Women for Women International

In countries affected by conflict and war, Women for Women International supports the most marginalized women to earn and save money, improve health and well-being, influence decisions in their home and community, and connect to networks for support. By utilizing skills, knowledge, and resources, she is able to create sustainable change for herself, her family, and community.
Dec 11, 2013

The Importance of Cooperatives

Many of the women in Women for Women International – Nigeria’s program live in isolated rural communities whose economies are based upon a limited number of agricultural products. Forming a cooperative, in this context, helps prevent too many women from starting the same type of business. It also builds a strong network of community support for cooperative members and helps them to stretch their personal resources further. Habiba Nakande, a member of the Godiya Women cooperative, said: “The formation of cooperatives to us is a good long-term investment, which is going to help us.” While cooperatives are not the sole source of income for most of their members, they provide women with a practical way to supplement their income.

In the third month of the sponsorship program, Women for Women International – Nigeria, introduces program participants to the nuts and bolts of cooperatives. They help women to identify potentially profitable business areas, navigate the legal process to officially register as a cooperative business, open a bank account and locate trainers to help them develop the technical and business skills they will need. Once the cooperatives are formed, they continue to receive advice and support from the organization.

There are many different types of cooperatives, including a group that makes batik products, one that leases a well and sells water and another that produces soap. Women in the program are pleased with the opportunity that being in a cooperative provides them. In the words of Hauwa Aminu, another member of Godiya Women: “Being in the cooperative makes me feel very secure and successful in business and in life.”

The poultry farming cooperatives also do very well. One group of 18 former program participants has formed an egg-production cooperative to supplement other incomes. Their chickens lay about 60 eggs a day. These sell for about fourteen cents an egg. That's about $128 a month in gross revenue. Subtract feed at $13 a bag each week and monthly rent of $22 a month, and that leaves $54 to be split 18 ways-- $3 for each women in the group. The group is pleased with this early income and only hope to see it increase as their cooperative grows. 

Dec 11, 2013

Why We Work in South Sudan

In our project updates we have shared with you the story of many women who are going through our training program in hopes of gaining skills to help them build better lives for themselves, their families and their communities. Now we want to share with you the story of why we began working in South Sudan, the challenges our program participants face and the impact we hope to have through our programs.

Women for Women International launched operations in South Sudan in 2005, before there was even an official South Sudan. Then the area was part of the country of Sudan. It is an area almost entirely without basic infrastructure, such as roads, health facilities or schools. It is expected that the war here displaced up to two million people. Women for Women International sent an assessment team to Sudan in July 2005 to evaluate the feasibility of helping the country's socially excluded women rebuild their lives, families and communities after conflict. What began as a two-week trip has turned into a long-term commitment to working in South Sudan. We witnessed Sudan's harsh realities firsthand. We found a vast country with a tangled and complex history of conflict that you can see on the faces of the women we serve. 

During the 22-year-long civil war plauging the country:

- 4 million people have fled their homes

- 2 million people have died

Women and children in particular have felt the effects of war:

- 2 million women have been raped

- 1 in 7 women in South Sudan will die in childbirth

- 1 in 10 babies will die before their first birthday

We conducted extensive interviews with women at the grassroots level and met with representatives from the government and community based organizations (CBOs). We confirmed reports that women are bearing the brunt of the horror, suffering through unthinkable acts of gender-based violence and sexual slavery, trying to manage survival for them and their families in what were often subhuman living conditions. Amid the horror stories, we also found hope. We discovered a strong civil society and an organized women’s movement with clear optimism for the future of Sudan and keen insight into what is needed to make those hopes a reality. If the international community plans to assist with the country’s reconstruction in any meaningful way, it must seek the wisdom and counsel of Sudanese women.

Issues and Needs Identified by Sudanese Women

The following issues are those most frequently mentioned by the women we interviewed as being critical to the country’s future: income generation and employment opportunities for women; girls’ education and illiteracy among women; access to resources, including water, electricity, housing and jobs; customary and family laws regarding early marriage, wife inheritance, ghost marriage and criminal ramifications of adultery, polygamy and divorce rights; gender-based violence; and women’s health, including HIV/AIDS, female genital cutting, reproductive health and maternal and infant mortality and morbidity.

We spoke with Sudanese women’s organizations that are deeply committed to these issues. These organizations are also in dire need of resources and support to build and sustain their organizational capacities. They identified the following primary needs: expand the reach and resources of CBOs through international partnerships; train women leaders in advocacy, coalition-building strategies and negotiation skills; launch a national advocacy program about the importance of including women in reconstruction and transitional development agendas at the local, regional and national levels; promote organizational and staff development with tools and financial resources that improve institutional capacity.

A Window of Opportunity

A critical window of opportunity exists for women’s participation in the development and reconstruction of South Sudan. During our assessment, we uncovered both a great need and a great desire for our services and resources, particularly in southern Sudan. Not only has the protracted civil war destroyed any semblance of infrastructure, but the area has some of the highest female illiteracy and malnutrition rates in the world.

- 95% of WfWI - South Sudan participants have no formal education

- 96% of WfWI - South Sudan participants can not read or write 

Economic opportunities for women, such as WfWI's bakery program, are vital in making sure that women are fully involved at all levels of society. Despite the devastation wrought by protracted conflict, the population, especially women, is eager and hopeful for change. Women for Women International aims to use our expertise with women and post-conflict societies to help integrate socially excluded women and women’s organizations in Sudan’s reconstruction and development.

Nov 6, 2013

Fatime Lima

Meet WfWI - Kosovo graduate Fatime Lima!

Fatime is a 37 years old woman. Her parents divorced when she was a child and she was raised by her aunt. She has three kids that are 17, 15 and 8 years old and lives in a small house, with her husband who works sometimes.

Fatime enrolled in the gardening vocational track at WfWI, but is also exploring making and selling handicrafts. In additiont to her vocational training, she enjoyed meeting with other women who shared her struggles and getting to know them.

Says Fatime: “I never had the strength to discuss my life with anyone—I never said what a huge wish that I had to meet and embrace my mum. The women’s group in the program enabled me to share these sorts of things with my peers.  On the day that I talked about it in the program, I remember I was not being able to sleep well. Now that this dream has been realized, I will be grateful to the WfWI-Kosova Organization for as long as I am alive.”

After graduation, Fatime has become a truly active citizen. She has organized women of her village Baja to enroll in our program. She is a member of a farmer’s asscociation “Prodhimi Drenas” and also she participates in different fairs by selling produce she has cultivated in the greenhouse—a project from her vocational skills curriculum at Women for Women-Kosova--such tomatos and cucumbers.

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