Joyce Meng's Blog

Celebrating International Women's Day

The UN has declared today International Women's Day - to celebrate women around the world and to recognize the importance of women in poverty reduction and investing in families worldwide. To celebrate, I'm going to write about three incredible women from within our partner network. In all honesty, we have so many amazing women as partners, supporters, and volunteers that it would be impossible to write a comprehensive profile of each of them, but in the weeks to come, I expect to share more stories!

I also encourage all of you to submit your own stories as comments!

Joanita, Founder of the Circle of Peace School: When I first learned about the Circle of Peace School, I found the story very emotionally touching. Joanita started off as a public school teacher, but when she became disillusioned with the school administration forcing her to eject students who couldn't pay fees (she would hide them from the principal), she took matters into her own hands by starting her own school on her front porch. Since its inception in 1994, the school has grown from just a handful of students to over 200 children from kindergarten through seventh grade! Having visited the Circle of Peace School myself and getting to know Joanita better, I can’t think of anyone with a bigger heart. The Peace School serves students whose families cannot afford to send them to public schools, many of them AIDS orphans.

Nasrine, Founder of Kabultec: Julia, Grace, and I had a chance to meet with Nasrine in person this past Saturday, and her compelling story of her plight for women’s rights and literacy in Afghanistan brought tears to all of our eyes. She has a deep passion for Afghanistan, her native country, and a desire to fight against the injustice brought upon the country by the Taliban. Eight out of 10 people in Afghanistan today are illiterate, with women having virtually no access to education. To combat this serious problem, Nasrine started literacy programs in some of the poorest villages, enrolling couples – man and wife together – in a comprehensive program. Since women require their husband's permission or presence to do most things, having men learn alongside their wives is an innovative and simple way to ensure family support and mitigate jealousy. Nasrine is truly an amazing women – she spear-headed the collection of over 300,000 signatures globally to enact an equal rights for women provision in the Afghanistan constitution. As a pioneer and voice for Afghanistan, she also ran democracy training seminars for female candidates to Parliament.

Kakenya, Founder of Kakenya Center of Excellence: I first heard about Kakenya through Jiefei, and after speaking with her, I was truly inspired by her courage and dedication to her people. Born in the Maasai village of Enoosaen (Kenya), Kakenya was the first woman to leave the community and go to the United States for college, negotiating with her father and her village elders to let her pursue her dreams. In hopes of sharing her discoveries with the girls in her community, she went back to start a school for girls – to not just provide an education, but to inspire the girls to aspire for more – to fight against the practices of child marriage and female genital mutilation. Even though she’s found success here in the United States, Kakenya strives to give back to her own village – to empower other girls in the village to achieve self-realization and a brighter future through education.

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