Welcome to the July 2021 issue of the Global Washington newsletter.
IN THIS ISSUE
- Letter from our Executive Director
- Issue Brief: Perhaps the Ambition of Gender Equality Will Finally Become a Reality
- Organization Profile: Girl Rising: Harnessing the Power of Storytelling to Ignite Change
- Goalmaker: For Kirthi Jayakumar, Ending Domestic Violence Against Women is Deeply Personal
- Welcome New Members
- GlobalWA Member Events
- Career Center
- GlobalWA Events
Letter from our Executive Director
Over twenty years ago, I worked for an organization doing microcredit for women in Central America. The research to support microcredit showed that giving loans to women, rather than men, to create microbusinesses and manage their household income, resulted in greater investments for their children’s education, the family’s healthcare, and overall well-being.
Today, there is similar evidence to demonstrate the positive impact of women in leadership and decision-making positions at the community and country level. In India, for example, communities with women-led councils had 62% more drinking-water projects than those with men-led councils. Yet, 61% of countries have never had a female leader and we have a long way to go for gender equality at all levels of society.
I am encouraged by the trends of women-centered development and recent investments announced at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris. Several Global Washington members are at the forefront of this approach for gender equality. I hope you will take the time to read more about this issue and our members in the articles below.
Also, this month Global Washington facilitated small group gatherings of over 60 female-identifying members to discuss gender equality and strengthen the network of females working in global development. This builds on our conversations from the Fall of 2020 about the Sustainable Development Goal #5 on Gender Equality that revealed the need to create more meaningful connections and allies across organizations and disciplines to promote gender equality. We’ll be producing a summary of recommendations coming out of these conversations in August.
I’m also thrilled to announce that registration for our 2021 Goalmakers Conference on December 8 and 9 will soon be open. The first day of this event will be virtual and the second day will be in-person in Seattle. The in-person event will be a homecoming after a long stretch of only online communication. As always, we will monitor public health guidance and make contingencies, but we are hopeful that we can gather again in-person to spark those connections vital to your work. I hope you can join us!
Perhaps the Ambition of Gender Equality Will Finally Become a Reality
By Joanne Lu
At a time when the world is grappling with the urgent consequences of crises like climate change and the global COVID-19 pandemic, gender equality advocates say we need more women in leadership than ever.
That’s why, on July 2, the Generation Equality Forum Paris, hosted by UN Women, concluded with historic commitments – including nearly $40 billion of confirmed investments – from governments, philanthropies, corporations, civil society, and youth organizations to accelerate gender equality over the next five years. It’s an effort to put concrete action behind the intentions that were set in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and the goals that were specified by Sustainable Development Goal 5.
“The Generation Equality Forum marks a positive, historic shift in power and perspective,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women in a press release. “Together we have mobilized across different sectors of society, from south to north, to become a formidable force, ready to open a new chapter in gender equality.”
The Paris event was preceded in March by a two-week-long kickoff gathering in Mexico City, where UN Member States adopted a set of Agreed Conclusions that recognized the need to significantly increase women’s full participation and leadership at all levels of decision-making in government and the public sector. It recommended, for example, setting targets and timelines to achieve gender balance in government through quotas, appointments and training, changing laws and policies that hinder women’s equal participation in public service, measures to eliminate, prevent and respond to all forms of violence against women and girls, measures to support young women’s participation in public life, and reinforcing women’s presence and leadership in all places where climate change-related decisions are made.
Such changes are especially relevant as COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing gender inequities, resulting in problems like increased violence against women and worse economic impacts for women. Indigenous women, women of color and youth have experienced compounded risks and barriers. And yet, women have mostly been excluded from governments’ pandemic task forces, composing only 24 percent of the 225 task force members in 137 countries, according to the UN Development Programme’s COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker.
That’s not the only disturbing statistic on women’s participation in leadership and decision-making. Only 22 countries have women Heads of State or Government; 119 have never had a woman leader. Four countries – Rwanda, Cuba, Bolivia and the United Arab Emirates – have 50 percent or more women in parliament in single or lower houses. And globally, women under age 30 make up less than 1 percent of parliamentarians. Yet, there is growing evidence that political decision-making processes improve when women hold leadership positions. In India, for example, communities with women-led councils had 62 percent more drinking-water projects than those with men-led councils. Other studies have found that countries in which women enjoy greater social and political status produce fewer carbon dioxide emissions and have lower climate footprints.
