Addressing Gendered Poverty: Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Amidst the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Soroptimist International (SI), alongside our five Federations, orchestrated a parallel event titled ‘Addressing Gendered Poverty: Best Practice and Lessons Learned’. This in person event sought to illuminate successful projects fostering gender equality through empowerment, education, and leadership among marginalised women and girls. SI’s Advocacy Policy Advisor, Hana Smith, provides a closer look at the event’s key highlights and insights.

Opening Remarks: A Call to Action

SI President Siew Yong opened this event by outlining three key objectives. Firstly, to showcase impactful projects from both the Foundation and Federations. Secondly, to shed light on the stark realities faced by women and girls (WAG) entrenched in poverty through personal narratives. Lastly, to affirm Soroptimist International’s unwavering commitment to driving substantial change globally, while also extending an invitation for collaboration to other organisations.

SI Foundation Initiatives: Education as a Catalyst

SI Immediate Past President, Maureen Maguire, underscored the significance of grassroots projects across local, national and international levels in realising the potential of women and girls. Here, education emerged as a critical strategy for achieving gender equality, fostering economic growth, and enhancing health outcomes, with a key focus on recognising the potential for informal education to build knowledgeable societies and economies.

Furthermore, the recent establishment of the Soroptimist International Foundation has marked a pivotal step towards supporting projects worldwide aimed at educating, empowering, and enabling women and girls – with ongoing projects in all five Soroptimist Federations.

SIE: Health, Sustainability and Advocacy

Delving into the focus of our Federations, Soroptimist International of Europe (SIE) delineated their areas of focus, ranging from education and women’s empowerment to health, sustainability and advocacy campaigns – SIE has led and range of impactful initiatives. Notable among these is the “Walk in Different Shoes for Gender Equality” campaign, igniting crucial conversations and actions toward gender parity. Additionally, the launch of the “Legal Literacy Easily” program in Turkey, in September 2022, underscores SIE’s commitment to women’s rights and empowerment. This initiative has equipped women with essential knowledge and skills related to and concerning their legal rights, gender-based violence, family law, and economic rights. Through interactive training sessions conducted by 27 Soroptimist Clubs, participants have gained valuable insights in a safe and friendly learning environment, bolstered by the use of art and craft as engaging educational tools.

Beyond legal literacy, SIE’s holistic approach addresses systemic challenges, including violence against women and health disparities, fostering a more equitable and resilient society. For instance, recognising the unique challenges faced by the Roma community in Peja, Kosovo, SIE has implemented targeted projects focusing on family planning and disease prevention. With a staggering 20% of Roma girls not completing primary education, SIE’s initiatives aim to bridge this gap through health awareness education programs for women, children, and youth. These programs encompass informative lectures aimed at increasing knowledge on individual, collective, and environmental health, as well as providing guidance on accessing education services and family planning resources.

Through collaborative efforts and innovative solutions, SIE continues to champion transformative change, positioning itself as a beacon of hope for women and girls throughout Europe.


SIGBI: Empowering Women through Transformation

Standing as a catalyst for economic independence among women, Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) showcased a transformative project on breaking down socioeconomic barriers and cultural constraints.

SI Kathmandu’s Goat Project is a fantastic example of SIGBI’s commitment to empowerment, addressing the needs of marginalised women facing socioeconomic and cultural disparities that have hindered their progress. With gendered poverty remaining high, exacerbated by the challenges posed by natural disasters and concerns, like earthquakes and the spread of COVID-19, SIGBI identified the urgent need to uplift single, poor and unemployed women in Nepal.

Through targeted interventions, including providing loans for income-generating activities, the Kathmandu Goat Project has yielded remarkable outcomes. Women participating in the project have experienced improved economic independence and gained access to entrepreneurial opportunities previously unavailable to them. Moreover, the project’s sustainability is underscored by the women’s desire to pay it forward, as they now support other women in similar circumstances by providing them with kid goats—a tangible manifestation of empowerment and solidarity within the community.


SISEAP: Grassroots Solutions for Lasting Change

Next, Soroptimist International South-East Asia-Pacific (SISEAP) placed emphasis on understanding the needs of communities and designing projects that create an enduring impact for women and girls. Recently SISEAP launched an online club from Vietnam, leveraging digital platforms to foster community engagement and empower women remotely.

Covering a range of critical issues, including the elimination of violence, economic empowerment, food security, healthcare, WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene), conflict resolution, disaster relief, and education, SISEAP’s initiatives align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and prioritise target areas such as economic empowerment, equity, and education.

Furthermore, notable projects like the Stitching Dreams Project under the Brilliant Futures Fund have provided migrant women in Sydney, hailing from Afghanistan, Iran, and beyond, with opportunities to achieve economic independence in their new country. Through a 20-week course encompassing sewing skills, conversational English, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship training, participants experienced improved mental health and social connections, underscoring the holistic impact of SISEAP’s interventions. As SISEAP continues its mission, emphasizing the “Right to education as the key to freedom,” sustained funding remains imperative to enhance and sustain projects that drive tangible change and empower women and girls across the region.


SIA: Unlocking Empowerment through Education

Operating across North America, Latin America, and the Pacific, Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA) is dedicated to providing women and girls with access to education and training for economic empowerment. Recognising education as the cornerstone of unlocking economic potential, SIA emphasizes the pivotal role it plays in transforming lives and communities.

One of SIA’s hallmark programs, the Live Your Dream initiative, has been instrumental in supporting women on their journey towards self-improvement and economic independence. With funding often utilized for tuition and personal needs, recipients of the award have reported significant increases in self-esteem, with a staggering 93% experiencing heightened confidence three years after receiving the award. Moreover, the program’s impact extends beyond mere financial assistance, as evidenced by its comprehensive support system, which includes cultivating relationships, providing textbooks, daycare, and additional financial aid, as well as offering mentorship and support.

Through these holistic efforts, SIA has annually empowered over 2,000 women, distributing over $41 million since the program’s inception in 1972, thus contributing significantly to the achievement of the SDGs and fostering a legacy of empowerment and success for women and girls across the Americas and the Pacific.


SIAF: Commitments to Empowerment

Soroptimist International of Africa Federation (SIAF) demonstrates a commitment to empowering women across diverse communities. Across SI clubs in Yaounde, Cameroon, as well as Limete in the Democratic republic of Congo, SIAF extends support to vulnerable women, including widowed women and single mothers who have been victims of conflict. These initiatives, showcase SIAF’s dedication to alleviating the hardships faced by women in regions affected by conflict and instability.

In Rwanda, further efforts from SIAF have focused on empowering rural women, including those with disabilities, through economic empowerment. By providing livestock to families in Ruhango, SIAF has been promoting sustainable livelihoods and resilience within local communities. Similarly, in Tunisia, SIAF’s support for women engaged in pottery production serves as a testament to its commitment to economic empowerment and skill development, impacting the lives of 500 women. Through these targeted interventions, SIAF continues to be a beacon of hope, empowering women and communities across the African continent.


Soroptimist International Youth Forum

More recently established, the SI Youth Forum serves as a platform for engaging younger Soroptimists women and girls on pertinent issues, encouraging their active participation in shaping their futures. Through discussions centred around topics such as issues and barriers which women face today, mentorship, learning and development, mental health, and sustainability, the forum provides a space for meaningful dialogue and collaboration. Noteworthy events, including the Green Horizons webinar, underscore the forum’s commitment to addressing pressing concerns and fostering a community of empowered youth poised to enact positive change.



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