Across the globe, women living in poverty face dire circumstances. When faced with war and political, social or ethnic conflict, their situations can become even more perilous. Women for Women International specializes in helping women victims of war become survivors. With a combination of financial aid, leadership education and technical skills and business training, these women are able to gain the confidence and skills they need to earn wages, build businesses and rebuild their lives.
Women for Women International was founded in 1993 to provide women in war-torn countries the resources and tools they need to get back on their feet again and find their place in society. The premise of Women for Women is simple – connect individual women in war torn countries with sponsors, typically in the United States. It’s these “sister to sister” connections that make Women for Women unique.
Participants in Women for Women begin first in a sponsorship program where they are matched one-to-one to a sponsor. They start by receiving financial support that enables them to deal with the immediate effects of their situation, whether they need food, health care, or other basic necessities. Sponsorship continues through the next portion of the program, the Renewing Women’s Life Skills program. Here women learn basic rights awareness, leadership education and vocational and technical training. The job skills they learn in the program correspond to a direct need in the community. Women may learn a variety of jobs such as beekeeping, carpentry, basket weaving, electrical repair or embroidery.
Women for Women also offers a microcredit lending program to participants who qualify. This program is designed to help women start and run their own small businesses. Once approved, participants attend workshops where they learn basic business skills, such as accounting, production and idea generation. With the program’s help, women prepare a business plan. At the program’s completion, they are given a small loan to start their business as well as continuing support in business skills. The program has been so successful that in two pilot countries, women have been able to repay 98% of the loans they’ve received.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is widely known as one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. It is estimated that in some villages, 90% of the women have been raped, with many of them becoming sexual slaves to their captors for months on end. Lucienne was one such woman. Shunned after returning to her village after her attack, Lucienne turned to Women for Women International for help. Women for Women connected her with a sponsor. With support she has received, Lucienne has learned to cook and make soap. She hopes to start her own business some day.
Aja is another program participant who lives in Nigeria. After Aja lost her only son, she enrolled in Women for Women International. With help she received from her sponsor and skills she learned by attending business and vocational trainings and workshops, Aja was able to open a small shop where she sells cooked food. She is also working with another group of women in a cooperative that is in the process of securing land for raising pigs. She now has plans to enroll in adult literacy classes.
How You Can Help
To date, Women for Women has served more than 250,000 women like Lucienne and Aja in eight different countries, including: Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda and the Sudan. Through their direct aid and microcredit program, they have distributed over $79 million. To help them reach even more women, consider helping Women for Women by becoming a sponsor, or by making a contribution to the microlending program.