But the work of getting more women into leadership begins with the basics, like ensuring that they have access to quality education. Globally, 130 million girls remain out of school. That’s why Sahar Education for Afghan Girls is working hard to provide girls in war-torn Afghanistan with schools that provide quality teaching and are designed with their needs in mind. Sahar also has a Digital Literacy Program that opens doors for girls to higher education and job skills through technology. They are currently serving 1,500 girls a year through their computer labs.
Similarly, Rwanda Girls Initiative (RGI) founded a STEM-focused upper-secondary boarding school for girls in Rwanda. In addition to STEM subjects and English, the Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology offers extracurriculars that empower students to develop political leadership skills, such as Community Service, Leadership, and Mentoring where they’re encouraged to change the politics of Rwanda in their generation, and the exceedingly popular Debate and Seminars club. The debate team in fact made history by being the first all-girls school to win Rwanda’s annual Youth Entrepreneurs Debate Competition. Since then they’ve also competed on regional and international levels.
For many girls around the world, acts of violence like early marriage are keeping them out of school and preventing them from thriving into positions of leadership. That’s what CARE’s Tipping Point Initiative is working to address. Based on the premise that “major change only occurs when those who have been excluded from power organize collectively…to challenge existing systems and their impact,” Tipping Point facilitates adolescent girl-led activism against early marriage in Bangladesh and Nepal. Through the initiative, they’ve strengthened their organizing skills, they’ve connected with government officials, religious leaders, teachers and others, and their voices have been elevated to the national level.
Girl Rising is also amplifying the voices of adolescent girls, especially in advocating for their right to education. But their most recent Future Rising initiative works at the intersection of gender equity and climate justice because, according to the ND-GAIN Index, every additional year of schooling a girl receives correlates with a 3.2-point improvement in her country’s resilience to climate disasters. One piece of the initiative is a fellowship that supports 10 young people (mostly girls) who work in their communities on these issues. These fellows are creating projects like short films, comic series, essays, and grant applications that will illuminate the urgency of the crisis and change cultural narratives around climate and gender.
There are also several organizations working within the legal framework to end violence against women and other barriers to gender equality. These include Every Woman Treaty, which is advancing the creation, adoption, and implementation of a global treaty to end violence against women and girls. And, Women’s Link Worldwide, which works in and beyond courts to promote social change that advances the human rights of women and girls, especially those facing multiple inequalities.
The LGBTIQ community is especially familiar with multiple inequalities. Since 1990, OutRight Action International has been a leader in fighting for the human rights of LGBTIQ people globally. In addition to monitoring and documenting human rights violations, they help develop effective advocacy and capacity building for LGBTIQ rights and provide training to community members and allies. They also convene key stakeholders to exchange information on best practices related to ending violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or sex characteristics.
It’s clear that even with limited resources, civil society organizations like these have been doing the hard work of advancing gender equality for decades. But now, with action commitments and investments from all sectors, like those pledged at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, perhaps the ambition of gender equality will finally become a reality.
The following Global Washington members are helping with gender equality and women empowerment.
APCO is the world’s largest independent and majority woman-owned advisory and advocacy communications firm. A passionate belief in breaking down barriers, challenging the status quo, and advancing equality has been in our DNA since our founding in 1984. APCO Impact is an advisory group that sits within APCO Worldwide and supports clients across business, government, and philanthropy. Our work helps clients be catalysts for progress and address the key issues of our time, including corporate purpose, ESG, climate and sustainability, racial and gender equity, and social justice.
Concern’s approach to ending extreme poverty is rooted in the understanding that the cycle of poverty is fueled by a combination of inequality, vulnerability, and risk. The greatest form of marginalization, and a force multiplier for other types of discrimination, is gender inequity. Women invest up to 90% of their income back into their families (compared to the average 30-40% invested by men), meaning that when there is financial equity at home, families are more likely to break that cycle, and whole economies change for the better. However, there are many factors that hinder this progress for women and girls, including barriers to education, healthcare, sustainable livelihoods, and a seat at the decision-making table, as well as gender-based violence.
