We’ve got our work cut out for us in 2018.
In a man-run world stained with inequity since forever, it takes women to get down to the business of transforming their lives and those of their families and communities. It is always the women, after all – no matter where, no matter their means — who know best what they need in order to thrive. And at WomenStrong, we listen, and we link those women in impoverished urban settings with the technical and financial resources that can enable them to succeed.
As a social innovations lab run through a consortium of women-led NGOs, our collective expertise at WomenStrong lies in three main areas: girls’ education and youth development; comprehensive women’s health; and women’s economic empowerment. In all these arenas, we implement proven strategies, test new ideas, share what we learn, and scale what works.
Our Girls’ Clubs programs currently help some 8,500 girls stay and excel in school, build self-esteem, internalize healthful, practices, and strengthen their resilience. In most WomenStrong sites, we also work with boys and young men – “half the sky,” after all, and the key to improving the status of the next generation’s women – to help them realize their own potential and to support their female peers in doing the same.
In maternal and child health, our Consortium Members in Ghana, Haiti, and India have focused on ensuring healthy adolescence; safe pregnancy, delivery, and infancy; access to screenings for non-communicable diseases, and health education on topics ranging from menstrual hygiene, to preeclampsia, to what to do in the event of sexual assault. Our Ghana Consortium Member Women’s Health to Wealth has reduced neonatal mortality by 70 percent across the Ashanti region, and as a result of that success, is now effecting change in policy and practice at the national level.
A modest, smart investment from WomenStrong has enabled our Haiti Consortium member H.O.P.E. to deliver babies by emergency cesarean in a remote, underserved region where previously, mothers in a difficult labor were unlikely to survive. Our Indian Consortium Member, DHAN Foundation , has screened, treated, and referred tens of thousands of women and girls for anemia, hypertension, diabetes, and cancers, and has trained hundreds to conduct lifesaving outreach sessions on the prevention, identification, and treatment of dengue fever.
2018 will see the codification and sharing of knowledge in both our education and health programs, as we publish handbooks on operating the Clubs and Clinics that are the heart of both.
To help women and girls achieve full economic security, WomenStrong Consortium Members operate savings groups, revolving loan funds, and help women grow or start small businesses, purchase health and life insurance, and link to mainstream financial institutions. As families see these savings plowed into such high-yield investments as a daughter’s education, family nutrition, or an improved roof, respect for the woman takes root, and her voice, autonomy, and power are elevated within the home, across her community, and beyond.
Stopping gender-based violence is another critical area where we’re piloting fresh, community-based approaches that fully engage men and boys in changing minds and rethinking local practices. Particularly at this extraordinary moment, as woman after courageous woman comes forward to shine a light on the terrible history of violations of their bodies, dignity, and faith in themselves and the world around them, we believe we have a unique opportunity to support poor urban communities as they find their own way through this important reckoning, so that men and women can move forward together and develop their community in a collaborative culture of mutual respect.
As WomenStrong International enters its fourth year, all our Consortium Members are excited about deepening their experimentation, knowledge-sharing, and advocacy around what works to enable women and girls worldwide to lead healthy, fulfilled lives. This excitement brings its own kind of power – a power bolstered by our own results, which confirm that through our thousands of girls’ clubs, safe childbirths, savings groups, and mobile clinics, lives are being saved, girls are being educated, bright futures are made possible.
We call it women’s work.