We don’t need to go into the specifics of the injustices many women face around the world. You know what they are. Maybe you live them. It can be difficult for both men and women to sometimes believe that women are at some sort of disadvantage, especially in a first-world country like America. We have our first female vice president right now. There was the emergence of the #MeToo movement in recent years. It’s not like women are oppressed here the way they are in some places where they aren’t allowed to drive or leave their homes without a male chaperone, right? Well, hold it right there. In order to progress, we need to compare our current situation to what we want to be. It’s just our first female vice president. The first ever. And the #MeToo movement didn’t come up until women, too many to count, suffered harassment, silently, for centuries. What about the exposure of the gender pay gap? It’s been discussed, but not necessarily fixed.
We still have quite a ways to go before we, even America, can call ourselves a place where women aren’t oppressed. Maybe women don’t face as much as other groups, but we still face a lot of mistreatment. Being late to rights like voting and property ownership, women still fight an uphill battle towards goals that live on a smoother playing ground for men. So if you’re going to let your money support your values this Women’s History Month, give it to these nonprofits benefiting women here and around the world. Let’s even the playing ground.
Figure Skating In Harlem
This is a unique organization that grew into much more than what was originally intended and is making a tremendous impact on the lives of young Black girls in Harlem. The idea behind the organization is to teach leadership skills and discipline through the lens of figure skating. In addition to receiving figure skating training, the pupils also receive lessons in nutrition, health, and fitness, and engage in education programs with mentors, tutors, and teachers, all meant to improve study, literacy, and communication skills. The program aspires to see each student go to a four-year college, and as such, has recently instituted its College Access Program, which educates parents and kids on how to be ready for college.
The Orchid Project
Reading about this one can be shocking, but it’s important to open our eyes to what is happening. Genital mutilation is still a common practice in many cultures around the world, and is a violation of human and reproductive rights. Furthermore, it is often practiced in third-world communities that do not have the tools to do it in a safe manner, putting the lives of women at risk for this inhumane tradition. The Orchid Project partners with grassroots organizations and leaders to increase awareness, change policies, educate communities, and create a movement that hopefully ushers us towards a world with no more female genital cutting.
School Girls Unite
In some African communities, less than 25 percent of girls make it to the 7th grade, and one-third of young girls will become child brides, walking away from education and higher pursuits entirely before turning 18. Those that don’t get married off stay home to take care of family, or don’t feel safe going to school. The org School Girls Unite aims to fight education inequality. While it’s still a small organization, its ambitions are mighty, and as of their last report, they are funding the education of 20 14-year-old girls living in various African villages. They run a volunteer-based program that makes it possible for these girls to attend a full year of school for only $75.
Women’s Global Empowerment Fund
The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund works to provide opportunities to marginalized groups of women to better their situations through social, political, and economic programs. They offer business and leadership training, microloans, as well as startup health initiatives for underserved groups of women. Their focus is in Northern Uganda, but they have partners all over the world. They’ve managed to capture the attention of and partner with some well-known brands such as Urban Decay Cosmetics, Elieen Fisher, and Clif Bar. The organization also puts on a regular Drama Festival in Northern Uganda, where some of their members perform original stories depicting inequality issues they face such as land rights and violence.
Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund
Too often women remain silent about sexual harassment in the workplace, for fear that their employers will see them as a “nuisance” and do nothing at all to help them, or worse – penalize them for the “trouble” they cause. Not all women who are harassed can afford the legal fees that would be required to fight their harasser in court, and/or the company that did not protect them. The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is backed by the National Women’s Law Center and helps provide legal assistance to women battling sexual harassment cases in court. Their umbrella group, the Time’s Up Foundation, also spearheads research to provide solutions to inequality in the workplace, as well as shift workplace culture to be more hospitable to women.
Pathfinder International works to provide sexual and reproductive health services to underserved communities around the world, particularly those who have been displaced or affected by natural disaster or war. They partner with community organizations to make sure women have access to education about their sexual health, family planning services, and actual medical services like birth control and safe abortions. They also lead programs to slow and stop the spread of HIV in the most affected areas and improve health services in places that suffer disproportionate rates of maternal and newborn death. You can see a full breakdown of their projects here, including an initiative to prevent cervical cancer in Ethiopia.
Dress for Success
Dress for Success aims to keep women up to date on best practices for job interviews and give them the skills to thrive when they get the job. As the name suggests, they donate professional attire to working women (which is one thing you can also donate, if you can’t donate money). But they also offer job interview training, education in certain skills, mentoring, and networking opportunities. They partner with corporations and job training agencies around the world to offer their services and make it easy for interested parties to set up affiliate programs in their own cities. Dress for Success has been helping women since 1997 and has only continued to grow. It’s now in over 25 countries.
Casting for Recovery
Doing something a bit different, Casting for Recovery was founded by a breast reconstructive surgeon and a professional fly fisher who offers fly fishing retreats to women with breast cancer at no cost to the participants. Why fly fishing? The motion of fly fishing can be a gentle form of physical therapy for women who have undergone surgery in the upper parts of their bodies. Furthermore, the activity takes women to serene and beautiful locations to benefit from the therapeutic powers of nature. The organization serves over 700 women each year in over 57 retreats. Medical and psychosocial professionals lend their services and expertise to the program to make it safe and rewarding.
While domestic abuse is not a gender-specific issue, statistically, women are more affected by it than men, with one in four women being assaulted at some point in their life compared to one in nine men. Harbor House seeks to address domestic violence at every stage and ultimately hopes to eliminate it. They offer shelters to adults and children escaping violent situations, in addition to crisis intervention services. They also work to promote awareness and advocate for policies that better protect the victims of domestic abuse. The organization provides legal and mental health services to individuals in some of the counties where they operate.
Equality Now writes in their mission statement, “We use a unique combination of legal advocacy, regional partnership-building, and community mobilization to encourage governments to adopt, improve, and enforce laws that protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world.” Their immersive program touches on every type and depth of gender inequality, partnering with lawyers, policymakers, grassroots organizations, and even survivors of extreme inequality situations to both spread awareness and create real change. Their legal partners work with local governments to combat matters like sex trafficking, sexual violence, and genital mutilation.