Women and development

Women make up 70 percent of the world’s poor. They face – particularly in developing countries – systematic discrimination in education, employment, healthcare, control of assets and participation.

Women collecting water in Sudan

Our Caritas approach

Sustainable growth and development can only occur when everyone – women, men and children – are involved. Caritas Australia works with both women and men to improve the economic and social participation of women and girls in their communities.

Caritas Australia’s response

Caritas Australia has projects tackling women’s issues and promoting equality and empowerment of women in Australia, Nepal, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and more. 

  • Australia: Caritas Australia’s partner, Tjanpi Desert Weavers, supports more than 300 First Australian women from 28 remote Aboriginal communities with culturally appropriate employment opportunities. Workshops have been held to include younger women; in 2011-12, 109 females under 30 attended training. 149 artists and 24 teachers are casually employed at workshops.
  • Nepal: Caritas Australia’s Integrated Pest Management program in Nepal aims to provide greater food security and income for marginalised members of the community. Through Farmer Field Schools, small scale farmers are empowered to adopt suitable techniques that increase crop yields, food security and farm sustainability. In 2011-12, 1,498 people (78% women) attended training.
  • Timor-Leste: The Protection Program aims to promote the protection and resilience of up to 1500 vulnerable people, including women in Timor-Leste. Caritas Australia's support of the program focuses on empowering survivors of violence to respond to issues. By working with our local partners, we identify factors that contribute to family violence and discuss appropriate strategies to increase family harmony. Caritas Australia also supports the women’s shelters in these communities.

Women with her child

The facts

Poverty places women at greater risk of violence and human rights abuses (particularly during conflicts where women and children often bear the brunt of civilian casualties), marginalising and preventing their full participation in society. 

Even a cursory glance at the inequalities women face paints a disturbing picture: 

  • Women make up approximately 70 percent of the world’s poor [1]
  • Two-thirds of people unable to read and write are female [2]
  • 11.4 million women and girls are in forced labour [3]
  • 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical and sexual violence [4]

Economically empowering women often results in the benefits flowing throughout the whole community. Research has shown that women are more likely than men to spend their earnings on the health and wellbeing of their family by providing food, medicine and education. Increased female education levels are also linked with improvements in maternal and child health, as well as infant survival rates.

Access to land is a major issue facing women in the developing world. In countries where agriculture is a major source of employment, land-ownership is interrelated with power. Access to land enhances women’s negotiating power within the household, as well as their representation and participation in decision making processes at the community level.

There is other good news too:

  • Since 1990, maternal mortality has decreased by 47% [5]
  • In 1911, only two countries in the world allowed women to vote. Today that right is almost universal [6]
  • In almost all countries, girls now have the same chance as boys to complete primary school. [5]

1. UN Women
2. UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2012
3. International Labor Organization (ILO), 2012
4. UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, 2008
5. MDG Report, UN, 2012
6. UN Women

Remarkable Women

Caritas Australia acknowledges the remarkable women everywhere, who show incredible strength and promote development in their families and communities. Three such women are Janet Oyee from Caritas Lira, Teopista from Uganda, and Salma from Bangladesh.

  • Janet Oyee from Caritas Lira

    Janet's story

    Janet Oyee from Caritas Lira was one of the teenage girls abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Northern Uganda in 1996.

  • Teopista from Uganda

    Teopista's story

    Teopista’s life has moved beyond the struggle to feed her family, to one where she is self-sufficient and has hope for the future.

  • Salma holding her 3 week old daughter Maya.

    Salma's story

    Salma lives in an area without health facilities. Through the Safe Motherhood Project, she was able to receive the care she needed during pregnancy.

Learn more:

More needs to be done to promote equality for women and girls (Media release 8 Mar 2013)
School Resource - International Women’s Day 2013 PowerPoint