Guest post by Jodie Hewson, Communications Officer at CARE Canada.
Since I started working at CARE Canada in July, my friends and family have fallen subject to my enthusiasm for the Reaching New Heights report that CARE released back in March in honour of International Women’s Day. I’m not sure it is common for someone to describe their feelings about a report using the word love, but that is how passionate I feel about the findings and cases that are presented in this document. Now for those of you who haven’t read this report yet, or would like a gentle reminder about its findings, I am extending this enthusiasm to CARE readers everywhere.
Let me explain.
If you know anything about CARE you’re aware that CARE focuses on the empowerment of women and girls in developing nations because they are one of the most important parts of the solution to truly overcoming poverty for their communities.
For many, I think that this idea of overcoming global poverty is a daunting task that seems too large to tackle. I’m not at all implying that this isn’t a daunting global initiative, but it’s the findings in this report that give hope that CARE and other NGOs are definitely working in the right direction – women’s and girls’ empowerment.
So yes, I am writing about a report that was released back in March and yes this is one of many CARE success stories and publications, but I thought given the joy and enthusiasm it brought me by reading it when I first started at CARE, it should get a bit extra attention on this beautiful August afternoon.
Reaching New Heights
Enough build up, what’s this report about? The Reaching New Heights report is a look at one of the success stories of CARE’s SHOUARDO Initiative in Bangladesh. A quick look at a case study from the report below will help paint a better picture of why exactly it is so important.
Rina is the leader of her local women’s group in Lalmonirhat, Bangladesh, known as an EKATA (Empowerment, Knowledge and Transformative Action) group.
Rina’s group, was originally started as part of CARE’s SHOUHARDO program five years ago, and is made up of 20 women and 10 teenage girls. Although CARE’s involvement in the program ended over a year ago, the women have continued the group, and get together regularly to:
- Discuss barriers and challenges in their lives, such as the lack of decision-making power, violence against women, early marriage and the lack of education.
- Receive literacy and numeracy training and learn the basics of Bangladeshi law. (Many were surprised to learn it’s actually illegal for girls to marry before 18.)
- Learn from each other’s life experiences and commit to protecting the girls from violence and abuse.
- Draw graphs and maps to outline their status and their power relations within their family and their village.
Their slogan: I am not alone. Together we can achieve something. Together we can change our lives.
Rina’s story is just one of the many programs that worked towards empowering women in Bangladesh through the SHOUARDO Initiative.
The Results of Empowerment: An Even Clearer Picture
One of the most noticeable and measureable accomplishments of the SHOUARDO Initiative as a whole was the significant increase in child health and nutrition noticed in studies by both economists and nutritional experts. Children are growing taller as rates of children stunted by malnutrition are dropping significantly (check out page 2 of the report for more details). The results were so outstanding that researchers were baffled, unsure if there had been some sort of mistake in their findings.
Some more amazing results from Rina’s EKATA group specifically :
- All twenty women in the EKATA group are now employed, earning income to support their families through activities such as raising livestock, making and selling food products, running a small shop or offering tailoring services.
- The group has started an early child care for development program to support mothers and children.
- The women have created a community loan and savings group that provides small loans for women to invest in entrepreneurial activities that add value to their families and communities.
- Together the group has stopped a number of child marriages in the community.
- The group has reduced the amount of sexual abuse that prevents women from walking in the streets alone, and have begun to take a stand against domestic violence in the community.
The results for their families and the community have been inspiring. Five years ago, young girls would often be pulled out of school at a young age. Today, the education of young girls is valued and they push for continuous education. The families of Rina and the other women in her group would previously have lived on only one to two meals a day. Today, they all get three meals a day, and their children are fed a range of healthy foods, including eggs, meat, fish and vegetables.
No matter how you paint it, the results are looking bright: Empowering women and girls to reduce poverty does work.
And that’s why I’m passionate about sharing the results of this study. It’s so that as Canadians, you can understand where your money is going when you donate to CARE. Because it’s going to lasting results that are working towards ending poverty.
Show your support for CARE’s many initiatives that are defending dignity, and fighting poverty. Donate today!