Today is International Women’s Day, which is dedicated to celebrating “the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.” However, it also recognizes that in many places in the world – even in the developed world – women are still being systemically denied many of the same rights and opportunities that men enjoy.
To honor the day, I asked some fellow travelers to recommend organizations they know that are working to uplift and empower women around the world. This is the second of two posts (Read the first post here: Organizations Empowering Women around the World).
Sundara Foundation in Mumbai, India
Contributed by Ellie of Soul Travel Blog
Based in Kalwa slum, on the very edges of bustling Mumbai, the Sundara Foundation is India’s first soap recycling program. Currently employing 26 women from the surrounding slum areas — who would otherwise lack the opportunities to find work — Sundara is providing a new source of hope. 70 million Indians currently do not know what soap is or cannot afford it, and as a result people die each year from preventable diseases that take hold due to lack of hygiene.
Sundara relies on hotels such as Abode Boutique Hotel in Mumbai that donate unwanted soap and soap ends. The hundreds of kilos of soap waste from all over Mumbai is taken, broken down, purified, sanitised, and recycled into new soap bars. Each month soap and hygiene trainings are delivered to more than 2,000 children in some of India’s poorest slum areas.
Soap literally becomes hope for the women working for Sundara and those to whom they distribute the soap. You can visit support the Sundara Foundation by donating, or if you are in Mumbai, you can visit the Gabriel Project Mumbai that oversees Sundara via Visit.org.
some of the artisan goods made by the women as part of Huaywasi, LLI’s fair trade program
The Light and Leadership Initiative in Huaycan, Peru
Contributed by Erin of The Epicurean Traveler
In the low-income Lima, Peru, district of Huaycan, The Light and Leadership Initiative (LLI) seeks to improve the availability and quality of education for local women and children. The women’s empowerment program offers educational workshops and certificate courses in subjects such as computer literacy, financial education and nutrition to more than 80 local women each year. Almost a self-sustainable program, the women’s program is mostly funded by LLI’s fair trade project. Called Huaywasi, the artisan program has helped seven local women, all LLI women’s empowerment program participants, produce beautiful and practical handmade bags, apparel and home decor available on Huaywasi.com.
the Solar Sister Summit Team at the bottom of Kilimanjaro in June 2015
Solar Sister in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria
Contributed by Nicole of thirdeyemom
The statistics are astounding. Today, 1.6 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity – one-quarter of the world’s population. Can you imagine a life without electricity? How would you do anything after the sun sets and how would you keep your family safe at night? Even worse, 70% of the people without light are women and girls who must rely on harmful and expensive kerosene lanterns and candles. Without light, they are at greater risk of physical and sexual violence as they walk through dark, rural areas. Other critical things such as health care and education suffers as women are unable to deliver safely in the dark and children cannot study once the sun goes down. Life without electricity is unimaginable.
But the future is very bright. “Advances in portable clean-energy technology like solar, clean cookstoves, and mobile charging mean we already have the technologies required to leapfrog from the age of archaic kerosene cans to that of sustainable energy for all,” says Katherine Lucey, founder of Solar Sister. “We also have the tremendous power of women’s networks and ingenuity to light up the world. Women and girls may be the most affected by the problem, but they are also the most effective at forging a solution.” This is the premise behind the start of Solar Sister.
Solar Sister eradicates energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity. They combine the breakthrough potential of clean energy technology with a deliberately woman-centered direct sales network to bring light, hope and opportunity to even the most remote communities in rural Africa. To date, there are more than 2,500 Solar Sister Entrepreneurs spreading light, hope and opportunity throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Read more about Nicole’s experience here: Solar Sister: Providing Light and Hope in Sub-Saharan Africa.
SASANE in Kathmandu, Nepal
Contributed by Lauren of Twirl the Globe
SASANE is ran by survivors of human trafficking for survivors. SASANE has four key programs that help empower women and make a change. Their paralegal program helps train survivors to become certified paralegals so they can provide free access to their services to other survivors. The Sisterhood of Survivors program is for survivors who lack a high school diploma and can’t become certified paralegals. This program was created to provided training to girls in the hospitality industry through offering a lunch program and momo making course which helps with their culinary skills, customer engagement and conversational English. On top of these core programs, SASANE works to educate those in school and communities with their outreach programs on human trafficking issues in Nepal. Read more about Lauren’s experience here: Visiting Nepal’s Survivors of Human Trafficking at the SASANE Project.
AusCam Freedom Project in Cambodia
Contributed by Bianca, The Altruistic Traveller
AusCam Freedom Project is a registered Australian charity that aims to empower adolescent girls from impoverished communities to break the cycle of poverty and exploitation with education and holistic support. Some of their projects include life skills & development programs, girls empowerment clubs, learning labs and health workshops for women and girls throughout Cambodia.
The 2015 short film Sophea’s Dream, directed by UK Film Director Ross Harrison for AusCam Freedom Project, highlights the work being done empowering girls through education in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
“Opportunities at AusCam and my personal life experiences have inspired me to want to be a social worker. Seeing poverty and tough living situations surrounding me in my country make me want to be a social worker so that I can help girls and people in Cambodia.” – Sophea from Sophea’s Dream
Osmose in Cambodia
Contributed by Bianca, The Altruistic Traveller
Osmose is a not-for-profit association that started work in 1999 in the floating village of Prek Toal in Cambodia. The project’s objectives include the conservation of the water bird colonies of Prek Toal, the protection of the environment and the sustainable development of the local communities through tourism and fair trade, helping to reduce poverty and improve the livelihood of the poorest families that live in the floating villages.
In 2004 the organisation established the Saray Tonle Water Hyacinth Handicraft Program, a program that offers employment to the women of the floating villages of the Tonle Sap Lake. Starting with only 16 women, today 21 women work for Saray Tonle, giving them opportunity to be involved in the local economy of the village and benefit from a sustainable income.
Osmose recently obtained some funds from the Belgian Cooperation to build a floating workshop. The workshop is now a cooperative/community project which is fully managed by the women, with the advice and facilitation of Osmose when needed.