Category Archives: Grantees

CWEN: Cultivating Women Entrepreneurs

New Grantee: Community Women’s Enterprise Network (CWEN)

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

Uganda was described as “the pearl of Africa,” by Winston Churchill, referring to the country’s natural beauty, rich landscapes, and good climate. But unfortunately, as The Foundation for Sustainable Development reports, “the country currently ranks as one of the 20 poorest nations in the world and 50% of the population lives below the poverty line.” The majority of the population lacks basic resources and infrastructure from running water to health care and education and now 1 million citizens are infected with HIV/AIDS.

SAM_6355

Women in Uganda face even more health risks and employment barriers as they are at greater risk of HIV/AIDS infection, face lower social status than men, and lack economic self-sufficiency. For most women, this reduces their access to education, power to act independently, ability to avoid poverty, and their power to escape reliance upon abusive men.

Facing these discriminations, risks, and barriers to controlling their own livelihood, women in Uganda are in desperate need of new and innovative opportunities. Community Women’s Enterprise Network (CWEN) was created to do just that.

CWEN was founded in 2012 by a group of passionate young women looking for new opportunities for women in their communities. The young women were selected by their own communities in the districts of Kampala, Mukono, and Wakiso to run the organization. Now, only a few years later, they have a network of 220 low-income women entrepreneurs. CWEN’s mission is to build the entrepreneurial capacity of women to overcome economic and social barriers and achieve self-sufficiency. Their programs focus on micro lending and value chain development for women entrepreneurs, plus social research and impact measurement. Their proposed project, Women on the Shelf, aims to help low income, high potential women entrepreneurs gain shelf space in leading local and regional stores and get their products flying off the shelves. Women on the Shelf focuses on cultivating and strengthening the capacity of women food entrepreneurs and other products through branding, packaging, marketing, merchandising and promotions so products will fetch higher prices, doubling incomes for women producers and expanding their markets locally and globally.

A Spark grant will cover:

  • Support for 41 low-income, high potential female entrepreneurs through CWEN’s Women on the Shelf project.
    • This support includes: branding, packaging, marketing, and merchandising their products; project team staffing, transportation, plus monitoring and evaluation costs.
  • CWEN is looking for website and marketing guidance. If you’d like to be the one to provide pro bono support, please contact us.

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for CWEN, you can make a donation on Spark’s website. We would also love to hear from you if you are interested in providing pro bono services: email programs@sparksf.org. We are very excited to support this wonderful organization! Visit CWEN’s Website to learn more.

New Grantee: Serenity House

Authored by Spark Member: Lily Womble

Amidst staggering rates of sex trafficking, prostitution, poverty, and illegal drug use in Oakland, California, there stands a sanctuary of respite and recovery for struggling women.

IMG_3056

At the age of seven, Johnnia Davis was raped and held that secret for over 26 years. Serenity House was born out of Johnnia’s desire, years later, to create a community where women of all walks of life, struggling with addiction, trauma, depression, or other mental illnesses, could heal spiritually and naturally.

IMG_3008IMG_3110

Serenity House does more than provide shelter, food, and health services. It’s a comprehensive program for women who want to recover from their emotional trauma and addictions, build self-worth and confidence, and find living wage jobs to support themselves, their families, and their communities. Serenity House facilitates this healing by providing individual and group counseling, as well as classes on relapse prevention, anger management, self-esteem, life skills, art, karate, movement, health, communication skills, and relationship skills. Currently, 89% of their clients suffer from some form of mental health issues (i.e. PTSD, depression and/ or bi-polar disorder), and because of their programming, Johnnia has seen many women maintain their mental health stability after undergoing the comprehensive counseling program. In addition, they provide opportunities for clients to have fun and mark their achievements, such as a graduation ceremony to celebrate the women who have successfully completed the program and a prom for all Serenity House.

IMG_3035

Serenity House serves over 125 women per year, 60 of who stay in their clean and sober housing while they attend the program. 78% of the women that complete the program go on to obtain a degree, purchase homes, and/or get their children back.

Currently, one of the biggest struggles faced by this organization is their lack of capacity and funds. Johnnia and the Program Director, Faye, do all the grant writing and programming. The rest of the staff are dedicated volunteers. There are many local women who would benefit from their services, but there is limited housing, food, and availability in their program due to capacity issues.

Spark members: We encourage you to consider volunteering with this amazing organization. Your volunteer support is just what they need to extend their capacity and offer more help to those who need it. To learn how to volunteer, email Amanda (amanda@sparksf.org) with a request.

