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Like many first-time moms, when I went into labor last year, I was really scared about how painful the delivery would be and whether anything would go wrong with me or my baby girl. And even now, though Aleena is very healthy, I often double-check to make sure she’s still breathing when she’s asleep.

These fears are real to me, but they seem so trivial compared to the fears that mothers in developing countries face: Will they survive childbirth? Will their babies survive? Will they be able to give them clean water and healthy food? What about medicine if they get sick? Can they afford to send them to school? All of them, or just the boys?

Medical complications from pregnancy is one of the leading causes of death for women around the world. Even in India, which has made great strides in the past generation, the maternal mortality rate is 10 times higher than in the United States, according to the World Health Organization – even worse than in neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal. But there’s hope: When I visited a Kolkata slum a few years ago, I met with a grateful woman and baby who had received proper prenatal care and a safe delivery through Calcutta Kids. Thanks to the funding this nonprofit gets from our Jolkona donors and other supporters, this woman and thousands of others in her community no longer live in fear of dying in childbirth, or that their children won’t live past their fifth birthdays.

Some people argue that supporting efforts to improve maternal and child healthcare in slums and developing countries only exacerbates overpopulation. But, as Melinda Gates noted in the Gates Foundation’s annual letter, the data actually show that when more children survive, women opt to have fewer babies – slowing population growth and improving education and empowerment opportunities per family.

 In addition to health issues, the world’s women and girls continue to lag behind in education and employment. Improving these measures is a win-win-win for the women, their families and their communities. Researchers have confirmed that when women and girls earn money, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families (compared to only 30-40 percent for men) – a ripple effect that can break the cycle of poverty in a single generation.  

Last Day to Give to Girls

These stories and statistics inspire me during Jolkona’s annual Give to Girls campaign, combined with March as Women’s History Month. This year, we focused on crowdfunding in three categories where our growing pool of small donations can have the greatest collective impact: maternal health, education, and empowerment. The 10 projects we chose will each provide proofs for every donation, so that even small donors feel confident that they can make a difference.

It always amazes me how little it costs to make a life-changing difference for young woman. For just $30, we can train a woman farmer in Sudan. For $60, we can educate a girl in Afghanistan for one year. For $160, we can provide prenatal care to a mother in Guatemala.

All it takes is a small donation to change lives – starting with one girl, her family, her village, and the world. We need to invest in the women of tomorrow by giving to girls today.

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When I was fresh out of college and teaching in Singapore, I spent a whole day on MRT subways and buses all over the country — in search of a women’s basketball. I found myself trying to explain to young men and women, in both English and Mandarin, what a “women’s basketball” was… Anyway, I couldn’t find one. Eventually, I discovered that although hundreds of boys’ secondary school basketball teams participated in Singapore’s interscholastic league, only about 30 girls’ teams did. That was when I really, really realized how much Title IX had done for girls in the United States —and how lucky we are to be gaining more gender equality with every generation.

After more travels, including teaching in Honduras and backpacking through Central America, I came to Seattle and earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. As Jolkona’s newest Communications Intern, I’m thrilled to use my love of writing and global development to raise awareness for social change, to bring to the page what I have witnessed abroad and turn it into action.

Jolkona provides young professionals and backpackers like me on limited budgets a platform to donate and, drop by drop, make every single dollar matter — whether it’s in providing children in Mexico with fresh producesupporting safe births for women in Palestine, or creating jobs for silk weavers in India.

By joining the Jolkona team, I will no longer be just another tourist who has passed by; my experiences can continue contributing to a worthy cause. I’m excited to work with a group of like-minded volunteers who are committed to making a difference, one day, one dollar, one drop at a time.

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And finally, as an advocate for women’s rights, I’m excited to be joining Jolkona during its annual Give to Girls campaign — supporting 10 nonprofit projects that help women and girls locally and globally. Join us!

Bea Chang received her MFA in fiction from the University of Washington, Seattle. Her stories and essays have appeared in Colere: A Journal of Cultural Exploration, Toasted Cheese, and Memoir Journal. Since 2007, she has lived in and backpacked through 50 countries. 

