International Rescue Committee (IRC)

16 ways the IRC empowers women and girls [PHOTO ESSAY]

Women and girls, working together with their communities, create a world where they are valued, free from violence and exercise their full power and rights to promote their own safety, equality and voice—this is the International Rescue Committee’s vision.

In honor of "16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence," which begins today, Nov. 25, we share examples of 16 ways the IRC works with women and girls.

1. Promoting gender equality 

Photo: Susanna Ferreira/IRC  

In Haiti, the IRC enables women and girls to reach their full potential through holistic care for survivors of violence, violence prevention programs, credit and savings programs, and support for adolescent girls. The IRC makes sure gender does not limit a woman’s ability and means to make life choices and determine her future. 

2. Ending the violence

Photo: Kete Shabani/IRC 

In a video workshop in Jordan, refugee youth from Syria created short animations aimed at raising awareness about issues they face, including early marriage and domestic violence. The IRC works to change social norms so women and girls can live free from violence and fully take part in personal, social, civic and economic opportunities. 

3. Supporting survivors

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC 

We strengthened the network of health care workers in Somalia to provide better support for survivors of sexual assault and other forms of violence. The IRC provides services like medical care, counseling and legal assistance to women and girls, as well as safe spaces for them to heal with dignity from the physical, psychological and emotional impacts of violence. 

4. Challenging oppression

Photo: Matija Kovac/IRC 

We aired a popular radio drama in Kenya, called “Gutuka,” that reached 1.5 million listeners and helped change attitudes about female genital cuttingThe IRC works with communities to tackle the root causes of violence to prevent future violence from happening.

5. Working with men and boys

Photo: Valine Moraa/IRC 

Andrew Kusimba, father of two and a community leader in Kenya, recently took part in an IRC workshop that challenges “champion” men to raise awareness about violence against women and girls. The IRC includes men and boys as we work to change harmful behaviors and attitudes that affect women and girls.

6. Mentoring leaders

Photo: Meredith Hutchison/IRC 

Séraphine Nsekanabo Musanga and Marie Jeannette Nabintu M’Mirindi traveled to the United States to speak about their experiences in the Democratice Republic of Congo mentoring women leaders who are survivors of violence. Supporting women’s groups and leaders promotes women’s rights and underscores the critical role women play in the recovery, resilience and well-being of their communities.

7. Building partnerships

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC  

The Karamoja region of northern Uganda has a long history of conflict between warring clans and violence against women and girls. Together, the IRC and a local foundation, Raising Voices, have supported women’s engagement in peace building in Karamoja, Uganda since 1999. Partnering with community, nonprofit and government organizations strengthens the IRC’s ability to effectively address priorities expressed by women and girls.

8. Improving access to basic needs

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC 

In rural areas of countries like Ethiopia and South Sudan, we worked with local communities to build essential latrines and bathing facilities in areas where women and girls feel safe using them. 

9. Improving access to health care

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC 

In Chin State, a remote region in western Myanmar, IRC-trained midwives and community health care workers provide women with a broad range of maternal health and family planning services, guidance on proper breastfeeding, and immunizations for their children.

10. Creating economic opportunities

Photo: Kate Sands Adams/IRC 

With the support of the IRC and businesses in Nairobi, Kenya, Susan Kayongo, 19, opened a salon with several friends, and Jacinta Wariara, 19, opened a Kenchic fast food outlet. Improving women’s economic participation strengthens women’s rights, enables them to gain control over their lives, and allows them to exert influence in their communities.

11. Increasing educational opportunities

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC 

The IRC ensures girls around the world are enrolled in school so they learn to take control of their lives and contribute to their communities. The IRC works with parents, communities, schools and governments to ensure all children have safe access to education. The IRC also provides literacy classes for women along with training in vocational skills and financial literacy.

12. Investing in adolescent girls

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC 

In Ban Mai Nai Soi in northern Thailand, the IRC brings refugee girls together in safe spaces where they can make friends, get health information and access support services. The IRC works with girls to build healthy and productive lives so that they can emerge as leaders and participants in their communities, and be protected from violence.

13. Lifesaving services in emergencies

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC 

Collecting firewood, searching for clean water, looking after their children — these daily tasks expose women and girls in the Central African Republic to threats of assault, sexual violence and kidnapping. The IRC is providing lifesaving services for women and girl survivors of violence, including emergency kits, counseling and medical referrals. The IRC equips aid workers with the tools and skills necessary to ensure that women and girls have access to these services and are supported while they recover.

14. Improving impact through research

Photo: Sinziana Demian/IRC 

Groundbreaking therapy is helping women overcome the trauma, shame, and depression of sexual violence that left them unable to work or take care of themselves or their families in the CongoIn partnership with leading universities and research institutes, the IRC undertakes cutting-edge research to study the impact of our work and to improve the direction of future efforts on behalf of women and girls worldwide.

15. Speaking out for change

Photo: Meredith Hutchison/IRC 

Violence against women and girls tends to spike in times of war and conflict. A recent IRC report amplified the voices of thousands of Syrian women and girls who provided compelling testimonies of sexual exploitation and harassment, domestic violence, and early and forced marriage. The IRC works with women and girls to raise their voices, influence policies and increase international efforts to prevent and respond to violence. 

16. Forging connections

Photo: The League of Kitchens 

The IRC introduced Afghan nativNawida Saidhosin to the League of Kitchens workshops in New York. Now she leads cooking classes in her own kitchen, teaching Americans how to make some of her favorite dishes from her home country. The IRC’s resettlement program in the United States ensures women and girls recovering from crisis are protected, have equal access to opportunities and exercise their rights.

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