It seems everywhere I turn, I see people who understand the importance of empowering women and girls. In late February, Congress passed a new version of the Violence Against Women Act to prevent and prosecute domestic and sexual violence. In the afternoon of Thursday, March 7, President Obama signed this bill into law.
Later that night, Africare hosted a screening of 10×10’s new feature film, “Girl Rising.” A sold-out theater of Africare staff and more than 200 members of the Washington, D.C. community watched the film’s compelling stories of nine girls around the world determined to learn in the face of people and circumstances that would try to stop them.
At Africare we make serving women and girls a top priority. The development world knows that women and girls do not keep project benefits to themselves. As women prosper, so do their families and their neighbors. Mothers are primary beneficiaries in most of our health projects. Because women farmers are crucial to Africa’s agricultural production, women are a major focus of our food security initiatives. In the fall of 2012, we entered into a partnership with Educate Girls Globally to implement community-driven education reform in Africa.
Africare encourages the full scope of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century—teaching business practices, education and literacy—skills crucial to surviving in the modern world. In 2008, Africare launched the Initiative for the Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs (IEEWEP) with funding from ExxonMobil to increase women’s income and participation in local businesses in Southern Chad. The significant change in these women’s lives was not just apparent in their increased earnings but also in their attitudes and the leading roles they have taken in their communities.
One beneficiary, Halime Outman, explains it well. She said, “To me, a woman is not less than a man. We have women who are the head of the household, taking care of the children. If in the past we used to say, ‘You’re only a woman,’ it is because we were illiterate. Our fathers did not know that we could go to school and go to work in an office like men do. I know women that own herds of cattle. No, a woman has the same value as a man.”
For the past five years, Africare has worked with over 1,000 women in the Logone Oriental region of Southern Chad. As you will see, Africare empowers women by strengthening fundamental aspects of their lives through fostering education, better nutrition and financial freedom.
Further phases of IEEWEP have been sponsored by Kick Start, the African Well Fund and the UPS Foundation. These grants have supplied irrigation pumps to fortify crops in the dry season, clean water points in business compounds and expanded skills training.
Most recently, Africare began partnering with the personal product brand Shea Touch and its parent company, Kasny Recon, Inc. This Texas-based, Chadian owned company will contract IEEWEP women to produce key ingredients for the products they sell worldwide, providing project beneficiaries with unprecedented access to international markets.
On this International Women’s Day, the rest of this month and on into the future, please join us in our mission to equip women with the knowledge they need to improve their lives and their communities. A great way to learn more is to check out our YouTube channel and watch IEEWEP women tell their stories in, “Empowering Chad.”
Let’s keep women and girls on the rise!