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As we enter the final week of our annual Give to Girls campaign, in honor of Women’s History Month, I asked the ladies of Jolkona, “Which woman inspires you?” The responses reveal a spectrum of diverse role models, locally and globally:

I’m reminded of a quote by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo and a personal source of hope and inspiration: “I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.”

I ask you to take a moment to think about a woman or girl you admire. How does she inspire you? When you Give to Girls, you are investing in the next generation of inspirational women, creating a global ripple effect of hope. Please Give to Girls today!

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Jolkona’s Give to Girls campaign revolves around the idea that the world’s women — over half the global population — are a significant untapped resource. Women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor, disproportionately suffering in times of crisis: natural disasters, economic downturns, wars. On the other hand, as more women gain equality in the workforce, the faster a country’s economy will recover and grow.

This doesn’t only apply to the developing world; America’s GDP would jump by 9 percent if we had equal pay. Empowering women, along with giving them access to better healthcare and education, is the key to local and global development.

You can help three Jolkona partners empower women:

Give Life and Tech Skills to Homeless Women in the U.S.

Many homeless women in the U.S. can’t get back on their feet because they lack the skills needed to find jobs in today’s economy. Jolkona’s partner the Jubilee Women’s Center, works to help Seattle women transition out of extreme poverty, with a comprehensive life and tech skills program including classes in Microsoft Office, interview and job retention practices.

Support Rape Survivors in Haiti Displacement Camp

Four years after Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, more than 100,000 people are still living in tent camps — unstable conditions that have made women even more vulnerable to sexual violence. Jolkona’s partner MADRE provides peer-counseling groups to help rape survivors empower each other and heal together, and works with local organizations to build effective community anti-violence strategies.

Support Women Farmers in Sudan

Women in Sudan grow 80 percent of the food crops, yet are excluded from government farm aid programs. The country’s farmers also struggle to survive the ongoing war, environmental degradation from unsustainable practices, and droughts and floods from climate change. Jolkona’s partner MADRE provides women farmers with tools, seeds, and ongoing training — enabling them to feed their families and achieve financial independence.

With the right set of tools, any woman can become empowered, and empowered women are one of the greatest potential forces for global change. Give to Girls today!

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Why do we give to girls? Because we must, if we want to reduce violence, promote equality, build stronger economies and improve a plethora of other crucial development measures locally and globally.

Halfway into our annual Give to Girls campaign, which highlights education, maternal health and empowerment projects this year, I’ve asked the ladies at Jolkona HQ: “Why should we give to girls?” The responses vary, but all come down to making the world a better place for our generation, and a brighter place for the next generation:

So we ask you today: what compels you to give to girls? Let us know in the Comments section, and through our social media channels.

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In honor of International Women’s Day, I joined other nonprofit communicators at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Friday to discuss ways we could use social media to promote women’s health initiatives, including PATH’s redesigned female condom, self-administered contraceptive shots (see photo — so tiny!) and low-tech cervical and breast cancer screenings.

This #GatesSocial also got me thinking about more ways to inform and engage donors for Jolkona’s 4th annual Give to Girls campaign, which is crowdfunding for 10 projects that save lives, educate and empower women locally and globally. What would inspire you? We’d love to produce something like the Girl Effect video:

Stay tuned for some new Jolkona media for this year’s #Give2Girls. In the meantime, check out the traditional press release about the campaign.

SEATTLE – Launched on International Women’s Day (March 8) and continuing through Women’s History Month, Jolkona’s 4thannual Give to Girls campaign is crowdfunding for 10 innovative projects to lift up women and girls in the United States and strategic regions of Latin America, Africa and Asia.

“We inspire the women of tomorrow by giving to girls today,” says Nadia Mahmud, Jolkona co-founder and CEO. “Empowering women is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty around the world. Invest in a healthy and educated girl today, and she will be able to reinvest in her family, her community, and our world tomorrow.”

From now through March 31, donors can choose among nine high-impact projects related to education, maternal health and empowerment. Starting at the $5 level, the options range from supporting job training for homeless women in Seattle topromoting female literacy in Afghanistan to funding counseling services for rape survivors in Haiti.

