Women play a key role in the CWS mission

Church World Service joined people around the world in commemorating International Women's Day on March 8 by celebrating lives transformed through the work of CWS programs and partnerships.

By Lesley Crosson/CWS

Women make up one-half of the global human resource pool – countries that do not invest adequately in educating and empowering girls and capitalizing on the female portion of the talent pool are undermining their economies’ resilience, productivity and competitive potential.
    - Saadia Zahidi, head of women leaders and gender parity
      program of the World Economic Foru
m


Maureen in Kisumu, Kenya
Maureen received support for her business through the Giving Hope program.
Photo: Henry Jones

Church World Service joined people around the world in commemorating International Women's Day on March 8 by celebrating lives transformed through the work of CWS programs and partnerships.   

Women play a key role in the CWS mission of eradicating hunger and poverty and so all of the agency's programs--even those that are not designed exclusively for women--are sensitive to the need to provide women with equal access to education and skills building.  

Half the population of the world is female and nearly 70 percent of the world's poor are women.  Empowering them is more than just a moral imperative; it is a smart investment in greater economic security and self-reliance for women, their families, and their communities.

That fact is borne out by the experience of Maureen, a 24-year-old woman living in Kisumu, Kenya.  Her life showed every sign of spiraling downward following a series of deaths in the family; first her father in 1989, then her mother in 1995, and finally, in 2002, the uncle who took her and her siblings in and made sure she continued her education.  With no one left to pay her school fees Maureen was forced to drop out of high school.

An aunt who began caring for her introduced her to the small-scale business of cooking chapatti (flat bread) and samosa (spiced beef and peas wrapped in bread dough).  Following the violence that broke out in Kisumu after the 2008 Kenya general election, "things were not looking up for Maureen and her aunt," reports CWS partner the YWCA of Kenya.

But Maureen's fortunes started to improve when she learned about "Giving Hope," the Church World Service-supported program that helps young people ages 12 to 25, who have become the primary caregivers for their families. Through the program, the young people set goals and acquire the education and skills to generate income and care for their households.  

YWCA staffers say Maureen joined the Giving Hope program's Nyawita Initiative Working Group, which consists of seven households. "With support from the group she was boosted to continue operating the food kiosk."

And that was just the beginning.

Maureen also went back to school and completed her education--in 2009 she graduated from a local college with training in hotel management.

"Through her business she is now self-reliant and has been able to rent her own house where she stays with her siblings and her child.  She enjoys coming together and sharing in the working group, as she is the group's treasurer," reports the YWCA.

Her new life now includes a job at a hotel in Kisumu, and dreams of owning her own hotel.

Maureen's story could have had a different outcome.  But her determination to become self-reliant coupled with support from participants in a CWS-sponsored program turned the tables back in her favor. Now, instead of being a liability, Maureen is newly-empowered to care not just for her family but to contribute to the economic development of her community.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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