25 Years of Courage, Millions of Lives Touched… Now Is the Time to Match Her Courage

By Laurie Adams, CEO Women for Women International

I was recently visiting our program in Northern Nigeria. One of the many courageous women we are serving there is Kangyang Grace. She lost everything when armed men attacked her community. They killed her husband and young son in front of her eyes and shot her in the leg, leaving her with long term disability. None of this has deterred Kangyang. She is as resolved as ever to build a life for herself and her children and to contribute to her community. Despite her pain and trauma, Kangyang has joined our program to learn new skills and start a business. And with the sisterhood of her classmates, she is beginning to heal.

Kangyang Grace in Nigeria. Photo Credit: Kassim Braimah

Kangyang is only one of the hundreds of thousands of courageous women served by Women for Women International (WfWI) in the past 25 years. From Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we’ve had the honor of serving some of the most courageous and resilient women of our world. It is because of their power, their voices, their stories, and their transformation that we often say: “One woman can change anything. Many women can change everything.”

When Zainab Salbi and Amjad Atallah founded WfWI in 1993, it was to stand in solidarity with women experiencing horrific violence, conflict, and extreme poverty, and to help them recover and thrive. Our transformative yearlong program has given more nearly 500,000 women business and vocational skills and knowledge about their rights and health as well as a healing network of sisters. Over the years, thanks to our generous supporters, the programs we have pioneered have become staples of international development and humanitarian response efforts. In that time, the world has made great strides to advance women’s rights and expand access to opportunity. More girls are in school. More women are working and hold political office and leadership positions. Ending violence against women is a public policy priority and women around the world have greater legal protections in employment, property ownership, and marriage.

WfWI and women around the world have come a long way but there is still a long way to go before women are afforded equal rights and opportunities. Women still make more than 70 percent of modern-day slaves. At least one in three have experienced physical or sexual violence and in countries such Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, up to 70 to 90 percent of women have faced violence.

To end these inequalities, we must have a commitment bigger than before. This is why at WfWI, we are launching our boldest campaign yet: Match Her Courage. Though this campaign, we will reach more women, increase our impact and influence, and ensure that the most marginalized and impoverished women of our planet have a chance at reaching their full potential.

Here’s our plan:

1. We will deliver and expand our services in the countries we work in. This campaign will help us gather the resources and funding we need to build upon our transformational program to serve an additional 50,000 women. It will also allow us to expand new efforts such as savings groups and men’s engagement programs.

2. We will launch in new countries to respond to crisis. Through Match Her Courage we will establish a Conflict Response Fund to speed up our ability to support women in need, through partners that are serving vulnerable women in crisis-affected regions. This fund will allow us to issue small grants to local organizations that can provide immediate support to women in their community who are affected by conflict.

3. We will help sustain peace. After 25 years of work, we know that the impact of conflict is never over after the gun stop firing. This is why even in post-conflict countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo we will work with partners and affiliates to support women’s empowerment. Though we will respond to the crisis of the day, our work is far from over when global attention has moved on.

4. We will innovate and transform. WfWI has been a trailblazer in the international development space since our founding. Men’s engagement, cash transfers, our core programming — the tools we pioneered have now become standard practice among international NGOs. We want to continue to be at the forefront of innovation by funding initiatives dedicated to encouraging creative ideas, particularly from our country teams, to serve marginalized women more effectively.

5. We will influence change. Armed with local knowledge and decades of experience as well as the authentic voices of the women and the communities we serve, we will influence change in development work and global agenda around gender equality.

Celebrating in South Sudan. Photo Credit: Brian Sokol

The fact is, we don’t have the capacity to serve everyone. Right now, there are dozens of countries on our “watch list” — places where women and their families desperately need our support. And thousands more women in the countries where we already operate wait patiently, hoping that today will be the day we can offer them space in one of our programs and give them the opportunity to learn and grow.

The courageous women we serve are peacebuilders at the front lines, rebuilding war-torn homes and societies from the ground up. Women for Women International gives them the tools and skills they need to escape poverty and become self-sufficient, for themselves, their children, and their communities. Their strength empowers their villages, cities, and ultimately nations.

We know that there is an urgent need to expand our efforts. The success of this campaign will make that possible.

Join us and Match Her Courage.