The bonus project will be selected by members of Jolkona’s monthly Give Together program: starting at the $10 level, participants join a private Facebook group to review proposals from nonprofit partners and determine which one should be awarded the community’s collective grant. For this campaign, Give Together is also accepting one-time donations, in addition to monthly subscriptions.

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In honor of International Women’s Day, March 8, Jolkona is launching our 4th annual Give to Girls campaign. All month long, we will bring you opportunities to help girls and women in nine countries.

By supporting women’s education, health and empowerment, we can create sustainable economic development and reduce poverty locally and globally. By working with Jolkona and our Give to Girls partners, you can help, too — starting with just $5. As U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon states:

This International Women’s Day, we are highlighting the importance of achieving equality for women and girls not simply because it is a matter of fairness and fundamental human rights, but because progress in so many other areas depends on it.

Welcome to Give to Girls 2014! This year’s projects:

Education

Maternal Health

Empowerment

Give Together Bonus

Starting at $10, you can also Give Together — contributing to a collective grant and helping us choose which project related to women and girls gets the community’s pool of donations this month.

With your support in these three key areas, not only will more women have social and economic opportunities, but the whole world will benefit from a ripple effect of change. Thank you for your support!

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It’s hard to believe that March is already here again, but at Jolkona we’re certainly excited about International Women’s Day on March 8. This year will be our 4th annual Give2Girls campaign, raising money to improve the lives of women and girls all over the world during Women’s History Month.

As UN Women states, “Increasingly, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”

Our preparations include reviewing the past three campaigns, celebrating we have collectively accomplished with the $40,000 raised, and all that is still left to do as we work to build greater gender equality and improving health, education and opportunity for women and girls locally and globally:

Jolkona’s Give2Girls 2013 raised over $5,000 through our generous donors and a partnership with the Seattle International Foundation. Every dollar went to saving lives and improving education, health and sanitation for women and girls in more than a dozen countries, from the United States to Iraq to Nepal. Through out last year’s campaign, we also worked to bring awareness to many issues that impact women’s equality, such as access to clean water and higher education.

Our Give2Girls 2012 raised $25,000, with a big boost from Women at Google and our champions Zanoon Nissar and Jessan Hutchison-Quillian. And the inaugural Give2Girls campaign raised $10,000!

While looking forward to what we can accomplish this year, you can watch a live commemoration of the event on March 7th here, and stay tuned for our official campaign information next week. You can also get started on browsing our projects related to women and girls.

We’re excited and grateful to spend a fourth Women’s History Month working with you to help improve the lives of women and girls. Thank you for your support!

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Last week, dozens of women in Saudi Arabia got behind the wheel. Driving while female may seem trivial or mundane to us, but this is a major act of courage for Saudi women. While driving is technically not illegal for women in Saudi Arabia, they are banned from obtaining driver’s licenses, along with countless other acts of independence. Yet over 60 women (most equipped with international driver’s licenses and experience) coordinated a “drive-in” and posted videos of their activity online, continuing a small but persistent movement for improving women’s rights.

The Associated Press reports that the first time a Saudi female driving protest took place, in 1990, 50 women were arrested, had their passports confiscated and lost their jobs. But not a single woman was arrested on Wednesday. Activist and professor Aziza Youssef explained that they plan to continue driving and posting photos and videos, which they hope will normalize the notion of women driving. Check out some of their videos on The Guardian’s website.

Youssef and the other female Saudi drivers are an inspiration for women empowerment efforts everywhere, including partners and participants in Jolkona’s Women and Girls Give Together campaign. We believe that when given the right economic support and educational tools to rise out of poverty and oppression, women can make an incredible impact on the world.

If you want to make an impact of your own for women and girls, there’s only a few days left in this month’s Give Together campaign, with collective funds going to support Jubilee Women’s Center, MADRE, and the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation. We have $1,500 in matching funds from the Seattle International Foundation, which will double these Give Together donations and amplify October gifts to our Give Direct projects that also support women and girls.

Time is running out: help empower a woman or girl today!

Photo by MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

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Today is United Nations Day, celebrating the ratification of the U.N. Charter on Oct. 24, 1945. For the past 68 years, the U.N. has been a driving force in global humanitarian efforts. More recently, the body’s eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have become an essential metric for member countries and nonprofits to measure their impact and track their progress in working to alleviate the world’s greatest problems.

