What We Do

From Victim to Survivor...to Active Citizen

Our Theory of Change: Women for Women International believes that when women are well, sustain an income, are decision-makers, and have strong social networks and safety-nets, they are in a much stronger position to advocate for their rights. This philosophy and our commitment to local leadership builds change and capacity at the grassroots level.

Why Women?

Around the world, women face some of the greatest obstacles yet also represent tremendous opportunity for lasting social and economic development. Globally, women face the following challenges:

  • They bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty (They represent 70 percent of the world’s poor)
  • Their ability to have a decent life is limited (they perform 66 percent of the world’s work and produce 50 percent of the food but they only earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property)
  • Investment in women is inadequate (recent data shows that only 3.6% of overseas development assistance was earmarked for gender equality (UNIFEM). And for every dollar of development assistance, two cents goes to girls (Girl Effect).
  • During and after conflict, women are particularly vulnerable to violence and exploitation (About 70% of casualties in recent conflicts are women and children (UNIFEM) and the forms of violence they experience include torture, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and mutilation (UN)

An average Women for Women International participant faces the following challenges:

  • She has limited access to electricity and water (99% of participants in Sudan)
  • She is not educated (96% of participants in Afghanistan)
  • She is not engaged in productive work (90% of participants in Iraq)
  • She is not able to pay for medical care (66% of participants in Afghanistan)
  • She is not able to change customs and traditions that are not fair to her
  • (94% of participants in the DRC)

Why Women for Women International?

As a result of war and conflict, women and girls often lose everything that ever mattered to them, including their sense of self. Their voices are silenced. And even if they were to speak, there is no safe place where they can voice their pain.


Participation in our one-year program launches women on a journey from victim to survivor to active citizen. We identify services to support graduates of the program as they continue to strive for greater social, economic and political participation in their communities.

As each woman engages in a multi-phase process of recovery and rehabilitation, she opens a window of opportunity presented by the end of conflict to help improve the rights, freedoms and status of women in her country. As women who go through our program assume leadership positions in their villages, actively participate in the reconstruction of their communities, build civil society, start businesses, train other women and serve as role models, they become active citizens who can help to establish lasting peace and stability.

Women begin in our Sponsorship Program where direct financial aid from a sponsor helps them deal with the immediate effects of war and conflict such as lack of food, water, medicine and other necessities. Exchanging letters with sponsors provides women with an emotional lifeline and a chance to tell their stories —maybe for the first time. As their situations begin to stabilize, women in our program begin building a foundation for their lives as survivors.

While continuing to receive sponsorship support, women embark on the next leg of the journey and participate in the Renewing Women’s Life Skills (ReneWLS) Program that provides them with rights awareness, leadership education and vocational and technical skills training. Women build upon existing skills and learn new ones in order to regain their strength, stability and stature on the path to becoming active citizens.

Key Outcomes for Our Programs:

Women are well: physical and mental health
  • Women’s access to quality, affordable and accessible healthcare reduces preventable deaths (in Afghanistan, 2,690 women have been trained as health and birth attendants to help combat high maternal mortality)
  • When Women are informed and trained in disease prevention (they gain the knowledge and confidence to reject harmful cultural practices, negotiate safer sex and combat water-born illnesses).
Women contribute to family and community decisions:
  • For sustainable peace to take hold, women must take an equal role in shaping it (In Rwanda, 15% of WfWI-graduates were elected leaders at the village level. WfWI-Afghanistan registered 2,000 women to vote in the 2004 presidential elections and 1,800 in the parliamentary elections).
  • Studies show that women exercise greater decision-making power within their families when they are educated, earn a stable income and have access to resources such a land and credit (94% of WfWI-Afghanistan graduates report contributing to family decision-making).
Women sustain an income: women access their economic rights
  • Greater economic and educational opportunity for a woman means her daughters are more likely to go to school, her babies are more likely to survive infancy, and her family is more likely to eat nutritious meals (The children of educated mothers are 40% more likely to live beyond the age of five, and 50% more likely to be immunized (World Bank)
  • Women reinvest a much higher portion in their families and communities (Women reinvest 90% of their income in their families and communities, compared with men who reinvest only 30% to 40%)
Women have networks and safety nets: participatory support model
  • Women who participate in our program learn the importance of working together (Our microcredit lending programs encourage women to work in groups since loans are distributed to women via their groups).
  • By working in groups, women benefit from the social support system and the creation of social networks. (They also gain from the solidarity, support and cooperation within the groups).
  • Exchanging letters with sponsors provides women with an extended social network of women to share their stories with.

Program Overarching Goal:

Women-led community change leading to peaceful and stable communities
  • Empowered women understand their value to society and are able to demand their right to own property, access quality healthcare, live in a violence free environment and contribute their perspectives to the peace table.
  • Providing economic resources to women increases the likelihood of the next generation being healthy and educated (Programs like the innovative Hand in Hand partnership with Kate Spade and the Community Integrated Farming Initiatives (CIFI) provide the resources women need to access formal markets and thrive in the process).
  • By providing resources to women, we are helping women transition into a macroeconomic level and achieve ownership of their own labor, inputs and profits.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S. Office, we’re constantly working to provide technical assistance to our chapters, to support and empower our sponsors and sisters around the world, and to amplify women’s voices through our research, publications and action on critical issues.