What's new - Fashion & Trends

Women for Women International helping women in war-torn countries

Since Women for Women International (WFWI) was founded 20 years ago, more than 380,000 women in war-torn countries have received practical and emotional support from the charity, with training courses in a range of vocations from hairdressing to beekeeping to advice on human rights.

In New York tonight, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton will be honoured at a gala dinner attended by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and designer Donna Karan celebrating 20 years of the charity set up by Zainab Salbi after she read of the horrors of the rape camps in Bosnia-Herzegovina. A report conducted by KPMG, published last September , found WFWI's work had greatly improved economic opportunities for women, improved their health and had reduced levels of domestic and sexual violence in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Nigerian woman with hat

Women for Women International has helped 380,00 women around the world, including this Nigerian woman who has set up her own knitting business. Photograph: Women for Women

 Here is a sample profile of some of the 380,000 WFWI beneficiaries:

 

Zarghuna, 40, Kabul, Afghanistan

Zarghuna was six when her family forced her to marry her nine-year-old cousin to settle a family dispute. Despite the initial hardship, she grew to love her husband and at 16 gave birth to a daughter. When her husband was suddenly killed, she twice tried to kill herself.

"I had been feeling very depressed, and went to the hospital to seek treatment," she says. "The doctor advised me to connect with other women, so I could discuss with them my challenges and hear about the similar obstacles they were dealing with."

Using the business skills she learned through WFWI, and a $600 loan from a family member, Zarghuna started an embroidery business in Kabul which now employs 120 people. She recently invested just over $ 20,000 in machinery to expand the company, and says she has more than $30,000 in the bank.

"Many of my employees are women who work from their homes, which gives them the opportunity to contribute to their family's wellbeing."

Claire, 26, Eastern Province, Rwanda

After paying 3,000 Rwandan francs (about $5.00) a month to hire a sewing machine, Claire's tailoring business barely broke even. It was her only source of revenue and she struggled to provide for her family's basic needs.

After lessons in financial management she took out a loan for 200,000 francs, which she used to buy two sewing machines and raw materials. "Other members from my community bring their own cloth and I charge them to make dresses," she says.

Her business success and training led women in her community to choose Claire to represent them on her village's women's council, which is involved in skills training and raising awareness of women's rights in the area.

Hava, 46, Henc, Kosovo

Hava's in-laws weren't keen when she suggested it would be a good idea for women in her village to take classes. "They said it was not a good thing for a woman to go to people's houses and invite women to join the training, that people would start talking."

Yet the classes inspired the women to campaign for the council to supply rubbish containers. Despite initial derision from the men running the municipality, the containers were eventually placed in the village. Since then, Hava has attended agricultural classes and has been able to grow enough food for the family, and surplus to sell.

 

Tabu, 25, Yei River Country, Central Equatoria, South Sudan

Tabu dropped out of primary school because her family couldn't afford the fees, and started to brew alcohol. At 16, she married a customer, who was a violent drunk. They had three children. "[My husband] would beat me whenever he was drunk. As much as I tried to advocate for my rights, family and friends did not listen to me," she says.

When Tabu applied to attend the WFWI course in April, her husband was not pleased. "He was annoyed at me for attending the training and tore the ID card and battered me in the process." With their support of WTWI staff, she left her husband and went back to live with her parents.

She also received advice on setting up a business, and in July, using the stipend she was given for attending the training sessions, she began selling tea. She is now making a profit and has so far managed to save 300 South Sudanese pounds (a little over $100). Her aim is to buy a mobile phone.


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