Empowering DRC Women
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a country in Central Africa that is rich in resources but still remains incredibly poor. A severe food crisis stems from government instability. In addition, violent armed groups often launch attacks and assaults on women and children. Luckily, there are several organizations empowering DRC women. This article takes a look at five of those organizations.

Severe Conditions for DRC Women

In 2018, more than 35% of women between the ages of 15-49 years reported being sexually or physically abused by an intimate partner. Further, almost 30% of girls under the age of 18 have been married or forced into a union. Finally, 70% of both women and men face food insecurity as well.

Here are five organizations that are combating these severe conditions and are actively empowering DRC women.

Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation is an international organization that has been empowering DRC women since 2009. It calculates that 60% of women in the DRC live below the poverty line and have extremely low levels of political participation. The organization works to gain respect for women’s rights and end discriminatory gender practices. Kvinna till Kvinna helps women participate in learning exchanges that provide education and economic empowerment. It also helps finance certain activities of the Rien Sans les Femmes (Nothing Without Women) movement, a collaboration of Congolese women’s rights activists.

By supporting smaller partner organizations in the DRC, Kvinna till Kvinna has definitively lowered gender-based violence against women and has boosted political participation for DRC women. For example, the partner organization AFEM (Association des Femmes des Médias du Sud Kivu) is a collaboration of female journalists. It uses a radio station, Mama Radio, as its platform to empower DRC women.  Mama Radio caught on and AFEM was able to report reduced violence against women.

AFEM coordinator Julienne Baseke noted, “Thanks to Mama Radio, we have been able to break the silence on sexual violence, people are better informed and sexual and reproductive health issues are no longer taboo. The authorities are also held accountable on sexual violence issues and the media are mobilized on violence issues.”

Women for Women International

Women for Women International empowers DRC women in numerous ways. Since 2004 it has supported more than 106,000 Congolese women. Its most recent impact evaluation reports increased access to credit, savings and assets.  Second, it reports an increase in women’s ability to pursue entrepreneurship. Finally, it shares that women are benefitting from improved diets and mental health access. In 2022, 256 women received advocacy training in land titling. It also expanded upon its health insurance projects which were able to reduce fees for women and their families by around 50%.

Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF)

WPHF is an international organization that helps empower grassroots organizations to help women become more involved in political affairs. In the DRC, it works with Spotlight Initiative, another women’s rights organization to fund 30 projects that 51 women’s organizations in the DRC spearheaded. These organizations seek to eliminate violence against women and encourage political mobility for women. For example, WPHF supports our GRACE, which seeks to promote gender-based equality and peace in North Kivu. It also supports CAUSE RURALE, which focuses on providing humanitarian aid to reinforce stronger institutions for women.  Finally, WPHF supports AFPDE, in South Kivu and promotes the strength of women’s organizations.

Women Concern (WOCO)

This Congolese nonprofit has been empowering women in the DRC by focusing on women and girls in rural areas. It focuses on helping women and girls see their own potential and provide them with development opportunities. Its unique approach is to utilize men and boys to be partners and co-agents to ensure change. It believes that promoting positive masculinity will in turn create a safe environment for women and girls to seek out opportunities. Its ultimate goal is to end the ongoing cycle of violence against women in the DRC.

Women, Cradle of Abundance

Women, Cradle of Abundance is a DRC organization. It has been empowering women in the DRC by attempting the eliminate systemic poverty for women. The organization provides physical safety, medical care, counseling and community services for women. It also helps improve education for women and girls by supporting schools for disadvantaged children. Women, Cradle of Abundance provides women with micro-savings and microloans. For example, it has provided 199 microloans to Kinshasha women. This helped them start or expand their businesses.

Moving Forward

Between international organizations such as Kvinna till Kvinna, Women for Women International and WPHF as well as DRC organizations such as WOCO and Women, Cradle of Abundance, a lot has been accomplished to empower DRC women. Past and current successes pave the way for more positive change.

