Category Archives: Women’s Forum
The Women’s Forum is an active local network of women and men working to improve the lives of women and families across the globe. Learn more here!
November 4 marked the UK debut of “He Named Me Malala,” a biopic of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Ms. Yousafzai, 18, is best known for her work advocating for female education and for surviving a Taliban assassination attempt when armed men climbed on board her school bus and shot her in the head. She is co-founder of the Malala Fund along with her friend Shiza Shahid.
After the screening at the Into Film Festival, UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson sat down for a Question and Answer session with Ms. Yousafzai. During the Q&A, which was broadcast to over 80 cinemas across the UK, Ms. Yousafzai disclosed that it was thanks to Ms. Watson that she became a feminist after viewing her passionate speech at the launch of UN HeForShe program.
The HeForShe campaign is a movement that encourages men to identify themselves as feminists and support for women’s rights because it will benefit their gender as well. This reflects an underlying theme of Malala’s life as she has been able to follow her educational dreams in part thanks to her father who allowed his daughter to follow her education and supported her through all her work.
Ms. Yousafzai finished her interview by taking questions from primary school children in England. She reminded the viewers that they are never to young to start making a difference. “Do the things that you want to do. Don’t think that one day I’ll grow up and do things. Don’t wait for this day, it will be too late.”
JOIN US ON MARCH 6th for the annual International Women’s Day Celebration!
On March 8 of very year, the world celebrates International Women’s Day, where lives of women and girls are honored and celebrated. It is the day when we call everyone to take part in bringing attention to women’s rights and gender equality. This year, UNA-GB together with our amazing co sponsors is proud to bring yet another wonderful event to commemorate this wonderful day.
Every day, thousands of people are diagnosed of HIV/AIDS in Africa . And every day, thousands of people die of AIDS across the African continent.
The main challenge that most Africans face is disclosing to their friends and loved ones that they are HIV/AIDS positive. The stigma, the fear, and the rejection that most HIV/AIDS patients face when they are diagnosed with the disease is what kills them. In South Africa, the HIV/AIDS rate is higher in women comparing to that of men – almost twice the amount. Most women are at risk because they are very dependent on their male partners. Because of poverty and lack of employment, it is mostly males who support and provide for their families. While the women stay at home to cater for their families’ needs, their husbands may have multiple sexual partners therefore risking lives of their partners and family. Knowing that they do not provide for their families economically, most women stand little to no chance to mediate any choices that they may have that could prevent them from getting and spreading HIV/AIDS virus.
An additional burden is that women in South Africa have a very high risk of being raped, and a huge amount of these rapes go unreported. If unreported, women don’t get tested for HIV/AIDS and if infected, continue to spread the disease unknowingly. These sexual predators are thus never convicted and also spread the disease. Sexual assault is one of the main reasons why African women are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. The highest rate of infection are found in women below the ages of 30; also the group that has the highest percentage of rape survivors. (Learn more here)
In this year’s event, UNA-GB will be screening Positively Beautiful, a story about life and love in the age of HIV. In the documentary, five HIV positive people are brought together through their HIV/AIDS status. As they lead their day to day lives, their bonds grow close through all the challenges they face, and through the love the receive and share.Positively Beautiful is a universal story of triumph and of friendships ability to help overcome life’s greatest challenges.
The panelists speaking after the movie are an impressive bunch. Douglas Brooks is the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy at the White House. Mary Tiseo is the Executive Director of South Africa Partners. Mickey Aramati is an Assistant Professor for Global Health at Tufts University School of Medicine. And we are pleased to have Diveena Cooppan with us especially, the filmmaker extraordinaire who brought this story to life on the big screen.
Please join us as we celebrate this day! Learn more and register here.
Friday, March 6, 2015
5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
MCLE: 10 Winter Place, Boston
Thank you to our co-sponsors:
Center for Women’s Health & Human Rights
South Africa Partners
Tufts University Department of Public Health at the School of Medicine
On September 18, the Women’s From @ UNA-GB continued its #BringBackOurGirls series with an inspirational panel consisting of Dr. Iyano Obasanjo, Fatoumata Fall, Amy Brakeman, and Angha Sirpurkar-Childress. All four leaders from various walks of life addressed the fundamental issue of education as an imperative and valuable tool in fostering girls leadership.
