Hivos International

About Women's Empowerment

Hivos believes that all women and girls should have control over their lives and be able to actively participate in social, political and economic spheres, so we work tirelessly with various human rights instruments in support of communities’ and countries’ efforts towards gender equality. 

For decades, we have partnered with frontrunners of change and social justice to further women’s rights and lobby for new laws protecting women against discrimination and sexual and domestic violence. Our recent partnerships with global organisations like the International Women’s Rights Actions Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP), the sexuality and rights institute CREA, Just Associates (JASS) and the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), have played an essential role in linking local activists to the global instruments of United Nations treaties and special rapporteurs.

And around the world, progressive initiatives are slowly starting to gain ground. More girls are going to school, more women have decent jobs and political power, and more rights are enshrined in law and policies – though not always in practice. Now is the time to accelerate efforts for women’s equal rights.

Our strategic objectives

We feel that two areas in particular could accelerate women’s participation: opportunities for decent work and participation in politics and decision-making processes. Our Women’s Empowerment programme therefore specifically promotes economic rights and justice for women and enhances women’s participation in politics and public administration.  

The strategic objectives of the programme is to achieve social, political and economic spheres where:

  1. Women have access to employment and ownership over financial means; the right to decent work for those working under poor conditions is enforced; global value chains ensure they are gender inclusive, and
  2. Women have equal opportunities and the capacity to fully participate in political and societal decision-making processes, and therefore are recognised and supported in politics and in society as leaders and agents of change.

Our premise is that improving social, economic and political opportunities for women improves communities as a whole and positions women as change agents. Hivos seeks to identify frontrunners to facilitate change, connect networks of daring feminist activists and organisations. Through a systems approach, we target and create opportunities for change within government institutions, markets and private sector, media, public and civil society organisations.

Our methods

  • Capacity building for lobby and advocacy by civil society organisations that work to improve women’s working conditions, such as equal treatment, equal pay, the right to decent work and a living wage.
  • Stimulating an enabling environment for policy development leading to gender equitable legislation and implementation of measures to enforce the elimination of discriminatory laws and all forms of violence against women.       
  • Promoting gender-inclusive private sector development policies by strengthening cooperation between the private sector and civil society organisations working on women’s rights in multi-stakeholder forums.
  • Shifting corporate practices towards gender inclusive corporate social responsibility policies; affirmative action and hiring more women in (senior) leadership positions.
  • Creating linkages between (aspiring) women leaders and networks, CSOs, creative media and industry.
  • Organising peer learning trajectories, knowledge development and sharing spaces, working with frontrunners to develop innovative solutions and alternatives.

Example programmes

Women @  Work (2012-2015, 2016-2020)

In 2012, Hivos started the Women @ Work campaign to bring about decent work for women who earn their living in global production chains, specifically in the flower industry. Since relatively high numbers of women work in this sector, and Hivos has long worked with partners who are committed to working on women’s rights, we focused our campaign on:

  • capacity development, specifically in countries in East Africa
  • advocating for enforcement of women workers’ rights and their economic empowerment as part of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and implementation of decent work for women
  • highlighting women’s work and rights of women workers in the flower industry through consumer action calling for fair flowers

Since 2016, Hivos has extended its Women @ Work campaign to other products in horticulture and to other regions, namely Southern Africa. The new programme, funded by and in cooperation with the Dutch government, aims to improve labour conditions for women working in global horticulture value chains by making these chains gender inclusive. Gender inclusive means that women workers are integrated in a supply chain that provides fair wages, security in the workplace and good working conditions. The programme now runs in 8 countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Shelter Me (Nov. 2014 – Nov. 2016)

The Shelter Me project for migrant domestic workers was set up to empower female migrants in their jobs as domestic workers, address the concerns of employers, and generate dialogue with governments in the Middle East and Indonesia on improvements in monitoring the situation of migrant workers. Since a large number of Indonesian women workers travel to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, these countries are the project’s focal area.

A mobile information and education network using SMS and web-based tools allows Indonesian domestic workers to receive job-related information and learn Arabic and English, as well as local customs. The project also rates the performance of recruitment agencies to help address the concerns of employers and advocates for the Indonesian government to monitor both the recruitment agencies that send domestic workers abroad and the situation of its citizens working abroad.

Women on the Frontline (2013-2016)

The Women on the Frontline programme was an early response to the 2011 uprisings in the MENA region and the subsequent opening of societies, which brought unprecedented opportunities to improve gender equality and women’s empowerment. It supports the capacity development of partner organisations in the MENA region to enhance women's active participation in the political process in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

The overall objective of the programme is to strengthen women’s organisations through organisational and strategic capacity development support based on the needs identified and expressed by participating organisations. In addition, the programme supports activities of these organisations in the field of women’s political participation at the national level, and their participation in international platforms, such as the Women’s Advisory Board to the UN Special Envoy for Syria.

Women Empowered for Leadership (2016-2020)

The Women Empowered for Leadership programme will work together with local civil society organisations to improve political participation and leadership by women in the Middle East and Southern Africa.

Its aims include: a significant increase in women participating fully and effectively in politics and public administration at sub-national level by the end of 2020; greater influence by female leaders on political and societal developments and on public opinion; promotion of full and equal participation of women in leadership trade unions and political parties; and recognition of and support from the general public for women in leadership positions.

Key Focal Areas

  • Each year, hundreds of thousands of Asian (and increasingly African) women migrate to become a domestic worker in Gulf Cooperation Council countries to make a living for their families.

  • More than 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to modern energy in their everyday lives.

  • Inequality is a global problem that equally affects the prospects of children and adults, men and women, gay and straight, healthy and disabled.