As women, we’ve come a long way but we still have so far to go. While the Women’s March highlighted gender disparities that still exist in this country, more progress needs to be made here and around the world. Even though we have the right to vote, attend school, and earn an income (though it’s still not equal to what our male counterparts make), those around the world do not.
In honor of Wednesday, March 8 being International Women’s Day we should celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women but also recognize the lack of progress in countries around the world and rally support for global action and gender equality.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BeBoldForChange. Here’s how you can help create a better working world and a more inclusive gender equal world for your daughter, her friends, and girls around the world by advocating for education, health care, and sustainable jobs like those provided by the Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative, Macy’s Heart of Haiti, and Rwanda Path to Peace lines that positively impact women around the world.
Learn About the Issues That Affect Women Around the World
The United Nations (UN) wants to help rid the world of extreme poverty, provide an equal education for girls and boys, and protect our environment for generations to come. In 2015 the UN adopted 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
Called the blueprint for the future, the Global Goals are the priority for the next 15 years. They serve as a sustainable way end extreme poverty, fight inequality and justice, and fix climate change in all countries for all people by 2030 and are very much intertwined. The effect of one impacts many other goals. Solving one helps girls and women around the world tremendously.
- Read this: My post, Stronger Together: How Our Voices & Actions Will Change the World, Is a Cliff Notes version Global Goals that breaks down each one into what you need to know, 3 facts about each goal, a resource to read, and way to take action. It’s a helpful primer on each of the 17 Global Goals.
- Get involved: I’m not recommending championing all 17 Global Goals. Instead, choose the one that resonates with you and your family or if you’re struggling to narrow your choices, the six question Global Goals quiz is a fun way to help you navigate the goals based on your own personal interests.
How to Advocate for Education, Health Care & Sustainable Jobs for Women and Girls Around the World
Advocate for Education for Girls Around the World
The idea of days without school and the opportunity to further educate our kids is almost impossible to imagine because our kids attend school for a majority of the calendar year. Education is a luxury that we often take for granted here in the United States. As my grandfather was fond of saying, once you have an education, it’s something that no one can ever take away from you but unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where everyone has an opportunity to go to school.
- Read This: I detail the importance of global education in my post, Why We Need to Provide Equal Access to Education for Kids Around the World.
- Watch This: I am Malala is an incredible book and He Named Me Malala is a powerful documentary that is age appropriate for some tweens, teens, and maybe even younger ages who can handle mature content. Kids of all ages will identify with the powerful message that Malala conveys about the importance of education.
Get involved advocating for girls education around the world through these organizations:
- ONE.org #GirlsCount— 130 million girls around the world today are out of school, through no choice or fault of their own. I’m joining ONE.org to make the world pay attention to these out-of-school girls by counting them. One by one. Out loud. All the way to 130 million, each number representing a real girl currently being denied an education. Emily and I chose #113 and made a video that’s up on the #GirlsCount site. If you believe that all girls deserve an education, I urge you to visit one.org/girlscount to lend your voice to a number and help girls around the world be counted.
- Pack for a Purpose— If you’re planning an international trip over spring break or this summer, leave a little extra room in your suitcase to pack much needed supplies for Pack for a Purposes’s education initiatives that provides 520 schools, after school programs, and libraries with the necessities they need to provide a proper education.
Advocate for Health Care for Women
We have the ability to decide whether we’re ready to start a family or not thanks to availability of contraceptives. When our kids are born, we can make a choice about whether or not to vaccinate our children because of community or herd immunity that exists in the population that helps keep unvaccinated kids healthy. When our kids get sick, we have health care that is easily accessible regardless of if we have health care or not. When our babies were born, we could choose whether we wanted to deliver them in a hospital with the help of an OB/GYN or use the assistance of a doula or midwife in a home birth. If you’re like me, you probably never had to wonder if your child would celebrate their first birthday because it was always just assumed that they would develop normally and be healthy.
Imagine not wanting to get pregnant but having no choice because the contraceptives you want aren’t available. Envision giving birth to your child on a dirt floor without the available of sterile instruments or medical supplies where a misdelivered placenta might cause postpartum hemorrhage and bleed to death. Or imagine that your baby was born and suffocated because no one could suck the mucus from their nose and mouth quickly enough due to lack of adequate tools. And maybe you and your newborn lived through the miracle that is labor and delivery in a developing country but the only information about raising your new infant came from others in your village who passed down knowledge and misinformation. From the information that was handed down to you, you believed that when your child spiked a fever, it was because of a divine power and didn’t seek medical attention in time. Once they were really sick, traveling to the nearest hospital from your rural home was far away but something you did just a little too late to save your baby. And this baby? It’s your fifth and you’re not quite 30. And quite possibly you’ve had other babies beyond your 5 who haven’t lived to see their first birthday.
All of these are real scenarios that made me pause while attending the Social Good Summit as a Social Good Fellow for the United Nations Foundation two years ago but it’s also important to understand how the current political landscape can affect healthcare. While we follow the news about ACA/Obamacare here, there’s another story unfolding around the world about reduced access to healthcare. Following the Women’s March, our President reinstated the “global gag rule” that bans U.S. federal funding for any international health organizations or NGS around the world that counsel women on family planning options, including access to safe abortions.