Dr. Obasanjo, a Distinguished Fellow at the African Presidential Center at Boston University who has served on the Nigerian Senate and Nigeria’s Commission for Health, opened discussion the paradigms of what is needed to globally progress women’s and girl’s status in underdeveloped nations. It is clear that there is an issue of female leadership. She states that “having women in leadership is imperative,” but the basic building block of progress are dealing with women as regards to child bearing, child rearing, and education; common themes for the rest of the panel.
Dr. Obasanjo introduced the engrossed listeners, members of UNA-GB and visitors, to Fatoumata Fall, a fourth year student at Harvard University from Senegal, and Amy Brakeman, an active advocate for advancing educational and entrepreneurship programs through institutions abroad (African Leadership Academy) and in the Boston community. Fall and Brakeman shared a slideshow presentation discussing the need for reform in the quality of education in developing countries, like West African states. Fall provided statistics showing a correlation between an increased number of highly educated women and increase in unemployment. This seemed counterintuitive as one would think an increase in highly educated women would result in positive development. However, Fall and Brakeman argued that the problem lies in the quality and direction of the education provided to the girls and boys in Africa. Highly educated girls lack skills that are transferrable to the working world. This is clear something that must change – and fast.
Fatoumata expresses “Most African governments are quick to say that ‘Let’s build more school’s’ but they never talk about making the schools better, that is, redesigning the education system.” It is a matter of quantity versus quality. Along the same thread, Bakeman emphasized that the solution is initiating programs that teach women transferrable skills such as entrepreneurship and critical thinking to enforce and improve livelihood, which has been manifested in initiatives like the African Leadership Academy.
Similarly, panelist Angha Sirpurkar-Childress discussed the mission and success stories of her initiative, Barakat, which supports coeducational, literacy programs to all ages in Afghanistan and Pakistan, many of whom are Afghan refugees (read more about Barakat’s 10 Facts about Girls’ Education). Childress explains the cultural and social challenges in accessing education to children and specifically to women. Families are reluctant to send girls to schools with males teachers and students distances away. Sadly, schools can and are dangerous environments for girls where they are prone to rape and other forms of abuse. One of the solutions is to create a demand and incentive for female professionals and teachers in that field who can provide a more safe and effective learning environment for young women.
Other solutions may not be obvious at first. Building bathrooms so that girls can have privacy during their menstrual cycles – which is a major concern for parents and girls hitting puberty while still at school. Better education and laws against child marriage, which takes girls out of school to care for a husband and her own children. The panel and guests even discussed the potential game-changer of technology that allows girls to ‘bring school home’ so they don’t have to worry about getting to and from school, but can learn from the safety of home. These and many other advances could make a significant impact on the ability for girls to get a better, longer, fuller education.
The subsequent open floor discussion resurrected other issues that hindered education and progress; many of which stem from socioeconomic and cultural pressures. Education is not an independent, stand-alone issue but it encompasses and brings to surface other crisis that equally need solutions. Primary education is one of the Millennium Development goals set by the United Nations, which although has reached high levels of progress and accomplishment, is still very much a work in progress.
Girl Up is a United Nations Foundation campaign that works to support girls in the developing world in a holistic way. Girls deserve the opportunity of getting an education, but a solution isn’t as simple as just building a school. Girls need to be safe walking to and from school; healthy so they are not missing school due to illness; and they need to have legislation in place that works to secure their protection. Girl Up looks at all of these issues and their goal is to make sure that girls are safe, healthy, educated, counted, and positioned to be the next generation of future leaders. Girl Up works as a grassroots movement. In schools, college campuses, and community centers; clubs work to raise funds and awareness for Girl Up’s mission.
This year, one of Girl Up’s main campaigns is to ensure that girls in the developing world get birth certificates. A birth certificate is legal documentation that proves a person’s citizenship, where and when they were born, and their nationality. It also serves as an official form of identification. Fifty-one million children are not registered at birth, a majority of whom are girls. Without a birth certificate, girls do not exist in the eyes of the law, hence preventing them from benefitting from society in both economic and social aspects. If they are victims of abuse or human trafficking, it is difficult to bring them justice because they are invisible to society. Without a birth certificate, girls face a higher risk of forced labor and child marriage. In addition to that, they cannot vote, start their own businesses, get a drivers license, become employed, or own property when they are older. A birth certificate is the first step in guaranteeing the rights girls have as citizens.
