My wife told me this week that if we have a daughter one day, she wants her middle name to be Sojourner. “Pretty name,” I thought. “Bit of a mouthful, but on the flip side also not common, which fits the trend of parents finding alternative names for their children. Quite post-modern.” 

Not post-modern at all, actually. She then proceeded to tell me about Sojourner Truth, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist from the 19th century. Had I ever heard of her before? Nope. Have you?

It occurred to me: despite the fact that I care about women’s rights and that, yes, I would call myself a feminist, my knowledge of women’s history is patchy at best. Surely, if I want to be someone who helps shape the future of gender equality, then mustn’t I know about its past? Good thing, then, that March is Women’s History Month.

Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is a world-wide movement that looks back and celebrates the tenacious achievements of women in our history, with a mind to looking forward and increasing awareness of the great distance that is yet to be traveled to achieve gender equality. To celebrate and support Women’s History Month, we’re going to be rolling out our 3rd annual Give2Girls campaign (details of that to follow soon!). But this year, we want everyone (myself included) to come a little better prepared. We want everyone to educate themselves – a lot, a little –  in women’s history.

Get educated!

Ignorance, I believe, lies at the heart of most prejudice and misunderstanding. Ignorance, therefore, is one of the biggest hindrances to the advancement of gender equality. Here are some websites we love that have some excellent material on women’s history: –

The National Women’s History Museum. This also includes a great online exhibit.

The Smithsonian Museum

The History Channel

Women’s History Month starts tomorrow; learn something today!

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With the exception of perhaps the word security, stick the adjective social in front of any noun nowadays and it is suddenly rendered amicable, manageable, and even hip. Think media and imagine the infinitely vast voices of bias reporting, misreporting, and loyal agendas. Social media on the other hand, well that’s all swell. Networking, though perhaps necessary, is positively obsequious. Social networking? – totally keeping it casual. Engineering evokes highly complex designs and mind-boggling math. Social Engineering (it does exist) sounds quite delightful! Worker: bland. Social worker: tell me more! The word social even makes marketing sound bearable.

What about social justice, then?

I sense, just like the phrase “global development,” the phrase social justice draws us largely to nod our heads knowingly as we acknowledge its familiarity and importance, yet at the same time, somewhere in our subconscious, its magnitude shrouds it in uncertainty. Or perhaps it’s the familiarity itself – the phrase we’ve heard repeated over and over by reporters, politicians, advocates, friends – that causes the disconnect. Maybe it doesn’t really mean anything to us anymore. It is simply an issue in the world and a repertoire in our language.

World Day of Social Justice

The UN has officially recognized today, February 20th, as World Day of Social Justice. And at Jolkona we’re hoping that today you will stop and remember social justice, allow it to move from the nebulous area of your subconscious to the forefront and brightness of your conscience. And then: act upon it.

What can I do?

The UN says it concisely:

“We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.”

Here are three projects you can support via our Jolkona giving platform which tackle social justice:

1. Provide Education for Disabled Children in Nepal. $36 sponsors one disabled child for a month of education. Proof of Impact: You will receive information and a photo of the student you are helping to sponsor.

2. Give Tech and Life Skills to Homeless Women in Seattle. $50 funds a basic life skills class to a group of women. Proof of Impact: you will receive information about the class that you provided.

3. Invest in Women Grassroots Leaders. $100 will supports women leaders participating in iLEAP’s fellowship program by providing a stipend for one week. Proof of Impact: you will receive the name and information about the woman fellow you support.

You can define justice in many ways. But one thing justice does is it puts power in the hands of the powerless. This is why we always talk about empowerment. Because when you donate, you’re not just giving to someone; you’re empowering someone.

Remember social justice. Empower someone today.

Spread social justice via social media: like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

Note from the Editor: today is Valentine’s Day, but it’s also Generosity Day. We wanted to honor the generosity of Megan Fleming and all the stalwart work and time she has given to Jolkona. Be inspired by her generosity.

Megan Fleming, Jolkona volunteer since 2010, is a part of the Social Media and Communications team. Previously with Banyan Branch and now working on the Social Innovation team at Waggener Edstrom (where a few other stellar Jolkona volunteers also work), Megan is taking the lead on Twitter engagement for Jolkona and we are so grateful for her contributions.

In addition to the hours she spends tweeting for Jolkona, she also has assisted in procuring and fundraising for Jolkona’s annual fundraiser Corks n’ Forks as well as participating in strategic planning sessions.

Megan’s passion for volunteerism started before she came to Jolkona. Traveling through South East Asia in 2009 and 2010, Megan explored Cambodia. As she traveled to the beaches of Sihanoukville she witnessed the ugliness of pedophilia, sex tourism and general lack of respect for young children living in poverty.

