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To celebrate and participate in Women’s History Month, we’re proud to be launching our third Give2Girls matching campaign, running through the rest of March – starting today! We’re dedicating twenty four days to improving the lives of thousands of women and girls around the globe. This year we’re partnering with our local champions of change, the Seattle International Foundation.

How does the campaign work?

Give to any of our 30+ projects related to women or girls, and we will match your donation, dollar for dollar, up to $250 per donor! Even better than that, though, we will double your proof! So donate $15 to provide workshops and other business opportunities for Peruvian women, and we’ll not only match your donation, but we’ll send you two impact reports. The campaign is being matched up to a total of $2,500.

Why this campaign?

Here are just some of the reasons:

  • Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.
  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.
  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.
  • The total global population of girls ages 10 to 24 – already the largest in history – is expected to peak in the next decade.
  • One-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before age 18; 14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth in developing countries each year.
  • Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Compared with women ages 20 to 24, girls ages 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die from childbirth, and girls 15 to 19 are up to twice as likely, worldwide.
  • Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school.

(statistics taken from girleffect.org)

I’ve said this many a time, and I won’t apologize for saying it again: at Jolkona it is necessary that we talk about statistics, of course. Statistics give us the overarching picture. But what fuels the fire that drives us is the story behind each statistic – the individual. And this is what we want you to see. This is why we give you, the philanthropist, not just the chance to change statistics, but to actually glimpse into the life of the individual behind the statistic by seeing exactly how your donation makes an impact.

Our Give2girls campaign is not about changing statistics; it’s about changing people’s lives. So let’s do that.

Here are 4 ways for you to take action today:

  1. Make an investment in women and girls. Choose from over 30 different projects that support women and girls and give to girls today
  2. Get Educated. Learn about the history of Women’s History Month and then learn about investing in women for poverty alleviation. We like the Girl Effect and UN’s womenwatch
  3. Watch the film Girl Rising made by the inspiring 10×10. Find a screening here.
  4. Spread the word. Support this movement by sharing the importance of investing in girls for poverty alleviation and share our campaign. Tweet using #Give2girls.
You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter, and Pinterest.

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.

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.

Before January ends, and before we all begin to anticipate (with great excitement!) the move away from the winter months, I wanted to take the chance to look back at December and our Holiday Giving Campaign, our 10 Days of Giving.

A big part of the Holiday Campaign is for us at Jolkona to come together and work as a team (as the vast majority of us are volunteers with 9-5 jobs elsewhere, this isn’t always easy!) It’s also great opportunity for us to – quite literally – put our money where our mouths are, and to practice what we preach. Whilst it also means getting comfy with someone putting a camcorder in your face for your campaign video!

 

The impact

But at the heart of the Campaign is how the holiday season is not only about giving gifts to friends and family but about giving the gift of impact. And in the same way, one of the best things about the holiday season is seeing what gifts people get, so is it with the Holiday Campaign. So without further ado, here is the impact raised:

  • 8 children saved from diarrhea in India
  • 23 families provided with emergency medical kits in Palestine
  • 5 children’s annual school fees paid for in rural Benin
  • 3 safe birth kits for mothers in Palestine
  • 45 complete outfits for orphaned children in Kenya
  • 6 students’ monthly fees paid for at the School of Life program in America
  • 1 hygienic toilet built in rural India
  • 6 months of computer training for 9 students in rural Guatemala

As ever, thanks to everyone who gave back, who gave the gift of impact!

Start your own campaign!

Starting your own campaign is immensely simple:

Click on this link
Select a project
Give it a name
Set your campaign target
Tell your friends and family!

Like Jolkona on Facebook, follow us on Twitter , and check us out on Pinterest to keep up with all of our ongoing projects.

 

It would seem, as people, we like new beginnings – the clean slate, the fresh start, the frisson that accompanies the chance to embark on something different. The New Year is an apropos example. Cometh January 1st, cometh the renaissance of resolutions: the I won’ts, the I wills, the musts, the musn’ts, the 10 step guides to any goal you could ever think of, and so forth and so forth. We all want a second chance (or perhaps it’s our twentieth).

