Policy Brief

Gender Equality Policy

SOS Children's Villages
SOS Children's Villages
Publication Year:
April 29, 2020
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions



Background to linkages between gender, children and care

The notion of gender equality reflects a world where females and males enjoy equal opportunities to fulfill their rights and fully participate in all areas of life. Obstacles that both females and males face because of their gender must be identified and removed through careful gender analysis from which appropriate initiatives can be designed. In many parts of the world, girls and women continue to be disadvantaged in essential areas of life. In relation to the work of SOS Children’s Villages, this is particularly relevant in the areas of violence, education, sexual, reproductive and maternal health care, and economic empowerment. This is why our gender equality policy focuses on redressing inequalities that girls in particular, but also women, experience because of their gender. In some instances boys and men also experience inequalities on the basis of their gender, and where these have been identified, our gender equality policy also strives to address them.



Violence against women affects not only the woman herself but the family in which she resides, especially the children. Amongst children, girls are especially vulnerable to acts of violence, exploitation and abuse, and more so if they also experience other factors of inequality such as living in poverty, being without parental care, or being disabled. Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, and early marriage makes domestic or sexual violence more likely. It is estimated that 80% of victims of international trafficking are women and girls, and the majority are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Sexual violence has profound effects on the sexual and reproductive health of adolescent girls, resulting in unwanted pregnancies, maternal mortality, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. It also leaves deep psychological scars. As our emergency policy states, girls and women are particularly vulnerable to deprivation of fundamental rights in emergency situations. In such environments, boys are also vulnerable; they can be exposed to violence and, in some cases, they can be forced to become child soldiers.



Causes of gender disparity in education are many. In some countries girls drop out after experiencing sexual harassment in schools, or on the walk to school, and may have no channels through which to seek help or protection. Poor water and sanitation facilities in schools may also lead to girls dropping out, especially when they reach puberty. A family with restricted resources may choose to educate boys before girls. Teenage girls who become pregnant may drop out of school and not return. Some societies consider education unnecessary for girls, believing their place is at home where they should carry out domestic duties, take care of the sick or the elderly or be forced into an early marriage. Children may drop out of school for economic reasons; according to a UNICEF report published in 2011 , 16% of all children in developing countries between the ages of 5 and 14 are involved in child labour. The different types of labour that girls and boys engage in expose them to different risks. Statistics suggest that more boys are involved in child labour than girls, but many of the types of work that girls are involved in, such as domestic labour, are invisible. This hidden nature of domestic work often leads to poor treatment and even physical abuse of girls.


Sexual, reproductive and maternal health

In many societies girls and women are restricted in their choices around sexual and reproductive behaviour. This may be the result of sexual abuse or cultural traditions that give males the prerogative over choice. Male partners may prohibit family planning practices or limit access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, especially for adolescent girls. The inability of girls and women to negotiate safer sex in many countries results in higher HIV/AIDS prevalence rates for females than for males and in increased numbers of early and unwanted pregnancies, which in turn lead to more girls dropping out of school. Premature pregnancy and motherhood are inevitable consequences for girls who are married at a young age, and girls younger than 15 years old are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their twenties . The health status of a woman strongly affects her environment, especially the children in her care, and this is particularly relevant with regards to maternal health care. Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of disability and death among women between the ages of 15-49, 90% of which occur in developing countries, leaving a higher number of children without adequate care.


Economic empowerment of women and girls

In many parts of the world, men’s employment opportunities and access to productive resources (such as credit or land) are greater than women’s. Girls who have lost their parents find it harder than boys to claim their legal property rights. This unequal access makes it harder for women and girls to control household resources or participate in decision making at all levels. At the household level, it is widely recognised that increasing women’s bargaining power contributes to improvements in the nutrition status, survival rates and literacy of children.


Transforming gender imbalances within SOS Children’s Villages

We have policies in place that protect the rights of all girls, boys, men and women in our programmes. Our child protection policy condemns all forms of child abuse and exploitation. Our code of conduct upholds the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct amongst all our co-workers. Our inclusion policy values the equal rights of disabled children. Our emergency policy outlines that we take action to bring children as quickly as possible away from the emergency situation to ensure their security and protection. Our HIV/AIDS policy aims to reduce the vulnerability of children and caregivers to HIV infection. These and other policy documents and manuals provide an entry point for integrating a stronger gender equality perspective into our work. Yet, a more subtle understanding of gender equality is needed, one that examines the interplay between men’s and women’s roles and responsibilities in the field of care, and strives for a transformation of gender relations .


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