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WomenStrong Launches Two New Learning Labs on Health and Violence

WomenStrong Launches Two New Learning Labs on Health and Violence

13 women-led organizations receive awards to promote solutions for women and girls across 10 countries in Asia, Africa, and the Americas

In South Sudan, the civil war that has displaced more than four million has made young women and girls more vulnerable to sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence. That’s why the youth-led organization Crown the Woman recasts vulnerable young women as queens, to increase their social status and ensure their rights are respected.

In the informal settlements of Puerto Princesa in the southern Philippines, the incidence of unwanted pregnancy and HIV among young women is high, in part because social norms deem adolescent sex a taboo subject. To respond, the non-profit Roots of Health is teaching parents about adolescent reproductive health and how to talk to their teens about sex.

And in urban communities across the United States, black and brown mothers are dying in pregnancy and childbirth at rates more than three times those of white mothers. But the Firecracker Foundation is upending these disparities by helping pregnant teens and teen moms access reproductive health care that is responsive to their needs.

WomenStrong International today announced 13 awards to these and other community-based organizations working on women’s health and violence prevention in cities in Cambodia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mexico, The Philippines, Rwanda, South Sudan, the United States, and Zambia.

Crown the Woman will join the WomenStrong Learning Lab and receive technical assistance to help ensure young women in South Sudan can live free of violence. (Photo: Crown the Woman)

In these and other urban communities around the world, local women-driven organizations are finding solutions that enable women and girls in urban areas to live healthy lives, free of violence, that can enable them to realize their full potential.

Though they represent different cultures and geographies, these organizations are listening to women, building community champions to support them, harnessing resources to address their needs, and challenging harmful social norms that endanger women’s lives.

WomenStrong’s new pilot and knowledge-sharing awards support an array of strategies, from reaching adolescents with youth-friendly reproductive health services in school settings, to engaging men and other community influencers, such as village elders and religious leaders, to help shift attitudes that contribute to gender-based violence.

As part of their grants, these small non-profits will document their experiences and amplify their lessons learned for the benefit of a far broader community of organizations through WomenStrong’s Learning Lab.

“Our Learning Lab allows WomenStrong members to develop, test, sharpen, and share solutions in a safe, peer-learning environment where they are free to take risks and to acknowledge when things are working, and when they are not,” says Dr. Susan M. Blaustein, WomenStrong Founder and Executive Director.

WomenStrong’s Learning Lab addresses four critical areas in women’s and girls’ lives. The newest members, working on projects relating to Women’s Health and Violence Against Women and Girls, join Lab members focused on Girls’ Education and Empowerment. New cohorts addressing Economic Opportunity and Girls’ Education will be announced in August 2020.

The newest Learning Lab awards announced by WomenStrong today were granted to the following 13 organizations:

WOMEN’S HEALTH

  • Copper Rose Zambia helps adolescents reach their full potential by working with them in four thematic areas: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, including Menstrual Health Management; Economic Opportunity; Leadership and Mentorship; and Mother and Child Health. Copper Rose’s WomenStrong grant will allow Copper Rose to reach over 7,000 young people in Lusaka with reproductive health information and services through university-based pregnancy prevention activities that include men, the training of community-based health distributors, youth awareness-raising events, and linkages to “Youth Friendly Spaces” within health centers.
  • Firecracker Foundation (USA) supports survivors of sexual violence in Michigan through three primary programs: mental health therapy, trauma-sensitive yoga, and advocacy and community education. WomenStrong International will support the Firecracker Foundation’s Trauma-Informed Midwifery, Education, and Doula (TIMED) Program. The program focuses on girls of color, allowing 25 pregnant and parenting teens to access reproductive health care and education, including doula care and support as new mothers, to empower and amplify their voices as young mothers.
  • Mali Health develops community-led solutions to improve maternal and child health in communities affected by poverty. Their programs deploy community health workers, who improve maternal health by reaching out to mothers and their children, and include a women-led Health Financing Strategy, that enables women to access health loans and other financial resources. With their grant from WomenStrong, Mali Health will connect over 5,200 women in 220 savings groups to family planning information and services within the peri-urban communities outside Bamako, where they work.
  • Mujeres Aliadas (Mexico) uses community education, dignified and qualified healthcare, and formal midwifery training to strengthen sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and adolescents in and around Michoacán, Mexico. With WomenStrong support, Mujeres Aliadas will train professional midwives, midwifery students, and other healthcare professionals to educate patients about advocating for their healthcare rights and conduct community-based workshops about healthcare rights and women’s rights, with a goal of reaching over 1,000 people.
  • Projet Jeune Leader (Madagascar), a youth-led organization, provides adolescents with school-based comprehensive sexuality education and access to sexual and reproductive health resources. WomenStrong’s support will allow Projet Jeune Leader’s professional young educators to teach a 27-unit, year-long, rights-based and gender-transformative comprehensive sexuality education curriculum in 13 urban and peri-urban public middle schools in Madagascar — two of which are new partnerships. Projet Jeune Leader’s educators, who work full-time in their assigned schools, will also organize after-school programming, provide one-on-one counselling services, deliver medical referrals, run recreational spaces, and lead workshops for parents throughout the school year. 
  • Roots of Health (Philippines) addresses the lack of sexual and reproductive health knowledge among young people in Palawan through education, service delivery, and systems-strengthening. Focusing on the Palawan capital and its surrounding municipalities, WomenStrong’s grant will enable Roots of Health to hold reproductive health education sessions with parents, including strategies on how to talk to young people about sexuality. The grant also will support the training of Palawan’s municipal representatives, allowing Roots of Health to make continued progress with these leaders and ensure gains continue beyond the scope of WomenStrong’s support. 

