There’s so much to do in 2018.
We live in a world tarred with monstrous inequity, discrimination, and cruelty leveled at entire populations. Our world is run, for the most part, by powerful, selfish men who don’t see this: lacking even a child’s sense of fairness, they don’t seem to “get” that their mothers and wives and sisters and children, and those of every other less fortunate man, have given so much, and given up so much, so that their men might thrive. Forced to forage within a cramped universe of career opportunities, women still work without equal pay, care for their families with no pay at all, and lack ownership of their bank accounts, property, even their bodies.
The situation for many is far worse. Victimized by sex slavery and trafficking, assaulted in the work place, terrorized in war zones, and commonly forbidden to attend school, walk in the street, and marry for love, countless women and girls worldwide remain in chains today.
So we need to get busy, doing what we can to make 2018 a better year for women, here and everywhere. Our own expertise at WomenStrong International lies in understanding what works to help impoverished women and girls across vastly different sociocultural settings meet their essential needs and move beyond extreme poverty.
Our efforts will not stop or resolve all injustices, heavens knows; but since women know best what they and their families need in order to thrive, women-led development is a good place to start.
At WomenStrong International, that’s what we do. Our Ghana Consortium member Women’s Health to Wealth has put in place a set of protocols, partnerships, training, and outreach that has reduced the neonatal mortality rate by 70 percent across the Ashanti region and is now changing policy and practice nationwide. In Haiti, our Consortium member, H.O.P.E., is delivering babies by emergency cesarean for the first time in a remote mountainous region where mothers in high-risk labor previously had little chance of survival. Our Consortium member in India, DHAN Foundation, has screened and treated more than 7,000 girls for anemia and established Girls’ Clubs where they learn about nutrition, menstrual hygiene, savings, and financial planning, and are encouraged to follow their dreams by pursuing careers in science, medicine, engineering, government, or the arts.
There’s so much more! And as a Consortium, we share what we do, take away what interests us, and adapt in our local settings those solutions that enable more girls and women to thrive.
In the year ahead, WomenStrong International will further the experimentation, knowledge-sharing, and advocacy around what works for women and girls in impoverished urban settings worldwide. As a social innovations lab, this is our primary mission. We have zeroed in on those arenas where our Consortium members’ programs are having significant impact: comprehensive women’s health care, girls’ education and youth development, and women’s economic empowerment.
Our mobile women’s health clinics, proving daily the efficacy of hub-and-spoke models of last-mile care, are practiced by our Ghana, Haiti, and India Consortium members, in close coordination with their national health ministries. Each Consortium member offers a range of reproductive health services, from H.O.P.E.’s prenatal visits and nutritional guidance for Haitian mothers-to-be, to the nurse and midwifery trainings in ultrasound, preeclampsia, and neonatal resuscitation offered in Ghana by Women’s Health to Wealth, together with WHW’s innovative low-resource neonatal units, where babies can be treated for minor ailments, freeing the neonatal intensive care unit for the sickest newborns. To share this knowledge well beyond our sites, later in 2018 we’ll be publishing a manual on operating Mobile Women’s Health Clinics, so that others providing health care to underserved women and girls can use what works, in chronically impoverished urban sites such as ours, and also in refugee and post-conflict settings.
WomenStrong International has also created Girls’ Clubs in all our overseas sites, to help girls excel, stay in school, strengthen their skills, confidence, and awareness, and build resiliency. Again, to share what we’ve learned, we will be publishing our new Girls’ Clubs Handbook in 2018, so that those working with girls in the West Bank, East Harlem, or Standing Rock can readily adapt our best practices, favorite lessons, and activities to their respective settings.
All WomenStrong Consortium members strive to financially empower the women and girls in their communities, through savings groups, revolving loans, and by helping them buy health and life insurance, grow or start small businesses, and link to mainstream financial institutions. Each Consortium member has thoroughly mapped the local economic ecosystem, a key prerequisite to helping women enter the public and private sectors when, heretofore, their entire working lives have been trapped in the world of informal trade and production.
This year we are also expanding our programming, training more community members to help reduce gender-based violence in our settings; initiating a global human rights conversation among public school students in Ghana, Kenya, and the U.S.; and partnering with a new American Consortium member, to address these challenges here at home. We are excited about the enhanced potential for peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing and cross-fertilization that makes our Consortium nearly unique, as we continue to share what we know, scale what works, and build the capacity of more girls, women, organizations, and whole communities to do the same.
Given the remarkable resilience, strength, and wisdom exhibited every day by the women and girls with whom we have the honor of partnering, perhaps together we can help today’s leaders appreciate and consider women’s rights and needs. If not, we’re training thousands of inspiring, fearless girls and women to take their places, to lead with empathy, strength, and vision, with no room for greed or self-interest. Changing the world, we call it: in other words, women’s work.