women Posts

The Safer World Fund Nears $1 Million Milestone to Educate and Empower Women in Afghanistan and Pakistan

The Safer World Fund

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, families and friends who lost loved ones created the Safer World Fund (formerly the philanthropic arm of Our Voices Together). Since 2008, the Safer World Fund has matched donations for projects providing youth and community development in the poorest areas of the world. The total amount raised from individuals, including the matching funds, has almost reached $1 million!

The Safer World Fund recognizes that educating women is one of the best ways to make lasting change in a community, especially one at risk. UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys report that educated women are more likely to educate and vaccinate their children, increase their incomes, and lift their families out of extreme poverty. Young people, especially young men, who battle with poverty, lack of education, and unemployment are most vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist groups. By educating girls and women, their families become more stable and thus decrease the risk of terrorist activity in their communities.

Read on to learn more about how Safer World Fund projects have been working in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

An AIL teacher and student

An AIL teacher and student

The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) operates accelerated learning centers all throughout Afghanistan, where women can take classes in many subjects, such as reading, writing, English, math, science, sewing, and even computers. Because of AIL’s widely available learning centers, women like Fariba, whose husband is working abroad, can seek help and education. Fariba’s husband mailed her a letter, but because she was illiterate, she could not read it. She took it to one of AIL’s learning centers, where many women were able to read the letter to her and assure her that her husband was safe and healthy. Fariba then decided to take her own literary classes, so she could correspond with her husband on her own. “This is such a big step for me,” she says, “and he was very happy to have a letter written by me.” AIL also supports medical clinics, mobile units, and community health workers in Afghanistan.

Sahar students picking paint for new school

Sahar students picking paint for new school

Sahar Education supports 12 schools in the northern Balkh province in Afghanistan, serving more than 28,000 girls. Before Sahar stepped in, the schools were in disrepair and teachers were undertrained. Now, curriculum is improving and computer literacy is a top priority. Recently, to celebrate the opening of a 13th school in Mazar-i-Sharif, students submitted artwork to decorate the new school. Fahima, a student at Gohar Kharton School, submitted her art because she wanted to make the new school “beautiful. War has torn our city apart and now we are rebuilding the Gohar Kharton Girls School.” “Sahar” means “dawn” in Dari, the most widely spoken language in Balkh province, and symbolizes that now is a new day for Afghan girls.

AAE student Anissa, left, and her daughter

AAE student Anissa, left, and her daughter

Aid Afghanistan for Education (AAE) runs 13 schools in 9 provinces across Afghanistan and can issue state-certified diplomas (allowing students to go on to university) because of an agreement with the government. After the age of 10, one is not allowed to re-enter the public school system, so older girls and women, who may have left school because of war or early marriage, have few options besides AAE. During the most recent graduation in Kabul, AAE celebrated Anissa, a 45-year-old mother of 9 children who have all grown up and gone on to law and medical schools. Once her children were old enough, Anissa decided she wanted to return to school herself and graduated from AAE in December. Now, she’s attending a private law university near Kabul. Anissa’s proud family attended her graduation. Her daughter said, “I am very emotional to see my mother continue her education. She has always been the center of our lives, helping us to move forward and achieve what we all have. I am very happy today.”

Marshall Direct Fund students

Marshall Direct Fund students

The Safer World Fund also supports projects in Pakistan, just a little to the east of Afghanistan. The Marshall Direct Fund provides vocational training to nearly 1,000 women in Pakistan and has helped them develop tools necessary to launch businesses, generate income, send their children to school, and lift themselves out of poverty. Education in Pakistan is crucial, not only for increasing human development but also because uneducated, impoverished youth are among the most vulnerable to be recruited by the Taliban, still semi-active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

DIL student Areej receiving an award

DIL student Areej receiving an award

Developments in Literacy (DIL) also works in Pakistan, in the north, to empower young girls with education. 1,500 students, including a young girl named Areej, attend DIL’s schools. Areej dreams of becoming a fashion designer, a goal supported by her parents and teachers at DIL. Before DIL, Areej attended overcrowded public schools, but now she has the opportunity to learn more quickly and follow her own path. “In that school, I didn’t have the opportunity or a chance to do something. Now, I feel confident and can present in front of my whole class.”

The Safer World Fund needs your support to reach $1 million in funding to provide alternatives to terrorism. Give today and get your donation matched for projects that support youth and community development. Pick the impact closest to your heart and provide alternatives to a lifetime of poverty and despair: http://www.globalgiving.org/leaderboards/safer-world-fund-2014/

New Read: Half the Sky

This week at GlobalGiving many of us are reading the new book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Pulitzer- Prize winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

While exposing the horrors women in the developing world face on a daily basis—gender-based violence like honor killings and genital mutilation, the sex trade, and high rates of easily preventable maternal mortality—the book also shows how changing the circumstances of just one woman can have a powerful ripple effect on her family and the community at-large. Through the work of our GlobalGiving project leaders, we’re lucky enough to see the effects of empowering disadvantaged women first hand.

Consider this update posted earlier this year from a women’s collective in Bihar, India who is looking to raise funds to help support their sewing centers that provide a community space and help women learn a valuable trade: “I was married two years ago and I am lucky because my husband is kind to me and gives me permission to go to the market and sewing centre. But some other members are not so lucky, but under pressure from all of us we get their husbands not to object to their wives coming to the centre. Here we are learning a useful skill but this is the only place we can meet as women in friendship and in mutual support. We are now stopping drunken behavior from the men, we have patrolled the village with 35 of us forcing the local drinking shop to close, now drunken beatings are a thing of the past and our village is more peaceful and we feel more secure.”