– Anna Richardson
Photo: Flickr

Nonprofit Organizations That Empower WomenThere 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
Photo: Flickr

Afghan women under the Taliban
In 1996, the Taliban took over Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. Almost exactly 25 years later, on August 15, 2021, the Taliban took control of Kabul once again. Women in Afghanistan fear what the new Taliban regime means for them. However, advocacy groups are helping Afghan women under the Taliban to seek safety and refuge.

The Climate in Afghanistan

In 2020, former President Donald Trump signed a peace agreement with the Taliban. According to this agreement, the U.S. agreed to withdraw its troops if the Taliban stopped attacks on Americans. In April 2021, President Biden kept that promise and announced that the U.S. would withdraw the rest of its troops by September 11. A month later, the Taliban started gaining control in the northern part of the country. By August, the Taliban seized control over all the major cities and conquered most of the land, aside from Kabul.

Shortly after, the government in Afghanistan collapsed as President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and the Taliban took over the capital. The Taliban control prompted nearly 250,000 Afghans to flee their homes in seek of refuge. During a press conference on August 17, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid promised “an inclusive government, security for aid agencies and embassies and women’s rights to work and go to school.” However, many Afghans are skeptical because of previous Taliban rule in the late 1990s.

The Effects of Taliban Control on Afghan Women

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, women did not enjoy much freedom. The Taliban banned women from attending school or working outside their homes. Also, women had to wear a burqa, an article of clothing that encompasses their entire body besides their eyes and a male guardian had to accompany them whenever they left their house. Current female employees will not be able to have a source of income if the Taliban upholds previous restrictions once again. While the Taliban promised that they will respect women’s rights, many Afghans are uncertain of their promises.

The Progression of Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

Before Taliban control in 1996, Afghanistan was making progress in women’s rights. King Amanullah Khan’s reign, beginning in 1919, discouraged polygamy and did not require women to wear a veil. In 1964, women helped write a new constitution that gave them the right to vote and run for office. However, when the Taliban took control in 1996, it restricted women’s rights. Women could not attend school, work or speak in public. As punishment for breaking any of the laws, women suffered public lashing or stoning, which led to higher suicide rates among women. When the U.S. ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001, women again enjoyed rights like joining the armed and police forces as well as being part of the political process.

Despite the progress made, 90% of women in Afghanistan experience abuse in their life. The latest Taliban regime stated that it will respect women’s rights within the structure of sharia (Islamic) law. However, jurists, clerics and politicians interpret sharia law differently. These discrepancies allowed justifications for the Taliban’s previously harsh laws against women’s rights.

Help from Advocacy Groups

Despite the new ruling of the Taliban, advocacy groups from around the world are helping women in Afghanistan seek safety. One organization aiding Afghan women is Women for Women International. This nonprofit organization aids female survivors of war. It is currently collecting donations to help women in Afghanistan find safety, as well as a place to meet and stay connected.

The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security is lobbying the U.S. government to better protect Afghan women under the Taliban. Its Protect Afghan Women Project raises funds specifically to support at-risk female Afghan activists. Melanne Verveer, the institute’s director, co-wrote an opinion article in the Washington Post to push the U.S. government to create ways to better protect Afghan women. Verveer and her co-author, Tanya Henderson, lobbied the U.S. to get evacuation flights for women activists in Afghanistan and relocate funds for Afghan refugees.

Looking Ahead

Although the Taliban control is worrying for most Afghans, advocacy groups are finding various ways to help. These groups have a particular committment to helping Afghan women under the Taliban to seek safety and safeguard their rights in this chaotic time of uncertainty and political turmoil.

