Help Vulnerable Women Become Leading Change Agents

Jul 15, 2009

A Postcard from Rwanda Conscious Social Change Program

Rwandan women
Rwandan women

Alexis Nadin is a student at American University and former intern at GlobalGiving. This summer, she is traveling through Africa and visiting a number of GlobalGiving projects. Alexis visited this project on May 27, 2009. She writes:

During our brief time in Rwanda, we have heard about a broad range of problems: young girls being attacked in latrines; female business owners unable to read, write, or use a calculator; disabled women trading sex for water; women forced into prostitution to afford food for their children; and many others. How can one organization possibly address such a broad range of problems? It’s simple: empower the grassroots to find and implement their own solutions. This is how Global Grassroots has been able to change so many lives. They teach women about the power they have in their own communities, work with them to identify the root causes of their local problems, and how to develop sustainable solutions. Further, this organization equips women with skills to develop a strategic plan, to fundraise independently and to operate as a lasting organization.

At every project we visited, we found women that had gained confidence in themselves, and, consequently, had begun to respond to problems in their local communities. In their own words, they have become “agents of change.” The success of Global Grassroots is best exemplified in the achievements f the four projects we visited during our stay. These projects are briefly described below.

Project 1: Helping School Age Girls Stay Safe

In a community thirty minutes outside of Kigali, a group of teachers noticed that girls were dropping out of school, and others were complaining of being attacked and harassed in the latrines. We saw that the latrines were crumbling, and lacked any privacy (no doors, ceilings, etc). According to the president of the group the boys and girls use the same latrines, which led to the violence. Because of a lack of privacy, girls were too embarrassed to come to school during their period. Today, through a partnership with Global Grassroots, this group of teachers has began to build new latrines (separating boys and girls) and to educate the community about issues facing young girls. Because of the networking skills this group learned through Global Grassroots the local government has also contributed tremendous support, and more latrines.

Project 2: Improving Quality of Life Through Access to Water

In another community, a lack of access to water forced women to walk two hours to collect water, children to miss school because they were busy collecting water, and handicapped women to trade water for sex. Having attended Global Grassroots training, a group of women from a local church decided to set up a rainwater collection system to provide water access to the community, as well as a source of income from the profits. Aside from providing the training, Global Grassroots provided the otherwise unattainable start up costs (such as tanks) for a project that still serves 200 families today.

Of the 22 Global Grassroots projects throughout the country, time only allowed us to visit two others. For one project, Global Grassroots helped the group buy 15 sewing machines to teach former prostitutes an income generating project to escape the sex-trade. The last project taught female business owners to read, write, and do basic math, making it possible for them to profitably manage their businesses. One woman, Zahara, happily told us that now she can help her children with their homework. The countless stories about women like Zahara are a testament to the phenomenal work of Global Grassroots.

GlobalGiving is committed to incorporating many viewpoints on our 600+ projects. We feel that more information, especially from eyewitnesses helps donors like you continue to support organizations doing great work in the community.

May 13, 2009

Think about the Young Girls Project is building latrines to protect 635 girls from rape in school.

Project “Think About the Young Girls” (TAYG) recently completed their baseline study to measure the extent of violence facing girls and the need for more protection and reproductive health education for students. They have since followed up with an educational workshop for 94 teachers, 233 young people and six local restaurants in order to begin tackling this enormous issue in their community.

TAYG will soon be setting up anti-violence clubs in schools and performing plays about the issue to reach the general public. As a result of their proactive community education process, the team has already raised the matching funding needed from their own community to construct the latrines. (This matching fundraising challenge was structured to encourage local fundraising for longer-term sustainability and support their desire for local involvement in the latrine building project.) TAYG will begin construction of the latrines at the end of this month, breaking ground on Umuganda – a monthly day of community service in Rwanda.

Feb 6, 2009


HelpWomenHELPWOMEN By Gretchen Wallace - Founder & President March 8, 2009 is International Women’s Day. Did you know, globally, 1 out of 3 women has been beaten, coerced into having sex or abused?

