María del Carmen Cáceres calls herself “a woman in the process of reconstruction.” She is the Secretary-General of the Association of Women Builders in Bolivia and a survivor of domestic violence. Driven by the need to pay for her daughter’s medical expenses, she sacrificed her career as a nurse to enter the better-paid building industry. She has found hope and motivation in her new job, made possible through training offered by Red Hábitat, a grantee of UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality.
“In painting and construction, I have found a way to express what I repressed for many years. I identify with my profession because I believe the same way damaged ceramic can be repaired, people’s lives can be fixed too. Now I know I can do everything I want to,” she says.
Red Hábitat has pioneered an initiative in two of Bolivia’s largest cities—El Alto and La Paz—offering opportunities for women in the construction industry to find better working conditions and higher paying jobs. Part of the group’s strategy is to help women improve their skills and marketing, such as through analysis of market needs, training on high-demand technical skills and professional tools such as templates for job estimates.
Another focus of this project is on developing the abilities of 30 women leaders like Maria del Carmen to skillfully lobby for policy reforms on issues ranging from job safety to retirement rights. Their advocacy efforts have already persuaded the municipality of La Paz to offer local transport options that are safe for women and provide separate restrooms for men and women in construction sites and municipal facilities.
In 2016, the Fund for Gender Equality disbursed USD 4.4 million to 35 active projects, 25 of which are new grantees engaging in localizing 11 of the global goals, with a target of over half a million beneficiaries by 2019. Through grantees’ catalytic work, the Fund reaches the most marginalized women, such as those in rural areas and indigenous communities, women living with HIV/AIDS and/or disabilities and women serving as domestic workers. As a strategic UN Women contribution to the 2030 Agenda, the Fund’s seven-year experience confirms a number of effective strategies to realize the global commitment to “leave no one behind.” Out of 121 projects since the Fund began in 2009, 97 per cent have targeted at least one of 18 categories of vulnerable groups; 70 per cent have reached two or more.
Other projects supported by the Fund in 2016 registered strong results. In India, almost 8,200 women no longer suffer the inhuman oppression of manual scavenging, which entails removing human excrement from rudimentary toilets. The Jan Sahas Social Development Society mobilized advocacy that led to 60 resolutions by local authorities to stop the practice, and ensure decent work, social protection and other entitlements for women and their families. The Association for Women with Social Problems headed a drive to hold the first national conference on women, peace and security in Albania, where government and civil society committed to developing the first national action plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
In Benin, the National Association of Women Farmers helped 64 women farmers’ associations to improve the competitiveness of their agricultural production by using organic fertilizers, practicing crop rotation and water rationalizing techniques, and introducing vegetables that regenerate impoverished soils. Over 1,700 women have benefited from trainings, which were specifically designed to accommodate high rates of illiteracy. The effort enabled them to increase yields, improve food security, and better confront water scarcity and climate change.