The Girls Count Act of 2013 was introduced in Congress by the House of Representatives to authorize the Secretary of State, and the Administrator of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support programs that will benefit in improving civil registration and vital statistics system while concentrating on birth registration and promotion of programs that prevent discrimination against girls, and promote women’s inheritance rights in developing countries (US Congress). Furthermore, the bill also makes sure that women and girls are in contact with foreign assistance policies and programs that focuses on their needs. It should be in the best interest of these women to have the power to speak up about problems that affect their lives and have their needs addressed in the formation of the development assistance programs.
The Girls Count Act of 2013 would “encourage countries to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” There are many human rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that are not protected when a child does not have a birth certificate. Among the rights that are listed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some of the rights include: the right to property, right to education, right to freedom where no one should be held in slavery or servitude, and the right to enter marriage with free will and consent (United Nations). When girls don’t have birth certificates, it is easier for their human rights to be violated. Ensuring birth certificates for girls helps in protecting their human rights.
Members of Girl Up have been working to support the Girls Count Act in many ways. They have been writing letters, sending emails, calling offices, and scheduling meetings. Last June, Girl Up supporters from all around the country gathered together in Washington, D.C. for a Girl Up Leadership Summit, where they gained valuable leadership experience, and learned more about Girl Up. They marched up to the Capitol Hill where they had a Lobby Day, and meetings with Representatives, Senators, and staff. Girl Up supporters have also scheduled many meetings in their own states to encourage their Congressmen and women to become co-sponsors of the Girls Count Act.
Last Monday, members of the Girl Up Greater Boston Coalition – made up of Girl Up clubs in the Greater Boston area – met with the Regional Director from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office to discuss why they support the Girls Count Act. At the meeting, they were able to explain the benefits of the Girls Count Act of 2013 and why Senator Warren should become a co-sponsor. They have a meeting scheduled next Monday with a staff member from Senator Edward Markey’s office. The purpose of the meeting is to ask Senator Markey to become a supporter and co-sponsor of the Girls Count Act. If you support the Girls Count Act, you can send an email to your Representatives and Senators in Congress, call their office, or even schedule a meeting yourself!
Girl Up is working to ensure that girls are safe, healthy, educated, counted, and positioned to be the next generation of leaders. Through advocating for the Girls Count Act of 2013, Girl Up supporters are making progress towards protecting the rights of girls and women in the developing world. Fifty-one million children are not registered at birth, a majority of whom are girls. Numbers count. So should girls.
When we ran an event earlier this year on #BringBackOurGirls – the Nigerian kidnapping of about 200 girls, we were inspired to continue momentum on ths issues raised that evening. When Dr. Arese Carrington mentioned that one way to improve the lives of girls is to have better representation in politics, the idea stuck.
Women in power positions and politics as a way to improve the lives of girls; this makes sense.
Focusing on Nigeria, Women’s Forum hosted an event on September 22nd hosted an event to discuss this idea. The event began with a screening of the short award winning film “Dreams of Nigeria” (which you should watch on youtube here). “Dreams for Nigeria” is a documentary that highlights challenges and achievements of women politicians in Nigeria. In the documentary, seven women politicians explain about the challenges they face day to day being politicians. They also share the roles that they play in social, economic, and political development in their constituents, with education and better health care being their outmost concern. These women “hope to be models to Nigeria’s youth and present a diverse and unified Nigeria where everyday dreams are attainable.”
Following the movie, we were treated to a discussion with Professor Valentine Moghadam, Director of International Programs and Professor of Sociology at Northeastern University. Her areas of research are globalization, transnational feminist networks, civil society and citizenship, and gender and development in the Middle East and North Africa – clearly an expert on the subject. She had even met in person some of the women politicians in the documentary!
The main focus of the conversation was why it is important for women to have access to politics. Here are some things we came up with
- Women tend to have a better understanding about certain aspects of the world – reproduction, child rearing, other such women’s issues (commonly referred to as ‘Standpoint Theory’)
- Women tend to be more consultative and better take into account guidance from their constituents
- Women are more likely to reach across the aisle to come to a consensus
- Women prioritize social issues!
- Even if for no other reason, women are 50%+ of the population so should have 50% of representation in politics!
Conversation at the event was passionate and varied – why stop at discussing women in politics? How would it change local and global policies if women were in charge of, say, oil companies?
Why do you think it has been so hard for women to break through the glass ceiling of politics worldwide?
