Between 1974 and 1977, ACWW began funding small-scale projects in developing countries. Starting as an ad-hoc process, this grew into the formation of the Projects Committee and a mandate to encourage and support initiative at a grassroots level. ACWW has funded locally-devised and women-led development projects ever since.
This work has been hugely important, and made positive impacts in rural communities around the world. However, it is also clear that if governmental priorities and international attitudes remain the same, projects alone cannot achieve the changes our members need, or be sustainable. This is why ACWW passionately believes that development projects and advocacy must be a combined, consistent, and cohesive effort to systematically challenge systemic problems, and provide sustainable solutions.
Food and agriculture production systems across the world are facing unprecedented challenges in the face of climate change. Without action, this will lead to unpredictable growing seasons, failed crops, loss of soil health, reduced biodiversity, and increased hunger and food insecurity.
Small-scale subsistence farmers in Africa, Asia, and South America are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change; increasingly unpredictable weather patterns and increased risk of draught lead to poorer harvests and reduced income. Women make up 48% of agricultural employment across low-income countries - fulfilling vital roles in the management of natural resources and food production.
Despite their vital role in the global food system, women face disproportionate challenges compared to rural men; they are more likely to be food-insecure, lack access to land, resources and market information and tend to have less decision-making power. ACWW is committed to promoting sustainable Climate Smart Agriculture through small-scale project funding. Climate Smart Agriculture helps farmers to respond effectively to the impacts of climate change through choosing indigenous seed varieties for drought resistant crops, building irrigation systems, rainfall forecasting and rainwater harvesting.
Rural women make up over a quarter of the world’s population but continue to face disproportionate barriers to quality, affordable and accessible health care. This includes a lack of access to comprehensive health information and education, affordable health services and medication, and local healthcare centres, hospitals, and services.
Women have historically suffered a lower standard of medical care, and interventions have often focused predominantly on maternal and reproductive health, thus ignoring the wide range of other health issues that impact women and girls in rural areas.
ACWW is focused on increasing rural women’s access to comprehensive, gender sensitive, and accessible healthcare. This includes nutrition, mental health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, access to healthcare and provision for women as they age.
ACWW believes that sustainable change requires building networks of rural women and promoting women-led empowerment projects. We have a long history of providing support to education and capacity building projects which have enabled women to come together and share skills; build entrepreneurship activities for increased income and financial independence; develop financial literacy; establish community-led savings and loan schemes; and life-long learning opportunities.
Rural women have faced systemic barriers to education due to traditional patriarchal cultural norms, conflict and a lack of practical access to schooling. UN Women have identified that globally, two-thirds of illiterate adults are women. This means that a high proportion of rural women face struggles in completing basic education, resulting in reduced income potential, poorer health and nutrition outcomes for their families, reduced decision-making ability and community participation.