“We have shattered so many glass ceilings we created a carpet of shards. Now we are sweeping away the assumptions and bias of the past so women can advance across new frontiers”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 

International Women’s Day (IWD) has existed for over 100 years and has been celebrated on March 8th since the seventies. This year’s theme – “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” – was backed by the United Nations and involved reflection and discussion on the Step It Up Initiative. This initiative asks governments from around the globe to make national commitments to close the gender equality gap, with the goal that all women and girls have equal opportunities and rights by 2030.

This important day also involved celebrations from all over the world! And, even if you weren’t engaging in an official IWD event March 8th, it was hard to miss it trending on social media, and as the focus of this Google Doodle.

Unearth the World is proud to support women both personally and professionally. Encouraging discussion around women’s education and empowerment is something we feel strongly about. And, we spent International Women’s Day doing just that…

Melissa and Kathryn connecting with Josephinum students on International Women's Day 2016

Melissa and Kathryn connecting with Josephinum students on International Women’s Day 2016

Melissa and I started International Women’s Day by representing Unearth the World at a local Chicago school. We connected directly with students at the Josephinum Academy – an all-girls college preparatory high school with an acute focus on developing engaged global leaders! We first met with the school’s leadership to discuss ways in which they can continue to empower their students to become more globally engaged. Then, we spoke to some of the students about what it means to follow your dreams, start your own business, and make a true impact in the world. And, while our intention was to inspire the students, we were blown away by the poise, passion and vision that each young woman brought to the table. It was so much fun to directly connect with future female leaders; we cannot wait to see what inspiring things they will do with their lives!

I was also thrilled to be a panelist at buildOn’s International Women’s Day evening event. buildOn is an nonprofit that empowers U.S. urban youth to transform their neighborhoods and the world through intensive community service. I was honored to be a speaker at their 2016 IWD event. The event brought over a hundred men and women together for a discussion about global and local education as it relates to girls and women. It also served as an opportunity to kick off a “Stronger Together” campaign that empowers women in the developing world through adult literacy classes and skills training. I loved meeting other strong female leaders and felt especially empowered to contribute to an evening focused on uniting women through service and education.

buildOn's International Women's Dau 2016 celebration #StrongerTogether

buildOn’s International Women’s Day 2016 celebration #StrongerTogether

While it’s wonderful to celebrate women on International Women’s Day, Unearth the World’s focus on empowering women is not limited to celebrating once a year. In fact, four out of the five international projects that UTW partners with are run by women! And while we did not specifically seek out female-run organizations, we are thrilled to be partnering with them and see the positive impacts they are making for women in their communities.

In fact, many of Unearth the World’s nonprofit partners have constructed projects that specifically empower women! For instance, the education-focused project in Peru runs several programs focused on women including educational workshops, classes (including Spanish literacy, English and computer skills), and community gardening. Perhaps most impressive is their artisan program that further develops local women’s handicraft skills while providing a steady source of economic support to their household. And in Nicaragua, our partner helps support a local baking cooperative run entirely by women.

Computer classes offered by our amazing partner in Peru!

Computer classes offered by our amazing partner in Peru!

The statistics do not lie about the results of empowering women in developing countries:

  • According to Unicef: “Providing girls with an education helps break the cycle of poverty: educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will; less likely to die in childbirth; more likely to have healthy babies; and are more likely to send their children to school. When all children have access to a quality education rooted in human rights and gender equality, it creates a ripple effect of opportunity that influences generations to come.”
  • And the UN states that there is evidence of the positive effects of micro-finance on the livelihood of poor women including, improved physical mobility, ability to make own purchases, freedom from family domination, freedom from violence, political and legal awareness, increased self confidence, and better financial security.

 As a woman, female entrepreneur, future mother, and self-proclaimed feminist I am proud to have celebrated IWD both personally and professionally! And I look forward to continuing to support projects abroad that empower women through Unearth the World.