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Five women who will give you hope for the future

We all know we've got a long way to go on the road to gender equality. But millions of creative, sharp and determined women refuse to wait around for that day – they're taking action now.

Eunice: Fighting for justice for rape survivors in Sierra Leone

VSO / Peter Caton

One in three women in the world has faced violence or assault. In Sierra Leone, patriarchal attitudes and weak justice systems means these sorts of cases are grossly under-reported.

Eunice Ina May is an Inspector in Kenema, Sierra Leone:

"The rates of rape were high: we used to receive sexual abuse cases every day.

"But getting justice for those women has [its] challenges. Most don’t pursue the matter to court."

Inspector May now works alongside VSO’s partner organisation FINE-SALON to help address this: "FINE-SALON have bikes so they can transport witnesses to the courts. They’ve come to us with information about sexual assaults on young girls. They assist the women."

"I am a woman. I believe in justice. That's why I never compromise."

Jackline: Struggling to overcome education stigma in Uganda

VSO / Ginny Lattul

Jackline Lomilo is an animal health professional in Uganda's Karamoja region, where VSO research highlighted negative attitudes to educating girls.

Jackline remembers how tough it was to go to school:

“My dad never wanted us to go. Then when he died, there was no money for us to go to school.”

With help from VSO, Jackline was able to boost her education with a vocational training course at the Institute for International Co-operation and Development in Moroto. This led to a qualification in animal health, and an independent income. She used this to buy some land and started her own sorghum business, which has proved a lifeline for her and her daughter.

"I've even been able to pay for my younger sister's school fees," says Jackline proudly.

Sathi: Sharing business skills with women in Bangladesh

VSO/Abir Abdullah

Sathi Das, 27, used to struggle on the uncertain income from her husband's crab-catching in Narketola, Bangladesh. Then, four years ago, she was able to set up her own crab farming business following VSO training.

The profits have helped her buy nutritious food and send her sons to school.

She now helps other women by sharing advice and support on the best crab farming techniques.

Sirjana: Tackling domestic violence in Nepal

VSO/Suraj Shakya

VSO research suggests that as many as one in three young wives in Nepal's Baglung district faces violence in her marriage, with half of those showing symptoms of depression.

Wives endure a heavy burden of domestic responsibility and isolation caused by social stigmas around speaking out.

Sirjana Sharma, from Bhimpokhara is part of a VSO project designed to reduce levels of domestic violence and family conflict. She's helped train 50 families in her neighbourhood using a programme covering topics ranging from gender equality to business skills.

Sirjana shares many of the same challenges as the young wives she supports, working from 4am to 8pm each day to complete the domestic duties expected of her, on top of her job on the project.

Shehla: Pioneer for equality in Pakistan police force

VSO/Talha Ghouri

Shehla Qureshi, 30, commands eight police stations, is a vocal supporter of women’s rights and is the first woman to be appointed as superintendent of Karachi.

“Police are the protectors of all rights, and there are no rights without women’s rights,” says Shehla.

Perceptions of police and a lack of women in the police force are exacerbating the problem of gender-based violence in Pakistan, as crimes against women go unpunished. Nearly a third of married women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence from their husbands, according to a UN Women report.

Shehla has been working with the Pakistan Forum for Democratic Policing (PFDP), supported by VSO, to change attitudes to the police, and to understand some of the barriers women experience when reporting crimes.

These are just five among thousands of inspiring, determined women pressing for progress across the VSO network.

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