Today, 8th March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day, which is an important catalyst and vehicle for driving greater change for women while moving closer to gender equality.

This year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme is #BeBoldForChange and calls for people to forge a better working world – a more gender inclusive world.

At GALVmed, we are working towards supporting catalytic initiatives that empower women through our poultry vaccination programmes. In the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, south of Agra, women in the local villages who have been vaccinating their poultry against a deadly poultry disease are beginning to experience a transformative change in their lives as participatory decision makers in their households and communities.

Newcastle Disease (ND) is a highly contagious and lethal disease that can kill between 80-90% of a flock during an outbreak. Often considered a natural disaster among rural poultry keepers, smallholders can now protect their chickens against the disease with a vaccine costing only US 3 cents a dose. Women are often the majority of poultry keepers; hence the vaccine has immensely benefited them.

Dhani Baj tailoring a garment in her home with her children studying.

Dhani Bai, was one of the first to begin vaccinating against the disease in her village. She has now started a tailor business from the income she earned selling vaccinated chickens and as an ND vaccinator in her village. She also pays for her children’s education and all household financial decisions are made jointly by her and her husband.

Dhani’s story is just one shared in the video and it gives hope in bridging the gender gap in India.  The World Economic Forum currently ranks India 87th out of 144 countries. The Gender Gap Index is designed to measure gender equality. The index considers economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, political empowerment in each country. India’s ranking has improved slightly compared to 2006 when it was placed as 98th out of 115 countries. However, as the World Economic Forum predicts the global gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186, there is more work to be done. It is promising to see that small changes in animal health showcased in the above video are creating some gender shifts in Madhya Pradesh and empowering women.

The Madhya Pradesh vaccination project area is run by SAMPARK, a GALVmed partner. GALVmed works in four Indian states: Orissa, Jharkhand, Chatissgharh and Madhya Pradesh. SAMPARK has sold 1 million doses of the ND vaccine. The total Indian sales of the ND vaccine through GALVmed’s delivery partners is 50.5 million as of December 2016.

#BeBoldForChange and share this story on your social media pages to raise even more awareness on International Women’s Day. Don’t forget to tag @GALVmed @womensday #BeBoldForChange.

GALVmed is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government.

Written by: Heather Irish, GALVmed’s Communications Officer

Video by: Alternatives