– Kyle Har
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in the Middle EastWomen’s empowerment is a priority for many activists and advocacy groups around the world. In the Middle East, many women are not active participants in politics or in the workforce and experience domestic abuse and sexual assault. However, many non-governmental organizations have stepped up in recent years to promote women’s empowerment in the Middle East. Numerous NGOs support women’s economic, social and political growth in this part of the world. The following five charities are all taking meaningful steps toward women’s empowerment in the Middle East. Their tactics span economic empowerment, political activism and more.

Organizations Promoting Women’s Empowerment in the Middle East

  1.  The Center of Arab Women for Training and Research. Founded in 1993, this organization supports women’s empowerment in the Middle East through education and operates in multiple countries. The Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR) is dedicated to training Middle Eastern women in useful skills to enable them to find meaningful employment. In December 2019, CAWTAR launched the InnovAgroWoMed program to help women find jobs in agriculture and food production. It plans to run the program until 2022 in Italy, Spain, Tunisia and Palestine. CAWTAR also launched a program to empower Syrian refugees living in Lebanon by teaching them computer skills and accounting so that they can support themselves financially. Finally, CAWTAR conducts research on Arab women’s participation in the workforce. In doing so, it aims to break the stigma about women’s roles in the economy and the public sphere.
  2. Arab Women Organization in Jordan. For fifty years, this Jordan-based group has been dedicated to gender equality and ending violence against women. Founded in 1970, the Arab Women Organization in Jordan (AWO) works to advance women’s rights. It advocates for government policies that support women, encourages women to run for office, and engages in general activism. Additionally, AWO leads workshops to teach women leadership skills and provides free counseling and services to survivors of domestic or sexual violence. As of 2019, AWO owns and operates two women’s centers that provide aid to local women as well as to Syrian refugees. Counseling at these centers helps women identify signs of abuse and provides them with the training they need to become independent and self-sufficient. To commemorate AWO’s fiftieth anniversary this year, the organization’s leaders publicly reiterated their dedication to women’s empowerment in the Middle East and their goal to continue providing leadership programs to women in Jordan.
  3. Daughters for Life Foundation. Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish created the Daughters for Life Foundation in 2009 after the tragic deaths of his three young daughters. Her mission is to promote peace and political stability through women’s empowerment in the Middle East. The foundation grants scholarships to Arab women in various countries throughout the Middle East so that these women can access higher education and pursue their dreams. Scholarships for graduate and undergraduate programs in the United States and Canada are available in a variety of subject areas. DFL also hosts an annual gala in Toronto to honor its scholars’ success and connect them with local leaders in business and media.
  4. Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. Since 2003, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) has protected women’s rights and fought violence against women. The group also advocates for the victims of so-called “honor crimes,” widowed women and women in prison. OWFI operates six women’s shelters across Iraq to protect survivors of rape and abuse. All shelter locations are secret so that the survivors will not have to fear retaliation from their abusers. As of 2020, more than 500 women have passed through OWFI shelters. OWFI has braved pushback from the Iraqi government, even facing a lawsuit accusing the NGO of supporting revolution. Despite the government’s attempts to shut them down, OWFI leaders are adamant that they will continue to fight for women’s rights in Iraq.
  5. Women for Women International. Founded in 1993, this global organization provides support to women in eight countries in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, including Afghanistan and Iraq. Women for Women International not only offers a variety of economic and social programs for women, but it also offers men’s groups to teach men how to be better feminist allies. Since 2002, the charity has run a year-long women’s program that teaches local women skills, such as husbandry and beekeeping, to help them achieve financial independence. In the past eighteen years, more than 100,000 Afghani women have completed the program, which also teaches healthy decision-making, financial skills, and self-protection. Women for Women International has also been active in Iraq since 2003. There, it serves not only Iraqi women but also Syrian refugees living in the country and indigenous Yezidi women. The organization has opened “opportunity centers” where women can go to find economic resources, connect with their community and find political opportunities. Importantly, Women for Women International sponsors frequently keep in contact with the women who have gone through their various programs over the years.

