03.14.10 9:36 AM ET
Solutions for Women in the World
We heard heartbreaking stories at the summit—but also learned about solutions that are working for women and girls. See our Cheat Sheet of innovative, effective ideas from the weekend's participants, from micro-loans to mobile phones to cash incentive programs. Plus click here to read about non-profits featured at Women in the World that need your support. Donate now!
Michelle Obama, Call a First Ladies' Conference
To combat mass rape in Liberia and throughout Africa, activist Leymah Gbowee suggested that Michelle Obama host a conference for African first ladies. Gbowee is furious that the crime of rape in war zones often goes unpunished. “We were walking up to international presidents and saying, ‘This is what we want, we’re tired of being raped,’” said Gbowee, who along with 2,500 other women marched into the offices of Liberia's then-President Charles Taylor and refused to leave until he heard their demands. Gbowee says the Obama administration is so respected on the continent that if the American first lady were to call a meeting to combat the problem, her African counterparts wouldn’t just show support: “Everyone would come running.”
HIre Survivors of Human Trafficking
With more than 8 million women and girls are trafficked into sex slavery and coerced labor--and survivors need just as much help as today’s victims. That is why Luis CdeBaca, President Obama’s ambassador for anti-trafficking, and Sunitha Krishnan, founder of the Indian anti-trafficking organization Prajwala, argued that businesses should make a special effort to hire them. Investing in survivors, Krishnan said, offers them opportunities after they have been ostracized through no fault of their own. “They are so talented,” CdeBaca said. “Hire them, invest in them, and support them.”
To learn more:
Build Women's Shelters in Afghanistan
Nine of 10 Afghan women have experienced a human-rights violation, and the majority of marriages are arranged, some between grown men and girls as young as 10 years old. Suraya Pakzad, founder of the Voice of Women organization, suggested that Americans tell their elected officials to fund women’s shelters in Afghanistan. Presently, there are only eight or nine for the entire country; Pakzad’s solution would be to help fund at least one shelter for every province.
To learn more: Voice of Women
Inspect Supply Chains
Because major companies outsource so much of their production down the supply chain, they are often caught unwittingly using trafficked or enslaved laborers. Ambassador Luis CdeBaca and others argued that companies should take regular audits of their suppliers to make sure they are not acting as enablers to human trafficking. Brazil, for instance, already has similar measures in place under the Brazilian National Pact, which conducts in-depth research into industrial supply chains in order to red-flag firms with exploitative labor practices.
To learn more: Reporter Brasil
Get Men on Board
It’s an unfortunate truth: There is little hope for female empowerment without the support of local men. Molly Melching of Tostan said it is difficult to eradicate female genital cutting because so many women support it. “That is because they think the men will require that, and also because it has led to them having a certain status in society. It’s like their initiation into a higher level of womanhood,” Melching told The Daily Beast. The solution? Convince men that change is in their own interest—that if a woman has been devastated by a coerced marriage or genital cutting, she won’t be as good a mother or homemaker.
To learn more: Tostan
Pay Families That Embrace Change
For poor parents, marrying a teenage daughter off to an older man means one less mouth to feed at home. But what if keeping a daughter in school paid just as much? That’s what the United Nations is trying in Ethiopia, where farm families earn a ewe or a hen after daughters complete two years of school. Early marriage has decreased by up to 90 percent in some villages. Shasha Admas, now 20, was married at 15. She now wistfully watches her younger peers participate in the program. “It’s a missed opportunity,” she told The Daily Beast. “That could have been me.”
To learn more: The U.N. Population Fund
Publicize Victims’ Stories
Disgusted by the violent rape of hundreds of thousands of women and girls in her native Congo, activist and journalist Chouchou Namegabe collected victims’ stories and bought local radio time to air them. When people heard survivors describe being violated while their children looked on, the stigma began to lift, and it became difficult for political leaders to ignore the problem. “I see a situation where rape is used as a weapon to destroy a community,” Namegabe said. “I shared women’s testimonies.”
To learn more: The South Kivu Women’s Media Association
Support a Woman Entrepreneur through Microcredit
Microcredit sites allow every concerned citizen to become a highly effective philanthropist, connecting donors with developing world entrepreneurs who need loans to start up or scale up. On Kiva, for example, a 50-year old Kenyan mother named Rose—a former farmer—is looking for $675 to expand her ladies’ clothing store. Jacqueline Novogratz’s Acumen Fund uses a similar strategy, which she calls “patient capital.” Novogratz told The Daily Beast, “In an interconnected world we have no choice but to think of ourselves as one tribe…We’re vested in each others’ success.”
Give a Woman a Phone
Twitter and text messaging pushed the pro-democracy message of Iran’s Green Movement to the world. In poor and middle-income countries, though, women are much less likely than men to own a cell phone, making it difficult for them to find a job, launch a business, or communicate independently with friends and family—especially important if they are experiencing domestic violence or other forms of coercion. Cherie Blair, the British human rights lawyer, said, “Every woman, wherever she lives, needs a mobile phone.”
To learn more: Cherie Blair Foundation For Women
On International Women’s Day, March 8, thousands of Rwandan and Congolese women met on a bridge, together demanding an end to the conflicts tearing apart their communities and overturning the ingrained ideologies that teach their children to hate each other. These brave activists “reject the narrative of violence and poverty they have inherited,” said Women for Women International founder Zainab Salbi. “Like life, peace begins with women.”
To learn more: Women for Women International