In the lead up to International Women's Day, many development charities find themselves thinking over the incredible achievements of brave women across the world fighting for their rights in a world still blighted by gender inequality.  

But this fight doesn't just happen in developing communities overseas. It happens here in the UK, where, according to Fawcett Society's 2017 report Sounds Familiar?, 42% of men aged 18-25 think women and men are equal now. But in the UK only 7% of FTSE 100 CEOs are women. Even in the third sector, despite 75% of employees being women, just 29% of charities are led by women.  

This led us to reflect on our own gender parity. Contrary to the norm, we are an organisation where over half of our country directors are women, and over half of those are women of colour. For us, gender equality isn't just the focus of the work we do, it's at the heart of how we do it. 

So this International Women's Day, we decided to celebrate our own women: leaders who bring their wisdom and experience to their roles; who inspire us to challenge ourselves, challenge the norm, and change our futures for the better. 

One of our longest serving staff members is Eléonore Couldiaty. As Country Director of our Burkina Faso office, Eléonore's commitment to making change in the lives of women in her country is immeasurable. In her 11 years working at International Service, she has transformed lives across Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Mali.  

Dinnah MutambaProgramme Manager for our Rwanda Office, joined International Service in 2016. With over 12 years' experience, including working with INGOs like World Relief Rwanda and Women for Women International, she has seen first hand the importance of working with to promote gender equality. 

She explains that although Rwanda has made great progress in this area – and was the first country in the world with over half its parliamentary seats occupied by women – there are still a great deal of structural barriers that mean that women are held back.  

Not least of these is gender-based violence. In 2010, at least 56% of women aged 15-49 years reported experiencing physical or sexual violence. And a more recent UN survey found that for 34% of ever-married women, the most common perpetrators of sexual violence are current husbands or partners.[1] Gender-based violence remains widely tolerated and under-reported. 

'Women and men are equal in terms of ability and dignity, and they should also be equal in terms of opportunities.'

Dinnah Mutamba, Programme Manager, Rwanda 

Like all of our country leaders, Dinnah is not only challenging gender inequality with her work, but with her very role. 

International Service has worked in the occupied Palestine territories for over 50 years. In a region that has been ravaged by conflict, our Country Director Nancy Shourati is working to promote gender equality and rebuild communities. 

Every level of Palestinian society has suffered as a result of the ongoing conflict. Nancy’s work enables Palestinian institutions to rebuild their communities, as well as supporting those most in need to access education, find work and improve their health. Nancy’s strength, dignity and commitment despite isolation, and the significant political challenges posed by a warzone, is inspirational. 

Our International Women make us very proud. And for our CEO Jo Baker, based in the UK, International Women's Day is not only a day of celebration, but also a moment for reflection.  “In a world where gender inequality is still the norm, we’re proud to be an organisation that not only stands up for women’s equal participation, but also lives our values." 

"EléonoreDinnah, and Nancy daily demonstrate the determination and drive for equality that has motivated us throughout our 65-year history. I’m proud to stand by them today, and every day, as we continue to press for progress.” 

This International Women’s Day, we thank our women; our leaders.