, women need to be more involved in politics, and men need to be more involved in looking after their children". 

Gender equality

More financing options for women entrepreneurs

Malika Zakarneh received financial services and advice from Bank al Etihad for her company 'Jadara Electronics'.

The SECO-backed Women Banking Champions Programme is helping women in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia gain access to financial services.

Assistance for migrants who have suffered sexual violence

Hands holding a band representing the AIDS symbol.
© Keila Trejo

Many sub-Saharan African women living in Morocco have suffered sexual violence along their journey. The SDC is supporting an NGO providing medical assistance, social aid and psychological support to these women.