Now resolutions are fine and well (some, I daresay, even noble), but they strike me predominantly as an attempt at self-improvement. Essentially we ask ourselves, “How can I make my life better this year?” Again, this is not the worst question one could ask oneself. But I wonder how often, as the New Year chimes in, we pose the question, “How can I make someone else’s life better this year?” And I wonder what our lives – or more to the point, what other people’s lives – would look like if we did.

I think philanthropy asks us a very similar question. But it’s not a guilt trip; it’s an honest, straight forward question. With all the abundant resources I have – my time, my money, my talent – what can I set aside to help someone else? I wonder if in 2013 you will ask yourself this question – and be brave enough to act upon it. I wonder if, amongst all your personal goals and good intentions, you will give philanthropy a chance. At Jolkona we certainly hope so.

It’s interesting, after having worked at Jolkona for over a year now, one of the words I associate most strongly with philanthropy is story. I sincerely believe that understanding and experiencing this is aspect of story is essential to philanthropy and other acts of altruism. Really what happens when you engage in philanthropy is you engage in someone’s story – for the good. One way we try to show you this at Jolkona is by sharing with you the journey of your donation and its impact. A life is changed, someone is given a second chance, and a new chapter begins; a chapter you, the donor, have the privilege of helping author. Through philanthropy narratives are interwoven.

So when you’re standing on the threshold of 2014 at some New Year’s Eve party and someone asks you about your year, I wonder if you will bore them to death with the story of all your accomplishments, or if you will share the stories of the lives you helped change, the stories which now you’re a part of. I know who I’d rather be talking to.

If you’re interested in using your time and talents to help others, email contact@jolkona.org.

If you’re interested in using your money to help others, find a project you like here and donate.

Daljit Singh, our stellar Office Manager, is a lady of eclectic talent: she maintains all the records of donations and expenses with fine comb consistency, she manages relations with partners and volunteers, she runs our Facebook page, she tweets up a storm on Twitter, and she even fixes our air conditioning. Like I said, stellar.

More recently, though, she’s quietly been building up a small empire on Jolkona’ s Pinterest, carefully curating all the stuff that inspires us and you the most. If you haven’t seen our Pinterest page, check it out here, or click on the image below:

As opposed to the linear format of Facebook with its endless scrolling down and infuriating “page loading” status bar, Pinterest reads more like a comic book with a series of different boards. Each board is its own category, making organizing and accessing different pins wonderfully simple.

Jolkona was recently featured in a top 10 list for best non-profit Pinterest pages by the social media news gurus Mashable. Daljit herself later featured in another piece by Mashable for 10 tips on how non-profits can use Pinterest effectively. Needless to say, we’re very proud of her!

If, like me, you don’t know all that much about Pinterest, here’s a useful infographic deconstructing how it’s used and what it’s all about:

[click on the infographic to enlarge]

Pinterest Deconstructed

 

I was born in Morocco near the Algerian border in the small city of Oujda. It was an unassuming city, dusty and tourist free (for good reason). I was the last of six children. The location of my birth was in my oldest brother’s bedroom, which also served as our classroom – and now a maternity ward. I was born around 3.30pm, just in time for afternoon tea. The people present were my Mum and my Dad.

Knowing my birth was imminent, my father had taken my unruly siblings to the park with our visiting grandmother. My delivery was quick and problem free. So quick, in fact, that my meant-to-be midwife, an American neighbor of ours, was my first visitor. Dad rushed back to the park in our bright, beat-up orange VW van and, so the story goes, turned up triumphantly exclaiming, “It’s a boy!” Upon realization that she was still the only girl amongst her siblings, my sister cried. I have since forgiven her for that. (And clearly from the way she’s clutching me in the photo below, she got over her disappointment without much difficulty).

When I reflect on the story of my birth, I feel a certain simplicity and sacredness –  just my parents and I, alone together in a small bedroom in a faraway place. I feel immensely fortunate. Fortunate that both mother and child were safe. It helped that my parents were doctors and knew what they were doing. Fortunate that I was loved and protected. I had siblings that doted on me, a father who worked hard to keep a roof over us with food on the table, and a mother who cherished and adored me.

