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The women creating a freer, fairer world

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Graça Machel presenting 100 Sparks of Hope at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit (Credit: UN Photo)

On International Women’s Day we celebrate eleven ideas for a freer, fairer world created by women, for women. These brave women and organisations fight for a world with equal rights and opportunities for women and girls.


Each of these organisations is breaking down barriers and sparking hope for women in the communities where they live. A long-committed fighter for women’s liberation, Graça Machel, presented these ideas and the Sparks of Hope to world leaders at the UN General Assembly in September 2018. 


1.    Rien Sans les Femmes: no peace and stability without women.

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Rien Sans les Femmes has mobilised almost 160 organisations to campaign for greater participation of women in government and society. (Credit: Rien Sans les Femmes)


Women’s participation in decision-making in the Democratic Republic of Congo is low at all levels, despite commitments such as the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Mputo Protocol. Rien Sans les Femmes (Nothing Without Women) campaigns to increase the number of women candidates in elections and enhance women’s role in decision-making processes with the government and society. A culture of plurality and cohesion is the only way to ensure a lasting peace in post-conflict societies. 


2.    Voice of Libyan Women: using religious teachings to promote gender equality in Libya. 

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International Purple Hijab Day, an initiative of Voice of Libyan Women in support of action against domestic violence. (Credit: Voice of Libyan Women)


In many cases women in Libya are still treated as second class citizens. Voice of Libyan Women was founded by Dr Alaa Murabit in 2011, following the February 17 Revolution in Libya to ensure that women were taking their rightful place as leaders among the movement to rebuild the nation. By working with religious leaders and showing that Islamic texts teach not to harm other or oppress women, the organisation has been able to reach people who hold considerable influence in the country. 


3.    Safe Hands for Girls: the survivors committed to ending FGM by 2030.

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Safe Hands for Girls founder Jaha Dukereh leads an End FGM march in The Gambia (Credit: Safe Hands for Girls)


Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is both a driver and symptom of gender inequality. Harmful social expectations of what it means to be a girl drive FGM and girls who have undergone FGM are more likely to drop out of school and have health problems. Safe Hands for Girls was founded by survivor of FGM Jaha Dukereh, to help end this harmful practice and provide support to women and girls. Amongst its successes the organisation influenced the President of The Gambia in the decision to outlaw FGM in the country in 2015. 


4.    Loja de Energias: solar energy saves time, money and creates opportunities for women in Mozambique.

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Fitting a solar panel purchased from an 'energy shop' in Mozambique (Credit: Loja de Energias)


Only 24% of the population of Mozambique have access to electricity. Falling to 6% in rural areas. Gilda Monjane created Loja de Energias when she identified the gap in access to reliable electricity, that facilitates access to solar power. The initiative trains entrepreneurs, mostly women, to set up ‘energy shops’ that sell solar to the community and has created employment for women who used to perform unpaid jobs. 


5.    Girl Trek: walking as healthcare for the mind and body.

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Women walking as an act of self-care. (Credit: GirlTrek)


Morgan Dixon, together with her friend Vanessa Garrison founded GirlTrek out of concern for the health and lives of black women in the US - where black women die from heart attacks and strokes at a higher rate than other women. GirlTrek inspires women to walk to heal their bodies, inspire their daughters and reclaim the streets of their neighbourhoods. The organisation is now the largest health non-profit for black women in girls in the US. 


6.    SEWA: build collective strength to fight poverty.

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SEWA's organising builds the collective strength for women working in the informal sector. (Credit: SEWA)


Elder Emeritus, Ela Bhatt founded Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) – a trade union of poor women workers from the informal sector – to address the issue of lack of voice and visibility these women experience. SEWA ensures these women have work security, income security, food security and social security, ultimately fighting poverty. Under the women leadership, SEWA is paving the path for women’s right to decent work.


7.    Women Wage Peace: women are an unstoppable force for peace.

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Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women march across the desert for peace (Credit: Women Wage Peace)


The Women Wage Peace movement was founded in the aftermath of the Gaza war in 2014, by a group of Israeli and Palestinian women to bring peace and ensure women’s voices are heard in peace negotiations. In mass events, thousands of women, religious and secular Palestinian and Israeli women from the political right, centre and left, march together to demand a political resolution to the conflict that has devastated the region for decades. 

8.    Women’s Justice Initiative: assisting isolated indigenous women to access justice.

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Women's Justice Initiative’s education programme combines human rights education with leadership training. (Credit: Women's Justice Initiative)


Many injustices are faced every day by the indigenous peoples of Guatemala, with indigenous women bearing the greatest indignities and structural inequality. The Women’s Justice Initiative is helping Guatemalan women to fight this, through education programmes, providing legal aid services and preventing gender-based violence. 


9.   Breakthrough: inspiring young change makers to fight gender inequality.

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A campaign from Breakthrough challenging the way society sees women in India. (Credit: Breakthrough)


Women and girls in India face violence and discrimination every day as a result of harmful attitudes and assumptions around their role in society. Breakthrough seeks to make this discrimination unacceptable everywhere and in all its forms. Using a mix of social media, pop culture and multimedia campaigns the organisation challenges the deeply held cultural norms at the roots of gender inequality. 


10.    My Choices Foundation: taking on India’s domestic violence epidemic.

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My Choices Foundation's work is ensuring women in India can live lives free from domestic violence. (Credit: My Choices Foundation)


While India is making strides towards gender equality in many areas, it has yet to shake the harsh reality that it is the most dangerous place on earth to be a girl. My Choices Foundation, was founded by Elca Grobler, to facilitate a multi-stakeholder approach to tackling the epidemic of domestic violence in India. The organisation works with victims, perpetrators and the police to intervene and prevent future cases. 


11.   Women’s Law Centre: the women bringing justice to victims of domestic violence.

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The Women's Law Centre is a brave organisation run by women for women in Moldova. (Credit: Women's Law Centre)


In Moldova, approximately 63% of women have suffered violence at the hands of their partner, with recent research indicating 28% of men and 18% of women agree that a women should tolerate this violence in order to preserve the family. The Women’s Law Centre was established in 2009 by a group of female lawyers to provide pro bono legal ad phycological support to women survivors of domestic violence, and to advocate for better national laws on domestic violence. 

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