Exporting Equality

Development programs have to reach women and girls if those programs are going to be effective and sustainable.

Text by Nelle Oosterom

Posted January 31, 2012

Women's Perspectives in Kandahar (April 2010). This video illustrates some of the challenges faced by Afghan women living in Kandahar province as well as some of the positive changes to everyday life. Those interviewed reflect on life in Kandahar province once women could become students, teachers, wage earners and politicians. A mere decade ago, girls and women could not even attend school.



In today's world of international development, development programs have to reach women and girls if those programs are going to be effective and sustainable.


The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and its partnering NGOs started working on gender issues in the 1970s. Since then, CIDA integrated gender equality into all of its programs. “Canada has always been about five years ahead of the curve,” says Margaret Capelazo, a gender advisor for CARE Canada — one of Canada’s largest NGOs and a CIDA partner.

She adds that today many gender specialists are from the countries they are working in. Gender specialists identify factors — such as men’s and women’s traditional roles within a particular culture, and what keeps them from getting their needs met — in order to analyze how best to deliver aid. In some situations, women receiving land for farming may have poorer soil and so require a different fertilizer than their male counterpart who received better land.

Although gender analysis originated as a way to elevate the lives of women, it can go both ways: a man recently widowed or with an ailing wife may need to learn how to do domestic duties in her abasence, like the cooking, cleaning and childcare.

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In the February-March 2012 issue of Canada's History, Nelle Oosterom described a century of efforts made by Afghan rulers to raise the status of women in their country — much to their own peril.

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