March 7, 2017
SARAH MIDDLETON, Contributor
This past Valentine’s Day, Americans spent just over $18 billion on jewelry, flowers, cards, a night out for their sweetheart, and more.
For many, this was money well spent, but Valentine’s Day also offers a unique opportunity to examine our spending habits and reflect on how we allocate our resources. What if we had taken just a fraction of that $18 billion and directed it toward ensuring better lives for half of our global population?
What if instead of giving candy and chocolates, our gifts supported education and leadership programs to help women become successful business owners who were then able to feed their children, send their boys and girls to school, and break the cycle of poverty.
Several months ago, my organization decided to align with a number of impactful women-focused nonprofits to both promote and celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. So, together, we formed a network for change called WomenForward – 12 nonprofits and one funder – intent on empowering and advancing girls and women around the world.
Our group is tearing down barriers to education for young women in post-conflict and developing countries; combating rape culture by empowering survivors; championing girls’ voices by providing mentors; helping low-income and immigrant women launch new careers and start or scale new businesses; and so much more.
Achieving gender equality can’t be done just by eradicating violence against women, preventing early and forced marriage, or ensuring that women have the same access to educational and financial resources as men. Achieving true gender equality means tackling a host of complex issues, many deeply ingrained societal barriers that prevent progress. It requires a dedicated global partnership that brings together governments, civil society, and the private sector.
How can you help? Join us.
● Put your dollars to work! Support organizations that build sustainable opportunities for women and girls in the U.S. and globally. Shop merchants like Hot Bread Kitchen, Mercado Global, Nomi Network, Plum Alley, Same Sky, Shopping for a Change, and Thistle Farms. Your purchasing power can offer on-the-job training, provide employment, and fund community improvement projects for women.
● Get involved. Consider investing (using your time or money) with a gender lens. Additional partners who support sustainable efforts are: Callisto, Figure Skating in Harlem, Girls Write Now, Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA), Plan International USA, Rising Tide Capital, SHE-CAN, Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), and Trickle Up. We are all looking for champions to help us further our respective and collective missions.
● Use your voice to advocate. Mentor, speak up for your vulnerable neighbor, share stories of hope or action, and advocate for women’s rights and opportunities through research, policy platforms, and communications with your elected officials. Consider finding a friend or 12 friends like we did; you can connect and conspire for good, together, and really amplify your voice. Your voice, whether written or spoken, is a symbol of your leadership.
● Use your mouse. If you do nothing else, learn more about us and visit our websites, which you can view here. Or follow us on social media. With a few clicks, you can make quite an impact.
We’ve seen just how women can come together around the world to advocate for their rights. Let’s harness the power of women working together. Please join us to unlock the potential of women around the world as we tear down the walls standing in the way of full economic, social, and political inclusion. We’ve acknowledged the challenges, we’ve prepared the actions we need to take to right the wrongs, and so let’s get out there and do it: now.