Devote Yourself to creating something that gives you purpose . . .

"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning."

Tuesdays with Morrie, author Mitch Albom

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Winners of the Pulitzer Prize have written a thought provoking book called Half the Sky, Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

This book reveals how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. We as an organization focused on women empowering women look at the needs of local area businesses to create connections and provide support for one another. I feel that we in turn, should understand the needs and support women not only here, but also abroad. In 2005 as my husband and I prepared our home and our hearts to bring our daughter to the United States through an International adoption. I knew very little about the plight of women in other parts of the world. Needing to understand the circumstances which led to our daughter living in a Social Welfare Institute the first 12 months of her life, I began to pour through books about what might have caused her birth-mother, as well as millions of other women in Asia, to relinquish the rights to their daughters. Even though I approached this initially from a personal need so that I could answer the tough questions that may surface in our household someday, what I didn’t expect was the tremendous responsibility that knowledge places on the hearts of those who look for answers. I can no longer look at the world seeing only what surrounds me in my Midwestern home nestled in the middle of a country that encourages and supports women to be the best that they can be, I now look at cultural differences that do not allow women and girls to make choices about their future.

I will warn you, the book “Half the Sky” is not a feel good book. It is one that will bring you to tears, and make you sick to your stomach as you learn about female trafficking, life in brothels, and women who suffer devastating injuries during childbirth. I also learned that when we only throw money at issues, it seldom solves the problem. Learning about grassroots organizations and programs that are changing lives by finding solutions on how to get and keep you girls in schools showed me that it was not about resources, but how those resources were implemented. Something as simple as de-worming children to improve their attention, supplying iodine pills to increase the brains capacity to learn, and teaching young women about how to best handle their monthly cycle play a very important role in changing the lives of future generations.

Chapter eleven starts with a quote from Kofi Annan which reads “It is impossible to realize our goals while discriminating against half the human race. As study after study has taught us, there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” It is this chapter which explains why micro-loans created specifically for women-owned businesses are the best investments. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to truly make a difference in our world. 3 Degrees Connected supports micro-lending to women-owned businesses in many parts of the world including Asia, Africa, and South America. One of the criteria I use in assigning money to businesses I wish to support is how the funds will be applied, if the woman is interested in supporting her children’s education, and the likelihood that the woman (or group of women) are to repay their loans. The likelihood of repayment is important to me as I want to reinvest the same resources multiple times increasing the likelihood that small donations will have the great impact.

To find our Kiva lending team, click here.  In the upper left hand corner of that screen select the option "Loans" to see where our resources have been applied and learn a little about the ambitions of those needing our help.  You will see that we have helped women in eleven countries (Senegal, Uganda, Ecuador, Peru, Tajikistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Bolivia, Tanzania, Phillippines, and Togo). 

In addition to the 15 loans listed on our lending page (2009 contributions), our daughter, then age four, held a caused-based birthday party where she treated her friends to a princess tea party.  Forfeiting gifts she requested her friends consider donations for Kiva investments.  We were able to provide resources to six women's business all of which have repaid their loans allowing us to reinvest.   

If you wish to read about some inspiring women who have changed their life through education, there are many examples in the book "Half the Sky".  I would challenge us all to see what a difference we can make in our world in 2010.

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