2020 will be a great year for WomenStrong International. For with our 2020 vision comes a year of winning solutions – solutions coming from women, who know best what they and their families and communities need in order to thrive.
In just a few weeks, WomenStrong is launching our new Learning Lab focused on women’s health and violence against women and girls, with strong, women-led organizations from the Philippines to Madagascar to western Michigan. These organizations will come together, virtually and in-person, to learn from each other what works to improve maternal survival, to educate and empower girls regarding their rights, their safety, and their sexual and reproductive health, and to engage men and families in keeping women safe.
The commonalities both among the challenges our new members face and the solutions they are developing belie their vast geographic reach – from southeast Asia to southwestern Mexico, with seven sub-Saharan cities along the way. And why is this? Because the challenges faced by urban women and girls are fairly universal: the lack of access to safe housing and urban infrastructure, to decent health care and schooling, to equal rights and opportunity, whether in the workplace, with regard to economic advancement or to raising their voices in the public square.
Later in the year we’ll be launching a new cohort of Girls’ Education and Empowerment Lab members, as well as our first Economic Opportunity Lab, to share and learn effective strategies for building urban women’s assets and financial security. Once again, we hope to include in our Learning Lab both domestic and overseas organizations, to enrich the sharing of those solutions likely to translate, across socioeconomic, geopolitical, and cultural divides.
Each WomenStrong member receives a small grant, either to pilot or replicate a promising solution or to learn or share a proven strategy. As part of their Learning Lab membership, these frontline organizations also receive technical support, whether in their area of focus, monitoring and evaluation, fundraising, communications, or other capabilities central to their ability to carry out their work and get their findings and their message out.
And what is that message, fundamentally?
At its core, whether focused on strategies for combatting violence or improving girls’ and women’s access to health care, education, and economic opportunity, the message to politicians, policymakers, heads of hospitals, schools, governments, or multilateral institutions needs to be, ‘Trust us! These are our lives we’re talking about, and we know what’s needed. Please allow us to tell you what works in our communities, and please help us leverage the technical and financial resources we’ll need to implement our program successfully, because we know what to do.’
We all know women know what to do. We know our WomenStrong members start and end by listening to the girls and women with whom they work, to learn about their problems and their solutions.
We know, too, that our member organizations and we at WomenStrong can share both our expertise and resources we believe might be helpful. Too often, though, the solutions envisaged by local women and developed by local organizations aren’t shared with others who could implement or adapt them in their own localities.
Our mission at WomenStrong International is to enable the sharing and broader amplification of powerful solutions that will strengthen the hand, the confidence, and the future of urban women and girls worldwide.