With years of experience and extensive programming, these five organizations will continue to advocate for women’s empowerment in the Middle East. They all educate women to become confident, independent individuals with the necessary skills to support themselves. Hopefully, they will continue to touch women’s lives in meaningful ways for years to come.

Jackie McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Nonprofits That Empower WomenToday, the fight for women’s rights continues to pick up steam. However, many women’s voices around the globe are still not being heard. Fortunately, more organizations are taking up the mantle to ensure that gender equality remains a top priority when it comes to global development. Here are five global nonprofits that empower women.

5 Global Nonprofits That Empower Women

  1. Women for Women International
    Women for Women International, or WfWI, is a nonprofit founded in 1993 working with women from impoverished and war-torn countries. It assisted more than 500,000 women since and is currently situated in Afghanistan, Northern Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Sudan, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This nonprofit works to give women an opportunity to build a support network for each other and share their experiences while also teaching them new skills and resources to safeguard their futures. WfWI believes in empowering women in four different ways—economic empowerment, social empowerment, sustaining peace and responding to conflict. Outside of programs that relate directly to helping women, WfWI also focuses on “complementary programs” that center around men’s engagement in women’s rights issues, graduate support and community advocacy.
  2. The Malala Fund
    Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai founded the Malala Fund in 2013 to give girls around the world an opportunity to receive a safe and quality education. The fund mainly focused its attention on countries where girls are least likely to have access to this kind of education, specifically in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. This fund targets three specific areas when it comes to ensuring that girls have an opportunity to receive a quality education. These are (i) advocacy, specifically in holding leaders accountable, (ii) investing in educators and those who are also fighting for girls’ education and (iii) giving girls the opportunity to speak for themselves and allowing their voices to be heard.
  3. Global Fund for Women
    Founded in 1987, the Global Fund for Women strives for gender equality and advocates for the rights of women and girls across the globe. It mainly fights for reproductive rights for women, violence prevention and economic fairness. For the Global Fund, women and girls around the world should always feel “strong, safe, powerful and heard.” This group specifically partners with “women-led groups who are courageously fighting for justice in their own communities” which allows these organizations to tackle issues head on. Since its founding, it has worked in 175 countries and contributed to at least 5,000 organizations that have similar values as the Global Fund for Women.
  4. Pathfinder International
    Founded in 1957, Pathfinder International works to improve the sexual and reproductive health of people around the world. While it participates in all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, its main focus is pregnancies and making sure women are aware of all options available to them. Pathfinder International’s mission is to try to lower the rate of women dying from preventable complications with pregnancies, help those infected with HIV and promote proper sexual and reproductive health. It operates under the values of respect, courage, collaboration, innovation and integrity. Pathfinder International is located in 20 countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt and Mozambique.
  5. Madre
    Madre is a women’s rights organization that specifically works with smaller organizations fighting for women’s rights in war-torn nations. It focuses on three specific issues. These are gender violence, climate justice and “Just Peace,” which is meant to provide women with an opportunity to recover from the experiences they had and work toward a more peaceful world. In order to work with these three specific causes, Madre uses three strategies—grantmaking, capacity building and legal advocacy. These three strategies bring women into the conversation and allow them the opportunity to enact change, support one another and give them an opportunity to take part in policymaking. Some of the countries Madre reaches include Guatemala, Colombia, Haiti, Nicaragua, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Kenya.

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

Widows in Poverty
Widespread recognition has increased the benefits that empowering women can create for impoverished communities. Yet improved educational and business opportunities for women have neglected the world’s 258 million widows, 85 million in China and India alone. Advocates cite the baffling omission of widows’ welfare from the U.N.’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) as evidence of a critical blind spot in aid efforts. Widows are shown to suffer disproportionately in measurements of poverty, with a minimum of 38 million considered extremely impoverished in 2015. This poverty level is roughly 15 percent of widows compared to the 10 percent of the general worldwide population considered extremely poor by the World Bank in the same year.