A Spark grant will be used to provide safe housing, food and specialized counseling for at least five additional women – from those in their neighborhood involved in sex traffic to young women struggling with addiction and homelessness.

We are energized and excited by the work of Serenity House because of Johnnia’s inspiring grassroots leadership, the transformative and healing nature of her approach, and the life changing services they offer to this underserved area. We look forward to seeing the great work this grant will facilitate.

Seeing Through Our Project Window

New Grantee: Project Window

By Chrissy Schwen

Far Rockaway, the easternmost part of Long Island’s Rockaway Peninsula, can be a tough place to grow up. That is something Angela Hines knows all too well. Born and raised in the Far Rockaway NYCHA housing projects, Hines dropped out of high school in 1987 and struggled for years to support herself and her family. Vowing to create a better life for her children, Hines got her GED and decided to further her education.

projectwindow1

Dubbed “Hero mom” by the New York Daily News, Hines’ determination is awe-inspiring. In order to attend CUNY law school, she would bus from her apartment in Far Rockaway two hours with two children in tow, and then return from class in time to make dinner for all five of her children. All that hard work paid off; in 2009 Hines achieved her dream by becoming a practicing lawyer at the Queens County Court Legal Aid Society.

After succeeding in building a better life for her own family, Hines set her sights on improving the lives of girls still struggling in her community. She created Project Window to help girls in the Far Rockaway housing projects reach their full potential. “I don’t want to turn my back on the community,” she said. “If I could help just one person, then my work is done.”

projectwindow2

She’s done much more than that. Project Window has supported girls in Far Rockaway in many ways – from mentoring and tutoring programs to providing girls in the Sandy-raged community with free prom dresses and community service opportunities. All of the programs are designed to instill a sense of responsibility, community, and possibility. To achieve this level of comprehensive support, the organization is divided into components:

  • Project Connection is Project Window’s mentoring program. Each child is paired with a mentor for a school year for weekly activities and monthly check-ins that record the child’s progress.
  • Project Steppers promotes physical fitness and camaraderie through athletic and recreation activities, including volleyball and dance, on the weekends and through summer camps. The program aims to reach girls who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in organized activities.
  • Team Recovery aims to provide tutoring and other academic support to girls to keep them focused on their schooling.
  • Project Bulls-eye is a series of workshops for girls that address self-esteem, peer pressure, sex education, drug and alcohol abuse, and healthy relationships. The workshops aim to improve the girls’ ability to address these issues in a positive way.
  • Project Give back teaches girls to value their community and themselves by organizing clothing and toy drives, visits to nursing homes, and time at local soup kitchens.

projectwindow3

It is Project Window’s hope that this broad spectrum of assistance will expose its participants to opportunities they might not otherwise have had, and teach them self-awareness, the importance of education, and strong interpersonal skills.

We couldn’t be more thrilled to support Project Window! A Spark grant will cover:

  • The cost of 15 girls to participate in their summer camps
  • Pro bono support including:

o   Prom Dresses: Project Window is sponsoring “Queens of Far Rockaways” event, providing prom dresses and accessories to girls in the Far Rockaways who wouldn’t otherwise have them. If you have a dress to donate please email programs@sparksf.org.

o   Website Expertise: Project Window is looking for help revamping their website, and needs your help. Please contact programs@sparksf.org for more details.

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for Project Window, please make a donation on our website. And if you are interested in donating dresses, revamping the website, or providing other pro bono services for Project Window, email programs@sparksf.org. Learn more about Project Window on their website, and follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

New Grantee: The Guerreiras Project

The Guerreiras Project: Moving Bodies, Moving Minds

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

Brazil is famous for its colorful and extravagant Carnival, vibrant culture, and renowned soccer, known locally as futebol. But there are also many issues the spotlight of international futebol games, the upcoming 2014 World Cup, and 2016 Olympics are revealing.

Brazilian male futebol players have recently made headlines around racism they face from other countries during their games. While the Brazilian president shared support for the players discriminated against and anti-racism efforts, the idea of Brazil as an advocate for equality was soon struck a blow when a Brazilian player facing discrimination, Paulo Cesar Fonseca, known as Tinga, revealed the discrimination he faced in his own country: “You can see it in people’s eyes. Look, there goes the black guy with the white, blonde girlfriend. In Brazil there is so much prejudice, not just racial, but also social.” “In Brazil we talk about equality, but we hide our prejudice. We pretend that everyone is equal.”

