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Spotlight on Women and Girls

by | Aug 12, 2022 | ShiftHappens

Over the last ten years, The Pollination Project has funded 2,208 woman-led projects, and 848 projects expressly focused on empowerment of women and girls. This work is diverse, unfolding across 77 countries, yet many commonalities emerge in reviewing the stories we’ve heard through the last decade. Below is a reflection on three broad themes, highlighting specific projects and examples from the field: 

Creative Responses to Gender-Based Violence 

According to the World Bank data center, Gender-based violence (GBV) or violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a global pandemic that affects 1 in 3 women in their lifetime. Our global community of grantees have initiated dozens of creative responses to this issue. 

One in particular that stands out is the work of Italian photojournalist Stefania Prandi. Her project “The Consequences” is a response to the sobering fact that a woman in Italy is killed every sixty hours, most often by a husband, boyfriend, or ex-partner. 

“When a woman is killed at the hand of a man, not only is that life destroyed, but whole families are affected. Those dealing with the consequences are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children. They’re the ones with shattered lives, memories kept alive by pictures, children to be lifted and comfortable, alongside the weight of the legal expenses and the humiliation in the courts, and in the media, where the behavior of the victims is questioned rather than that of the killer,” says Stefani.

Through intimate portraits, photos, objects, places, the look of someone who lives on after femicide and refuses to give in to gender-based violence, The Consequences shows a community of family members spread throughout Italy, who refuse to give in to inconsolable grief. Through their eyes, we can see the love they had for the women who were killed.

Her work humanizes the issue of GBV, helping the general public see these women as more than a statistic. For her efforts, Stefani has now been internationally recognized multiple times over through various awards and honors. 

Community-based Support for Period Poverty

Menstruation is a normal and healthy part of a girl’s adolescence, but many women have no access to feminine hygiene products or basic sanitation such as a shower and toilet. This, combined with entrenched cultural taboos around discussing feminine hygiene, causes menstruation to be a primary factor in truancy and dropout rates for girls. It can also leave women with no choice but to use unhealthy, unhygienic, and potentially dangerous items such as dirty old rags, scraps of cloth, or newspapers.

The Pollination Project has supported dozens of initiatives that directly address this issue, offering workshops and training to help women and girls learn to sew reusable pads, providing materials for them to do so, and assisting in community-wide distribution of feminine hygiene products. One project in particular was formed to make all of these local efforts infinitely more effective. 

Danielle Keiser founded The Menstrual Health Hub (MY Hub), a global and interdisciplinary Community of Practice for local leaders. Danielle realized that there are hundreds of initiatives, businesses and research projects working hard to address this issue, but most of them are not working in collaboration with others. This means that they are often duplicating efforts and missing out on good opportunities. For this reason she started this project to bring together, engage and impact the grassroots community.

The Hub is an online platform that goes beyond just menstrual health management. They embrace a more comprehensive holistic, cross-sector and interdisciplinary approach that brings all menstrual health practitioners and activists together. This includes international NGOs, grassroots organizations, researchers, policy makers, health workers, educators, investors, donors, corporations, social entrepreneurs, femtech companies, journalists and individual advocates.

“It’s crazy to think that periods are still a major taboo that can prevent people from participating in daily life. Why should something as natural as a reproductive vital sign hold anyone back? “

Learn more and connect with MY Hub through this video

Creating Opportunities for Financial Independence 

Globally, over 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men. Women are more likely to be represented in informal and vulnerable employment, and often bear significantly more responsibility in unpaid care and domestic work than men. Yet we know that when women have equal access to opportunities and training, economies, communities, and households all become more vibrant and secure. Across the world, TPP grantees are creating unique opportunities for women to participate more fully in the labor force.

One example of this is Dorcas Apoore. In her home country of Ghana, 1 in 5 girls are married before they reach adulthood, setting up a lifetime for women of working long hours in menial jobs to support growing families.

Through sheer determination, Dorcas forged a different path. She didn’t have books, a uniform, or even shoes, but Dorcas walked to school every day that she could. Although the journey had starts and stops as she searched for work to afford tuition, Dorcas finished school and went on to University. She never forgot the women in her rural village, and the profound disconnect between their ceaseless work ethic and inability to break out of the cycle of poverty. Many were talented artisans in traditional handicraft, yet couldn’t afford to feed their children. 

Dorcas decided to do something about this, and in 2017 approached The Pollination Project for seed funding to build a cooperative network of women-led basket weavers. They weave bright, beautiful, and artistic baskets of all shapes and sizes, using both repurposed and native materials. Dorcas has built partnerships with exporters to fetch a fair price for these works of art, and has offered financial literacy coaching to help the women in the collaborative open savings accounts.

From the humble beginnings of one small seed grant, Dorcas was able to receive other funding, gain international recognition, and build her labor of love. Today, her vision employs 429 women in Ghana. She has been able to personally facilitate the return to school for many others, and has helped relieve the financial burdens that result in families feeling forced to offer their daughters for early marriage.

You can learn more about Dorcas’ work through her organization’s Facebook page

These are just a few stories out of hundreds showcasing the tremendous opportunities that exist in empowering women and girls around the globe. If you would like to explore a few more, here is a map showing the geographic diversity of work TPP has funded since 2012: 

Written by Carolyn Ashworth