All of Concern’s programs are implemented through a gender-transformative lens. Concern critically examines and challenges the harmful gender norms and dynamics in each community where we work in order to build the equity necessary to sustainably end poverty. They engage women as agents of their own future through skills training, psychosocial support, and healthcare solutions. Concern also actively engages men as accountable allies. Finally, they pay special attention to the intersecting inequalities that leave many women further behind, including caste, ethnicity, and health. Learn more at: https://www.concernusa.org/what-we-do/gender-equality/.
Every Women Treaty is a diverse coalition of more than 1,700 women’s rights advocates, including 840 organizations, in 128 countries working for a safer world for women and girls worldwide. Every Women Treaty envisions a world where every woman and girl everywhere lives a life free from violence. The Every Woman mission is to advance the creation, adoption, and implementation of a global treaty to end violence against women and girls.
Girl Rising’s mission is to ensure that girls around the world are educated and empowered. Girl Rising works with local partners by providing customized tools and curricula to build confidence and agency in girls and to change attitudes and social norms so that entire communities stand up for girls and against gender discrimination.
Their story-based tools and curricula engage, energize and motivate young people to see beyond their borders, value their education, understand their rights and believe in their capacity to change their lives, communities, and even the world.
The Global Leadership Forum strengthens globally oriented social-purpose leaders through a 7-month peer cohort program that addresses leadership, management, and organizational development topics. In this trusting peer community, creative problem solving and real-time application of topics results in personal and organizational growth. More than 75% of the over 100 alumni of GLF are women. 100% of GLF participants experienced statistically significant growth in felt leadership skills and competencies. They strengthened connections with others in the development sector, solved thorny workplace challenges, and made career transitions that seemed impossible before GLF. Mid-career cohorts build a pipeline of leaders into the sector, and senior level cohorts provide space for renewal and clarity for leaders to sustain their impact. Alumni of the program form an enduring community who support each other to improve lives in communities worldwide.
Kati Collective provides experienced, strategic, and pragmatic action focused on three of the most important drivers of change: gender, data, and partnerships. Using data as a tool to unlock solutions at every step of the development lifecycle, we align resources from across our network with global and local expertise to provide clients with targeted, cost-effective project resources.
We provide multi-national and multi-level clients and partners with the perspective and experience to navigate complex global health and development challenges, as well as the strategies and tools needed to improve data-driven health outcomes on a global scale – all with a gender equity lens firmly in place.
Kati Collective is a woman-owned and staffed organization built on the belief that achieving gender equity will change the world. Starting with our small core team, for each engagement we pull in diverse, international professionals with the talent and knowledge to provide the right skills at the right time to the right project.
We strongly believe that the community perspectives of women and girls must be included at all levels of stakeholder engagement and that by insisting on rigorous data science in the global ecosystem, we will advance gender equity.
Mona Foundation aims to alleviate global poverty so that no child goes to bed hungry, is lost to preventable diseases, or is deprived of the gift of education due to lack of resources. This can only be achieved when women and girls are able to equally participate in all aspects of socio-economic activity and fully contribute to the betterment of their communities.
Gender equality and education for all are strategic development priorities as well as birth rights. Nearly all of Mona’s 19 partner organizations in 12 countries work to educate and empower girls. The results have been dramatic. In India, the Barli Institute (Indore) educates illiterate rural young women and has graduated 8,500 “change agents” from 800 villages. All are driving sustained positive change in their communities as health workers, teachers, and independent entrepreneurs; 94% contribute to the income of their family. The Aarohini Girls Empowerment Program (Lucknow) teaches girls to resist and overcome gender injustice and educates boys to champion gender equality. As a result, child marriages dropped from 54% at risk in 2016 to 0% in 2019.
Gender equality is a reality of our humanity. Mona works to ensure this spiritual reality finds lasting form in every community.
Oxfam America’s work to advance gender justice is multifaceted and tailored to the people Oxfam serves. In some countries, Oxfam is the largest and most prominent organization to take a stand for women and gender-diverse people, and alongside them, often supporting the infrastructures of burgeoning movements. In other countries, like Sri Lanka, Oxfam helps rethink entrenched systems and remap biases to shift attitudes and overcome barriers. In all places, Oxfam strives for sustainable change. Oxfam does so first by acknowledging women, girls, and feminist actors as effective social change agents who must have a hand in ensuring their own rights and in the development they most want to see – development that will transform their families, communities and countries.
