Brita Shares: International Women's Day 2017

Brita Shares: International Women's Day 2017

Despite numerous obstacles and challenges, International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate an exciting future for women’s rights and gender equality. Listen to the BBC Radio 4 - Woman's Hour  segment where I discuss the impact of our work and the ongoing need to invest in women. 

This International Women's Day, I want to raise issues close to my heart. Spreading awareness and sharing my experiences are important parts of my responsibility – as a professional, mother, and global citizen – to empower women.

I have lived and worked in over 16 countries, spanning three continents – from working first-hand with Women for Women International’s Men’s Engagement programme in Rwanda and Nigeria, to addressing political participation in Peru and domestic violence in Nicaragua and Bolivia; from raising the voices of Czech women in the aftermath of the Cold War, to addressing female genital mutilation (FGM) in Egypt. 

With two of my inspiring colleagues, Talatu and Zainab, from
Women for Women International - Nigeria. Our team bring women together
across divides to foster an accepting and peaceful environment. 

My experiences have cultivated my passion for supporting gender equality and illustrate the urgency with which we need to address gender discrimination: an issue that continues to propagate violence and to hinder social and economic empowerment for communities the world over.

Today, women are facing challenging odds.  Gender-based violence affects at least 1 in 3 women globally. More than 225 million women have an unmet need for contraceptive methods. Women for Women International works to address these challenges. 

Since 1993, we have supported more than 447,000 women through our one-year programme, which equips women to earn money, regain their confidence and actively participate in their communities. When a woman joins the programme, she comes together with 24 other women, forming a tight support group that helps to break the isolation caused by war and insecurity. 

Learning how to earn money, receiving a monthly stipend, and setting aside savings gives women the ability to provide for their family's needs and invest in a new future. Women say their earnings have grown – on average, women report daily personal earnings of $1.32 at graduation, compared to $0.42 at enrolment. 

Basic health education and connecting with local care providers enables women to best protect their and their family's well-being, 84% of our graduates report they practising family planning at graduation, compared to 25% at enrolment. Learning about the equal rights of women and men gives women greater confidence to raise their voices on the issues affecting their lives. More women say they participate in household financial decision-making – 94% report participating in these decisions at graduation, compared to 73% at enrolment. Learn more about our impact here. 

"It has been two years since I have been empowered by 
Women for Women International," shares, Afofia, our graduate in Rwanda,
"I have learned so much and I am still learning. I am so grateful." 
Photo credit: Francesca Pagni

By increasing knowledge, participation and encouraging economic empowerment, we are helping women break self-perpetuating cycles of poverty and discrimination. In areas affected by conflict, women are most severely affected – with more cases of violence and abuse, and even less access to health services and education.

Women for Women International is committed to working alongside the UN in addressing these critical issues concerning gender equality, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, in three main ways:
•    Continue learning and improving the support we provide for marginalised survivors of conflict.
•    Creating strategic partnerships to reach more women and filling the data gap.
•    Building more direct links between the women we work with and decision makers.

Please join me in supporting women through our programmes, as we provide the skills, knowledge and resources women need to create transformative change in their lives, and in their communities. I cannot stress how important it is for us to come together with the common goal of empowering women, as we have proven time and again that stronger women build stronger nations, and powerful communities benefit everyone.

Do you want to help transform the life of a woman survivor of war? Click below to sponsor a sister and help us empower even more women.