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Supporting A Gender Equitable World

In 1911, International Women’s Day was established with hopes that the work of women all over the world would be recognized, and that their struggle for equity and equality in the workplace would soon be successful. More than 100 years later, we are still falling short of that goal. At Abt Global, we strive every day to level the playing field for women at work and at home by putting gender-equitable policies into practice.

Despite the progress made in the last 110 years, women’s participation in income-generating activities in a safe and equitable workplace is under threat. COVID-19 presents multiple challenges for women and risks undoing decades of progress. As the primary caregivers, they can face a loss of income when illness strikes a family. And with more people at home due to either a loss of job or stay-at-home policies, the stress and demands of unpaid care work have dramatically increased. Additionally, a second pandemic of family violence is on the rise across the globe, with women and children most at risk. And 2.5 million more young girls are at risk of being forced to marry in the next five years because of COVID-19 [1].

Abt’s sound gender-sensitive polices, such as required sexual harassment training for all its employees, promote a safe and equitable workplace. Sexual harassment guidelines, with a phone number to call to report any misconduct, are posted in a local language at Abt’s project sites. We have also incorporated gender and sexual harassment content into trainings given to government partners, supervisors, and seasonal employees. Increased awareness around this issue can help to change behaviors not only in the workplace but also at home.

Abt also collects gender-disaggregated data to reveal not only the differences in the challenges women and men are experiencing but also to analyze why there are differences and what can be done to correct inequalities. For example, in Abt’s U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative VectorLink Project, we are working to increase the number of women working at all levels.

In the past, women’s participation in indoor residual spraying (IRS) has been significantly lower than that of men due partly to gendered norms around work and women’s economic mobility. Abt works with key stakeholders to identify the specific, local barriers to women’s participation in IRS and implements a series of operational policies to address these barriers. For example, mothers of young children can find it difficult to return to work and continue breastfeeding. To support staff whose responsibilities include work-related travel and full-day trainings, and who are also breastfeeding, the project provides meals and accommodations during trainings for VectorLink staff, their nursing infants and babysitters. 

Using routine programmatic data, the project actively monitors and reports against gender-related goals. Results show that including women more fully in IRS results in sustained or improved vector control outcomes while also advancing women’s economic empowerment. Further, we know that increasing women’s roles in decision-making better ensures women’s interests are taken into account. For instance, in Zanzibar, the personal protective equipment (PPE) that is required for many of the positions can be considered culturally inappropriate and be a barrier to women when applying to positions. In response, the project created a skirt that could be wrapped around the PPE and, according to surveys, the innovation has been well-received by women and men. The project also ensures women and men have separate changing areas to ensure privacy, and that women are provided sanitary napkins while working. Without sanitary supplies, women are often forced to stay at home and miss out on income.

Throughout all we do, Abt works to provide women opportunities to strive and thrive at work and at home, sustain gains made in gender equality, and celebrate the success of women and men.  


[1] The Lancet. Full text here.

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