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International Women’s Day 2012: Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures

Women from Greenbelt Movement International harvesting food from trees.

March 8 marks International Women’s Day, when the world recognizes the achievements of women and the progress that still needs to be made. This year’s theme is Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures, which serves as the guiding principle for many of Aid for Africa’s members.

In Sub Saharan Africa, the role of women in all aspects of life is critical, but not always acknowledged. While recognition of this role is changing, there is far to go.  For example, fewer girls than boys graduate from primary, high school, and college.  More women than men live with HIV/AIDS (12 million vs. 8.2 million). Women produce most of the food and perform almost all rural domestic work, including collecting water and firewood, preparing and cooking meals, and processing and storing food.   Women bear a disproportionate burden of Africa’s poverty — a staggering 70 percent.

Empowering girls and women though education, employment, environmental awareness, and business development has a profound effect on their own lives and those of their families, as well as on their communities.  For example, when a woman is able to find employment, she is likely to spend 90 percent of her income on her family, compared to 40 percent for a man.  Aid for Africa members are working to build and expand this empowerment in a range of ways.

In Kenya, through Aid for Africa member Greenbelt Movement International, women have planted more than 47 million trees, reversing the effects of deforestation while instilling in them a new sense of confidence and control over their lives. Solar Cookers International has enabled the women and girls in more than 30,000 families in Africa to cook with the sun’s energy, freeing them from the burdens of gathering firewood and carrying it for miles. Part of the success of the Solar Cookers program comes from establishing independent solar cooker businesses run mostly by women.  East African Center for the Empowerment of Women and Children teaches women who have never attended school reading and basic math and business skills to help them advance economically.

Aid for Africa has made a commitment to the education of girls and young women through the Aid for Africa Girls Education Fund, which is supporting scholarships for African girls at all levels, from primary through university education.  There is no better way to connect girls and inspire futures than through education.

Empowering women is a key to a more prosperous future throughout Sub Saharan Africa.  On International Women’s Day, we recognize the progress made and our hopes for the future. Learn more about how Aid for Africa members are working to empower and support girls and women.