Join our HelpWomenHELPWOMEN Campaign to advance grassroots solutions to end violence against women in Rwanda.

Help us raise $25,000 by March 8, International Women’s Day, to:

* launch FIVE social ventures (details below) * designed by courageous Rwandan women * to HELP nearly 3000 other vulnerable women, and * END the domestic violence, sexual violence and discrimination they suffer daily

That’s less than $10 per woman.

HelpWomenHELPWOMEN end the violence in their communities. DONATE NOW to support 1, 2, even 10 abused women.

Our HelpWomenHELPWOMEN Projects include:

LIGHT IN OUR HOME Expected Impact: 574 people This group is working on sexual violence against women and girls. The team will begin by creating anti-violence clubs in secondary schools, where sexual abuse and exploitation of minors is a major issue. They will work closely with local leaders to ensure that cases of sexual violence are reported to and followed up on by the legal authorities.

ASSOCIATION DE LA PROMOTION DE LA FEMME ET L’ENFANT RWANDAIS (APROFER) Expected Impact: 500 people This project in the rural district of Kibuye is working to educate the community on domestic violence and women’s property rights. Serving estranged couples, youth about to get married, and widows in property disputes with their in-laws, APROFER will train community leaders to follow up on cases of domestic violence with the local authorities.

RELAX Expected Impact: 815 people This group is working in the rural village of Mutara, where up to 50% of women are victims of domestic violence. The team will teach women about their rights and identify local representatives who will be given cell phones to report cases of domestic violence when they occur. The team will work closely with the police and local authorities to improve the legal protection of women who experience violence, and seek to change community norms that tacitly condone domestic violence by shifting stigma toward the men who abuse their wives.

HAVE PITY AND COMPASSION Expected Impact: 555 people This project will work with couples in the rural community of Mutara District to counsel them on domestic violence and women’s land rights using theater and educational films to fight social norms that accept violence against women. By training a team of counselors to work directly with families, they hope to promote stronger relationships in which men respect their wives.

KIND PEOPLE Expected Impact: 405 people This project works in the rural district of Ruhango, where many women are not able to access their land rights, because they did not get legally married, and domestic violence is pervasive. This team will train couples throughout their district on women’s rights and will set up monitoring and reporting teams to help victims report their problems to the local authorities and seek help.

Please help these women help other women by donating now!


Dec 16, 2008

Cell Phones Protect 2250 Rural Women from Domestic

In 2008, we trained 80 new change agents who have designed 26 social projects that will serve thousands of marginalized women. We've launched ten of these locally-designed projects so far and have another 16 in development.

One project currently ready for launch is in the rural Mwendo district of Rwanda. Here, 50 percent of women experience some form of violence, including denial of property rights, sexual violence (marital rape) and domestic abuse. The "Relax" project will train local women representatives about domestic violence and provide them with cell phones to contact the police when a woman in their community has been beaten. This project team of ten will serve 2250 abused women in their first year, ensuring quick and effective intervention. Please help us raise $5000 to launch this newest Global Grassroots project.

To read more about this and Global Grassroots' other projects, please visit:

Sep 10, 2008

New Latrines Help Rwandan Girls Avoid Rape in School

Help us fund our next social project in Rwanda and save 635 girls from rape in a rural primary school's unisex latrine.

Issue: In most primary and secondary schools, there are only unisex latrines. Not only are many girls embarrassed to use the toilet due to insufficient privacy and sanitation, but many are also targets for sexual assault. As a result, girls suffer from poor academic performance and high drop-out rates.

Solution: This 35 member team, Think About the Young Girls, in rural Byimana will build separate sanitation facilities for girls and educate the community about girl's biological needs.

Impact: Once the separate sanitation facilities are built, 635 girls in the Byimana primary school will no longer be targets for sexual assault while going to the bathroom, nor will they be too embarrassed to go to school once they begin menstruation.

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Project Leader

Gretchen Wallace

President and Founder
Hanover, New Hampshire United States

Where is this project located?

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