At Rwanda Girls Initiative, they know that education is the key to gender equality. They believe that investing in girls education, especially secondary education, is one of the most powerful levers one can pull to spark systemic change. When girls receive an education, they are more likely to lead healthy, productive lives, earning higher wages and participate in decision making in their community. Girls education fosters economic development, peace, and reduces inequalities between boys and girls. Still today, there are more than 132 million girls left out of school worldwide and only 25 percent of countries have achieved gender parity in upper secondary education.
As an all-girls boarding school in Rwanda, they have removed the most significant barriers to education for their students. Rwanda Girls Initiative is one of the most socio-economically diverse schools in Africa, with 100% of their students receiving some amount of financial aid. Their teachers and staff support an environment of academic excellence, problem solving, leadership and service; ensuring that graduates will become tomorrow’s leaders. To date Rwanda Girls Initiative has graduated 705 students; future scientists, entrepreneurs, advocates and thought leaders, who will bring insights and solutions to the biggest global challenges we face.
For 20 years, Sahar’s mission has been to provide safe spaces for girls to receive a quality education. Sahar partners with the Ministry of Education and Afghan-based organizations to build public schools and implement educational programs for girls, empowering and inspiring children and their families to build peaceful, thriving communities. Each academic year, 25,000 girls attend the thirteen public schools built by Sahar. The organization also provides a range of programs including: early marriage prevention, teacher training, digital literacy, and building gender allies to improve the achievement gap between girls and boys. In order to address this disparity, Sahar developed and implemented the Early Marriage Prevention program in 2015. Since its founding, 1,473 students have graduated from the program. In this program, girls are introduced to the importance of continuing their education, leadership skills and professional development.
As U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan, Sahar’s Board of Directors and staff have reaffirmed an enduring commitment to providing education in northern Afghanistan.
Starbucks commitment to ensuring a sustainable future of coffee for all starts with strengthening the communities that grow coffee and tea around the world. Women play key roles in these communities for their households, farms and businesses. We believe that investing in women and girls in coffee- and tea-growing regions makes a significant impact for both families and their broader communities. The Starbucks Foundation’s Origin Grants help these communities continue to break down barriers to education, promote clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and create economic opportunities for women and girls. On International Women’s Day in 2018, The Starbucks Foundation announced a goal to empower 250,000 women and girls in origin communities by 2025. To date, The Starbucks Foundation is more than halfway towards achieving this goal, having reached more than 125,000 women through programs around women’s leadership, access to finance and healthy homes in coffee- and tea-growing communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America. This includes collaboration with other GlobalWA members, such as Mercy Corps empowering women in Indian tea communities as leaders around COVID-19 awareness. Learn more about the impact here.
Tostan’s three-year holistic Community Empowerment Program brings about positive social transformation for improved gender equality, which is manifested through improved voice, agency, and leadership for women and girls. Using participatory, culturally relevant educational techniques, the human rights-based curriculum provides new knowledge and skills in democracy, health and hygiene, literacy and numeracy, and project management and encourages communities to define their own vision for well being, review their current practices and adjust outdated social rules. Community Management Committees, with at least 50% female membership, advance community priorities and manage Community Development Funds that stimulate women’s economic empowerment.
Gender equality is reinforced through the program’s curriculum which incorporates dialogue, skills, and information that leads communities to reexamine women’s roles within their communities and beyond. The Community Management Committees provides women members the opportunity to practice leadership skills and act as role models for future generations. Increasingly, the program is grooming new women leaders who run for local and higher government positions. As women gain confidence and visibility in new roles, this strengthens new gender norms, making it possible for qualified women to more openly represent their interests and improve government institutions for all.
Girl Rising: Harnessing the Power of Storytelling to Ignite Change
By Joanne Lu
What happens when a group of filmmakers and journalists set out to answer the age-old question: How do we end global poverty? It turns out they harness the power of storytelling into a global movement to educate girls, called Girl Rising.
It started in 2009 when reaching out to experts across the development spectrum, says Christina Lowery, CEO of Girl Rising. They spoke with people who worked on HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, agriculture, clean water, and other aspects of development to ask what are the best ways to reduce poverty.