This disparity is a result, in part, of the traditional practices of many cultures by which women continue to be seen solely as dependents of their fathers or husbands. Particularly in developing countries, a woman with neither is left with no support system. She becomes deemed a burden to society and, with no income to educate her children, contributes to continuing generations of poverty.

Treatment of Widows Around the World

Stigmas and traditional superstitions have a profound social and mental impact on women whose husbands have died. In many cultures, a widow is blamed for a husband’s death; in fact, many women face accusations of murder or neglect of their duties as wives. It is common for widows to be isolated and banned from participation in community activities and family events. In India, it is customary for widowed women to be prohibited from remarriage, with an appearance in public interpreted as ill-omens.

Human Rights Watch has identified common human rights violations against widows in Zimbabwe and other sub-Saharan countries. Some of the most widespread practices are the denial of inheritance, despite protected national and international laws, and ‘property grabbing’ in which a widow’s in-laws physically or verbally assault her in attempt to take her land for themselves.

Other customs termed ‘harmful practices’ by the U.N. include wife-inheritance, in which a woman is forced to marry her deceased husband’s relative, and ritual cleansing of widows through rape. In some cases, women have been forced to cleanse themselves by drinking water used to wash their husband’s corpse. All such practices run a serious risk of transmitting communicable disease, including HIV and Ebola.

Organizations Supporting Widows in Poverty

Aid organizations focusing on welfare for widows in poverty have expanded since 2000, but there remain only four main NGOs with the capacity to provide aid programs internationally:

  • The Loomba Foundation – When sexist stigmas in India isolated and shamed founder Lord Raj Loomba’s widowed mother without justification, he came to believe that the key to pulling widows out of poverty is gender equality. Since 1997, the Loomba Foundation has funded programs to educate widows and their children, promoted women’s empowerment in Africa and Asia and published the only comprehensive research on the experiences of widows in poverty.

  • Global Fund for Widows (GFW) – Acting as the financial base for partnerships with many smaller non-profits working in local communities, GFW has been working in Egypt, Tanzania, Nigeria, India and parts of Central America since 2008. GFW funds skills programs for widows, organizes employment opportunities and offers a Micro-Social Capital program that provides women with the means to start small businesses in their communities.

  • Women for Women International – Creating employment opportunities and economic independence is a small part of Women for Women’s approach to widows’ welfare. They work with women at local levels to educate them in political engagement with the belief that having confidence and a voice in their own affairs is the best long-term solution to the suffering of widows in poverty.

  • Widows’ Rights International (WRI) – WRI is an organization specializing in legal precedent for cases involving widows’ human rights. WRI works with the UNHRC, U.N. Committee on the Status of Women and national governments to create a policy for the benefit of poor widows and educate women about their rights. Their goal is to combat ignorance and therefore violations of human rights which they have condemned as “tantamount to torture.”

The ‘Widow Issue’

Data measuring the number of widows in extreme poverty, although limited and often unreliable, estimates a decrease of 22 percent between 2010 and 2015. Encouragement is visible in statements by former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that presses U.N. member states to condemn harmful, traditional practices like widow-inheritance and burning in observance of International Widows Day (June 23rd).

Wider research is necessary to illuminate the extent and causes of widows’ suffering, but further efforts must target regions like South Asia, which report 50 percent of the world’s poor widows, as well as developed countries like Russia and the U.S., which in 2015 saw significant and as yet unexplained increases in the number of widows’ living in extreme poverty.

– Marissa Field
Photo: Flickr

Global Network of Women Entrepreneurs
Everyone knows the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” that often opens opportunities for the people to succeed.

But for people without notable connections, rising through the ranks can prove rather difficult. Organizations around the world have noticed this cause-and-effect, and they are using it to address the disparity of women-owned businesses around the world.

Around $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality and supporting more women to become entrepreneurs.

