A womens' demonstration

International women’s day—two asks from the charity sector

By Clare Wilkins 8 March 2018

Recently, the adversity and injustice faced by women all over the world has galvanised fresh movements for change: the 2017 global Women’s march in response to Trump’s inauguration, the #MeToo campaign highlighting the scale of sexual abuse, and the celebrity-endorsed Time’s Up. These are all part of a trend of women actively re-engaging with the issues that affect them, speaking out about power systems that favour men, and rejecting a status quo of quiet acceptance.

But how do we ensure that this energy translates into more than just a hashtag? And how should the charity sector harness this new momentum?

At NPC, we are working on two areas where we believe the charity sector needs to do more to support women in realising their rights and potential:

Integrating gender-based approaches to programme delivery.

Years ago, many international aid organisations abandoned the practice of parachuting Europeans into developing countries to ‘fix’ the problems they saw. Nowadays, most development organisations rightly recognise that it is better to employ bright, dedicated staff from the countries in which they operate, and rely on their expertise, insights, talent and leadership. A similar trend is needed when it comes to gender—employing women locally as well as men.

It is not enough to aim for gender-based project outcomes alone. We believe charities must commit to gender-based practices in their programme delivery as well, adopting approaches that place women at the heart of programme design and activities—both as charity staff and as service users.

This will require moving towards new approaches such as people-centred design methods. At NPC we are working to test these methods and establish an evidence base for practices that better draw out lived experiences, ambitions and hurdles, and adequately represent women in programme delivery

Encouraging gender diversity in technology.

Charities should not ignore the growing role of technology, and it is important that they think twice before adopting technologies that are designed only by men. This is for two reasons. The first is that male-generated design does not always cater well to women—car seatbelt design, for example, has historically been so skewed towards men that in 2011 women were 47% more likely than men to sustain a severe injury from a crash. Secondly, if women are constantly presented with technology designed by men—especially digital technology—it will be harder for them to envision a future where they form part of the design and creation process.

It is therefore vital that women are encouraged to take an active role in developing new technologies, especially where they are created by and for charities. We believe initiatives such as the Tech Talent Charter will play an important role in this, by encouraging businesses to increase (and measure) diversity in their workforce. We are actively encouraging charities to look to the Charter when developing or commissioning new technologies.

Female patience with male-centric design will become short-lived, and companies and charities alike need to acknowledge this shift as they move forward.

We recognise that approaches like these are innovative, and charities may question their relevance and practicality. That is why we are working to develop people-centred design approaches and promote equity in technology ourselves, publishing what we learn so the sector can benefit.

By devoting greater attention to the important role women play in our organisations, and in developing our tools and programmes, the charity sector can demonstrate that it is responsive to global calls for change. The women’s rights movement has developed its own impetus; charities must not just be witness to this movement, we must be fellow changemakers.

We are currently convening groups of interested parties to put collective digital transformation projects into practice as part of our work to help young women access meaningful employment in Kenya and India. If you are interested and want to learn more we invite you to get in touch.