At Outreach International we are celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) by shedding light on the incredible role women play in community-led development. Aligning with the UN’s 2021 IWD focus on leadership, women in Outreach-supported communities are leading their communities and respective organizations toward futures in which their voices are heard even louder.
Our recent monitoring data confirms the critical role that women are playing in their communities. In 75% of the 125 community-based organizations (CBOs) Outreach supports, more than 50% of group members are women. They are showing up in numbers to plan and implement change in their respective communities.
As Adelayda and Martha said, “Women: You are freedom, you are the fight, you are life. Congratulations, women!”
Further – women are taking the lead in their community-based organizations. Of the 1,173 CBO leadership positions, 749, or 64%, are filled by women. These positions run the gamut from CBO presidents to project managers. Women leaders are overseeing everything from the purchasing of building materials to collecting interest on small scale loan initiatives.
What do these numbers tell us? Without a doubt, women are at the forefront of community-led development. They actively participate in meetings; they make decisions, analyze their communities’ issues, and seek appropriate solutions; and when they find such solutions and access the resources needed to transform solutions into projects, women secure better futures for their communities. They oversee the implementation of income generating projects, food loans, water purification efforts, and technologies that improve their health – to name but a few.
Through their work, experiences, and continuous improvement, women are paving the way for the next generation of women to do even greater things.
As Adelayda and Martha (featured below) so powerfully shared:
“Each experience lived leaves you with lessons learned.”
“De cada experiencia vivida, te va dejando un aprendizaje.”
Here, we spotlight five women who continue to show up as community members and leaders to support their communities. The unique ways in which they provide support represent the diverse forms of women leadership we recognize among Outreach-supported communities. This diversity includes leadership as youth, community-wide representatives, educators, and committed neighbors who drive community development not only in their own communities but also in adjacent areas. Despite their diverse backgrounds and manifestations of leadership, they call us to action in two ways:
- Gender Gap – Let’s work on closing the gender gap, by including more women into decision making roles.
- Develop Leaders Young – Let’s start the development of women leaders early, through quality education and by providing girls and young women with as many leadership experiences and opportunities as possible.
Prior to Outreach Philippines, Inc. coming to work in her community, Liezl was a dedicated mother and industrious entrepreneur – focused on her three sons, raising pigs in her backyard, and selling beauty and home products to friends. Once Outreach Philippines, Inc.(OPI) – Outreach’s program partner in the Philippines – arrived in her community, her focus expanded even beyond her own home and family to her entire community. As OPI began to support Liezl and her fellow community members in organizing their own community-based organization (CBO), she jumped in with both feet and has not looked back.
Liezl started attending community meetings and, with her neighbors, began to analyze their community’s issues. Together, they tackled problems such as their precarious incomes and lack of legal ownership of the land on which their homes were built. Liezl was actively involved as they implemented solutions to many of her village’s challenges and, over time, she emerged as a well respected community leader.
Now, more than 10 years later, and with tons of experience under her belt, Liezl’s leadership shines through in her numerous positions. She was president of Kilusang Pangkabuhayan sa Kabulihan (KPK), their local community-based organization, holds leadership positions within KAPAGENA – a federation of four local CBOs, and has entered local politics, winning a seat on the local village council.
Reflecting on her experiences, Liezl compares becoming a leader to learning to drive. “You learn to do things one step at a time. You could make mistakes when you are just starting to drive. You get bumped or get a flat tire. It is very much like life. You would make incorrect decisions because you made it too quickly. Time will come when you will learn more, like driving. You might think twice about moving forward because you made a mistake; but do not dwell too much on this. Rather, think about what you might achieve and the destinations where you can still go because of the lessons you have learned from your mistakes.”
Liezl, an all-around community builder, will no doubt continue leading her community to new achievements and destinations. Join us in celebrating her.
As an educator, tailor, and well-respected community-leader, it’s obvious that Clementina should be celebrated on International Women’s Day. So allow us to (re)introduce you to Clementina from Zambia!
