Listen, inspire, include women’s rights

How language inclusion helps promote women’s rights

Language inclusion is key to helping women and girls shape a better future for themselves. This International Women’s Day, CLEAR Global looks at how we can listen, inspire opportunities, and promote women’s rights with inclusion. It all starts with language. 

Investing in women is a human rights issue. Exclusion from vital information and services is detrimental to women’s health, well-being, and opportunities. Time and again, women, children, older people, minorities, and people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by vulnerability and language exclusion. Read on to see how the evidence stacks up. Learn how language awareness can support everyone’s right to health, promote gender equality, and help reach those most in need around the world. 

Kanyaruchinya camp, shelters, and a woman walking in the distance - women's rights blog
Kanyaruchinya camp, DRC, photo by Victoire Rwicha, CLEAR Global

Ensure women are not left behind


When we talk about real-life examples of language exclusion, the inequality is stark. This week, our colleague Victoire shared insights into some of the struggles he’s witnessed women around him face in DRC. 


Beyond bullets – dangerous language barriers in DRC 


People have been displaced in their thousands by violence in eastern DRC. The situation is particularly dangerous for women and girls, who face a protection crisis. Thousands of displaced people are struggling to access basic needs like safety, shelter, food, and health care. While humanitarian organizations are working to address challenges, language barriers can create obstacles to effective assistance. Language-based exclusion can hinder the humanitarian response and prevent displaced people from accessing vital information. We’ve changed the name in the story below to protect the person’s identity. 

Francine, a 24-year-old mother displaced from Rutshuru with her two children, tells of her struggle for survival. We’ve changed her name in this story to protect her identity. When fighting broke out, her husband disappeared. She fled with her children, walking 60 kilometers on foot from Rutshuru to the Kanyaruchinya camps in the suburbs of Goma.

Unable to read and unfamiliar with phones, Francine speaks only Kinyarwanda and limited Swahili. She struggles to access information about food distribution and relies heavily on rumors. She recounted how community aid distributors approached her with documents to sign, withholding their content. Fearful but desperate for help, she signed them – but received no assistance. Her limited language skills make her hesitate to speak up or ask questions, further isolating her.

After enduring two days without food, Francine approached a humanitarian worker, hoping to register as a displaced person and access aid. The worker, seemingly unable to understand her, simply gestured for her to wait. 

“I think if my husband was here, or if I knew French or Swahili, I could be treated differently and report the abuse we face in this camp,” Francine concludes.

The situation is dire. Displaced individuals like Francine say they receive inconsistent aid, sometimes nothing at all, and are forced to sign documents they do not understand. Feeling powerless due to language barriers, they are left vulnerable.

Francine, like many others, fled the fighting to seek safety within the camps. Yet, she’s found language barriers create new obstacles. Ensuring humanitarian communication happens in the languages of displaced people can contribute to more equitable and effective aid distribution. Solutions must listen to displaced people to ensure their needs are met.


"Here, I feel like a stranger, unheard and misunderstood. My only dream is to return home, where I can speak my Kinyarwanda and a little Swahili freely, without shame. That's all I pray for."

– Interview by Victoire Rwicha, CLEAR Global in Kanyaruchinya camps, North-Kivu, Goma, DRC.

Kanyaruchinya camp, a woman walking through the camp - women's rights blog
Kanyaruchinya camp, DRC, photo by Victoire Rwicha, CLEAR Global

Every day, we see how language can make the difference between being heard or not. To take one critical example, good communication can mean women get the health care they need; while language gaps can mean they go without. 

At CLEAR Global, we partner with women’s rights and health organizations to make sexual and reproductive health information accessible in the languages and formats women in each context understand. With innovative communication solutions, women can access resources, healthcare services and support, share their concerns and get reliable answers, whatever language they speak.

Why language inclusion matters for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights


Everyone deserves to know their rights and be free from the threat of sexual violence. But in crisis settings, survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarians rarely have access to reporting channels in their language. Effective action on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) can support the right to health, promote gender equality, and reduce vulnerability that disproportionately affects women and children. Yet without language awareness, these services never reach some of those most in need.

In highly diverse language communities, we see too many women become vulnerable to exclusion because of language barriers. Lack of accessible, actionable information worsens health outcomes, spreads distrust and disinformation, and increases the burden on health systems. 


If we don’t understand language needs, women and girls risk being unable to access critical information and healthcare in the languages they speak: 

Poor access to sexual and reproductive health services reinforces language exclusion. If those millions of girls were not forced to drop out of school, they could gain the opportunity to learn a national language or key communication skills like digital literacy. Inclusive access to information, education, and support can bring the hope and opportunities that women and girls deserve.

Language to include women’s rights


The benefits of language inclusion are clear. By making vital information accessible in the languages people use, we can ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights messages and services reach the women and girls they’re targeting. At CLEAR Global, we assist partner organizations to listen and communicate with women and girls, so they can claim their rights and access appropriate support.

When we use language to include women in the conversation, we can:

Now at the forefront of language technology for social good, CLEAR Global aims to transform communication and shift power structures with our inclusive solutions. Our nonprofit organization bridges the communication gap and empowers marginalized language communities to access vital information,  services,  and opportunities,  and   make their voices heard. Read on to learn how CLEAR Global creates channels for communication in the mother languages people use – including more marginalized language speakers in critical conversations.

Understanding women – which languages work? 

When a crisis strikes, more information needs to be available on the languages people use and understand. Without reliable data, humanitarians find themselves developing communication strategies on the basis of often unreliable assumptions. The result too often is that affected communities struggle to communicate with responders in a language they understand, just as we saw in the case of Francine in DRC. One reason that women, children, older people, and people with disabilities are often at the greatest disadvantage is their lower access to education. This means that they are less likely to understand national and international languages. 