Three organizations, in particular, are working to build global networks to expand the potential of women entrepreneurs by connecting them with the right people to succeed.

WeConnect International

The purpose of WeConnect International is to create a global network of women entrepreneurs and help them succeed in global value chains by connecting them with qualified buyers.

Founded in 2009, WeConnect International is premised on the encouragement of equal opportunity for men and women by expanding the reach of leadership networks for women.

This organization trains women on how to sell to corporations and corporations on how to source their products from women business owners, allowing women to develop their businesses and access new markets.

WeConnect International also certifies businesses as Women’s Business Enterprises (WBE) outside of the United States that are verified to be at least 51 percent owned and managed by females.

These companies are connected with an eNetwork of corporate members, training workshops and multinational corporate buyers that allow women-owned businesses to thrive.

There are over 750 certified WBEs and 5,387 self-registered women’s business enterprises.

In addition to expanding networks with corporate business leaders, WeConnect women are building a network among themselves and doing business with each other in over 50 countries.

As trendsetters in inclusive sourcing and global supplier development models of business, corporate members of WEConnect International represent $700 billion in annual purchasing power.

By expanding the women-owned businesses, WeConnect helps in the growth of jobs and equal opportunity environment around the world, adding to global GDP and adding creative perspectives to global business.

APEC Women Connect

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women Connect Program is embracing the digital age to expand women’s potential in entrepreneurship.

In 2016, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) launched this initiative with the goal of building a community through digitalization that can empower women entrepreneurs through sharing, learning and awarding.

APEC Women Connect was pioneered by Diane Wang, an ABAC member of China, and Chair of ABAC Women’s Forum.

She saw the career opportunities and potential for the expansion of e-commerce and globalization for a low cost. This program is now connecting these opportunities with resources in the form of human connections to create a global network of women entrepreneurs.

As its primary resource, the APEC Women Connect has established two groups on Sina Weibo and Facebook to share case studies, seminars and to inspire others.

However, another trailblazing development that this body has organized is the 2018 Global Value Chain-Cross Border e-Trade Workshop.

This workshop hosted 20 participants from 9 countries most of whom were women from small countries.

The focus of the workshop was to show business owners how to utilize the current global supply chain to recognize opportunities for global expansion.

It was understood that while large multinational corporations have dominated global trade, the rise of global supply chains also creates circumstances that allow for small entrepreneurs to specialize., also founded by Diane Wang, is the only e-commerce platform dedicated to serving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) retailers around the world, lowering the entry barrier for global markets access.

In its steps moving forward, APEC Women Connect is committed to building diversified platforms and networks of cooperation in areas of capacity building, information exchange and best-practice sharing to enhance gender inclusivity and expand the global network of women entrepreneurs.

Women for Women International

Women for Women International assists marginalized women in war-torn countries and conflict zones by creating social and economic empowerment programs.

Classes comprised of up to 25 women are organized to share their experiences, build support networks and learn crucial financial skills that will help them to support their families.

Since 1993, over 478,000 marginalized women have been helped by Women for Women International. Women in this program are among the most marginalized in the world.

After completion of the program, participants can also opt to take further graduate support classes. The graduate support programs help to propel women into the enterprising world with advanced financial and business training.

With these support networks, Women for Women International are expanding the global network of women entrepreneurs from the ground up.

Building women’s networking groups and acknowledging gender issues can heighten awareness, improve working environments on an internal and systematic level and boost confidence among employees.

Professional relationships create opportunities and as the job market for women entrepreneurs expands, it is important to ensure that they have the right people pulling them up to reach their full potential.

 – Sara Andresen
Photo: Flickr

Female Empowerment in Rwanda
The Rwandan genocide of 1994 sparked the beginning of female empowerment in Rwanda. After this tragedy, much of the population left in this East African country was made up of women. This enabled them to have a voice in the public sector of Rwanda, empowering all Rwandan women to take a stand for their nation.