GP-PIC_Anna_Fiastro

Those social inequalities ring true around the unequal treatment of women within the country’s most popular sport, inequality for girls in education, women facing violence, and a large gap between rich and poor. According to CNN, as of 2013, in world rankings for the gap between rich and poor, Brazil has the 11th biggest gap, coming in after a group of impoverished African countries. The 2011 female-to-male ratio for primary school enrollment is 0.98 and for secondary school enrollment it is 1.10. The difference is bigger for the 16-17 age group, as 25% of girls are involved in employment versus nearly 42 % for boys. Also, a 2013 report by UN Women found that many Latin American countries have a higher-than-average incidence of domestic violence with the staggering detail that a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds in Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo.

And, as can be imagined, these social inequalities and injustices for women reach into sports. There is a strong social stigma around women in sports with the sexist belief that futebol is not a sport for women to the point that it was actually illegal for women to play futebol in Brazil from 1941 to 1979 – not just professionally, but even for fun. While there are now professional teams, they lack financial interest and support, as well as fan and media attention.

With all of these often hidden prejudices and inequalities in Brazil, it is difficult to address these issues without innovative tools and thinking. Therefore, Spark is thrilled to support our newest grantee, The Guerreiras Project, an international collective of female athletes, artists, academics, and activists in Brazil using futebol as a powerful, effective, and non-threatening tool to promote gender justice. The Guerreiras Project provides approachable spaces for making gender and social issues visible, creating possibilities for more equitable and sustainable ways of being. While their main focus is gender justice, they also use the opportunity of connecting with their communities through futebol and workshops to address other social justice issues such as race, class, sexuality, disability, and ethnicity.

Guerreiras project; oficina São Gonçalo

The Guerreiras Project (inspired by the Portuguese term ‘guerreira’ meaning female warrior), kicked off in 2010 as a multimedia documentary exploring the shifts and inequalities around gender norms in Brazil, and what it means to be a woman playing futebol in a country famous for men’s futebol. Now run by a dynamic team of six women plus eight female futebol players acting as ambassadors, The Guerreiras Project runs workshops, ambassador trainings, provides public presentations, takes part in exhibitions, and research projects. They approach their work on two platforms: working with individual professional female players to train them as ambassadors for the organization and gender justice, and working within their communities to raise awareness, collect stories, and provide tools for change. The Guerreiras Project sees the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games taking place in Brazil as the prime opportunity to capture the attention of the world as all eyes are on Brazil for these international sporting events. They are looking to expand their organization to support a campaign around gender justice during this crucial time of international attention to Brazil and their sport.

A Spark grant will cover:

  • Financial support to build their organizational capacity  to ensure growth, replication, and sustainability around their 2014 World Cup campaign, and
  • Pro bono support for the campaign including Video Editing, Graphic Design, and Newsletter Support.

Pro bono services are graciously being provided by Velosa, Ink., an exclusive network of professional multimedia journalists and tenacious industry publicists.

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for The Guerreiras Project, you can make a donation on Spark’s website. We are also planning a fundraising event soon, so stay tuned! We would also love to hear from you if you are interested in being a part of providing further pro bono services. Email programs@sparksf.org. We are so excited to support this fantastic organization, and thank you for all of your support! Visit The Guerreiras Project’s Website, plus follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

New Grantee: Young Feminists Movement in Pakistan

IMG_1369

The Young Feminists Movement

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

Pakistan is only second to Yemen in a list of the ten worst countries for girls to be born in according to The Global Gender Gap Report in 2013. Women receive 43% less educational opportunities than men, there’s a 21% gender-based income gap, and only a quarter of the national labor force are represented by women. When it comes to violence against women, according to a study by The Ministry of Law, Justice, and Human Rights, just from January 2012 to September 2013, there were 860 honor killings, 481 incidents of domestic violence, 90 cases of acid burning, 344 cases or rape or gang rape, and 268 incidents of sexual assault or harassment.

In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Northern Pakistan, girls and women are living under a tribal and Feudal system that promotes male dominance, presented as Islamic norms and values by religious groups. These traditions create even more extreme gender inequality and chance of gender-based violence as girls and women can be forced into marriage for the sake of peacemaking between tribes, are excluded from political activities, plus face violence and religious extremism when making efforts towards promoting girls and women’s rights. All of this is what sparked an international movement behind young activist Malala Yousafzai after she survived the Taliban’s targeted shooting for her promotion of girls’ rights to education.

