3 women-led charities making a lasting impact on women and girls

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Across the world, women and girls face huge gaps in education, safety, health and economic freedom. It’s a desperate situation.

Fortunately, while governments are often slow or reluctant to act, there are hundreds of brave organizations that bravely break through barriers and refuse to accept the status quo. With the right support, these organizations make a lasting impact. They are also often led by strong and passionate women.

The work of five such organizations was celebrated last month when Australian philanthropic charity 100 Women awarded five grants to support women’s strength-building initiatives worldwide, with leading vitamin D and bone health brand^ Ostelin honoring the donations of up to 100 women members $90,000 doubled.

Ostelin partnered with 100 Women earlier this year to celebrate and empower the strength of all women from within – a purposeful commitment called: project strong.

Through a combination of more than 280 member donations and Ostelin’s impact-matching donation, this year 100 Women awarded $184,735 in funds to five grantees that will directly and positively impact more than 18,000 women and girls in Australia and around the world .

Grant recipients include Midland Women’s Health Care Place, a major family and domestic violence support program for victims; Sexual Health Quarters, a youth sexual health program for teenage CaLD girls; AusCam Freedom Project, which works to combat human trafficking in Cambodia; Living Child, which will build five new birthing huts in Papua New Guinea; and School for Life Foundation Australia with 50 primary school girls being funded and supported to attend high school in Uganda.

This year’s 100 scholarship holders with the scholarship committee.

Because grassroots charities often miss out on vital government funding, the grants have opened up a number of new opportunities.

“This grant will allow us to identify 100 more girls at high risk of exploitation or re-exploitation, improve their health and relationships, and enhance their self-empowerment, problem-solving, advocacy and skill-building,” Executive Director of AusCam says Jessie Walker.

It will also allow the organization to set up a secure online information center – something not currently available in Cambodia. The online portal will feature interactive resources and content developed by girls to prevent others from being exploited, as well as a secure crisis support channel.

Girls supported by AusCam pose for a photo in Cambodia.

Launched in 2012, AusCam eliminates opportunities for human trafficking through early interventions tailored to a girl’s individual risks and supported by a team of qualified and passionate social workers, educators and mentors. However, Walker emphasizes the larger vision of the organization.

“Our child protection work often overshadows our larger vision, which is equality for women and girls,” she explains.

“Gender equality is the only way to systematically address our world’s most pressing issues – political stability, climate change and social justice all depend on a woman’s ability to understand, engage and influence the world around her. But she cannot do that if her fundamental right to security is taken away from her. She cannot graduate, advocate, or influence community change if she is being abused or exploited. First she needs to feel secure, then she needs to feel empowered.”

Girls involved in AusCam’s equality initiative pose for the camera.

And that security is also central to the mission statement of Living Child, another recipient of this year’s 100 Women Scholarship.

A midwife-led organization operating in remote areas of Papua New Guinea, Living Child responds to the needs of pregnant women to improve vital health services.

Founding CEO Sara David launched the charity after a trip to a remote village in East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea in August 2012. Invited as a midwife by male church leaders concerned about the high number of pregnant women dying in their villages , David describes her heartache as she heard the stories of suffering and death. “They were afraid of giving birth,” she says.

“Papua New Guinea is our closest neighbor and they have some of the worst birth outcomes in the world,” she adds. “Every day 5-7 women die just because they give birth, and often these deaths occur in places so remote that they are not even reported or investigated.”

Living Child works to combat this at the grassroots level by listening to and addressing the needs of local people. As a result, “lives have been saved and communities have been empowered to change their behavior toward healthier ones,” says David.

The 100 Women Grant will help Living Child go even further by funding a two-year project to build five birthing huts in five different remote villages, equipped with solar lighting and high-quality basics such as buckets, hand basins and rainwater tanks.

50 village midwives will also complete the new training course, which assesses VBAs on several core competencies to ensure they can provide a safe level of care to healthy pregnant women and identify those who need hospital referral.

Another major health service funded by 100 Women is Sexual Health Quarters (SHQ), led by CEO Debra Barnes.

Operating out of Perth, SHQ provides a range of clinical services to support the sexual health and relationship wellbeing of women and girls including STD testing and treatment, contraception information and supplies, unwanted pregnancy support and cervical cancer screening.

The organization also works with young women from marginalized backgrounds who have experienced gender inequality and the denial of their rights.

Women debate during a session of Sexual Health Quarters’ HERS project.

Barnes describes the 100 Women Grant as “vital” to ensure the organization continues to deliver the award-winning HERS (Hura (Arabic for strong women), Empowered, Resilient, Sisterhood) project.

HERS, a peer-led educational program for young women from migrant and refugee communities, “aims to empower young women from these communities to make confident and independent informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive rights, health and well-being,” says Barnes.

“As CEO, my mission is to continue to strengthen and grow our organization. Ensuring we can continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who use our services, respond to emerging community needs and expand our reach to ensure we are accessible to all who need our support.”

Women in Sexual Health Quarters’ HERS project draw bodies in an activity to learn about sexual health.

When asked why women like her are often at the forefront of social impact, all three organization leaders shared the answer: Women have a unique perspective on what it’s like to experience injustice.

“Personally, I think women are at the forefront of social impact because we have seen the many injustices that affect women, such as sexual betrayal, abuse and violence, oppression and exclusion, and denial of human rights,” says David. “Many women have experienced injustice and that motivates them to take action.”

Barnes agrees. “Every day, women face discrimination and inequality, whether at home, at work, or in their broader community. The inherent empathy of women and our personal experiences of discrimination make it difficult for us to hold back and lead us to advocate for change.”

One thing that becomes clear when talking to these leaders? The strength, passion and resilience of women and the impact they can make should never be underestimated.

To learn more about how Ostelin works with 100 women to support women’s organizations on the ground, visit www.ostelin.com.au/project-strong.

Ostelin is Australia’s leading vitamin D and bone health brand.^ Always read the label and follow directions for use.

^ IQVIA National Scanned Unit Sales 01/10/2022

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