To celebrate International Women’s Day, we wanted to reflect on how our own vision of investing in a better world is inextricably linked to investing in the future of women. Time and again, research shows that educating and empowering girls is one of the best ways to improve the quality of life for communities around the world by breaking cycles of generational poverty, advancing knowledge and improving health. In order to bring safer living conditions, better access to education and basic health care and empowerment to women, many nonprofits that form our Bright Funds portfolio are taking crucial steps to address these issues.
BRAC, one of our Bright Funds Education Fund organizations, supports one of the largest and most effective networks of non-government secular schools to educate children left behind by formal education systems. Most often these abandoned students are girls. When more girls are educated, a country’s malnutrition and HIV rates decline and if these educated women become mothers, they are 50% more likely to immunize their children.
Members of our Bright Funds Health Fund are addressing direct solutions to the most pressing health concerns facing women today. PATH, for example is working to reduce the hundreds of thousands of maternal deaths that occur each year from childbirth by improving healthcare in developing countries and providing quality neonatal and maternal care. Their focus on family planning and reproductive health is also an integral step towards reducing the rate of transmission in life-threatening diseases like HIV.
Another goal of our nonprofits is to alleviate poverty through women’s empowerment, a task that is taken head-on in our Bright Funds Poverty Fund. This is no light task either. According to PCI, of the 1.3 billion people in the world that live in extreme poverty, 70% are women or girls. That fact alone is startling, but then consider this: women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, but earn just 10 percent of the income and own less than 1 percent of property. Such harsh truths are part of the reason that PCI focuses on the economic empowerment of women through skills training and support programs throughout the world.
The Poverty Fund also supports a reduction in gender-based violence. Over 1 billion women will be victims of violence in their lifetime, and it is estimated that 1 in 5 women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape (care.org). These scary statistics demand our attention and our support to bring about change. CARE, one of our partner organizations, is currently working with local communities and governments in over 20 countries to implement programs that address violence against women.
Women’s health, safety and education are all reached through our Bright Funds Water Fund. In areas where water is not readily available, women are usually the ones that carry the burden of fetching water in distant locales. According to our partner charity:water, in Africa, 40 billion hours are spent every year just walking to get water. These hours spent fetching water cut greatly into the time available for education and traveling to these hard to reach places often increases women’s risk of sexual assault. Also, the water they obtain is often unsanitary, which leads directly to health complications affecting mothers and their children.
And so, on this International Women’s Day, we think it’s important to not only appreciate how far we have come as a world in women’s equality, but also to realize where we still need to improve and how we can work towards a brighter future for women everywhere.
photo credit: Water.org