Check out this website for some more interesting facts about women in politics! http://ipu.org/iss-e/women.htm
Inspiring Change through Education: Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB celebrates International Women’s Day early with a screening of Graceland Girls!
This past Monday, March 3, UNA-GB members and friends learned about the power of education through a film screening of Graceland Girls and panel discussion with global education activists and experts! Following a lively reception and the screening, the Women’s Forum hosted panelists Jordan Salvatoriello, director of Graceland Girls; Monte Allen, Senior Director of CARE; and Richard Rowe, Chairman and CEO of Open Learning Exchange (OLE). Some of the questions posed by Women’s Forum members and the audience centered around Ms. Salvatoriello’s experience in Kenya while filming the documentary, ways in which organizations like CARE and OLE are partnering with local communities in the developing world to provide education, and how members of the greater-Boston community can become global education advocates.
Graceland Girls tells the story of high school students at the Graceland Girls School in central Kenya, an educational environment available to girls who were “fortunate and bright enough to receive sponsorship.” Many of the girls come from remote areas in Kenya, where their parents struggle to provide for themselves and their families. At various points in the film, the girls express the responsibility and pressure they feel to succeed in school and their future lives so that they can support their families. “Seen as their last chance for a better fate than that of their parents,” the girls’ stories reflect an awareness about the importance of their hard work. When asked what they want to pursue after going to university, many of the girls confidently list occupations such as “lawyer” and “neurosurgeon.” Faced with difficult circumstances and seemingly unsurpassable obstacles, the Graceland girls exhibit undying determination and hope, knowing that they “could create a ripple effect so powerful, it could end the cycle of poverty there.” (Learn more about the film here).
But what about girls (and boys) who are not lucky enough to go to the Graceland school? Monte Allen from CARE and Richard Rowe from OLE are involved in the struggle to address this need.
Mr. Allen shared in the panel discussion that one of CARE’s main goals is to empower communities to help themselves, a strategy that hopes to enable long-term and sustainable solutions. By providing resources and training to communities that want their guidance, CARE strives not only to reach young generations of under-served girls and boys, but also their elders – who become their teachers, mentors, and partners in education. You can read more about CARE’s work in girls’ education in Afghanistan, where they support over 300 schools!
Richard Rowe’s comments added to the theme of sustainability by presenting OLE’s philosophy on the necessity of activity-based learning and educational content that is available through Open Education Resources (OERs). This aspect of OLE’s work puts it at the forefront of initiatives that seek to provide affordable and sustainable education solutions to the developing world. You can read more about OLE’s work here.
Jordan Salvatoriello further elaborated on her experience in Kenya while making the film, noting that she wanted the girls to feel comfortable sharing their stories in full, and that she didn’t want her own experience or bias to take over their narratives. She also shared that the project was an incredible learning experience: she learned as much from the students as they learned from her. Parts of the film portray small workshops and field trips centered on photography and filming skills that Jordan led the girls in. These activities involved the girls reflections on their work, illuminating how they see the world, relate to one another and perceive themselves. Ms. Salvatoriello emphasized that there are many ways her film can be used to create change, encouraging a young audience member to share and discuss it with her local school group. If you, too, are inspired by Jordan’s work, find out how you can become involved! Also, watch the entire panel discussion here!!
Finally, we rounded off our evening with an incredible a capella performance by Women of the World!
Now that you know how we celebrated International Women’s Day this year (even if it was 5 days early!), we invite you to share your stories! What IWD events are you going to? How will you celebrate the achievements of the world’s women and girls?
A special thank-you to our co-sponsors for this special event: African Community Health Initiatives, Boston Glow, Boston Network for International Development, Care, Center for Women’s Health & Human Rights at Suffolk University, Girl Up, Tufts University School of Medicine: Public Health Programs and Center for Global Public Health, Open Learning Exchange, Our Bodies Ourselves, Women and Health Initiative at Harvard University, and Women of the World
On Thursday, October 10th, Katrina Sousounis introduced Girl Rising to about two hundred and sixty attendees at a film screening hosted by UNA-GB. She explained that the most pervasive issues affecting the people of the world today (including poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, violence) disproportionately affect young women. Katrina finished the speech with a call for educational reform to give opportunities to women everywhere, and ended with this quote from the film: “Boys need to believe in girls, and girls need to learn to believe in themselves.”
Katrina is 13 years old.