Four Examples of Female Empowerment in Rwanda

  1. President Paul Kagame led the call for female empowerment in Rwanda. President Kagame realized that women would need to play a large role in Rwanda’s restoration. A new constitution was passed in 2003 which stated that 30 percent of parliamentary seats would be reserved for women. Girls’ education was also very much encouraged as well as women being appointed to leadership roles.The president’s policies were welcomed by all Rwandans and quotas were met and surpassed extraordinarily. In the country’s 2003 election, 48 percent of parliamentary seats went to women; in the next election, 64 percent of seats went to women.
  2. Rwanda leads the world by having the most women in its national legislature. On this same scale, the U.S. ranks ninety-sixth with only 19 percent of its governmental seats held by women.
  3. Abishyizehamwe, in collaboration with the ActionAid Fund Leadership Opportunities for Women (FLOW), is a women’s smallholder farmers’ group formed in 2013 in order to mobilize women to learn and adopt sustainable agriculture practices. The organization opened an early childhood care center to provide women with the opportunity to spend less time caring for children and more time generating income for their families. FLOW and Abishyizehamwe have allowed Rwandan women to help support their families financially instead of just being an unpaid caretaker.
  4. Since 1997, Women for Women International has helped more than 76,000 Rwandan women become economically autonomous. The organization’s one-year program has allowed women to strengthen themselves as well as their country by gaining economic and social self-sufficieny. Through this program, women are able to succeed in anything from yogurt-making to brick-making to hospitality management. Women for Women International has allowed Rwandan women to go from being poverty-stricken to having voices in their country and making a real difference in rebuilding Rwanda.

Female empowerment in Rwanda has come a long way since the genocide in 1994, but it still has a long way to go. Women are now very prominent in the public sector, but it is important that they also gain autonomy in their private lives. Nations around the world should look to Rwanda as a prime example of how much women can accomplish when they are given the chance.

– Megan Maxwell
Photo: Google

South SudanSouth Sudan has been in conflict since 2013 and violent stories are ubiquitous for women as a civil war continues to ravage the country. Rape has become “just a normal thing,” according to one South Sudanese woman, and abuse from both rebel groups and government forces are the norm. The war has displaced two million people and the country is close to another famine. Fortunately, the urgent need of help for women in Sudan is apparent as several organizations have stepped in to assist.

Women for Women International

Through its year-long programs, Women for Women International has served more than 15,000 women in South Sudan. At least 80 percent of the country’s population lives on less than $1 a day, however, upon graduation of this program, these women report average personal earnings of $1.29, compared to just $0.12 at enrollment.

They also develop better health and well-being. One in seven women die during childbirth but, after the program, 98 percent of participants begin practicing family planning. Whereas only two percent reported family planning before enrollment. Planning also leads to a more equitable marriage. Ninety-six percent of participants begin participating in household financial decisions. That percentage sat at just five percent before the program.

The biggest hurdle they have overcome is that the women now connect. Eighty-three percent of women in the program report sharing information about their rights with others. These women “create and connect to networks for support and advocacy.” It was zero percent before the program.

The International Rescue Committee

Another major support organization for women in South Sudan is the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC has been one of the largest providers of support in southern Sudan, sourcing aid for over 20 years and throughout decades of war. They have an action plan that strategizes and prioritizes its programs and focus areas through 2020.

The action plan includes:

  • Expanding the capacity of clinics and training health workers to provide better reproductive and basic health care.
  • Providing legal, medical and psychosocial support for sexual violence survivors.
  • Restoring wells and providing sanitation services to prevent disease.
  • Training community and governmental leaders on the importance of human rights.
  • Provide returning refugees with aid and job training.

