Women's Rights

Key to Reflect is the analysis of gender and power relationships and there are many examples of excellent Reflect work to empower women. Here is just a selection of stories that you might find interesting:

ActionAid Ghana, in partnership with the Widows and Orphans Movement (WOM), has supported women in the Upper East Region of Ghana to speak out against humiliating widowhood rites. The rites result in economic deprivation; physical violence and humiliation; and socially in isolation, victimisation and humiliation. They have ripple effects into the family, affecting the education of girl children and the well-being of children generally, as women lose the assets they require to support the family. ActionAid and WOM have assisted widows to organise into local groups, and using Reflect have helped them to analyse their conditions, build critical consciousness through awareness of their rights, and identify, plan and implement actions for change. Special efforts have been made to reach and lobby those government institutions that have a role to play in enforcing existing legislation and changing practices at local level. Livelihoods support to both widows and ritualists that have a stake in maintaining these practices has also featured in the range of interventions. Because of this work, some chiefs have changed the most negative of the practices, and become advocates to other chiefs. The widows' level of confidence, self‐awareness and self‐worth has increased, leading them to speak out against the practices and seek redress through the law. Many of these women have regained their property, including houses, farmlands and other possessions.

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When Shiuly became pregnant after an eight‐month affair with Habibur, he denied the relationship and refused to marry her. Socially isolated as a single mother, Shiuly and her uncle sought help from his Reflect circle and the local people's organisation and fought for her child's legal recognition and for her own rights to dignity, mobility and life. When the local mediation forum reached a stalemate, they did not give up and looked for support elsewhere, eventually taking the case to district court and gaining local media attention. This is the story of a courageous woman who takes on the outdated norms of a patriarchal society. But it is also the story about how individual effort can make bigger things happen and bring about social change; about how a social movement can mobilise people, confront prejudiced social attitudes and help communities safeguard their rights even when there is no specific law on the statute.

  • To read more of Shiuly's story click here.

Ojufa, 25, lives in the village of Vaoraid in Kaulta Union, Bangladesh. She works in a spinning mill where her husband is caretaker. ActionAid Bangladesh initiated an occupational health rights forum after completing a Reflect circle with community members, including workers. Various issues were discussed in the forum to mobilise and raise worker awareness about their rights. Ojufa was one of the regular members of the forum. When she became pregnant, she was worried about maternity leave and benefits. She shared her worries with the forum facilitator and immediately forum members came to solve her problem, discussing the issue with factory management. At first they had no success, but Ojufa claimed her rights by referring to a 2006 labour law she had learned about from the forum. Finally, factory management realised their misunderstanding and approved three months' maternity leave with full pay and festival bonus. According to the Labour Act of 2006, working women are entitled to 112 days' maternity leave on full pay, but many industries violate these rights due to a lack of information about labour law and rights, and owners' responsibility towards workers.

  • Download a pdf about work for occupational health rights in Bangladesh.

In Bombali, Sierra Leone, Dorah Jalloh and Mami Fatmata Sesay, found their livelihoods and social standing have been changed through their participation in Reflect circles. Their participation in Reflect circles has empowered the women to mobilise to claim reproductive and other rights, and also enabled them to obtain greater representation and influence in local community governance structures.

  • Download a pdf with Dorah and Mami's story.

Shuvadra, a young girl from the low‐caste Rishis community in Bangladesh, dreams of becoming a doctor - a dream that, not too long ago, would have been impossible. But since her mother joined a Reflect circle, things have changed. Local women have found their voice in the community and in their families, and the men have started to listen to them. Shuvadra's mother now thinks her youngest daughter should complete school and is determined to stop the harmful practices of dowry and early marriage. In their Reflect circles, Rishis women learn to understand their rights, analyse and resolve their problems, and to read and write. With these newly acquired skills, the women are standing up in their community and have planned actions that will help ensure a brighter future for girls like Shuvadra.

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