Founder of the first Girl Up club in Massachusetts, Katrina was inspired to try and solve the problems so carefully outlined in her speech. Her club is part of an organization founded to help girls and young women around the world to reach their full potential by ensuring that they are educated, safe, well-fed, and guaranteed basic human rights.
Because of this, Katrina was asked to introduce Girl Rising at UNA-GB’s screening of the film on Thursday, which was a fundraiser for Girl Up. Her presence and hard work demonstrate a distinctive part of Girl Up’s message: to help girls reach their potential around the world, we must empower girls themselves to effect the change that they want to see.
Girl Rising is the story of nine girls from around the world: Sokha from Cambodia, Wadley from Haiti, Suma from Nepal, Yasmin from Egypt, Azmera from Ethiopia, Ruksana from India, Senna from Peru, Mariama from Sierra Leone, and Amina from Afghanistan. Each girl was paired with a writer from her country to help tell her story. Each story is artistically captured differently, with varying experiences when it comes to cultural restraints, parental support, and environmental circumstances. In essence, Girl Rising is a movement to deliver a “simple, critical truth: educate girls and you will change the world.”
The UNA-GB decided to screen this film to get a dialogue started to help men, women, boys and girls in Boston and elsewhere think about solutions to various forms of discrimination against girls around the world. After the film, a musical group called “Women of the World”, which sings in 21 different languages, performed. They chose a song that resonated with the idea that together, we can create positive change.
In 2011, the UN declared October 11th as the first annual tribute to its goal to improve gender equality everywhere. This year, the theme of the day is “Innovating for Girls’ Education.” It sounds simple enough, but the task of ensuring that girls worldwide are educated is complex, both in implementation and consequence.
What exactly is keeping girls from going to school?
A wide breadth of causes keep girls out of school each day. Governmental policies and social issues alike can keep girls and boys out of school. Here are a few major perpetrators:
- School is not free everywhere, and many poor families cannot afford to send any or all of their children to school. In some countries, boys are sent to school while girls stay home and work.
- It can be dangerous: in 2012, Save the Children reported that there were more than 3,600 attacks on education around the world.
- About half of all girls living in the world’s least developed countries are married before the age of 18. Child marriage greatly decreases a girl’s likelihood of finishing school, according to World Vision.
- Lack of sanitary protection means that girls may miss up to five days of school a month
- When basic needs aren’t being met and students are not healthy or well-fed, school may be a low priority.
- There may not be a school within walking distance, especially in rural areas.
- Governmental policies and societal norms can make it illegal or abnormal for girls to become educated
So, how exactly does educating girls help the world?
- According to the UN: “When girls are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, they can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families and participate in the progress of their nations.”
- Educated mothers educate their children; this not only breaks the cycle of poverty, but their sons will be more inclined to educate their daughters.
- UNICEF connected discrimination against women and girls and hunger. Child malnutrition in South Asia is highly linked to women’s limited access to education and difficulties with finding paid employment.
What can you do?
- Education, education, education! Educate yourself by exploring the issue even more- try checking out some of the links below
- Donate! Visit Girl Up’s website, or one of the other initiatives below, to give to the cause.
- Become an activist! Join one of the causes below, or create your own!
Happy International Day of the Girl Child!
UN Day of the Girl Child
Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB celebrated IWD (March 8th) early this year with a reception, film screening, and panel discussion on March 4th! UNA-GB members and other members of the Boston community gathered to view Not My Life, a documentary on human trafficking directed, written and produced by Academy Award nominee Robert Bilheimer. This film gives an in-depth and disturbing glance into the lives of women and children all around the world who are forced and coerced into sexual and manual slavery. The producers of the film worked with individuals in over 20 countries on five continents to describe the truly global reach of this highly profitable industry. While the film depicts horrific practices that are difficult to witness, it also presents stories of resilience, hope, and compassion. Many of the young women who participated in the film are now working with their advocates to prevent others from suffering similar experiences.