We’re so pleased that Kristof and WuDunn have brought this important issue to the forefront, and are humbled to be included in the book under “Four Steps You Can Take in the Next Ten Minutes.” Right now we’re featuring a great promotion; donate $100 to any GlobalGiving project and receive a copy of Half the Sky for free. Check out our Half the Sky page for some pre-selected projects that relate to the book.

If you’ve already had a chance to read the book, please share your thoughts! What story did you find the most compelling? Where do you think change needs to happen most urgently, and through what means?

BlogHers Rock!

As a member of the Board of a fast-growing Women’s Fund, it’s sometimes easy to forget that everyone doesn’t look at philanthropy through a gender lens, but Fern Portney’s post over on Philantopic caught my eye as i was catching up on my blog reading this weekend. She brings together several threads that are well known among a subset of those in the philanthropic sector, but not covered well by the mainstream philanthropy press. To excerpt the punchline:

As an advisor to the initiative, I’ve observed the following phenomena, which bode well for the future of philanthropy:

  • Women donors are strategic. They understand, deeply, the wisdom of funding women and girls.
  • They care about impact and know that women’s funds — which vet their grassroots grantees for effectiveness — are an effective way to be sure their dollars truly make a difference.
  • They are relational. They want to give in community, to give together.
  • They are egalitarian and recognize that their dollars are far less effective without “grantee partners,” the women on the front lines who know how to use the funding they provide. In the world of women’s funds, you will see donors and grantees working side by side, a Disney heiress collaborating with the director of a shelter in Harlem.
  • Women are charging ahead even as the economy falters. Women Moving Millions has quickly surpassed $90 million toward its $150 million goal.

The upshot? Women are positioned to lead the way in shaping philanthropy’s future.

Today we are pleased to be powering a campaign that aims to harness the power of the women of the blogosphere to make good on the promise inherent in Fern’s post. BlogHer – the dominant women’s blogger portal – is reaching out to 8 million women who read blogs by and for women – and launching BlogHers Act. For the next month prominent women bloggers will be featuring stories on the subject of maternal health around the world, and encouraging readers (and anyone else) to support five projects via GlobalGiving. We are very psyched to be part of this effort, and to see the power of the BlogHer community in action.

Read the press release here.

V-Day, Around the World

It’s Valentine’s Day. Or, for many people who are trying to end violence against women, it’s “V-Day.” 2008 marks the 10th Anniversary of V-Day, the brainchild of writer and performer, Eve Ensler. Who would have thought that a little play-ful of vignettes about women’s sexuality, called the Vagina Monologues, would turn into an international movement, with performances of the play taking place all over the world? Events are scheduled on college campuses, in churches, and in dozens of countries throughout 2008. They will attract thousands of people, make them more aware of the unconscionable violence that takes place against women and girls every day, and – we all hope – spur both men and women to become advocates for organizations working to change this dynamic.

Eve Ensler and Jane Fonda were on the Today Show today, talking about the anniversary. Aside from embarrassing Meredith Vieira by uttering a no-no word on network TV, they highlighted the work V-Day is doing in the Congo, where Today’s Ann Curry has been reporting for the last couple of days. Taking on rape and sexual violence again women in the Congo is truly God’s work, and it’s great to see mainstream media putting real faces and voices to the atrocities that continue. Go Ann!

We try to not be to “salesy” on this blog, but if you are interested in supporting some great organizations working to prevent and address this kind of gender violence, check out gender-based projects on GlobalGiving.

Happy V-day.

A Trifecta

As most of my friends and colleagues know, one of my favorite columns of my favorite online publication is The Dismal Science column on Slate. And I muse often–and out loud–about how women do (or do not) behave differently at work than men, or whether they have greater chances at happiness today than before, because I’ve come to a feminist consciousness late in life and I feel like I need to make up for lost time. And I love the science of economics, despite not having chosen it in college or in graduate school–again, making up for lost time.

So this latest article from Slate started talking about how when legislative mandates forced more women into leadership positions in village councils, the delivery of public goods increased (and the quality of such goods stayed as high as when men were in leadership positions) but residents of villages headed by women were actually less satisfied with the public goods, I thought I’d hit the trifecta. [Icing on the cake: the Slate article cited the work of Esther Duflo, whse work at the Poverty Action Lab at MIT I have really admired over the years.]

My trivial little delight at finding an article that was as relevant as any Google ad served up to me in my Gmail account using entirely analog searching techniques aside, this finding really makes me pause. Because the implications are startling. Either we have really not understood the nature of public goods (and they aren’t really good for people), or we have hardwired biases against being able to perceive objective reality (which means those biases are extremely difficult to overcome, or …

It’s something I actually often wonder about international development. There’s a small group of people in the world (and I hang out with them all the time, so my own perspective is warped) who have the privilege of knowing about, and participating in, the adventure that development can be. How we can communicate the drama and the incredible high that comes from hard-won success to people who don’t know about it–and perhaps even have a bias against learning more about it?

But I’m a liberal at heart–I do believe human nature can change. After all, if I can gain feminist consciousness and an appreciation of the dismal science late in life, why not?