Ask any mother what she wants more than anything in the world, and she’ll likely say, “for my children to be safe, healthy, and happy.” For mothers living in extreme poverty, this gift is hard to come by … especially now with the threat of COVID-19. But people like Gertrude Jima (pictured right) are at the forefront of giving moms what they want most – access to knowledge and resources that empower them to care for their children.
THE COST OF HOLDING WOMEN BACK
Although women make up almost half of the agricultural workforce across Africa — and perform 80% of the labor on smallholder farms — millions of them don’t have access to financial services, training, and other opportunities that could help them escape poverty.
These inequalities don’t just hurt women — they cripple entire nations, holding back about half the population from participating in a society’s economic growth. It’s estimated that if women in these communities could afford productive resources like business training, seeds, and fertilizer, up to 150 million fewer people would go hungry every day.
Meet Bilkis, a 38-year-old mom in Bangladesh and her teenage daughter Sadia. Those smiles were rare three years ago when they were both working in a shrimp factory just trying to survive. Before World Vision started working in their community, they had no hope. But today, they can see a brighter future.
Gender equality is essential to human development. Many women in Zambia have suffered unequal treatment simply because they are female. Josephine (28) of southern Zambia, is one of these women. Josephine is a high-spirited woman with a great passion for life. She is married to Masumo (32) and they have three adorable children: Eleanor (11), Tandiwe (4) and their youngest, Moses, who recently celebrated his first birthday.
CHWs, ttC, 7-11, PDH. These aren’t just your ordinary acronyms. They stand for the very simple, very powerful approaches World Vision is using to strengthen health care systems and save the lives of moms and their babies. In honor of World Health Day, we invite you to learn what they are and how have they delivered double-digit improvements in just two years.
Isabelle, the one smiling in the blue sweater, is 16 years old. What’s right? She is healthy. She is carrying crystal clear water from a tap just minutes from her home. She is in school. She’s among the top 5 in her class. And she is not married.
World Vision believes that ending extreme poverty is possible, but it won’t happen as long as half the population is held back from reaching their full potential. The evidence is indisputable, when girls and women get equal access and opportunity - progress is accelerated, families are stronger, and communities are more prosperous.
The reality is, women and girls living in poverty face significant barriers in every area of their lives. That’s why we focus on equipping and empowering women and girls in all areas of our work.
|One of Basanti's Girl Power Groups|
“As a neighbor, I saw the wedding related activities and got suspicious,” says Rojina, a 16-year-old from a village in Basanti. She knew Ajmira from school and was concerned when she saw the planning going on at her home.
Ajmira confirmed her suspicions when they met in school. “My parents are forcing me to get married,” Ajmira told Rojina. Ajmira is only fourteen. This plunged Rojina into sadness. What was she to do? “Before World Vision, I did not know child marriage was wrong. But now I know, and I found out my neighbor was getting married,” says Rojina.
Rojina decided to confide in her best friend Regina, 17. Both girls are part of World Vision’s Girl Power group, which teaches girls to keep themselves and their friends safe. Regina says, “If we go directly, they won’t listen to us and they will scold us. They might even take their daughter somewhere and get her married in secret. Being a child and we are girls...will they listen to us?” This way of thinking percolates from the elders in the community to the children. A girl child is low in the “pecking order” - girls are rarely allowed to express their own thoughts or feelings, and they are not taught to speak with confidence in public settings. These cultural pressures create an environment where girls fear telling the truth or seeking help from adults. They feel helpless when they, or their friends, experience abuse through child marriage, rape or physical violence.
|After 20 years, a circumciser in Kenya laid down her tools—a knife and a razor blade. World Vision helps girls, boys, and communities to stand against the dangerous, damaging practice of Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting. (©2000 World Vision/photo by Winnie Ogana)|
Each year, more than 3 million girls are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C). February 6, the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, is a time to bring this serious issue to light.
Girls’ rights are violated and their potential crushed when they are subjected to FGM/C and have their external genitalia cut. Best estimates are that 200 million women and girls alive today have suffered FGM/C. There is no medical reason for this traditional practice, and no benefit for the girl. Girls who have been cut often experience life-long dire effects, such as pain, infections, bleeding, difficult childbirth, and incontinence.
|A World Vision Child Protection Officer meets with Sabina* (r) and Kibset* (l) at Morpus School|
Sabina, a 15-year-old girl in West Pokot, Kenya, has escaped a forced marriage and is working to prevent other girls from undergoing Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting. Sabina was married off immediately after undergoing FGM/C at age 13.
She recalls that sorrowful day: "I just heard from my siblings that someone was bringing beer home (a sign of people coming for a bride), and in no time I was whisked away forcefully by several men."
|James Lokuk speaks to students at Morpus School|
He has become the face of Child Protection in West Pokot County, a voice for the protection of girls escaping the violence of Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C), child marriage and neglect. Meet James Lokuk, Head Teacher of Morpus Primary School in West Pokot. The eighth-born of 11 children, James (53) has 8 children of his own with his wife, Jane. “I was born here in Morpus area, and I went to this same school and even wore this uniform,” he quipped, pointing at the maroon sweater, yellow shirt and maroon shorts worn by the children.