Tag Archives: girls education

Reflections: Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series Launch

Reflections by Spark Member, David Scatterday

It was a distinct pleasure to participate in the inaugural installment of Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series. Worthy of a truly notable launch, we were joined by philanthropic innovators Yann Borgstedt and Antonela Notari Vischer from the Womanity Foundation.

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Auspiciously, everything about the launch event of such a promising series was seamless.

First, a little about our guests: Womanity is an entrepreneurial foundation that thinks creatively to find solutions to today’s women’s empowerment challenges. Key topical areas of action include giving women and girls a voice, advancing education and opportunities, providing fellowships to emerging female social entrepreneurs.  As a man, Womanity’s founder Yann Borgstedt does not fit the traditional model of a woman’s empowerment pioneer. However, Yann understands that solving for women’s issues is a key part of solving every development issue around the globe.

Back to our scene: we were hosted in the headquarters of the Cordes Foundation, whose work is focused on alleviating global poverty and empowering women and girls to fully participate in the development of their communities.

In my mind, the event crystallized everything that is so great about Spark.

First, reinforcing its mission of empowering tomorrow’s philanthropic leaders, the event was custom-designed to engage millennials in real dialogue with real practitioners. Speaking with leading social entrepreneurs in the field triggered valuable dialogue about real solutions to pain points encountered by the aspiring millennial philanthropists and activists in the room.

Second, the event was infused by a deep sense of shared mission. While Spark and Womanity take relatively different approaches to programming and fundraising for women’s issues – it was very evident the two organizations share a deeply held common cause of empowering women around the world. This shared sense of mission added a tangible sense of relevance and urgency to the entire session’s dialogue.

Finally, over several years of involvement with Spark, I’ve realized that solving for women’s issues requires an ‘all-hands’ approach. In our increasingly globalized and resource-constrained world, every pressing social issue is a woman’s issue. Whether climate change, health care access or hunger, women are disproportionately impacted. Bringing about real change will require large-scale collective action – women and men working together to solve truly global problems.  Both Womanity and Spark are organizations that understand this and practice a large-tent approach to addressing social problems every day.

Last week’s mentorship session made me prouder than ever to be an active male, millennial philanthropist and Spark member, confirming that I, and everyone at Spark, are taking the right steps to meaningfully improve the welfare of women in this generation – and the next.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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!

Why Smart Girls are Scary, The Confidence Gap, and Abortion Debates Heat Up

Nicholas Kristof weighs in on why terrorists fear smart girls, Europe and Chile spark new abortion law debates, girls take change into their own hands in Guatemala, why “leaning in” isn’t enough, and the realities of American life for low-income mothers. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

By Spark Fellow: Kendra Hyett

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GLOBAL EDUCATION: What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?

As the devastating abduction of over 200 Nigerian school girls continues to make international headlines, the biggest question is why innocent girls were targeted by extremist terrorists. New York Times journalist and human rights advocate Nicholas Kristof weighs in: they did not target army barracks, police or drone bases because their worst nightmare is actually educated girls – the most powerful, burgeoning force to transform society.

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GLOBAL HEALTH: Abortion Law Debates Heat Up

The reproductive rights war wages on around the world. A religious-backed campaign threatens the use of European aid money to back any programs supporting abortion.

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Meanwhile in South America, reproductive rights are moving forward. In Chile, the ban on abortion – even when a woman’s life is at risk – will soon be reconsidered.

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WORKPLACE RIGHTS: Leaning In with Nothing to Lean On

Much like the “quit telling women to smile” campaign, The Shriver Report author Valerie Young is saying, “quit telling women low self-confidence is all that’s holding them back.” With the recent publication of The Confidence Code, following up on the basic principles of Lean In that women are holding themselves back by not going for a promotion or raise as many men do, there’s been a lot of talk about where to draw the line. How much women are holding themselves back vs. how much needs to be changed in the workplace to meet hard-working women part-way?

READ THE STORY

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ECONOMY: The State of Low-Income Mothers in the U.S.

Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs around, but what does that really mean for low-income families? The National Women’s Law Center takes a look via an interactive map at the realities for mothers in the U.S. working in low-wage jobs.

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FILM: Storytelling Power!

Recently premiered docu-drama “¡PODER!”  shows how two Guatemalan girls take power into their own hands to find creative ways of change in their own communities. Get an inside look at the creation of this innovative short film and the amazing nonprofit organizations behind it.

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New Grantee: Young Feminists Movement in Pakistan

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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.

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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

A Punk Prayer, Facebook Gender Options, and Surfing The Wage Gap

One Billion Rising dances to end violence against women and girls, Pussy Riot Members Arrested in Sochi, Ways To Squash The Wage Gap, and Facebook Expands Gender Options but not Gendered Ad Targeting. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

By Spark Fellow: Kendra Hyett

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HUMAN RIGHTS: Behind The Music – Pussy Riot’s Fight For Justice

The music must play on. Pussy Riot members recently released from prison forged forward to hold a Pussy Riot action in Sochi, only to be detained repeatedly by police without any excuse at all. While the police action continued, so did the press as the incidents became a media sensation.

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In an opinion piece, Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina expounds upon the Olympics’ “deceptive face,” and arrests of multiple groups showing support for the L.G.B.T. community.

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WOMEN’S RIGHTS: Rise Up For One Billion

One Billion Rising is a global campaign started by the V Day Movement demanding an end to violence against women and girls. Why One Billion Rising? Because one in three women in the world will be abused in her lifetime. ONE. BILLION. On February 14th, thousands gathered in cities around the world to dance, share stories, and promote justice for women and girls. Check out the local San Francisco news coverage and coverage of one of the many NYC events.

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TECHNOLOGY: Cheers for Gender Options or Jeers For Wrinkle Cream Ads?

Facebook expands their gender options from only male and female to include 50+ gender descriptions. Is this the right step toward inclusion, or would it be a better step to remove gender entirely to spare us from sexist gender-target ads like weight loss and wrinkle cream?

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GLOBAL HEALTH: India’s Next Generation Takes A Stand

A new generation of girls is emerging in India: girls ready to demand safety, education, and their right to the same opportunities as men. While traditions like forced marriage continue, with innovative opportunities and platforms like Pathways, an organization educating youth on basic reproductive and sexual health, girls are finding ways to make change in their lives and communities.

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ECONOMY: Pay It Forward To Yourself

It’s one thing to be informed by Lean In about the current existence of the gender wage gap. It’s another thing to know what to do about it in your life. Find out what an employment attorney says you can do if you think you’re not being paid fairly.

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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.

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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.