World Humanitarian Day celebrates the efforts of incredible people working tirelessly to change the world. But gender inequity impacts everything – including the humanitarian crisis. M-POWER partner ActionAid is at the frontlines, empowering women to have their voices heard.
In honour of the day, ActionAid invited celebrated journalist Tracey Spicer to interview two remarkable women from ActionAid. Here’s what we learned from Susan Ortieno, Executive Director of ActionAid Kenya, and Flora Vano, Country Manager of ActionAid Vanuatu.
Being radical might be the answer
“I think the word someone described me as was 'radical',” Flora laughed. “I think radical thinking is good because it leads to change. We need to change.” In Vanuatu, climate change is very real. “We have seven to eight disasters in one week,” Flora said, “and if we are faced today trying to pick up something for tomorrow, we will be faced with another disaster.” The change she wants to see is more women in leadership. For example, she explained, “there is only one woman in our parliament.” ActionAid is working with local women to change that.
Home responsibilities hold women back
Susan agreed that seeing more women in leadership is key in Kenya, too. “I've been with ActionAid for 19 years, and I've seen what women leadership in programming can do,” she told us. “Preparing women to take leadership is not easy. Not that they cannot, but they face a lot of hurdles for them to actualise themselves.” Part of the problem is the domestic load, and the responsibility in the home that keeps women out of leadership spaces. “We are very deliberate that when we work in a community, we try to help them see the importance of women in leadership,” she said.
Change is coming
Although the issues are clear, Flora believes the solutions are, too. “Change is happening and I hope other sisters who come to Vanuatu will see what I am seeing. Those changes couldn't have been made without the assistance of ActionAid. It takes a village - a collective effort to shift the thinking."
We have worked with women to bring out the power in them. They now know that questioning is not being disrespectful, but asking for what is rightfully yours.- Susan Ortieno
Power is for the taking
Susan told us that a shift in mindset has been key in her work. “We have worked with women to bring out the power in them. They now know that questioning is not being disrespectful, but asking for what is rightfully yours.
Education is key
Flora told us that education was key to making intergenerational changes in Vanuatu. “More women are educated now,” she explained. “We're making sure that the women in the network go on to train their sons not to hit their wives - and also we seek legal justice for women who might be victims of domestic violence. Justice has to be served for those perpetrators.”