- Global gag rule is back: One of Trump’s actions targets the world’s women from GlobalFundForWomen.org
- What’s at Stake for Women: Threat of the Global Gag Rule from Center for American Progress
Get involved with these organizations that advocate for global women’s health:
- GlobalFundForWomen.org— Global Fund for Women campaigns for zero violence, economic, and political empowerment, and sexual and reproductive health and rights because these are the most critical building blocks for women’s human rights. The Global Fund for Women believes that when a woman has these rights, she can be strong, safe, powerful, and heard. I love this statement on their Key Issues page: “Only when women and girls are safe and free from violence; can earn their own money; can have an equal voice in their family and community; and can decide if, and when, they get married or have children, will we be able to say that they have equality and justice. History tells us that communities, countries, and economies are transformed when women have these fundamental rights.”
- Shot@Life— Shot@Life educates, connects, and empowers Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. One child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could be prevented with a vaccine. 1.5 million kids die every year. Pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio are just some of the vaccine-preventable diseases that disable or kill children every year. 1 in 5 lack the access to life-saving immunizations that keep children in the United States healthy.
- WTFP?!—The eye-catching acronym stands for Where’s the Family Planning. WTFP is an initiative that aims to meet the need for contraceptives and family planning to prevent 54 million unintended pregnancies, 79,000 maternal deaths, and 1.1 million infant deaths. Investing in family planning ultimately saves lives and empowers women by giving them a choice- a choice that they so desperately want but can’t get them. EngenderHealth, the leading global women’s health organization trains doctors and nurses so women in the poorest countries around the world can plan their pregnancies, have safer childbirths, and achieve their dreams.
Advocate for Sustainable Jobs That Empower Women
Money speaks and we have the power to change lives through the products we buy. Imagine wanting to earn an income but not having the access to resources, skills, or opportunities that could allow you to provide for yourself or your family. This is the daily reality of many women around the world. They need a hand-up, not a hand-out to lift themselves up out of poverty.
For many women, the hand-up comes in the form of access to resources, job training, and a structured program that allows them to create new or traditional products with their hands that can get them in the hands of buyers around the world. Empowering women through sustainable jobs has a long lasting impact.
Studies show that women are more likely to reinvest 90% of their income in food, education and healthcare for their children and their families. When women rise in their communities, the communities themselves rise to new heights of prosperity and health. Studies repeatedly show that there is a direct correlation between women’s empowerment and GDP growth, business growth, environmental sustainability, improved human health, and other positive impacts. Providing jobs to women creates a ripple effect, solving many of the 17 Global Goals.
The best way to support women around the world is to be conscious shoppers and purchase products that give back to them and their communities by providing sustainable jobs that allow them to earn an income.
Longtime blog readers are familiar with how the Artisan Business Network works on behalf of artisans in Haiti to ensure that traditional handcrafts are available in stores like Macy’s while Global Goods Partners serves as a conduit for Rwandan basket weavers whose products are sold through the Macy’s Path to Peace line. This International Women’s Day, I want to share Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative, another program that provides access to skills training, financial resources and mentorship to women entrepreneurs across the globe.
A model of corporate social responsibility, the 5by20 program aims to help 5 million women by 2020 by improving the lives of one woman at a time. Products like Coca-Cola labels and pull tabs are often discarded as waste but are turned into beautiful handmade products by women in countries like Turkey, Mexico, Uganda, Brazil, the Phillippines, and more. 5by20 programs impact women in more than 60 countries around the world.
Supporting women around the world by purchasing with a purpose creates economic empowerment and when like women like Maya Ibraham have money, they have choices. Maya is a mother and wife in Manado, Indonesia who is called crazy by those who know her because of her ambition. She has followed in her mother’s footsteps and continued her business of recycling bottles. Her entrepreneurial venture not only has created a sustainable business that allows her to earn an income but impacts the many she employs.
Maya’s story is one of many powerful examples of how womens’ lives are changed by 5by20. Sandy in Chimulahaucan, Mexico earns income from making gorgeous purses and iPad covers out of unusable consumer packaging. Benedicta from Uganda, collects used plastic straws and weaves them into bags, jewelry, mats, and even dresses. Having access to recycled products gives women an opportunity to upcycle them into products that they can sell in order to earn a living to support themselves, their families, their extended families, and their communities.
The Coca-Cola 5by20 program addresses some of the most common barriers that prevent women from succeeding in the marketplace by offering access to trainings, financial services, and peer-to-peer mentoring. It is a strong example of how when companies invest in the education and success of women, the economy improves, the community becomes stronger and more sustainable. One of the best thing about the 5by20 program is that everyone benefits – men, women and children. At the end of 2015, 1.2 million women were impacted in total through the initiative.
Read: My gift guide, Purchase with a Purpose & the Importance of Buying Gifts that Give Back is a treasure trove of online retailers who empower women around the world through sustainable job programs.
Get involved: Shop consciously and buying products from the women entrepreneurs who are empowered by the Coca-Cola 5by20 program. There are many gorgeous gifts to choose at a wide range of prices. Pictured below are some of the beautifully handcrafted items we received from 5by20 artists:
- Mitz Label Flower from Mexico ($6)
- Cop Madam Bottle Cap Purse from Turkey ($40)
- PFC Narrow Ring Pull Bracelet from the Phillipines ($14)
- Acacia Creations Can Giraffe from Kenya($33)
I received products from Coca-Cola’s 5by20 program; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.