Wanting to help these children, who live on less than $1 a day, she dedicated her time and energy to CCPP Cambodian Children’s Painting Project. At CCPP children not only have a safe place to visit, but also can learn and play.

At CCPP, children complete 2 paintings a day and then the pieces are sold at a gallery for $4 each. $2 goes to the child and the other $2 goes back to the program. Additionally, there are English lessons, typing classes, arts and crafts as well as games. They also experience field trips and receive hot meals, dental care, health care and clothing if needed.

Megan worked with children ranging in age from 1.5- 18 years old and came home with stories of little ones that warmed her heart, made her laugh and always had a smile for her. After her travels, Megan started working in social media and joined Jolkona as a volunteer to continue working towards funding global development and spreading awareness about Jolkona and its partners.

“One of the things I love most about Megan is her passion and enthusiasm for global development and poverty alleviation and her commitment to use her professional skills and expertise to give back.  For the past couple of years, Megan has been an instrumental piece of our social media engagement with donors and supporters and has helped keep our community engaged and aware of what’s going on with Jolkona and how they can help.  She’s also is willing to help support other teams and spread the word about Jolkona as needed which is always great in a small organization.  We’ve loved having her involved and a part of the Jolkona team!”  -Nadia Mahmud 

“As the person in charge of this blog, having people spread the word about what we’re saying is essential. Megan has totally been that person. That makes Megan essential. But it’s more than just spreading the word; it’s about believing in the message and wholeheartedly getting behind it. Megan has done this, and this is indispensable. She’s been the perfect confluence of passion, enthusiasm, and professionalism. Thank you, Megan!” – Gabriel St. John 

Megan has been an instrumental part of our social media success and is in charge of much of our engagement with our amazing tweets. Because Jolkona doesn’t spend any money on marketing or advertising, we really rely on the power of social media to outreach and spread awareness of our work and the amazing partners we work with. We are so thankful for Megan’s continued contributions and energy. Thank you Megan for being a part of Jolkona over the past couple years!

You can follow Megan on Twitter @MegMarieF.

Be inspired; be generous. Make a difference today. 

Share the love with those in need this Generosity Day by making a donation through Jolkona.

Or send one of Jolkona’s Valentine’s Day gift cards to the ones you love.

Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

I was at one of Jolkona’s All Hands Meetings recently, and one of the ice-breaker questions posed to us was, “What’s one of the kindest things you’ve ever done?” It was an apt question seeing that we were all involved in philanthropy. Because it’s one thing being asked that if you all work for – I don’t know – Goldman Sachs, but it’s quite another when you all work or volunteer at a non-profit. And to be perfectly honest, I had a torrid time trying find an answer. Not because I was overwhelmed by the abundant choice of numerous and extraordinary acts of generosity that I had so compassionately performed; rather, it was for a complete lack of them. But ask me what’s one of my favorite places to eat, or one of my favorite Bob Dylan albums and you can bet I’ll give you several answers straight off the bat (Pho Cyclo, Poquitos, Blonde On Blonde, Blood On The Tracks….).

Why is this? I think it’s simple: food and music are significant parts of my life. Acts of kindness, less so.

Enter Generosity Day.

Generosity Day

Generosity Day started with Sasha Dichter, Chief Innovation Officer at Acumen Fund. Struck by his feelings of wanting to ignore the person who had boarded the train asking for money, he one day decided to start what he called the “Generosty Experiment”—a month-long experiment to say “yes” to every single request for help. Later in February 2011, a small group of people participated in a panel discussion during Social Media Week. After the discussion, Sasha Dichter was talking to the other panelists about his “Generosity Experiment”. Inspired and energized, the group suggested that they rally people around generosity on Valentine’s Day, which was just three days later.

Dichter later gave a brilliant TED talk about his experiment. In it he candidly admits that, despite working at a ground breaking non-profit, fundraising for many worthy causes, and caring deeply about the world’s brokenness, he was still a person who said No to generosity. His experiment was an attempt to break that habit.

I think most of us can relate to the reflex of No when we’re approached for help. Or maybe we sometimes say Yes, but in our heads and our hearts we’re thinking No. As Dichter comments, breaking that habit requires practice. And that is what Generosity Day is about: beginning to make acts of kindness a normal part of our lives. But this isn’t some Occupy Valentine’s Day movement. Instead, it’s about reclaiming Valentine’s Day with acts of sincere kindness and love – not obligation. It’s about making a start.