Story vs. statistics

But why am I writing this? I’m writing this because with Mother’s Day approaching this Sunday May 13th, we want to emphasize the importance of story, especially individual story. At Jolkona it is necessary that we talk about statistics, of course. Statistics give us the overarching picture. But what fuels the fire that drives us is the story behind each statistic – the individual. This is why we give you, the philanthropist, not just the chance to change statistics, but to actually glimpse into the life of the individual behind the statistic by seeing exactly how your donation makes an impact.

Mother’s Day projects

We have over fifteen projects at Jolkona that support mothers globally by improving maternal health and reducing child mortality. One such project is run by our partner MADRE. MADRE works with groups of Palestinian and Israeli midwives to help women safely deliver their babies in the West Bank and Gaza. Your gift of $50 provides a safe birth kit containing medical supplies for delivering newborns. With $50 another statistic is reversed and a story is changed.

The story of my birth is a happy one. Sadly, though, there are so many mothers – millions globally – whose stories of motherhood are weighed down with profound uncertainty and fear, or worse, mired in tragedy and grief. Help us change that.

For Mother’s Day give the gift of impact; change one story:

  1. Go to our project page here
  2. Filter your search by selecting Improve Maternal Health or Reduce Child Mortality
  3. Choose a project
  4. Give
  5. See how you changed a life

 

At Jolkona we believe online philanthropy is the future of giving. Our online model has been at the heart of what we’re about since we began. It’s important to us not just because it’s hip (though it is that as well), but because online giving is incredibly effective and powerful. Our ultimate goal is impact – more of it. Going on online and making philanthropy more accessible and more transparent, we believe, is the best way to see this impact achieved.

This week we’re highlighting two great events in our calender: Seattle Foundation’s GiveBig (blog post to follow tomorrow) and World Give Day. To encourage giving to these two campaigns, we wanted to present to you the raw facts about how successful online and social giving truly is.

This infographic was created by the brilliant Blackbuad, a software and services provider to nonprofits:

[click to enlarge infographic]

Sorry to let the cat out of the bag so soon, but I think the straight answer to this question is no, Amazon does not have an obligation to philanthropy. However, before I go any further let me get two things clear: yes, we do have Amazon employees who volunteer at Jolkona; no, I’m not one of them.

In case you were on the moon (with Jeff Bezos’s private aerospace company perhaps), the issue of Amazon’s apparent absence in the philanthropic life of its hometown (Seattle) featured in an article belonging to a wider four-part series by the Seattle Times questioning some of the company’s practices.

View from an Amazon office building, South Lake Union, Seattle. Photo credit: Flickr, Cliff Hung

First of all, I don’t really wish to comment on the other issues regarding Amazon’s ethics of business, mainly because capitalism doesn’t strike me as a particularly ethical system in the first place. It’s a paradoxical argument, in my view. And secondly, because we’re talking about philanthropy here, not business. Which is precisely my point.

The truth is, a company has legal obligations to its shareholders, employees, customers, and…. well that’s about it.

At the heart of philanthropy is not corporate business. At the heart of philanthropy is the individual promoting the well-being of man-kind. Businesses, though, are about people, and so one could argue that it would be beneficial for them to care about the well-being of the community and people they serve.

But as we’ve seen the foundation of almost every business is a visionary individual. Likewise, the foundation of almost every non-profit is not thanks to a corporation, but to a single person with a single mission. A case in point, of course, is our own CEO, Adnan Mahmud, who started Jolkona whilst simultaneously holding down a full time product manager position at Microsoft.

Microsoft, though, is a good example of a large corporate business that does encourage philanthropic participation from its employees, offering donation matching, volunteer matching, and pro-bono software to non-profits, among other company wide philanthropic initiatives. The question, then, becomes can businesses like Amazon become serious participants in encouraging individuals towards philanthropy and they themselves as a company promoting the well-being of others? Absolutely they can. And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they indeed should.

According to a study by Corporate Citizenship 85% of Americans have a more positive image of a product or a company when it supports a cause they care about. Whilst 79% of Americans say they would switch from one brand to another if the other brand is associated with a good cause. It’s hardly rocket science, but in a nutshell: a company is likely to make more money if they are seen to be connected to philanthropic causes. Tom’s shoes is an excellent example of this.

