Since the early 1900’s, something special happens every 8 March: We honour International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the achievements of women and a call to action for gender party. This year, the theme is #EachforEqual, to create a gender equal world. At a strictly logistical level, International Women’s Day is a shining example of a well-run (and massive) campaign. The message and aims are clear, it’s easy for people to get involved (check out the “IWD in a Box”), there’s even a symbolic campaign colour (purple, which signifies justice and dignity). But most important is the campaign’s impact. In honour of International Women’s Day, we highlight three leading charities that work tirelessly to challenge stereotypes, broaden perceptions and improve situations for women and children around the world.
Unicef’s Campaign to End Child Marriage
Unicef, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund, is working to end child marriage by helping those who face the greatest risk. This includes girls from poor households and those living in rural areas or in marginalised groups; these girls are also the hardest to reach. The costs and effects of child marriage are high. Those who are married often experience isolation from their families, friends and communities, which perpetuates threats to their health and livelihood.
The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage launched in 2016 to tackle the practice in 12 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage. The programme aims to help girls achieve their aspirations and “direct their own future”. It provides alternative pathways for girls at risk, to help them avert marriage and pregnancy though education and services, and by addressing underlying conditions and leveraging data to advocate for laws and policy change.
It’s an urgent issue worth knowing about on International Women’s Day. While the prevalence of child marriage has decreased globally (a decade ago, one in four girls were married compared with one in five today), the practice continues to be widespread. UNICEF reports that without accelerated attention, more than 150 million girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030. However, the UNFPA-UNICEF programme is seeing impact; in 2018, for example, more than 60,000 young girls received life-skills training, 11,160 were referred to health centres and 853 cases of child marriage were cancelled or postponed.
Another urgent issue to honour on International Women’s Day is the fight to end domestic violence against women. Women’s Aid is a grassroots federation that provides life-saving services for women, toward a future in which domestic violence is not tolerated. One of the key campaigns of Women’s Aid is to make coercive and controlling behaviour a criminal offence. It’s also working to make “Relationships and Sex Education” a mandatory part of the national curriculum this year.
And that’s not all. Women’s Aid also helps survivors of domestic violence, campaigns for government action, supports its membership base of 180 organisations, trains supporters to respond to incidents, conducts research on key issues and works with schools, communities and football clubs to educate the public.
The SOS Save Refuges, Save Lives campaign, for example, aims to preserve the UK’s network of specialist refuges. Refuges provide life-saving services for women, and yet, an alarming number of women and children are routinely turned away from them. SOS aims to change this by calling on the government to secure long-term funding and a new national model of commissioning for refuges.
Women’s Aid provides numerous ways for individuals to get involved with this or any campaign. It recruits “Women’s Aid Campaign Champions” to do everything from signing petitions to sending tweets to securing media coverage. A Campaigning Toolkit helps people hone in on the issues they care about and develop a clear campaign around that issue to identify targets, recruit friends and set specific campaign goals.
Women for Women International
A third charity making change is Women for Women International. It began during the Bosnian war in 1993, to create “sister-to-sister” connections with isolated women in Bosnia and “sponsor sisters” around the world. This letter exchange programme provides solidarity, support and financial aid to help women improve and rebuild their lives. Today, the charity has reached 500,000 women survivors of war in 8 countries, and exchanged nearly 1 million letters. Through a number of programmes, Women for Women is actively working to break cycles of poverty through hands-on programmes and inspirational outreach.
Women for Women marks International Women’s Day with its #MessageToMySister campaign. It asks people from around the world to send a message of hope and sisterhood to women survivors of war. These messages show women that they are not forgotten or alone, and counter the all-too-common effects of anxiety, depression and isolation that occur in conflict areas. Why not send one of your own? Click here to learn more and compose your note.
These three charities are doing amazing work to fight for women worldwide. Just as the #EachforEqual campaign runs throughout 2020, International Women’s Day is a moment to come together to support these critical causes today and every day.
What other charities do you support? Who else is working to improve the livelihoods of women and children, right here or around the world? At Rocket Charities, we care about these issues deeply and we welcome these conversations with you and your team. Please reach out any time.