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS

  • The Action Foundation (Kenya) builds inclusive and resilient communities where children and young people with disabilities can thrive. One of Action Foundation’s core programs focuses on the empowerment of women and girls, with a goal of enhancing livelihoods, resilience, and dignity for those with disabilities. WomenStrong International’s support will allow the organization to reach 120 women and girls with disabilities to become better self-advocates to prevent gender-based violence. The project also includes engaging men and other community influencers, such as village elders, law enforcement officers, chiefs, and religious leaders, to become community change agents.
  • Black Women’s Blueprint (USA) works with women and girls, including those identifying as transgender, to protect their civil and human rights. As part of the WomenStrong Learning Lab, Black Women’s Blueprint will pilot its sexual assault prevention program in New Orleans, Louisiana, using non-traditional ideas for tackling the greatest challenges facing women and girls in extreme urban poverty. Through the use of cultural interventions and community organizing, the project will reach 15,000 community members annually, with a special focus on vulnerable men who are most at risk of causing harm and engaging in violence against women.
  • Centro Mujeres (Mexico) in Baja California Sur, Mexico, empowers women, youth, and migrant communities to advocate for their human rights, including reproductive rights. Their advocacy, awareness-raising, and community engagement efforts promote positive social change and improve the quality of life for people living in vulnerable conditions. With WomenStrong’s support, Centro Mujeres will work for the eradication of sexual violence and forced sex of girls and teens through its school-based community action project, Prevención Somos Todos
  • Crown the Woman (South Sudan) is a women-founded and women-led organization that empowers girls and women in South Sudan to harness their potential and contribute to nation-building, economically, socially, and politically. In addition to their participation in the WomenStrong Learning Lab, Crown the Woman will receive technical assistance to strengthen their organizational knowledge and capacity to better serve the women and girls in their community.
  • Gender and Development Cambodia addresses gender-based violence by promoting mutual respect between men and women, enabling policymakers and institutions to address gender inequality, and strengthening support for gender equality at the national and local level. WomenStrong’s grant enables the organization to support vulnerable young women working in Phnom Penh in such exposed trades as garment manufacturing and sex work with valuable coaching and mentoring and to offer Training of Trainers workshops on topics including gender transformational leadership, sexual and reproductive health, and laws and policies.
  • Men Stopping Violence (USA) engages men to take action to end violence against women through training and community education and has reached over 500,000 individuals in its decades of powerful work. With WomenStrong support, Men Stopping Violence seeks to disrupt the “traditional family function” of violence by transforming the family unit into a force for gender equality and safety for women and girls. The new “Because We Are Family” community engagement program includes sessions exploring the construct of gender roles and rethinking the vital role of the family in stopping violence against women and girls.
  • Rwanda Women’s Network, dedicated to empowering Rwandan women, works with over 52 grassroots associations, cooperatives, and spaces that reach more than 4,000 people. WomenStrong’s grant supports the Network’s effort to shift attitudes, behaviors, and norms that contribute to intimate partner violence among couples in the Bugesera District. The project includes multiple strategies, including training on a curriculum to reach couples, capacity-building, and community-level conversations focused on strategies for reducing gender-based violence.

WomenStrong International is thrilled to welcome these powerful 13 organizations to our Learning Lab. Given their vast expertise and experience, we know how much they have to share with and learn from one another about what works in their respective communities and what can be adapted across geographies, to improve women’s health and reduce violence against women and girls.

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