In Turkey, young women have support and leadership in their resistance to early and forced marriages.
In Malaysia, women are talking about – and often rejecting – female genital mutilation.
And in cities and villages around the world, women-owned businesses are creating jobs and driving economic stability and growth.
These are all successful programs of Vital Voices, known as VV, a Washington-based non-profit organization with programs in 184 countries. Its mission: to make space for women to be heard.
Vital Voices was created to identify, invest in and bring visibility to extraordinary women around the world. In 22 years, it has served over 16,000 women and, by extension, their communities.
VV’s motto, “Invest in women. Improve the world.”
In two decades VV leaders created individual programs to support and train young female leaders around the world, from Africa to Haiti and South America to the Philippines. They’ve done it with generous support from corporations which share the mission to empower women and girls. The NGO stresses that local action can beget national or even international benefits.
One of the strongest programs is the VV GROW Fellowship, established four years ago to support female entrepreneurs in 67 countries. These endeavors may start small but can often thrive with access to markets, information, capital and equal protection under the law. These businesses create jobs, drive long-term growth, and anchor their communities. They also provide a model for young women who have an idea and a dream.
There is the HERlead Fellowship, which annually trains 30 high school juniors and sophomores communications and leadership skills. The four-day conference is hosted by VV in partnership with the Ascena Retail Group Inc., which is the parent company of recognized brands such as Ann Taylor, LOFT and Lou & Grey among others; with hundreds of shops that sell smart career and casual wear for women. Throughout the week, the girls are exposed to real-world issues and challenged to find solutions. The project has trained more than 300 high school girls from North America, and funded 250 projects around the world.
The Global Ambassador Program, created in 2012 in partnership with Bank of America, provides mentoring opportunities for emerging female leaders because these women are vital to healthy communities and the core of economic growth. The program pairs these mentees with established female executives.
Voices Against Violence addresses domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking and harmful traditional practices.
It is a public-private partnership led by VV with support from the US State Department and the Avon Foundation. The program is designed to ensure that victims and survivors of gender-based violence around the world have better access to services, protection and the justice they deserve.
VV also works against early and forced marriage in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. This program engages all sectors of society to change discriminatory laws and address complex social issues that may contribute to the practice. A similar program is being implemented to address female genital mutilation and cutting in West Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Vital Voices empowers activists, innovators and entrepreneurs from cities and villages, hailing from every educational, religious and socio-economic background. And they do it with such major sponsors as ExxonMobil Foundation, Federal Express, Johnson & Johnson and many others.
At a November 2018 fundraising gala in San Francisco, VV’s co-founder and CEO, Alyse Nelson, declared, “We are for women with a daring vision, whether they are working to combat human trafficking or uplift communities out of poverty, or change policies they are discriminated for. We take that vision and take it to scale. We work with them providing mentoring, support, training, and a network of peers. We give women credibility and investment on resources. The only way we can solve these global challenges is by tackling them on a local level.”
For more detailed information and to get involved: www.vitalvoices.org/what-we-do/