Dichter writes on his blog,

“Give to people on the street. Tip outrageously. Help a stranger. Write a note telling someone how much you appreciate them. Smile. Donate (more) to a cause that means a lot to you. Take clothes to GoodWill. Share your toys (grownups and kids). Be patient with yourself and with others. Replace the toilet paper in the bathroom. All generous acts count!”

And here’s another great thing about Generosity Day, it doesn’t – as Valentine’s Day so shamefully does – exclude those who are single or without love. Single, engaged, married, divorced, or widowed, it calls all of us to participate.

How will you participate?

Here are a few generous ideas for you:

Find out more and go to the Generosity Day website here.

Witness acts of generosity via the Facebook page.

Tweet the love using the #generosityday hashtag.

Share the love with those in need this Generosity Day by making a donation through Jolkona.

Or here’s a loving idea I wrote about earlier this week: Jolkona’s Valentine’s Day gift cards.

Spread the love and like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

As an English teacher living in Italy I used to make all my students memorize Shakespeare. It didn’t matter what level they were – beginners or advanced – everyone had to memorize Shakespeare. Specifically, Sonnet XVIII: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate….” At the beginning of every lesson I would reveal a new line and, like they used to do in the good old days, we would chant it together over and over. Usually, the aim was to have them memorize it in full for Valentine’s Day. The joke being, if they didn’t have a romantic figure in their life, it was a sure way to get one; and if they did, it was a sure way to keep them! But truthfully, I used to do it for other reasons: it was different, it was certainly practical (okay maybe not quite as practical as “Excuse me, where is the train station?” But it still had plenty of good vocabulary and useful grammar structures to learn), it was powerful, and it was memorable.

Wouldn’t it be great, then, if we could do the same with Valentine’s Day this year? Not memorize Shakespeare (though that would be quite a worthy feat in itself), but couldn’t we also do something this year that made Valentine’s Day feel different, practical, powerful, and memorable? You can.

Here’s an idea: instead of sending your loved ones the clichéd Hallmark Valentine’s card, why don’t you send them a Jolkona Valentine’s gift card.

How do they work?

It’s really very simple:

Choose your template

Purchase the gift card for your desired amount

Send the gift card to someone you love

The recipient redeems the gift card via any of our projects

In short, you’re giving so someone else can give. And if love is a gift, then this is love.

Forget not: actions speak louder than words. So this year, tell someone you love them by empowering them to take action. Besides, nothing says I love you like empowerment.

Make this year’s Valentine’s Day different, practical, powerful, and memorable. Send a Jolkona gift card and cultivate change here.

Spread the love and like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

Only months before being shot in the head and neck by two Taliban gunmen on her way back from school in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, a girl of only 14 years of age, had said, “I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” Malala Yousafzai was not only aware of the threat on her life, but she accepted it bravely and with defiance. Yousafzai was prepared to die for girl’s education.

The incident drew an international outcry. Yousafzai, miraculously still alive, was flown to the U.K., where she spent weeks on end in intensive care, undergoing highly complex brain surgeries and skull reconstruction. 3 days ago, nearly four months after the attempt on her life, Yousafzai, made her first public statement, repeating some not too dissimilar words, “I want to serve. I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated.”

Yousafzai’s story is as extraordinary as it is both courageous and inspiring. At its heart is a girl – a teenage girl! – willing to die for her freedom. A freedom that for most of us has already been fought – and won – by those who have preceded us.

7 reasons to invest in girl’s education

We would all concur and understand how education for girls should be a basic freedom. But what we perhaps fail to grasp is that, stemming from this basic freedom, are some incredibly rich benefits for their families, their communities, and society as a whole. So here are 7 great reasons why to invest in girls’ education*:

  1. When 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3%.
  2. Countries where women’s share of seats in political bodies is greater than 30% are more inclusive, egalitarian, and democratic.
  3. In many developing countries, the mortality rate of children under the age of 5 is highest among those whose mothers had no education.
  4. Every year of schooling increases a girl’s individual earning power by 10% – 20%, while the return on secondary education is even higher, in the 15% – 20% percent range.
  5. Girls’ education is proven not only to increase wage earners but also productivity for employers, yielding benefits for the community and the wider society. 
  6. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% into their families.
  7. The impact of investing in girls is intergenerational. A mother with even a few years of formal education is considerably more likely to send her children to school, breaking the intergenerational chain of poverty.

Jolkona’s Project

You can donate to an array of projects via our Jolkona giving platform which further girls’ education in Tanzania, Liberia, Afghanistan, Tibet, and Nepal. Give to one of these projects; help bring freedom and empowerment to girls today! Malala Yousafzai almost gave her life to advance the plight of girls in her country. What can you give?

If you want to know more about Jolkona,  follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

*Statistics taken from the UN’s Clinton Global Initiative.