Women’s voice and leadership

CARE International advocates for equal voice and leadership of women and girls in all areas of public and private life.

The importance of focusing on women’s voice and leadership

Women are often excluded from central decision-making in public and private spaces. This means they do not have a say in identifying what their needs are and deciding how best to meet them.  

In humanitarian crises, excluding women’s participation in leadership can have particularly damaging effects. They are the most the hardest hit by conflict, disasters and emergencies because: 

  • When food is short, women and girls eat last, and least. 

  • They are more likely to miss out on education. 

  • They are at much greater risk of sexual violence. 

  • They are the first to lose their jobs and livelihoods. 

  • They have less access to life-saving maternal health services. 

  • They take on even more responsibilities as caregivers – and not just for their own family, but for others, too. 

When women’s voices are not heard, responses can unintentionally reinforce gender inequality, and even cause harm to women and girls.  

Increasing women’s and girls’ representation and leadership in all areas of private and public life is essential to effectively meet the needs and rights of people of all genders. 

Women’s equal voice and leadership in public life means that everyone has the opportunity and ability to participate meaningfully in public decisions that affect their lives at all levels of society and government. Meaningful participation requires that people not only have access to, or are present within decision-making processes, but are also able to participate actively and have influence over the design and outcomes.  

A large group of women smile and sit together behind a blanket displaying a sewing machine and goods for sale.

Women on the Move is a CARE regional strategy to mobilize savings groups in West Africa, so that women and girls can assert their basic economic and social rights.

What is CARE International doing to improve women’s voice and leadership? 

CARE International’s equal voice and leadership programs and advocacy focus on poor and marginalized women who have the least influence in public life. 

In West Africa for example, CARE International has consistently seen evidence that solidarity groups can provide a platform for women to demand change on the issues that they care about. Our Women on the Move program seeks to address this critical component of gender justice by supporting the power of women’s collective voice as a formidable means of asserting women’s rights and influencing social transformation at the family, community, and national levels. 

Another innovative approach, Women Lead in Emergencies (WLiE) supports local women’s groups to take a lead in responding to the crises that affect them and their communities. WLiE brings tried-and-tested approaches from development programs into our humanitarian response to: 

  • Enable women to identify their own priorities and act on them 

  • Put decisions on how to spend program funds in the hands of women 

  • Support women leaders in engaging with community leaders, governments, and humanitarian agencies to access rights, services, and assistance