In addition to her invaluable contributions to the children in her community as a volunteer teacher, Clementina has organized a group of women to form a tailoring business. And, when COVID-19 public health mandates required face masks in Zambia, this business swung into full-force, making much-needed masks for community-wide distribution. By selling the masks at an affordable rate, the group was also able to generate income to reinvest in their business. As Clementina explained, “sewing face masks can help keep our community healthy, and it can also help us raise funds to purchase more sewing machines and other tools that will help us meet the demands of production.”
By participating in her community-based organization, educating girls, and creating a women-led business, Clementina creates more space for other women to lead. “It is important for women to be leaders,” she shared, “because currently, most leaders we have are men. Now we want to close the gap between men and women leaders.”
What is Clementina’s International Women’s Day wish? To bring more women into leadership positions. To do this, Clementina urges education above all else. “[W]e must take young women to school so that they will be influential leaders… then we are assured that poverty will reduce in the community. I beg all parents who have young women to take them to school.”
Clementina puts her community’s education and health first. Join us in celebrating her.
Krishala from Nepal, the youngest among our featured International Women’s Day women, is a living example of how young women are shaping the futures they want to be part of. Knowing very well what economic hardship entails, Krishala is eager to uplift other women with similar backgrounds.
One venue where Krishala is creating opportunities for other women is in intensive agriculture. Alongside other Sikharpa Lead Farmers Group leaders, she is undergoing training and testing out technologies that local women need to turn their lots into lucrative food-growing ventures. And they’ve already made great strides. In 2020, we reported on the success of Krishala and her fellow group members’ eight vegetable tunnels. Since then, they have added at least 13 more tunnels, supported the development of several gardening lots, and built a greenhouse to cultivate the seedlings that will eventually make their way to the women farmers’ lots.
Watch this video to learn more about these successes from Krishala herself.
When it comes to leadership and advice for young women, Krishala encourages them to engage at every level of their communities. “I want to see more women in leadership positions. I want them to speak up for [the] betterment of women… and to actively participate in community development and social services activities.”
Krishala is a social entrepreneur. She is a youth leader, farmer, and businesswoman. Join us in celebrating her.
Meet Adelayda and Martha!
Women are collaborators. By working together and collectively engaging in shared challenges, they get the job done. Adelayda and Martha are two women leaders from an Outreach-supported community in Nicaragua who have formed a powerful world-changing team.
Together Adelayda and Martha have more than 20 years of experience in facilitating community-led development, including implementing eco-stove projects and managing multi-purpose loans. Their most recent collaboration extends beyond their own community, as they’ve stepped up as local facilitators for our SPROUT (Spreading Outreach) program – an Outreach initiative that encourages leaders to assist neighboring communities in solving their poverty-related issues. And they have done exactly that. Over the last 18 months, this power couple, together with emerging leaders in the SPROUT community, have implemented four community-led projects, including projects to address pressing medical concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Improving people’s quality of life is an essential goal of community-led development, and women are central actors in such change. Adelayda and Martha remind us of another reason why it is important to see more women lead. When women have opportunities to practice their leadership, it has a profound impact on their personal sense of worth, empowering them to become confident in initiating change, not only for those around them but also in their own lives.
Here’s what Adelayda shared:
“As a woman I think being in a leadership position is very important. Primarily, because we learn to engage with people, our self-esteem as a woman rises, we overcome fear, and we develop skills – such as speaking in public, being able to give our opinion, and make decisions. This is helping us to empower ourselves and to help the people of our community to solve their problems. We learn to be independent, and value ourselves more as a woman and at the center of the family.”
What is Adelayda and Martha’s advice to young women? Get involved, and do so at a young age. Girls and young women should grab every opportunity to develop and practice leadership, whether in school, church, or in their communities. By doing so, young women will gain the experience needed to successfully lead their communities when they are older.
As Adelayda and Martha said,
“Women: You are freedom, you are the fight, you are life. Congratulations, women!”
Join us in celebrating Adelayda and Martha and the example they are setting for future generations of women leaders.
How to Help
Make a donation to Outreach today to empower more women to lead community development in their communities worldwide.