“No matter who we spoke to, somewhere in their list of top five things that needed to happen to improve outcomes in their sector and address poverty was, ‘Well, really, you have to get girls in school and keep them there,’” says Lowery.
They dug into the data and found a “mountain of evidence,” as Lowery puts it, on what happens when you educate girls and when they go on to become leaders:
- A girl with one extra year of education can earn 10 to 20 percent more as an adult.
- If India enrolled 1 percent more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.
- Girls with 8 years of education are four times less likely to be married as children.
- And for every additional year of schooling a girl receives, her country’s resilience to climate disasters improves by 3.2 points as measured by the ND-GAIN Index.
Yet, very little money is invested into girls’ education and more than 130 million girls remain out of school.
“As filmmakers and journalists, we thought this was the story of a lifetime,” says Lowery.
The result was a feature-length film, released in 2013, that told the true stories of nine girls – in Haiti, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nepal, India, Peru, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan – and the obstacles they overcame to get an education.
But alongside the making of the film, Girl Rising also created a strategy to use the film in educational settings to change minds, to use it in mass media to grow the choir of people engaged in educating girls and to use it to help change policies around the world. That work has snowballed into the organization that Girl Rising is today.
Today, Girl Rising works in 12 countries, reaching 5 million youth through various content and curricula, as well as tens of thousands of educators and parents to change how they teach and support girls. About 80 percent of the people Girl Rising reaches with their content fall under the low income bracket, including communities that are below the poverty line, earning less than $1.90 a day.
In all of the 12 countries where Girl Rising has a presence, they have deployed their core curriculum into direct learning environments to meaningfully impact the lives of adolescent girls, as well as engage educators and boys. Depending on resources and opportunity, they have also expanded their “circle of influence” in some countries into the community environment (families, caregivers, and community influencers), structural environment (institutional support and government policies), and cultural environment (mass media).
At the heart of their work, they’re still telling girls’ stories – creating educational resources, films, books, and television and radio programming. They also collaborate with more than 130 local partners, including educators, schools, community organizations, businesses, and non-profits to create locally-adapted programming and expand their reach. Finally they activate their audience – whether families, communities, corporations, governments, or the general public – to take action for girls’ education and gender equity.
In India, for example, Girl Rising is partnering with the Ministry of Women and Child Development to change the government’s policies toward girls. They’ve also created content specifically for the ministry to disseminate across the country, including in hard-to-reach communities. Additionally, Girl Rising has converted its film into “behavior-change tools,” says Nidhi Dubey, Girl Rising’s Country Representative in India. These include a facilitator’s guide to use at screenings of the film as well as materials that bundle the nine stories in the film into chapters that focus on specific behavior changes, like how fathers and brothers can support their girls or how girls can stand up for themselves.
According to Girl Rising, stories that change mindsets and stir behavior change help girls to gain a voice and agency. With voice and agency, they can articulate their dreams and aspirations and then do something about it. Those are some indicators of empowerment that Girl Rising looks at, besides tracking the number of girls enrolling and staying in school. But they also evaluate the empowerment of girls’ families and communities, their health and rates of early marriage and pregnancy, among other indicators.
Unfortunately, a lot of the progress in girls’ education and empowerment that has been made globally over the last couple decades has now been lost amid the pandemic.
“Because of deeply rooted gender norms, girls remain hurt first and worst by this pandemic,” says Virginia Terry, Girl Rising’s Head of Development. “Schools are often the only safe place an adolescent girl has to learn, be with peers, and get a meal and health and hygiene products, and then that was taken away. So, this past year has been all about adaptations to these disruptions.”
But Terry says that because of Girl Rising’s deep relationships with local partners, they’ve been able to adapt quickly, nimbly, and appropriately to what’s happening in local contexts. In Guatemala, for example, they quickly converted their program to a radio program and home delivery of education materials. In India, their partner Slam Out Loud turned to low-tech media like WhatsApp. Terry says these are adaptations that Girl Rising can carry forward into the post-pandemic world.
Looking ahead, Girl Rising is also excited about their newly launched Future Rising initiative, which addresses the intersection of girls’ education and climate change through storytelling, social action, and education. Part of the initiative is a fellowship that supports 10 young people between the ages of 17 and 25, who are working in their communities on these issues. Their proposed work include projects like short films, essays, or grant applications. One young woman in Nigeria, for example, will be creating a series of graphic novels that show the effect of drought on early marriage in her community. It will be an ongoing fellowship with a new cohort every six months that will focus on one specific topic under the umbrella of climate change, such as water shortage, sustainable agriculture, or civic leadership.
