Finding Inspiration and Hope: A Tribute for International Women’s Day
Many of you may be aware, but tomorrow is International Women’s Day. This global holiday celebrates women everywhere and recognizes their economic, political and social achievements that have made a significant impact around the world.
We are extremely fortunate today to have a guest blog post from Afshan Khan, President and CEO of Women for Women International (WfWI) — a non-profit global organization that works in post-conflict regions to help the most marginalized women access critical support, education, job skills and vocational experiences to find new ways to earn an income and become part of the value chain in war-torn communities around the world.
To meet the demand for more WfWI programs, Afshan travels around the world, sharing powerful stories of survivors of war, along with results from impact data that shows the systematic changes taking place when the organization invests in women. WfWI invites individuals to sponsor women and enroll in the program, and they encourage industry partners to invest in the products and services of the newly-trained women by purchasing their goods and employing their services. As they say, “there is a role for everyone to inspire change and invest in women.”
Since 2012, Hyatt’s Andaz brand and WfWI have worked together to provide skills training and income generation opportunities for Iraqi women who are producing special laundry bags that are in all Andaz guestrooms around the world. Additionally, each Andaz hotel sponsors a woman, which provides additional support to other war-torn communities in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan, among others.
A very special thank you to Afshan for writing this fantastic guest blog post and answering some questions we had for her, which highlight where she finds her inspiration and why it’s important to celebrate women not just on International Women’s Day but every day.
Women are the missing piece to building long-term peace. This belief fuels my energy and passion. When a woman learns skills that help her family stay healthy and can increase her earnings and contribute to the family’s financial security, the ripple effect changes the future for her children and her community.
Women for Women International developed an effective skills program that has served over 400,000 people and benefitted more than two million people. The success of this program is not anecdotal; impact data monitoring women before and after the graduation points to many successes – from eating healthier foods and accessing health care to preventing violence at home. Three years after enrolling, graduates see their ability to earn an income increase six-fold. After the program women find work, applying their vocational skills to earning money, opening savings accounts and participating in community life, often sharing lessons with other women. The ripple effect is powerful.
What Does International Women’s Day Mean for You?
Twenty years ago we witnessed the genocide in Rwanda and the rape camps in Bosnia. Those events inspired the founding of Women for Women International to create a way for women to invest in the renewal of survivors. After 20 years of working in war torn countries, this day is an opportunity to celebrate the courage of the socially-excluded women who refuse to give up.
This year, International Women’s Day is a time to share stories of women like Angelique Mukankubana, a Rwandan widow who lost her two children. Seven years ago she joined our 12-month program and transformed her life. Finding support, she learned how to make bricks and quickly acquired skills to join a brickmaking cooperative. That training was made possible with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and her success led to her selection as a participant in Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative where she brought back key lessons benefiting the cooperative so her network could grow stronger. Investing in her inspired change in Rwanda.
Today Angelique runs a brick making business, employs women who graduate from our year-long program, and represents what is possible when we invest in women. This day is about celebrating her story and the powerful women like her around the world who are survivors who rebuild their lives, one brick at a time.
What or Who Inspires You?
Two weeks ago I was in Rwanda to celebrate the launch of programs at the Women’s Opportunity Center in the Kayonza District. The Center bridges the gap between the rural communities where women live and the city where markets and merchants purchase goods. The campus buildings are constructed of beautiful hand-made bricks — ½ million produced by Angelique’s brickmaking cooperative. The Women’s Opportunity Center is inspiring because it represents in its physical form what is possible when we work together. It is also inspiring for what it offers — an innovative convening space and learning center for women to find support and access skills and enriching programs.
What Quote Do You Live By?
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” (Rumi)
What Advice Do You Give Others?
Don’t underestimate the importance of support networks – we all need them. Be tenacious, thoughtful, and passionate. When you face challenges and obstacles, your “team” is a resource to cheer you forward.