Following the screening, we heard from our panel of experts on specific issues related to human trafficking. Siddharth Kara, a fellow on human trafficking with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, described the powerful driving forces behind this industry. Mr. Kara has traveled to 25 countries to research sex trafficking with his work culminating in a series of books on this topic. Devin Rebello represented Demand Abolition, a Hunt Alternatives Fund program which focuses on the demand which fuels the international sex trade. Ms. Rebello emphasized that a targeted focus on the elimination of demand for sex trafficking is needed in order to successfully combat this issue. She explained that demand-reduction practices can be implemented in the areas of criminal justice, legislative reform, prevention education, and public awareness. Our third panelist and Women’s Forum member, Mireille (Mickey) Aramati, spoke about health issues related to sex trafficking. Ms. Aramati is an Associate Professor of Global Health at the Tufts University School of Medicine, and she noted that a discussion of women’s health issues is lacking in the dialogue surrounding sex trafficking. Human trafficking is often overlooked as a public health issue, resulting in poor access to resources for women and girls who are trafficked.
After the presentation, many of the attendees expressed deep concern about this topic and asked what can be done to combat sex trafficking. Our panelists and the participants depicted in the film are some of the leading activists who are working tirelessly to end these practices worldwide. If you would like to find out more about what you can do and the resources that are available to explore this issue further, take a look at the following links!
National Human Trafficking Hotline:
“Dedicated to providing whole person aftercare for survivors of commercial exploitation.”
Blue Heart Campaign Against Human Trafficking:
“Demand Abolition is committed to eradicating the illegal commercial sex industry in the US—and, by extension, the world—by combating the demand for purchased sex.”
International Justice Mission:
“International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.”
Massachusetts Inter-agency Human Trafficking Task Force:
Not for Sale:
Roxbury Youthworks GIFT Program:
UNA-GB gives special thanks to all of those who participated in making IWD 2013 a successful awareness-raising event! Thank you to our co-sponsors and to Diva for donating food!
Around 15 to 76 percent of women around the world experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime. This staggering statistic has called the attention of people, organizations, and governments around the world to take action and put an end to such vehement behavior.
UN Women has been taking serious measures to stop such violence. It created the COMMIT campaign to which 18 countries have pledged to “take initiatives to stop gender-based violence.”
In 2008, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, launched UNiTE to End Violence against Women, a campaign that aims to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls around the world. Some of the aims of this campaign include: “adopt and enforce national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls, increase public awareness and social mobilization, address sexual violence in conflict,” to name a few.
On February 14, 2013, UN officials met to take a stance against such violence. In his message calling everyone to unite to end violence against women and girls, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged everyone to speak out. “The global pandemic of violence against women and girls thrives in a culture of discrimination and impunity.”
Other efforts include those of the One Billion Rising campaign which invites “ONE BILLION women to walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to this violence.” These events take place all over every February 14.
Want to help put an end to violence against women? Then ask Congress to pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by following this link:http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=519249&msource=W1302EAWMN2
Is human trafficking and violence a ‘hot button’ topic for you? Then you should join Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB for International Women’s Day on Monday, March 4. We will be screening “Not My Life” and have a great panel discussion following the film. For more information, check out the registration page.
Last night, Women’s Forum, in partnership with UNICEF and Accion, held a special presentation and discussion on how successful micro-finance programs in developing countries help empower women. The two keynote panel speakers were Willow Shire, Executive Consultant at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Erika Eurkus, Senior Director for External Affairs of Accion, a global nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need to improve their lives.
Micro-finance is an increasingly popular development approach, particularly in developing countries, that provides an appropriate range of high quality finance services, including savings, insurances, and fund transfers, to low-income or poor individuals. Additionally, micro-financing helps promote gender equality, which allows women to have more active roles in both society and their families.
In her presentation, Eurkus from Accion talked about Accion’s micro-financing projects which support low-income people. Accion has 63 institutions in 31 countries helping 13 million people. She showed a video starring two women helped by Accion; one was able to start up her own jewelry making business and another who now runs her own restaurant.
Shire first showed a tear-inducing promotional video from UNICEF, and then went on to discuss specifically UNICEF’s Communal Banking project in Bolivia. Her project helps train women from rural areas in finance and operations. This approach stressed the importance of business planning, continued education and also provides complementary educational courses on hygiene, sanitation, and environmental awareness.
The question and answer period following the presentation showed the varied interests of the attendees; with questions ranging from education, to financial particulars and of course the social impact of micro-financing on women across the globe. Accion and UNICEF stressed their differences (success in the city vs rural etc) but also showed how very similar they are and how important their work is.
The event was a great success with over 40 attendees and a lengthy networking reception afterwards. Check out more pictures of the event on our Facebook page!!!
Please join us in our upcoming events. We have more exciting plans in the works!!