Five Talents

Perhaps the biggest impact for women in South Sudan is Five Talents. Since it started in 2007, Five Talents has become one of the few organizations that have developed a sustainable model for microfinance. For the past ten years, the program has created opportunity in “areas of desperate need” working with hundreds of communities across the country. The program’s unique approach has “provided a foundation for sustainable business development in even the most difficult contexts.” The program begins by gathering both men and women in South Sudan together in local churches and teaching them to read and right and then offers financial training. To date, over 16,000 women have learned to read and write, three banks have been established and roughly 30,000 have joined community savings groups.

The training program consists of:

  • Adult education and literacy
  • Social capital development
  • Business development training
  • Household budgeting and saving
  • Biblical values in the marketplace

Since the creation of Five Talents, “tens of thousands of lives have been transformed,” both men and women.

In December 2013, the United Nations Security Council, to further help the cause, authorized the deployment of approximately 6,000 security forces, in addition to the 7,600 peacekeepers already in the country to aid in nation-building efforts in South Sudan. However, as the nation’s women continue to face desperation, the Security Council voted to shift the mission’s mandate from nation-building to civilian protection in May 2014. The road to peace and civility may be a long one for women in South Sudan, but as they and the world refuse to sit idly by, these women will prevail.

– Aaron Stein

Photo: Flickr

The Life of Women in AfghanistanIn 2011, Newsweek and The Daily Beast published a list of countries, titled “Best Countries for Women,” that ranked the living conditions for women in various parts of the world. Out of 165 countries analyzed, Afghanistan ranked second-to-last at 164th.

Afghanistan is well known for its cultural and religious mistreatment of women. During the height of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, fundamentalists in accord with a strict interpretation of Islam implemented a wide array of behavioral laws against Afghan women.

According to the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), woman could be criminalized for working outside of the home, participating in any activity outside of the home (unless accompanied by a mahram, or a male relative), not wearing a burqa, wearing heels or makeup, laughing loudly, being photographed or filmed, playing sports, riding unaccompanied in a taxi, riding on a bicycle or motorcycle, looking at strangers, appearing on the balcony of her own home, receiving medical treatment from a male doctor and being educated, among others.

These regulations seriously constrain the personal freedoms of women in domestic and social realms of interaction. Women who violate or are even accused of violating these strict rules are subject to lashes, public stoning and other cruel policing tactics. Fear is used as a control mechanism to suppress women’s voices and actions on a daily basis. In Afghanistan, each woman must choose between expressing her free will and being violently punished for doing so.

Afghan women activists who try to rebel against this unfair treatment are often threatened with death in order to suppress their voices. Human Rights Watch reported in 2015, “Other setbacks for women’s rights in 2014 included a continuing series of attacks on, threats toward, and assassinations of, high-profile women, including police women and activists, to which the government failed to respond with meaningful measures to protect women at risk. The implementation by law enforcement officials of Afghanistan’s landmark 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women remained poor, with many cases of violence against women ignored or resolved through ‘mediation’ that denied victims their day in court.”

Women for Women International is one of several organizations working to help women suffering from abuse, marginalization, poverty and lack of human rights due to war and conflict in Afghanistan.

They state on their website, “Decades of violence in Afghanistan have left millions of women and girls displaced or widowed. Common discriminatory practices, amplified by extremist groups, often make it dangerous for women to seek education, healthcare services, employment, or, in some cases, even to leave their homes.”

The Afghan Women’s Mission, founded in 2000, is another such organization created to support the humanitarian and political efforts of RAWA. Their website states, “Projects include many programs run by Afghan women including Malalai Clinic, schools, orphanages, agricultural programs, demonstrations and functions in support of women’s and human rights. We are an all-volunteer organization based in the United States.”

Despite the noble efforts of organizations like these, the situation remains virtually the same since the Taliban regime. Just earlier this year, the violent burning and murder of several women’s rights activists in Afghanistan shocked the world. If the situation for women is ever going to get better, meaningful reform needs to happen now.

– Hanna Darroll

Sources: Afghan Women Mission, Trust in Education, Scribd, Women for Women, Human Rights Watch,
Photo: RT