The Womanity Foundation
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The Womanity Foundation, or Womanity, is a non-governmental organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with programs across the developing world. It was founded by Yann Borgstedt and seeks to empower women and girls worldwide to enable them to participate fully in society, economically, socially and politically. It aims to achieve this through collaboration with partners including social entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial organizations.
The Womanity Foundation's states its vision is "a world where all women and men enjoy equal and full social, economic, and political participation. The Foundation undertakes to empower girls and women to shape their future and accelerate progress within their communities." The priorities of the organization were inspired by the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and include:
- Support girls and women's access to quality education and vocational training.
- Create employment, revenue generation, and professional career opportunities for women.
- Promote avenues that give women a voice in society, politics and governance institutions.
- Protect women and girls' physical and psychological integrity.
The Womanity Foundation was established in 2005 by Yann Borgstedt, a Swiss businessman educated in the United States. Founded on the premise that a partnership between businesses, social entrepreneurs, and artists could accelerate socio-economic progress and improve the equal participation of women, Borgstedt created the organization, which was originally called The Smiling Children Foundation. The organization's first programs focused on child labor in Morocco to assist domestic servants as young as six to return to their families and have access to education. In 2007, after the Taliban's ban on female education ended, work started in Afghanistan at the Al-Fatah school for girls in Kabul to remove barriers for girls to access education and improve their prospects for the labor market.
In 2009, the organization created its WomenChangeMakers Fellowship program to assist entrepreneurs with programs that benefit women. Raising funds through gala events, where items designed specifically for Womanity are auctioned, the foundation has been able to expand their reach internationally, including operating programs in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, and Palestine. In 2011 and 2012 Womanity provided funding to Entrepreneurs du Monde to aid with the reconstruction of Haiti with a program supporting women entrepreneurship with paid jobs, a microcredit scheme, training, and infrastructure. In 2015, Womanity was listed among the Top 500 NGO, and reached 187 in 2016.[no citations needed here]
Womanity runs four strategic programs across the world focused on: education and vocational training, giving voice to women in society, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of women and girls, and economic empowerment. The Womanity WomenChangeMakers program harnesses social entrepreneurs who work across all four strategic areas.
Safety and wellbeing
To address the issues of physical and sexual violence against women, the Womanity Award for the Prevention of Violence Against Women was launched in 2014, and is given biennially to two organizations which utilize innovative and effective solutions to prevent gender-based violence. The award provides US $300,000.
2014 Womanity Award winners were Promundo, an NGO based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for Progam H, which uses group activities and community campaigns to educate young men about respectful and fair behaviour towards women; and Abaad, a non-profit, non-religious, non-politically affiliated organization based in Lebanon dedicated to the advancement, participation and empowerment of women in Lebanon and in the Middle East and North Africa, and through this aim to increase social and economic development.
2016 Womanity Award winners were Take Back the Tech! (Template:Lang-es), a campaign in Mexico, led by the Association for Progressive Communications (South Africa); and the television program "Luchadoras" (the female Wrestlers) broadcast by the collective media organization La Sandía Digital. The campaign addresses the widespread problem of online violence against women, enables women to proactively respond to online abuse, claim virtual space and creatively influence policies and practices. The ultimate goal is to build an internet free of violence.
In 2017 Womanity partnered with J Walter Thompson to run an advertising campaign in Brazil to challenge the 1 in 3 people who believe that the clothing a woman wears causes rape rather than rapists.
Education and vocational training
Although many girls are now enrolling in Afghan schools following the fall of the Taliban regime, schools in the region have few resources and infrastructure is inadequate. In 2007 Womanity began its School in a Box program in the Al-Fatah school, Kabul. Organizational goals were to improve the infrastructure, resources and teaching, while also addressing specific cultural barriers to girls attending school, such as early marriage, and the impact of a lack of qualified female teaching staff as role models.
In 2012 Safeena Husain was a Womanity WomenChangeMakers Fellow. Husain is the founder and Chief Executive of Educate Girls, a non-profit organization devoted to tackling gender inequality in India's education system and to creating a sustainable model for the education of girls. The project has so far helped 80,000 girls enrol into school.
In 2017 Womanity partnered with Goodwall to launch the Goodwall Womanity Scholarship for female students in the Middle East and Africa to have the opportunity for one year of full-tuition at the Swiss International Scientific School of Dubai; the runner up gains $5,000 tuition towards a university of their choice; and the top twelve students gain a new laptop or tablet.
Giving women a voice
In 2009, in partnership with the Radio Nisaa Broadcasting Company, Womanity established Radio Nisaa FM in Palestine territories. The station, managed by women, aims to represent women's concerns and issues in a culture where the media is heavily male-dominated. Content is not feminist oriented, but includes news, discussion, music, and investigative reports, created by women. Within five years of its launch, Radio Nisaa had become the fifth largest radio station in terms audience share in the Middle East. Based on the success, new strategy was developed to expand its output across the Arab world by partnering with 10 more media outlets by 2018. Womanity created the Nisaa Network, to coordinate efforts for changing the regional perception of women with media outlets and other women's organizations in Arabic and English languages.
In 2013 Womanity in partnership with Lapis Communication created the Arabic radio drama Be 100 Ragl (Worth 100 Men, Template:Lang-ar or Template:Lang-ar) about a young female radio journalist who challenges prejudice. It was aired during the month of Ramadan in the Middle East and North Africa. The lead role was played by Mona Zaki and the theme tune to the first series was performed by Nancy Ajram. The second series of Be 100 Ragl was an animation, aired in 2016, followed by panel discussions at the Dutch Institute in Zamalek. Themes such as access to education, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other topics were portrayed, using humor and positive story lines, to generate discussion on sensitive topics that affect women in the region.
In 2012 Alice Freitas became a Womanity WomenChangeMaker Fellow. Frietas is founder and CEO of Asta, Brazil's first direct sales network giving marginalized producers (93% of whom are women) direct access to consumers, encouraging economic inclusion for women in Brazil and beyond. In 2013 Neelam Chibbera, Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, and Maria Beatriz "Bia" Kern became Womanity WomenChangeMaker Fellows. Chibbera is co-founder and Managing Director of Industree Crafts Private Ltd, a business supporting Indian rural crafts producers and agricultural workers in natural fiber by improving market access through its Mother Earth retail brand. Profits generated are invested back into the training of artisans through The Industree Foundation. The fellowship will enable Industree to create training systems and develop a sustainable funding model. Chandra Shekhar Ghosh is founder and Chief Executive of Bandhan, whose non-profit arm Bandhan Konnegar aims to give financial stability to women by helping marginalised female entrepreneurs, who could not otherwise access credit, obtain financial assistance or microcredit to help build their business. Maria Beatriz "Bia" Kern is founder and Director of Mulher em Construção, an organization that trains Brazilian women to work in civil construction and advocates for women's rights. This allows women to access employment and economic security, and at the same time helps to meet Brazil's increasing demand for skilled construction labour.
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- Official website