“We feel a great responsibility to help amplify and support especially young people and young girls telling the stories of their work in their own communities,” says Lowery. “They’re proof of concept that if we can ensure girls are educated and supported, they will, in fact, address some of the most serious problems in their communities and around the world.”
For Kirthi Jayakumar, Ending Domestic Violence Against Women is Deeply Personal
By Joel Meyers
Kirthi Jayakumar has been advocating to end domestic violence since she was 25, initially in Chennai, India (where she grew up) yet shortly after across the globe. She founded a non-profit, she has created a mobile app and Facebook chat bot to help victims of domestic violence, she is a passionate speaker, and a passionate proponent of ending gender violence wherever it exists. Most recently she is a graduate of Every Woman Treaty’s 1000 Voices Fellowship, a program to train women on international laws that address gender equality, women’s rights and ending violence against women. “Every experience in my life has pointed towards responding to this issue [of gender-based violence] one way or the other.”
Kirthi was quite young when she fell victim to domestic violence: “I was age five when somebody who was supposed to take care of me turned heel and winded up becoming my abuser, and that [turned into] 13 years of abuse.” Kirthi tolerated it in silence – she internalized the trauma as she thought she deserved the violence. “I am finding an answer for little Kirthi – the young woman who faced what she shouldn’t have faced – I’m looking for justice for her.”
Kirthi’s mother, a therapist working with survivors of gender-based violence, has been a tremendous positive influence in her life. “What my mum did is very unlike what a typical Indian mother does. She didn’t silence me, she didn’t cry, she didn’t decide to marry me away immediately – these are stories one hears of – instead she told me I can own my story, and reclaim control of my life, my body, my mind, or I could just go ahead and grieve, and whichever option I would pick, she would have my back.”
Kirthi found her voice when she was 25 “…when a horrific incident happened in New Delhi on 16 December 2012 when a young woman was brutally gang raped, and that incident in some ways helped me access a sense of solidarity. This was my first understanding that I thrive in an environment where there is solidarity, and in an environment where there’s nurture, which I would eventually find again in the 1000 Voices Fellowship.” Six months later, Kirthi, with tremendous help from her mother (and a strong influence from her grandmother who taught her the value of lifelong learning), founded a non-profit in Chennai called the Red Elephant Foundation. “The idea was to paint the elephant in the room red so people would speak about issues they simply weren’t.” She quickly follows: “It’s not that these conversations were not happening in India at the time – there were several great feminists, several great activists doing this job – the fact is the critical tipping point hadn’t yet come in for my generation.”
Domestic violence in India is certainly not a new phenomenon, though it has not been until this last century that it has been pushed into the light of political and cultural discourse. It wasn’t until the 1970’s with the women’s movement when the issue of gender began to gain traction and visibility as an issue separate from other concerns. But there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. In a survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2018, India was ranked as the world’s most dangerous country for women among the 193 United Nation member states. Today, according to UN Women, roughly 25% of women in in India are victims of some form of domestic violence, and of those the numbers may not even represent the full extent of the problem since as per National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16, roughly 77% of women who experienced domestic violence didn’t ever mention it to anyone and even less than 1% of the women actually sought help from the police(1).
“When I found my voice, I was able to use what I had learned at that time for speaking out, and I taught myself a lot of ways I could channel that into action at the community level. I pursued degrees in peace and conflict studies and gender studies at the same time in the hope of using peace education as a way to get young people to normalize nonviolence over violence.” Kirthi received her Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Ambedkar University in Chennai, India, an MA in Peace and Conflict Studies from Coventry University, and a second MA from UPEACE (also in peace studies).
Seven years after founding the Red Elephant Foundation she closed its doors because of the COVID pandemic, “…because money was hard to come by and my modality was to teach at schools; they went online and I couldn’t get the time to teach.” Her lifelong learning practice and desire for positive change was channeled into developing an app called Saahas, which means “courage” in Hindi. “I taught myself to code and created a mobile app and Facebook chat bot with resources that listed help for violence survivors across 196 countries, to find help wherever they are, whenever there’s an emergency. Legal help, medical help…all kinds of resources.” Via the app and her personal capacity as a liaison for survivors, her efforts have helped 40,000 violence survivors – “women, yet any individual facing domestic violence.”