We support organizations to develop language-informed programs and communication strategies through language data research and analysis. Learn more about CLEAR Insights language data and maps on our website

– We’ve developed the first language use data sets and maps for 30+ countries to help humanitarian and development workers know which languages are spoken where.

Our Global Language Data Review identifies 88 countries for which language data is most critical to ensuring no one is left behind. Find out what language data you need to support people who are at risk of being marginalized because of their language. 

Five easy steps to integrate language data into humanitarian and development programs. This is a quick reference guide for planning and delivering aid programs.

– We’ve successfully worked with partners like IOM DTM, REACH, and UNICEF to integrate standard language and communication questions and key language considerations into multi-sector needs assessments and ongoing surveys.

Kanyaruchinya camp, DRC, shelters and trees at sunset
Kanyaruchinya camp, DRC, photo by Victoire Rwicha, CLEAR Global

Practical ways we can make change


Once we know what languages women and girls speak, it’s time to implement solutions that work for them. CLEAR Global assists nonprofit partners to build language awareness and inclusive solutions. Together we can support women’s right to health, promote gender equality, and help reach those most in need. Here are the practical ways we can make change: 

Use digital resources like apps, chatbots, and telemedicine to improve accessibility in users’ languages. 

– Address digital exclusion – consider tools that work for people with low literacy, who don’t have access to or aren’t familiar with technology.

– Understand the words people use – to provide services that meet people’s needs, communicators must consider social norms, potential euphemisms, shame or embarrassment when talking about their bodies, sensitive concerns, or violation. 

– Build systemic language support – to understand and address issues, help health workers manage language barriers, and reduce mistakes and miscommunication that threaten people’s health and well-being.


Global resources – multilingual glossaries 


We create digital resources like language glossaries to support women and girls to claim their rights. CLEAR Global’s Glossary App is an invaluable multilingual resource for Safeguarding and protection against sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA).

With 208 safeguarding terms in 40+ languages, this glossary equips people working with those at risk of sexual exploitation, abuse, or harm to communicate about PSEA more effectively. Program staff, volunteers, translators, and interpreters can use it to understand vital safeguarding terms. There’s the option to hear audio pronunciation and watch sign language videos, on- and offline. It helps responders use consistent, standard translations, avoid confusion and stigma, communicate more effectively with communities and their staff, and prepare for challenging conversations. With the right words, organizations can better listen to women and girls and ensure they can access the right support.

We developed this glossary in collaboration with partner agencies including the International Organization for Migration, Safeguarding Resource and Support Hub, Social Development Direct, CDAC Network, H2H Network, CHS Alliance, UNICEF, and other members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee. 

Including women – projects around the world


These are just some of the ways we collaborate with our nonprofit partners to help them listen to and communicate more effectively with communities. Promoting women’s rights around the world has long been part of CLEAR Global’s language inclusion work around the world: 

During the Zika virus response, we worked with the World Health Organization to deliver essential videos with advice for pregnant women subtitled and voiced in Haitian Creole and Brazilian Portuguese.

– In Kenya, our translations of educational materials and health care posters for community clinics enabled rural communities to get information about neonatal breastfeeding tips in local languages for the first time.

– To better understand how Rohingya women in Bangladesh speak about their health and trauma, we held focus group discussions in their language and created language resources including audio files and glossaries for aid workers to better address women’s needs.

– Our research found that language, communication style, and channel influence how satisfied Rohingya patients feel about sexual and reproductive health services.

The TWB Community – investing in women

The TWB Community, at the core of CLEAR Global, helps promote inclusion daily to help create a more inclusive world for everyone. Over 120,000 language volunteers come together to offer language services, supporting humanitarian and development work globally. 

Community members take on language-related projects including translation, revision, subtitling, and voice-overs, and they help build language data to support CLEAR Global’s work. These language services help bridge communication gaps between responders and people living through a crisis. Beyond that, they help make access to opportunities and progress more equal. Learn more about our community member’s experiences on the TWB Blog.

Recently, community members have worked with NGO partners including: 

WHO, IASC, and GADRRRES (World Health Organization, Inter-Agency Standing Committee and the Global Alliance for Disaster, Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector): We translated materials to support children’s safety, health, mental health, and psychosocial wellbeing

– e-Cancer: We helped ensure vital medical information reaches more people, to advance inclusion and progress for all – “Knowledge, practice, and communication barriers for oncology doctors in Chile when addressing the sexuality of their patients”

– Room to Read: We made the nonprofit animated film project ‘She Creates Change’ accessible in Japanese, promoting gender equality through the stories of girls across the globe. Check out the launch trailer here.

Commit to supporting women and girls’ rights


Want to join us? Together we can support women and girls to claim their rights and access essential services like health care. If you’re a nonprofit humanitarian or development organization, work with CLEAR Global to ensure women and girls are included and empowered to access the services and opportunities they deserve. 

Partner with us

We are calling for supporters to invest in women with CLEAR Global. If you share our vision for equality, sponsor CLEAR Global to help us build inclusive solutions that ensure women’s and girls’ voices are heard. 

Sponsor CLEAR Global today


Want to learn more? 


– Read community member experiences on the TWB blog

– Learn about our movement to start four billion conversations to support women and girls 


Show your support 


Together we can transform challenges into opportunities and shape a better future for women, whatever language they speak. 

Share our blog to spread the message: if we want to promote inclusion and equal opportunities, we must invest in women. 



Written by Danielle Moore, Communications Officer, CLEAR Global