In a place where even young school girls face extreme violence for speaking out, and “feminism” is a bold concept, Spark is thrilled to support giving these young women a voice through our newest grantee, The Young Feminists Movement.

The Young Feminists Movement was created in 2011 by young women at various local colleges from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and adjacent tribal areas focused on raising awareness around gender equality issues plus giving young women a safe space and a voice in an oppressed society. They provide 5-day trainings for girls ages 15-25 around equal rights, reproductive health and abuse prevention, plus they promote activism around girls’ and women’s rights and gender equality. From these trainings and other activities, they form “Girls Power Clubs” which continue the cultivation and promotion of feminism and activism. So far, they have successfully organized a group of 23 young women who speak for equal rights and are equipped with the knowledge and tools to challenge the patriarchy, plus they have influenced many more through their activist activities.

IMG_4495

A Spark grant will cover:

  • 50 scholarships for girls to attend the training program, and
  • Volunteer services in the areas of development plus organizational and financial management.

If you are interested in being a part of providing these volunteer services, we would love to hear from you. Email programs@sparksf.org.

We are so excited to feature this progressive and innovative organization at our upcoming Cocktails For A Cause event!

Please join us at SparkSF’s Cocktails For A Cause event on April 23, 2014 at Mr. Smiths in San Francisco to help raise funds for the young feminists of Pakistan. #MoreMalalas

Fostering Social Entrepreneurship in Rwanda

It’s not every day that you get to see the foundations of graduate school flourish into a burgeoning non-profit organization halfway across the globe. So, when one of my close friends from graduate school told me in 2008 that she was starting an organization in Rwanda where she had been living, I was of course eager to support her. And the more I learned about Rwanda and the work her organization was undertaking, I became invested in seeing its success grow.

Named The Komera Project (in Rwanda the word “Komera” means “be strong, have courage”), Margaret Butler developed the idea to start the group over the course of her many runs through the Rwandan countryside. She noticed that sometimes girls from the local villages would jump in and join her on these runs until she realized that her behavior wasn’t going to be considered socially acceptable. Combined with the fact that Margaret was seeing first hand how most girls did not make it to secondary school, she decided to host a girls-only ‘fun run’ one day to promote the education and rights of these girls. As they started off, supporters shouted “Komera!” to the girls, and the group was born.

Image

Working with the local government, schools, and some on the ground staff from Partners in Health based in Rwanda, Margaret steered the first of Komera’s 10 girls onto their fully funded secondary education path. Komera has since grown to over 60 scholars, and has expanded their reach beyond just funding the girls’ schooling. They now also provide mentorship, a leadership program, and now a social entrepreneurship program.

Some context and understanding of Rwanda is essential to underscore how significant this is. Only 17% of girls in Rwanda go to upper secondary school (high school). 87% of the country lives in rural areas. All Komera scholars are from these rural areas and live on about $1 a day from families working as subsistence farmers or tin miners – so these girls would be farming, mining, and/or working in their households if not in school. Komera focuses on supporting the girls in grades 10-12, since the majority of girls begin dropping from school in grade 10. Komera never takes on a scholar unless they have the cash to fully fund them for those three years – this cost is $500 a year for tuition, uniforms, boarding, all school supplies, and personal supplies like hygiene products.

By 2010, the focus at the Komera Project had shifted from primarily scholarship to figuring out how to keep the girls in school and create a real Komera community, and that’s when the themes of mentorship and leadership came into play.

The transition into boarding at school can be really difficult for the girls, especially since they are spread between 13 different schools. In Rwanda, once you have the funds to pay, the local government decides what school you will go to, so while Komera would prefer all the girls to be in the same 4-5 schools, that isn’t possible. However, they are all in the same district (there are 30 districts in the country total).

To help combat some of the difficulties around these transitions, Komera provides school-based volunteer mentors for all the girls – female staff or teachers who meet one-on-one with the scholars every week. They actually use curriculum to cover topics like health education, financial literacy, what their rights are as women in Rwanda, to any personal concerns they may be having. The girls also meet with the Komera social worker (one of only two paid Komera staff members!) regularly when she visits each school throughout the year. Their next goal is to launch a university mentoring program, and they have started to do some outreach to universities in Kigali (the Rwandan capital) to see if there is interest among Rwandan university women to mentor these girls.

