March 1, 2018
A married couple in Kenya harvests spinach they grew on their farm
With the aim of helping realize societies in which people can display their abilities regardless of their gender, JICA has been providing assistance for many years in various fields toward gender equality and the empowerment of women. It includes support for the protection of women who have experienced gender-based violence, promoting the role of women and their participation in decision making at home and in the community, as well as increasing women's financial access.
International Women's Day is observed every year on March 8. Women around the world are increasingly participating in society and taking leadership roles. Here is a look at JICA’s approaches that focus on the role of women in society.
Afghan female police officers participate in the workshop held in Turkey in January.
It is said that about 87 percent of women in Afghanistan experience gender-based violence including domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment and forced marriage. Women currently constitute only about 4 percent of the country's national police force, and nurturing female police officers who can provide appropriate protection and support to women who have experienced violence is an issue.
The fourth such workshop was held in January this year with the participation of 243 female police officers, including new recruits. The participants increased their knowledge and skills relating to providing effective protection and support to women who have experienced violence. To date, about 1,000 female police officers — or about 30 percent of female Afghan police officers — have participated in this workshop.
Makiko Kubota, JICA Senior Advisor on Gender and Development, who served as a lecturer at the workshop, said, "Many female Afghan police officers have experienced violence themselves, such as domestic violence, sexual violence and child marriage. Many of them are joining the police force with a strong motivation to work for women’s peace and security, and particularly to help other women survivors of violence." She emphasized the importance of providing psychological support to heal the trauma of female police officers who have been victimized.
Kubota also emphasized the importance of working with more male police officers by facilitating more training for them on gender-based violence, sexual harassment and women’s rights issues.
Gender training held in Zimbabwe for people involved in SHEP in Africa
Income can be increased if a married couple embraces the concept that they are partners in the management of their farm. This is the perspective being taken in JICA's SHEP (Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion) approach, which is involved in gender equality and empowerment of women in agricultural communities in various African nations. SHEP promotes farming as a business, realizing a shift from "grow and sell" to "grow to sell." In addition to farming technique training, gender awareness training and domestic finance training are also important activities in the SHEP approach.
Farming households participate in the training as married couples. It changes the traditional perception of gender roles in which the husband is the one who takes care of money-related matters. Married couples learn how to manage domestic finances as well as how to prepare farming plans together. Through higher production efficiency and bigger earnings, the incomes of farming households that adopt SHEP have doubled as compared to before adoption.
SHEP was launched in 2006 in Kenya. Today, it has expanded to 23 countries in Africa. Extension staff, who are involved in farming technique and domestic finance training, number about 1,900. As of March 2017, 42,468 farmers had undergone training under SHEP. The approach is now also being implemented outside of Africa in Central America and Asia, including El Salvador and Nepal. There are expectations for the further expansion of SHEP going forward.
JICA also provides support toward women's financial access. One example is its investment in the Japan ASEAN Women Empowerment Fund, which was established in 2016. This was the first time JICA made an investment in a fund for microfinance institutions that provide small financial services to poor and low-income populations with a focus on women's empowerment. In regard to this fund, JICA is encouraging the mobilization of funds from Japanese institutional investors by reducing the risk held by private investors.
This fund aims to contribute to the empowerment of women, and especially to the improvement of financial access for low-income women in the region through expanding financing to microfinance institutions focusing on the empowerment of women in Asia, particularly in ASEAN countries.