"When my daughter grows up, I will always teach her to follow her heart, respect others, speak up, and support women." Says Khalida, Women for Women International Program Officer at Shekhan training center in Iraq.
As a mom, she wants to set an example for her daughter, especially in her country. Khalida believes her position can influence and transform women's lives in her community, and inspired by our name, the support we give women, and her desire to deliver messages of hope to women in Iraq, she joined the organization to create change and be a role model for her daughter's future.
"As a woman, I see the power in myself," Khalida says.
"I want to use my power to support women whose voices are unheard, women who don't dare to speak up, and women who want to go out and start their businesses and be part of the community. I will use my voice to raise their voices."
Little by little, thanks to the work she does, she notices that women in her community are realizing their potential. They are breaking social norms, leading their households, gaining skills, setting up businesses, learning about their rights, improving their well-being, and speaking up. Khalida is a big advocate of change. She uses her power to educate women on self-reliance, reach out to vulnerable women and urge them to enroll in our programs. She knows that a better future for her daughter and her community can start with her.
In South Sudan, Marianne is Women for Women International’s (WfWI) Country Office Director. To her audience of mothers and wives gathered for a Change Agents collaboration session, she speaks of the negative influences of gangs and drug abuse on the younger generation. For young girls, she adds, rampant teenage pregnancies and dropping out of school present challenges.
"The advocacy you are going to do should not only be on rape and violence against women (VAW), but also ought to influence social change in Yei," Marianne says.
The women of Yei are bringing social change to their community for their daughters, where cultural and traditional norms around women’s rights have shaped their own experiences from youth. In South Sudan, women and girls are traditionally denied educational and economic opportunities. Denied the ability to earn money, exercise leadership and excluded from decision making, young girls are often subjected to forced or early marriage for their families to receive a dowry.
For this reason, these women are using their Change Agents training to challenge these norms through advocacy, become role models for their daughters, and influence the future of the rising generation of girls.
"If you leave your child without guidance, they can easily become engaged in bad behavior and easily be influenced by wrong groups, hence destroying their future,” says Suzan Poni Jigomoni, a Change Agent.
Esther Tabu, a WfWI Core Program Trainer in South Sudan, emphasizes the need for an educated generation, specifically girls, to bring about national transformation and development.
“The future of girls should not just be about childbearing,” Esther says.
Trained by local WfWI staff, the Change Agents take on social issues defined by culture and tradition. Through advocating for girls forced to marry, drop out of school, and survivors of sexual violence, they are establishing a future where their daughters can embrace their full rights and freedoms.
As the Change Agents of South Sudan are fighting for their daughters’ futures in Yei, they are not alone. Mothers and wives around the world are bringing about the change they wished to see as girls through the support of WfWI.
Much like the WfWI Change Agents in Nigeria, who encouraged girls' education in the Rudugungu community by advocating to local leadership for a primary school to open in the community—a social victory “to see more female lawyers, doctors, politicians and entrepreneurs,” according to the women involved.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gorette, a Stronger Women, Stronger Nations participant, fought for her daughters to receive an education, an opportunity she was not afforded as a girl. For this reason, Gorette got married to help her family survive and worked in agriculture, a field she says was not profitable in her community for many years.
“I cannot wish that my daughters live the life I lived before enrolling the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations Program,” Gorette says. “That is why I fight for their studies, so that in the future they can help their husbands to provide for their households without many difficulties.”
In the fight for social change, many are embracing their own value after personal experiences with teenaged pregnancy, early marriage, and violence.
"I am a survivor of forced marriage,” says Sylvia Iyete Jigomoni, a Change Agent. “I got pregnant as a teenager and was forced to leave school and marry the man who impregnated me, which I regret to this day.”
After Sylvia had her first child, her husband died, and she was forced into another marriage.
“I wish that I continued with my education," she says. Now, she wants to ensure that the next generation of girls does not share her experiences.
With the proper support, our program participants and staff are changing their lives and the lives of the people around them, creating a better future for themselves and the next generation of women.
This Mother’s Day, invest in mothers around the world who, despite facing unimaginable horrors of war, are finding the strength to build a better future for themselves and their children.