The gain for Amazon, then, in theory, should be greater profitability. But if philanthropy equates to profitability, then one might ask why has Amazon not done more for philanthropic initiatives in its own community. Clearly, though, they’ve assessed what is most profitable for them, and at the moment they seem to be saying corporate philanthropy is not the direction they want to go in. You can’t criticize them for that. Can we criticize them ethically, though? We can question them, yes. But I still don’t believe corporate businesses have obligations to philanthropy. Whether or not, though, Amazon will suffer an eventual consumerist backlash is yet to be determined.

The possibility remains that if Amazon becomes more philanthropic it could improve its own bottom line, which in turn would be a win win situation for shareholders and the community.

Does Amazon have a obligation to philanthropy? No. Might Amazon benefit from taking part in philanthropic activities? Very possibly, yes. Could Amazon have a big impact on the philanthropic community? Absolutely they could.  But again, I personally believe philanthropy is more about the individual, not corporate business. Non-profits need and value the help of corporate businesses, but we must rely on ourselves to better the world around us.

Don’t ask what Amazon can do for philanthropy. Ask what you yourself can do for philanthropy.

Be the change you want to see in the world here.

This post was written by Gabriel St. John.  He is a volunteer with Jolkona and contributes and manages the blog.  He has a Masters of Research degree in European Languages and Culture. He hails all the way from Cornwall, England, where he studied at the University of Exeter.

 

Motrin

I’m a man and I’m a feminist. But I will admit that when my wife (my then girlfriend) first told me she was a feminist, I rolled my eyes and thought, “OK here we go!” As a reaction, it wasn’t malicious, neither was it misogynistic. But it was dismissive, and it was certainly deeply ignorant. Ignorance is the operative word here. Because, at the time, my idea of feminism was mostly pre-conceived and – surprise surprise therefore – largely wrong. For me the word feminist only conjured up images of cantankerous women burning bras and hating on men. To be honest, I felt quite threatened by feminism.

But let’s define feminism.

feminism [femuh-niz-uhm] noun 1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

What about feminist?

feminist [femuh-nist] adjective 1. advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

So feminism is the doctrine for equal rights for women, and a feminist is someone who advocates that doctrine. Nothing scary about that.

photo credit: Flickr, Jay Morrison

The thing is, deep in my heart I knew the burning bras and the cantankerous hating parts of my definition were probably an exaggeration, or at least an exiguous minority. So that left me with just the women part. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a sympathizer for gender equality. So what was my problem then? The answer is simple: the fear of otherness. Or to put it more soberly, prejudice. I felt threatened by that which was unknown to me and by that which was different to me. This is the heart of all prejudices.

There was something else curious about this, though. Why did I only envisage women when I thought about feminism? Probably because the only people I saw, read, or heard about in the media who had anything to do with feminism were all women. Feminism was a movement for women run predominantly by women. No wonder, then, feminism seemed so other to me; it was other.

And herein, I believe, lies one of the great barriers to gender equality: there are not enough men advocating feminism. If feminism is about gender equality, then both genders must fight for it. Otherwise how is it equal? Because, men, you can’t say you believe in gender equality if you’re letting women do all the work.

I’m convinced that feminism will continue to be misunderstood, and therefore dismissed by many, unless more men stand up and count themselves as feminists. Because if feminism remains a movement for women by women, then the inescapable laws of prejudice will mean that men will always fear it.

Lessons to be learnt from this (especially for men) :

1. Feminism is simply about gender equality

2. Own up to your prejudices

3. Become a feminist; advocate women’s rights

You can advocate women’s rights in the simplest of ways. Giving to our Give2Girls campaign, which seeks to empower disadvantaged women the world over, is one method. Help us reach our goal of $20,000 donated. Be a feminist here.

 

The Give2Girls campaign has been fully matched and we have raised an incredible figure just shy of $13,000! But although the matching part of the campaign is over, the campaign isn’t! We still have 10 days remaining for Women’s History Month and our goal is to reach $15,000. And with UN’s World Water Day coming up this Thursday, March 22nd, we wanted to highlight our Give2Girls Clean Water project run by MADRE.

