The main goal of the Clinton Global Initiative is to bring together the minds and money of influential people and organizations around the world in order to build partnerships and make commitments to action for addressing the world’s most pressing problems; in short to move from intention to action, and from “I wish” to “I do.” This year’s focus on empowering girls and women has brought out many great announcements of new commitments for action in that field. In the spirit of attention philanthropy, I’m listing a few of those commitments here under four main sub-issue areas:
WITNESS works to end violence against women and girls through video. On Tuesday they announced a commitment to curb violence against women and girls in conflict zones by launching, in partnership with Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, a three-year visual storytelling campaign that empowers these women to pick up a video camera and share their story. WITNESS ’s initiative will work with 50 grassroots organizations in African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Uganda, helping them create strategic campaigns that will change policies, practices and behaviors to stop gender-based violence. For each of these campaigns, WITNESS will provide hands-on video training, develop video distribution strategies, facilitate targeted screenings for key decision makers, and amplify these new stories through social media platforms like YouTube. Here is one example of their video work that explains the need for combating violence against women:
Bell Bajao, or "Ring the Bell," is a multimedia campaign to end domestic violence that was launched by the international human rights organization Breakthrough in 2008. The campaign particularly focuses on men and boys to take action, as Sonali Khan of Breakthrough says "It is important to take men along. They can be partners of change rather than silent witnesses who wonder what they can do to help a battered woman." At the Opening Plenary on Tuesday, Mallika Dutt, CEO and President of Breakthrough, gave a progress report on the success of their prior commitment to disrupt domestic violence in India, and announced that they were taking their campaign global.
At the plenary session on Empowering Girls and Women, Secretary Clinton announced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a new commitment made by the U.S. State Department, the U.N. Foundation, the World Food Program, Royal Dutch Shell, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other public and private partners. Together, they committed to help 100 million households adopt clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020. The Alliance seeks to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. And, according to Secretary Clinton, the project is not just development for development's sake, but also for creating great economic impact. Additionally, she talked about how there already exist many great designs for clean cookstoves around the world, and that this Alliance was formed with the intention of "scaling up" production and distribution, as well as to develop marketing campaigns that raise awareness and encourage their use; if people don't like the stoves they won't use them even if they're there. She said she believes that this Alliance could be "as trans formative as bed nets or vaccines" in combating major health risks such as early childhood pneumonia, emphysema, cataracts, lung cancer, bronchitis, cardiovascular disease, and low birth weight (she noted that the World Health Organization lists dirty stoves as one of the five most serious health risks facing people in developing countries). Secretary Clinton ended by saying that if you're passionate about the environment and women's health, then this is the project for you.
LifeSpring Hospitals announced its commitment to expand its proven model of low-cost maternity hospitals from nine to 30 facilities in India by 2012, thus drastically increasing access to high quality health care for low-income Indian women. Lifespring will provide healthcare to women throughout the entire course of their pregnancy and afterward. Outreach workers will advise women on how to care for themselves during pregnancy, and each new mother will receive a home visit following a delivery. Outreach workers will also educate women and adolescent girls in the surrounding communities about the importance of institutional delivery, postponing marriage, and spacing out births.
The American Society for Muslim Advancement is teaming up with the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization to train Imams from 10 mosques in Jalalabad on women's rights in Afghanistan, and to establish formal women’s sections for 10 mosques in Kabul. Imams are amongst the most influential figures in Afghan society. They play a vital role in society - from the religious education in childhood to the rights of passage in adulthood. Given their influential nature, this commitment will reinforce the importance of women’s rights. With training it is hoped that Imams will develop sermons on womens' rights to education, marriage, inheritance, property ownership, and political and social participation. These sermons will then be published and broadcast in newspapers, television, and radio in Afghanistan.
Commitments to increase access to education to girls and women around the world made up the largest group of action plans. Throughout the CGI meeting, education has been talked about as the primary underlying issue and place of potential for empowering women. As one video shown at the "Preparing Girls for the World" session put it: If a girl is educated, then they stay healthy, they save money, they speak up, they build businesses, they pass it on, and poverty declines. Share the stories, multiply the impact. Educate girls. Change the world.
Three different commitments were announced that strive to improve literacy rates worldwide:
Rural Education and Development Global, or READ Global, announced their Women’s Empowerment Centers Initiative, through which they commit to building 20 Women’s Empowerment Centers in rural India, Nepal, and Bhutan. The centers will include libraries, computers and skills training that emphasizes education, enterprise, and self-advocacy. Following the READ Global model, each center will operate a small business (like a fishery or printing press) and be founded and operated by local community members, in order to sustain programs and create local jobs. This initiative directly responds to the lack of formal and affordable education centers in these rural areas, and the low literacy rates of the women in the region (in his introduction to this commitment President Clinton noted that, in Bhutan, adult literacy rates are less than 62% and female literacy trails that of males by 25%).
Room to Read commits to providing literacy education to 1 million girls in Asia and Africa by focusing on giving children access to education in local languages. During the next two years, Room to Read will open 4,000 new bilingual school libraries, along with 100 new or remodeled schools and classrooms. The libraries will be equipped with a total of more than one million books. Room to Read will also improve the literacy skills of young children by working with governments to enhance state-wide curricula standards, and by providing tutoring, life skills training, female mentors, and other programming to more than 13,000 girls.
Other notable commitments that facilitate access to education for girls:
The Haiti Adolescent Girls Network, a coalition of humanitarian organizations cofounded by AmeriCares and the Population Council, commits to creating dedicated girls-only, safe spaces for bringing together 1,000 at-risk Haitian girls, aged 10-19, to work with 80 Haitian peer mentors and continue their education and break the cycle of poverty.
Vittana/Africa, which works to "build a better world where anyone can go to college," announced their commitment to bring student loans to Africa by developing, launching and funding the first higher education micro-loan programs on the continent. The program will enable 10,000 students to pursue post-secondary education and learn employable skills in fields such as nursing, law enforcement, and information technology. Vittana will partner with microfinance institutions to create these programs, in which loans are placed on the Vittana.org website to receive funding from a global community of individual micro-lenders. On average, a student featured on Vittana.org is funded within less than three days. In the last two months alone, $100,000 has been raised.
The Pentok Institute, a community development organization for women and girls in Tibetan-populated Qinghai Province, China, will partner with Smug Po Village, a Tibetan nomadic community of 700 residents, to create sustainable education opportunities for 50 young women. Pentok will start small, local businesses, such as motorcycle repair shops, yak loan programs, and greenhouse cultivation centers. Families in the community will be engaged in running these businesses, and a percentage of the profits will be re-invested in girls’ education. Pentok’s commitment is to carry out this initiative in Smug Po and then apply the idea to other similar communities, eventually reaching 10,000 nomadic people and 1,000 girls.
Note: For a slideshow preview of some of the woman-focused commitments made at past CGI meetings click here.
We look forward to working with some of these commitments to execute the work at grass root level.
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