There are numerous international nonprofit organizations empowering women and girls around the world that are doing great work. They all focus on women and girls living in severe poverty who are experiencing barriers to their social and economic well-being. About 70% of all people living in poverty are women and girls. Cultural beliefs may restrict women’s access to basic education and other resources, which leads to profound economic inequality, financial illiteracy and financial dependency. Women around the world are also susceptible to experiencing high rates of sexual and gender-based violence including intimate partner or domestic violence. These experiences and the denial of basic rights contribute to the disempowerment of women. Here is some information about three nonprofit organizations that empower women and girls across the globe.
Women for Women International
Women for Women International serves poor and socially marginalized women in 14 conflict-affected countries. Some of these are Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Nigeria, Iraq and Rwanda. The organization’s broad goal is to support female survivors of war and conflict.
Women for Women International provides a 12-month program that invests in women’s skills and community rebuilding. The year-long program uses a “Gendered Graduation Approach,” which combines elements such as social protection, livelihood development and financial access.
Women for Women International is also empowering women by providing them with educational resources that they would otherwise not have exposure to. The program teaches new topics every two weeks, and these not only include traditional education like numeracy and literacy but also subjects that teach the value of women’s work, such as gender equality, women’s solidarity and networking, leadership, advocacy and health and wellness just to name a few. Educating women in financial literacy is also an essential pillar of the organization’s work. The program provides each participant with $10 per month over the course of 12 months; these cash transfers give women the important opportunity to be responsible for their own money. Upon graduating from the program, “79% more women reported being involved in household decisions about having more children, and 56% more reported being involved in financial decisions.”
Participants also report that their daily income more than doubled upon completion of the program, averaging $2 compared to $0.80 at the beginning of the year. Women for Women International also notes that the average savings for the women who participated increased from $13 to $88 by the end of the program.
The Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF)
The Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF) is empowering women and girls of the Maasai community in Kenya. It works in Kajiado County, “where two-thirds of Kenya’s Maasai population lives” and “only 48% of Maasai girls are enrolled in school.” Only 5% of those who are enrolled in school make it to the secondary level. Maasai girls living in poverty tend to drop out due to financial constraints and detrimental cultural norms such as early/child marriage or the belief that girls do not need to receive an education. The Maasi Girls Education Fund’s broad goals are “to increase enrollment of Maasai girls in Kenya, reduce the dropout rate and support every student until they have the knowledge and skills to enter the workforce in Kenya.”
The organization directly helps Massai girls by providing scholarships from primary school all the way through the university level. It has a network of volunteers who locate young Maasai girls that may not be able to obtain an education otherwise, obtain their parent’s permission and helps them enroll in boarding school.
Providing girls with the opportunity to attend boarding schools removes the physical and cultural barriers that contribute to girls’ low educational attainment. It can also eliminate physical barriers that girls may have to attend school, such as long walks. Boarding schools also provide girls with the space to pursue their education without impeding cultural pressures like early marriage. Educational opportunities for women and girls also result in improved literacy, health and economic independence metrics.
The organization also provides life skills workshops dedicated to educating the Maasai community (girls, boys, mothers, chiefs and elders) about HIV, female genital mutilation and “the social structure that makes girls vulnerable to teen pregnancy.” The program demonstrates to the community the economic value and other benefits of educating girls. The aim is to instill an acceptance of girls’ education within the community. Since 2000, the organization has helped more than 250 Maasai girls receive primary to post-secondary education.
Women’s Global Empowerment Fund
Founded in 2007, the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund is helping those in northern Uganda living in poverty through its programs that have political, social and economic focuses. Its programs provide women in poor and rural areas with microcredit services, leadership development, health initiatives and basic business and literacy education. The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund partners with local on-the-ground organizations so that the communities and cultures inform the programs.
The organization’s Credit Plus program has helped provide thousands of loans to women who “would normally not have access to traditional banking and lending institutions.” This supports women’s economic empowerment by promoting small-scale entrepreneurship. Additional programs include a healthy periods initiative, a literacy program, agricultural loans and training, leadership development programs and other training initiatives. Its programs provide women in “post-conflict northern Uganda” with space for activism.
The literacy program provides participants with materials such as books and pens, and the program includes classes over the course of six months. The organization has claimed that as of 2016, more than 1,400 women have participated in its literacy program.
Each of these nonprofit organizations uplifting women emphasizes the importance of education in the pursuit of women’s social empowerment and economic independence. The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund states that “It is through information and education that self-esteem and empowerment are facilitated, enabling women to stand up and lead themselves out of the vicious cycle of poverty that is often presented before them.”
– Ashley Kim