Your donation provides essential tools for building water construction systems for women in Kenya. In doing so, you help bring clean water and a sustainable water system to the community, as well as empowering local women to participate in income-generating activities.

Give to the Clean Water project here, provide a community with the source of life, and help us reach our campaign goal.

Know your facts on water? Here’s an excellent infographic about why we must stop wasting water. Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.


Infographic by Seametrics, a manufacturer of water flow meters that measure and conserve water.

Give to the Clean Water project here. Empower women, Give2Girls.

How’s your knowledge of women’s history? Honestly. I’ll be the first to hold my hand up and say mine is a little patchy. Well, if you’re anything like me, then this month of March is your chance to change that. March is Women’s History Month – 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.

Introducing the Give2Girls matching campaign

To celebrate and participate in Women’s History Month, we’re proud to be launching our second Give2Girls matching campaign, running for the whole of March – starting today! We’re dedicating thirty one days to improving the lives of thousands of women and girls around the globe. Like last year, we’re partnering with the indefatigable CRAVE, a networking organization committed to connecting and promoting women entrepreneurs.

How will the campaign work?

Give to any of our 20+ projects related to women or girls, and we will match your donation, dollar for dollar, up to $500 per donor! Even better than that, though, we will double your proof. So donate $40 to educate one girl in Afghanistan for ten months, and we’ll send you the proof for how two girls have been educated. The campaign is being matched up to a total of $6,000.

Why this campaign?

Here are just some of the reasons:

  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.
  • The total global population of girls ages 10 to 24 – already the largest in history – is expected to peak in the next decade.
  • One-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before age 18; 14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth in developing countries each year.
  • Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Compared with women ages 20 to 24, girls ages 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die from childbirth, and girls 15 to 19 are up to twice as likely, worldwide.
  • Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school.
  • Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.

(statistics taken from girleffect.org)

For too long women have been over-looked. Their worth within society, communities, and families has been woefully neglected. And the true absurdity of this is that the roles they play within these spheres are of paramount importance. But we’re not here to bemoan the past; we’re here to change the future. So let’s do that.

What can I do?

1. Educate yourself. Give a bit of your time to learning about the past and women’s history. You can start here at womenshistorymonth.org. Then, learn about the present. The sites are numerous, but here are a couple we like: girleffect.org and the UN’s womenwatch.

2. Spread the word. Share what you learn and share our campaign with your friends, families and social networks. Tweet using the hashtag #give2girls.

3. Change the future. Support the Give2Girls campaign and invest in the women of tomorrow by giving to the girls of today!

Empower women and girls the world over here.

 

Let’s face it, although the principles at the heart of Valentine’s Day are noble, the day itself has decayed into something embarrassingly gaudy and grossly over-commercialized. But this is not just my opinion; it’s that of millions of others who are ditching Valentine’s Day and rebooting their February 14th as Generosity Day. In their own words, it’s one day of sharing love with everyone, of being generous to everyone, to see how it feels and to practice saying Yes.

What is this? you might ask, some Occupy Valentine’s Day movement? Not really. It’s simply about reclaiming actions of love – not obligation – for Valentine’s Day. It’s about doing away with the usual kitsch, and instead, showing your love with acts of costly and generous kindness to those you know and love – and to those you don’t. It is, if you like, about putting the O! back into love.

Started last year by Sasha Dichter, Chief Innovation Officer for Acumen Fund, the idea spread like wildfire and became what it is today – a million-strong movement of people. On his blog, Dichter suggests,

“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 you know one of the things that seriously bothers me about our glitzy twenty-first century Valentine’s Day – indeed, I loathe this – it systematically excludes those who are single. Because they don’t know how to love? Or because they’re unworthy of receiving love? How flagrantl unfair and apocryphal! Generosity Day does not discriminate against relationship status. Single, engaged, married, or divorced, it calls all of us to participate.

How will YOU participate? Here are a few generous ideas for you:

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 last week: Jolkona’s Valentine’s Day gift cards.

 

 

 

GET INVOLVED!