It’s a story we’re all too familiar with. In many places, we’re encouraged to ignore it; in the United States, for instance, we’re told that feminism is no longer necessary. Women are equal, aren’t they? They’re no longer confined to the home, they hold jobs previously denied to them, and overall, their position in society has improved in many ways. So what’s all the fuss about?
The fuss is about this: Although in some countries great strides have been made, for many women around the world, equality and opportunity are still not readily accessible. Women are less likely to hold positions of political leadership, are paid—on average—significantly less than men, and often experience high rates of sexual and domestic violence (source). In some countries, child marriage and genital mutilation are still common issues (source). Women for Women International is an organization that recognizes all of this and is working to change it in a straightforward and effective way: through education.
The Women for Women International Program
Working in places like Nigeria, Rwanda, Iraq, and Afghanistan, among others, Women for Women International provides training programs for poor and otherwise marginalized and vulnerable women in countries with a history of conflict. These programs include everything from literacy and numeracy training to building financial literacy, rights awareness, health education, and vocational training (source). Women go through the program in groups of their peers, and Women for Women International collaborates with women in the local community to lead said programs (source).
One of the signature approaches utilized by Women for Women International is sponsorship. For $35 a month, sponsors are each matched with a “sister,” a women entering the program. Their financial sponsorship helps fund their sister’s training, as well a monthly stipend for her during the program. Sponsors are also encouraged to write to their sister and cheer them on as they complete a life-changing program. After a year, unless the sponsor requests that their sponsorship be cancelled, their sister will graduate from the program and the sponsor will be matched with a new sister to support during her training. Through this personalized approach, Women for Women International seeks to connect individuals from different backgrounds and different countries, and to provide support to each woman who goes through their training.
Since the organization was founded in 1993, the benefits demonstrated by these programs have been remarkable. Significant increases in earnings, savings, and individual agency have been noted among women who graduate from the program (source). Not only that, but Women for Women International also runs a men’s engagement program to create lasting change within the communities where these women live. It’s a reality being recognized more and more that if women are to exist as equals in a society, they aren’t the only ones who need to be educated on their rights—men need to become more aware of them, too. The Women for Women International approach—educating men who then go on to educate other men in the community—helps facilitate the kind of grassroots change needed to deconstruct gender norms and raise awareness about women’s rights in their communities.
Please note: This video was created in 2013, so the statistics have likely evolved since then.
Through their work, Women for Women International is helping to create a more prosperous, equitable, and fulfilling future for women who may not have otherwise had the kinds of opportunities that this program provides. And as the organization itself states: “When women can use their power, they reinvest it in their families, their communities, and their countries to make the whole world better — for everyone” (source).
To learn more about Women for Women International, you can visit their website here. Learn more about their program and approach here and here (including a step-by-step overview of the program here), review their FAQ here, or if you’re already convinced, make a one-time donation here or sign up as a sponsor here. Women for Women International is dedicated to helping women realize their full potential, and having been a sponsor for multiple women through their program, I believe in their program and the sincerity of their efforts and encourage anyone with the means to look into supporting them as well.
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