Interview: Women for Women International

Today we have an interview for you with an NGO we celebrate: Women for Women International. Learn why Women for Women International was founded, what the work of the NGO is all about and what impressive successes have already been achieved. Most importantly: even with a small donation or an attempt to give the NGO more visibility by spreading awareness, you can contribute to helping women around the world have a better life. We link you to the exciting blog of the NGO here. Let’s go!

Women for Women International
Picture by Women for Women International

1. What is the vision of Women for Women International? How did it all start?

We want to create a world where all women can determine the course of their own lives and realize their full potential. In countries affected by conflict and war, we support the most marginalized women to rebuild their lives and create an independent future through a variety of programs. With the help of professional skills, knowledge and resources, marginalized women can create lasting change for themselves, their families and their communities.

Our “Stronger Women, Stronger Nations” program is designed for one year so as not to create long-term dependencies. We invest in women and their economic power so they can earn their own money and lead self-determined lives. We know from our decades of experience that this approach works. For example, in 2021, the daily earnings of women in our program doubled from an average of $0.80 when they entered the program to $2 when they completed their training.

The holistic program covers almost all areas of life, including women’s rights, health, income and savings, and social support networks. We offer marginalized women, who often have not completed elementary school, vocational training adapted to the local context, which is provided by experienced (local) trainers and gives the women a chance to earn a regular and secure income.

Women who have been isolated for years and have experienced exclusion, trauma, poverty and violence come together with 24 other women who have experienced similar things. Over the months, you can literally see how the women gain confidence and self-esteem through the exchange and mutual support.

Women for Women International was founded 30 years ago during the wars in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Our founder, Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi-American human rights activist, recognized that being a woman in a modern conflict is often more dangerous than being a soldier. She, along with supporters, sought not only to provide food and resources to the encircled women in Sarajevo, but also to give them consolation through letter messages telling them that women around the world were thinking of them. Shortly after, we began supporting marginalized women in Rwanda who had lost everything in the Genocide.

We now work through our country offices in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan. Together with partner organizations, we also work in Ethiopia, Syria, Myanmar and, since this year, Poland and Ukraine.

Picture by Women for Women International

2. What are your tasks?

Our German office was founded in 2018 and is considered a so-called “Supporter Country Office” within our global organization. We support our life-changing programs in the countries through fundraising as well as educating the public about the challenges and potential of marginalized women in war and conflict zones.

To mobilize important funds for the implementation of our programs, we work closely with government institutions, foundations and companies, in addition to private donors. Another essential aspect of our work is press relations, with the aim of creating greater awareness of the women we support.

Our main concern is always to amplify the voices of affected women and give them the opportunity to tell their stories themselves. We also engage in exchanges with political representatives in Germany to improve the realities of life for marginalized women affected by conflict and to provide much needed solidarity and support.

Thanks to their many years of local experience, our colleagues in the country offices enjoy the trust of the communities in which we work. They are very familiar with the local context. This aspect is very important to us. Many of the trainers who are running our one-year program today also previously went through the program. For example, our former country office manager Audry Shematsi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, once started as a participant in our “Stronger Women, Stronger Nations” program and most recently was the manager of our office with over 40 employees.

Picture by Women for Women International

3. What have you been able to achieve so far? What makes you particularly happy or proud when you think of Women for Women International?

To date, we have been able to reach 531,498 marginalized women in 14 conflict-affected countries through our programs.

In addition to our year-long “Stronger Women, Stronger Nations” program, we are also able to respond quickly to simmering crises that most affect women through a flexible crisis fund, our “Conflict Response Fund” (CRF). We launched the CRF in 2018, which has since enabled us to act quickly, flexibly and innovatively. These funds enable us to initiate activities with local partners to respond promptly to urgent needs of women victims.

For example, in 2019, we launched activities in one of the world’s largest refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, to support young Rohingya women with vocational training so they can build a livelihood and earn an income. We are currently doing something similar in Poland and Ukraine, where we are supporting our partner organizations to offer refugee women a perspective through holistic support. This consists of providing shelter, financial support, legal counseling and trauma therapy.

Considering the current situation in Afghanistan, where women have had to forfeit more and more of their rights since the de facto government came to power in August 2021, we are especially happy that we have been able to continue our programs on the ground since January and currently have over 2600 women participating in our “Stronger Women, Stronger Nations” program.

We were even able to expand our work in Afghanistan and opened four new training centers in Kunar province, something we are very proud of. Although we had to pause the programs for a few months last year for security reasons, thanks to the generous donations we collected, we were able to help the women feed themselves and their families during this economic crisis through cash transfers and seeds for vegetable cultivation.

Picture by Women for Women International

4. How can people support your work?

People around the world can make it possible for a woman to participate in our year-long program through our sponsorship program by making a monthly donation of just 29€. We call this “Sponsor a Sister”. The sponsors then also have the opportunity to write letters to their sister and receive regular updates on her progress.

But even a one-time donation can make a big difference. 25€, for example, can already enable a woman to attend a math course or buy two baby chickens.

We are also convinced that everyone can make a contribution. It helps, for example, if you simply tell your friends and family about our work, and of course we are always happy to receive individual ideas for support.

You can also follow our work on social media (@WomenForWomenDE) and subscribe to our monthly newsletter. There you will always receive the latest updates on our work.

Picture by Women for Women International

Thank you for this exciting interview and your great work! Did this post touch you as much as it touched us? Then this blog post might be exciting for you as well. It contains an interview with Hope, the founder of the Resilient Women’s Organization in Uganda, which supports women’s empowerment.

You still have the chance to win an overnight stay in a socialbnb of your choice. All you have to do is sign up for our free newsletter – we’ll keep our fingers crossed!

One Comment

  • Eleonor Marcy

    I do trust all of the ideas you have presented to your post. They are really convincing and will certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for beginners. May you please lengthen them a bit from next time? Thank you for the post.

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