And then she was introduced to Lisa Shannon, CEO of Every Woman Treaty. “Lisa renewed my belief that the future can be changed. She has made me feel welcome in ways very few have, and that is amazing.” Kirthi readily enrolled in the second cohort of the 1000 Voices Fellowship, an “intense 2-week training program that brings activists from the front lines from all over the world in a cohort of 20-25 people to train on international laws that address violence against women and women’s rights.” The Fellowship, she continues, “also includes a media training component that helps fellows shine the spotlight on violence against women through the local and international media. The program is a powerful catalyst to work with leaders from all over the world to share stories and best practices – something you don’t find very often. This program makes accessing this pool of talent possible from the comfort of your own home: it is a perfect mix of knowledge and intersectionality, and peer to peer learning.”
“The biggest thing I am looking at now is to find a path to ending violence against women – and to me at the moment it looks like getting the Every Woman Treaty in place and having the world’s women benefit from its existence.” To her, there is no other option. “Part of making [domestic violence] go away is pattern breaking. Change will not come without a catalyst – that catalyst is that treaty. It takes every hand on deck to make domestic and gender violence go away.” Through her involvement in Every Woman Treaty, she hopes to engage in conversations at both the country level in civil society as well as with people in power to support the treaty in passing. She will also continue to work with women in India, especially women with COVID.
Kirthi is a humble activist that keeps looking to the future and the positive change that can be achieved. “I personally refrain from identifying with one incident as an accomplishment as there is a chance I may put a ceiling on myself. And there is a chance I may compare everything thing else that is to come with that threshold and may not enjoy what’s to come.”
More on Every Woman Treaty 1000 Voices Fellowship
1000 Voices builds the capacity of coalition members through coordination and support, the creation of national coalitions, and diverse, culturally-appropriate expert peer-to-peer training in media, advocacy, fundraising, and public policy. Upon completion of this program these leaders will be further equipped to foster significant influence on policy makers, media, and diplomats, leading to increased security for all women and girls in their nation. 1000 Voices prioritizes emerging world leaders, including coalition members from marginalized communities, including indigenous people, people experiencing disability, and widows, as well as advocates in low- to middle-income countries, and countries with the highest rates of violence.
Welcome New Members
Please welcome our newest Global Washington members. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with their work and consider opportunities for support and collaboration!
Concern Worldwide US
Concern Worldwide USA is a global community of humanitarians, partners, community members, supporters, donors, and volunteers who share a common vision of a world where no one lives in poverty, fear, or oppression, and all can exercise their rights to a decent standard of living, can have access to the opportunities and choices essential to a long, healthy, and creative life, and can be treated with dignity and respect. Concern Worldwide US are innovators who have been at the forefront of engineering transformative approaches to the treatment of malnutrition, maternal & child health care, mobile cash transfers, disaster recovery and more. Concernusa.org
Results Educational Fund
RESULTS is a movement of passionate, committed everyday people who use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty. results.org
Special Olympics Washington
Special Olympics was started by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968 as a way to provide people with intellectual disabilities a place to play, and feel included. Today, her vision has become a Global movement with over 4.7 million athletes competing in 169 countries. Through programming in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics is able to remove barriers and stigmas that people with intellectual disabilities face, and to share with the community the gifts and talents they possess. specialolympicswashington.org
September 14: YWCA Inspire Luncheon
October 2: TRIFC/Nepal’s 2021 Virtual Gala
October 2021: Global Leadership Forum Mid-Career Cohort, Applications are being accepted now. Email team@glfglobalorg to join a virtual info session on July 22nd 10-11am, or August 4th 12 – 1pm.
Development Director // FSC Investments and Partnerships (FSC I&P)
Administrative Assistant // Global Partnerships
Associate, Data Analytics // VillageReach
Young Professionals International Network (YPIN) Volunteer Board Member 2021-2023 // World Affairs Council
Check out the GlobalWA Job Board for the latest openings.
August 12: Decolonizing International Development
SAVE THE DATE: December 8 & 9: GOALMAKERS CONFERENCE