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 first of two posts.
TAO Women’s Association in the Philippines
Contributed by Maria of Maria Abroad
The TAO Women’s Association is an initiative of the TAO Expedition, an adventure tour company in the Philippines that puts high priority on sustainability. The TAO tours take adventurers on a sail boat expedition around remote islands of Palawan. Each night is spent on a different island at one of the many TAO camps. The TAO Women’s Association trains and employs local women to produce many of the things needed for the camps and the tours. They sew the mattress and pillow covers for the camps, make various vinegars from locally sourced products, cook food for the tourists and guides at the TAO base camp, and some are even trained to give massages. The initiative gives local women an opportunity to earn money on their home islands, so they can be with their families. Read about Maria’s experience here: TAO Expedition – Sustainable Travel in the Philippines.
Sambhali Trust in Rajasthan, India
Contributed by Lola of Miss Filatelista
I am currently volunteering as the communications officer for Sambhali Trust, a women’s empowerment NGO. The UN-recognized grassroots charity focuses on the development of disadvantaged Indian women and girls in Rajasthan. The charity has impacted 10,000 women and children in the last decade through 17 projects that focus on education, handicraft skills, self-help, and health. Sambhali Trust offers underserved women a year of vocational training in sewing, clothing manufacturing, embroidery, and block-printing. The organization also provides pro bono English and math lessons taught by international volunteers. These women gain financial independence through the artisan skills they learn. This income allows them to find a means to alleviate poverty and afford education, shelter and medical aid for their families. Sambhali Trust has partnered with Visit.org to offer travelers the experience to visit the Trust and learn about local textiles and henna art.
Holistic Initiative to Community Development (HOLD Uganda) in Eastern Uganda
Contributed by Romy of LEAP4change
Holistic Initiative to Community Development (HOLD Uganda) is a community-based organization operating in Bugulumbya Sub-county Kamuli District, Eastern Uganda. The organization aims to empower vulnerable and needy communities to become self reliant and to be able to effectively participate in their own community development initiatives. HOLD Uganda believes that working towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in a rural setting is a key pathway to achieving sustainable development. HOLD Uganda implements projects that promote child education and nutrition, household income improvement, women and youth economic empowerment through vocational skills and micro credit, health promotion, provision clean safe water, and promotion of effective sanitation and hygiene practices, as well as prevention of gender-based violence.
HOLD Uganda has launched their own DBZ pillow business where they equip women trainees with practical business skills in tailoring and designing, out of which they start their own businesses to earn income. Profits from the sale of pillows and other products from this business are used by HOLD Uganda to give out menstrual sanitary napkins to young adolescent girls in primary schools in the community. This is to address the fact that the majority of girls (80%) drop out of school when they start menstruating due to lack of training in menstrual hygiene management, menstrual materials and appropriate sanitation facilities at school. You can visit HOLD Uganda and witness their important work, first hand, on a Visit.org tour.
Women’s Education for Advancement and Empowerment (WEAVE) in Thailand
Contributed by Bianca of The Altruistic Traveller
Women’s Education for Advancement and Empowerment (WEAVE) is an organisation that aims to empower indigenous women from Thailand, Burma and regions throughout this part of Asia by supporting their needs and basic human rights. Some of WEAVE’s most important work is with women and children of refugee background, and the organisation runs women’s empowerment projects based in Karen and Karenni refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border. The projects provide opportunities such as education, healthcare and business ventures through fair trade.
“We understood that for refugee women poverty means more than having little or no income. It means lacking control over their income, even in the family. It means missing opportunities because they lack power and voice. It means missing out because they are undercounted, undervalued, underserved and underrepresented.” – Ms. Mitos Urgel, Executive Director of WEAVE.
Bianca recently published an article that talks about the WEAVE’s successful relationship with the World Fair Trade Organisation Asia: Empowering ethnic Burmese women through weaving.
Kanta, who received surgery in January (Photo credit: Make Love Not Scars)
Make Love Not Scars in India
Contributed by Alex of Like A Local Travel
I volunteered at Make Love Not Scars in 2016. It is a non-government agency that aims to provide acid attack victims in India with the opportunity to rebuild their lives through recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. Acid attacks are an extremely common crime in India as acid is widely available. Usually women are the targets of such attacks by the men whose sexual advances they have rejected. Make Love Not Scars was started by a young woman, Ria Sharma, and is run my a small team of female volunteers who fight daily to assist survivors in regaining their lives.
Savita painting beads for a necklace (Photo credit: Project Três)
Project Três in India
Contributed by Alex of Like A Local Travel
Project Três works to empower vulnerable women to regain control of their lives. I first met the creator of this incredible organisation, Carla Maria De Souza, while in India, and we instantly clicked. Project Três works to teach vulnerable women how to create beautiful necklaces out of recycled materials. This creates new economic and social opportunities for the women in the community. Carla has been working in an Ashram in Goa and also with the survivors from Make Love Not Scars.