Leadership is another key component of the Komera Project. The Komera scholars attend Leadership Empowerment camp during their month-long summer break, where they take part in the now-annual Girls Fun Run and participate in workshops focused on topics like English-speaking skills, how to use computers, and sex education. These have been essential for the girls, because these month-long breaks can be vulnerable times for the girls who go back home. Most stay with extended family, get pulled back into working with the family and can potentially be convinced that they need to leave school – especially true for the nearly 20% of girls who come from families who don’t fully support their education efforts.

In regards to the new Social Entrepreneurship Program that Spark is helping to support, most recently the idea of sustainability has come up – how does Spark keep the momentum of being a Komera Scholar going once the girls graduate from secondary school? This was particularly pressing since 15 girls will be graduating in 2013.

The girls had been requesting a social entrepreneurship type training for some time – wanting to learn the skills necessary to starting and maintaining a business, a non-profit or grassroots venture. When asked about social entrepreneurship training, all the girls said that they had never even considered how they might be able to give back to their community or considered themselves leaders, and they were really excited about the idea of learning how to create something to benefit and incorporate their community.

The winter break, in November-December hasn’t been able to be filled by Komera because they haven’t been able to fund camps both in May-June when they have the leadership and empowerment camps as well as during the winter months. Finding funding for this new social entrepreneurship training became essential, as well as a way to get a tested and evaluated curriculum in their hands.Komera Scholars

A local Rwandan group, Global Grassroots, has been offering entrepreneurship, business training, and skills-based workshops for women in Rwanda since immediately after the genocide – and they’ve been doing so pretty successfully. They have agreed to modify their program for a weeklong intensive program for teen girls, as well as moderate the weekly follow-ups. This will be called the “Girls Academy for Global Conscious Change.”

The girls will work in groups of ten, separated by interests – they’ll select a topic they want to focus on, like health, education, water, and they will learn how to craft a mission statement, develop a program goal and implementation plan, and how to write and follow a budget. They will be given small grants of $50, which will be managed by the social worker and through each phase can retrieve part of the money for supplies, then implementation or advertising. The goal is to have them create these mini-organizations and incubate them throughout the school year, with the hope of maintaining it beyond that year, turning it into a profitable business, and growing it beyond their immediate school community.

When I heard that this was their well thought out plan, I thought Spark would be the perfect place for Komera to seek funding help to cover the costs of the girls supplies, food, transportation, and personal supplies throughout the training. The perfect way to blend two of the organizations that are most dear to me.

The Komera Project embodies the exact kind of values and practices that Spark looks for in grantees, and I look forward to what these budding entrepreneurs are up to in just a few years.

Check out their Facebook and Twitter pages, and visit their site to learn more about Komera and meet some of their scholars.

Spark’s Seal of Approval

By SARAH MIERS

In addition to providing financial and in-kind support, Spark’s investments increase awareness of little-known, grassroots women’s organizations. Spark’s grants often act as a seal of approval to other  well-established funders, helping our grantees secure larger investments in the future. We’ve seen this success with grantees like Akili Dada, and our 2011 grantees are no exception. From receiving a personal honor from President Sarkozy of France to winning New York’s prestigious Union Square Award, our 2011 grantees are propelling into the New Year with substantial support.

At Spark’s Spring Speaker Series, members meet with Jenni Williams, founder of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). We were so inspired by WOZA’s  nonviolent push for democracy and human rights that many Spark members immediately chipped in with funding and technology donations to improve WOZA’s ability to organize. Since Spark’s initial grant, others have caught on to WOZA’s exceptional work, including the French government. Just a few weeks ago, President Sarkozy awarded Jenni Williams with the French National Order of Merit.

photo

Spark New York’s first grantee, Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition, also received substantial recognition and support. Much like Spark, YWCHAC understands the benefit of linking fun with volunteerism. Their unique model resulted in the successful engagement of New York’s youth in comprehensive HIV/AIDS education–not an easy task. Last week YWCHAC won the prestigious Union Square Award. This award includes a $50,000 general support grant. For a small organization this level of unrestricted funding will be transformative.

Spark seeds grassroots women’s organizations with cash grants, pro bono services, connections and attention. Our intention is to position these incredible organizations for larger funding opportunities. The recent success of WOZA and the Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS shows this model in action.

You can help Spark’s efforts with your own seed grants! Choose the cause you want to support, and we’ll help leverage these funds in 2012.