The MDGs aim to:

  • Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Develop a global partnership for development

Many organizations, and many regular donors just like you, are committed to making progress on the MDGs. Browse the Jolkona Blog archive to learn more about the work that we’re doing with our partners to support these goals, including these posts:

Taking Collective Action

In his official statement for United Nations Day 2013, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stresses the importance of planning for what happens after the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals:

This year again, we saw the United Nations come together on armed conflict, human rights, the environment and many other issues. We continue to show what collective action can do. We can do even more. In a world that is more connected, we must be more united.

Collective action is also central to Jolkona’s mission, and is the essence of the Give Together monthly philanthropy program we launched earlier this year. When you join Give Together during October, your donation supports three projects working to help women and girls locally and globally, promoting gender equality (as per one of the MDGs). We also have matching funds this month from the Seattle International Foundation for projects related to women and girls, enabling us to double the first $1,500 donated to those Give Together and Give Direct projects until Nov. 1.

Which one inspires you to give? 

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fashion show sari

Jolkona’s Night of Fashion & Giving 2012

Love philanthropy? How about colorful clothes? Bollywood and salsa dance numbers?  If you’re in the Seattle – Eastside area on Oct. 28, here’s an event for you:

Back by popular demand, the Jolkona + Microsoft Giving Campaign fashion show raises awareness and funds for Jolkona’s mission to inspire and empower a new generation of philanthropists locally and globally. Join us for a fun evening of fashion, dance, refreshments, good company and a great cause!
What: Giving In Style
When: Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 6:30 pm
Where: Microsoft Building 34, 3720 159th Ave. NE, Redmond, WA 98052
Why: Food, wine, music, fashion and dance. Did we mention it supports a great cause, too?
Tickets: $25 admission includes two drink tickets and hors d’oeuvres – http://bit.ly/17OuKV1

Visit the Facebook event page to view photos from last year’s fashion show and see who else is going!

On a related note, there’s just over a week left to contribute to one of our partner projects for Women & Girls and have your gift matched! Join our Give Together pool (starting at $10/month), or make a one-time donation (starting at $5) to a Give Direct project. 

Editor’s Note: Seattle is definitely known for philanthropy… but fashion? Hey, we are home of the flagship Nordstrom! And a Zara store is opening here soon, just around the corner from the Jolkona office. (Dangerous, at least for me.)

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Jolkona Staff - 2010

Jolkona’s Fearless Females – 2010

In Jolkona’s first five years, we’ve collected more than $700,000 for nonprofit partners locally and globally. More than $40,000 has come just through Give2Girls, a campaign we run every March to specifically support causes for women and girls. And we’ve raised more than $1,200 so far this month through our Give Together featured cause of Women & Girls, supporting projects in Seattle, Nepal and Sudan.

Our work for women and girls is much bigger than the occasional fundraising theme, however. One way or another, most of our partners empower women and girls. Some literally save lives; others strive to make those lives worth living. As Jolkona blogger Madison Abshire noted at the beginning of this month: “The world’s women and girls are one of the greatest sources of untapped potential for providing lasting global change… Improving women’s lives has a positive impact on society; on average, 90 percent of each dollar invested in a woman is returned to her family and community.”

We’ve had dozens of interesting posts here on the Jolkona Blog about how donors and volunteers can make a big difference for the world’s women and girls. Three blasts from the past:

Double Your Dollars

This month, we have matching funds from the Seattle International Foundation to amplify donations to Jolkona partner projects related to women and girls. This offer will double the first $1,500 given to our Give Together and Give Direct projects for women/girls. Which one inspires you to give? 

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Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 9.24.58 AMToday is International Day of the Rural Woman, a United Nations observance of the crucial role women play in the economic development and eradication of poverty in agricultural and remote parts of the world. In developing countries, women farmers produce much of the food for their communities, while caring for the young, elderly and sick, along with their own multiple pregnancies and childbirths. With all these responsibilities and their geographic isolation, these women have little opportunity for educational and professional advancement.

With your help, however, more rural women can be empowered to reduce severe poverty and increase food security in their communities. Jolkona has $1,500 in matching funds from the Seattle International Foundation for projects related to women and girls this month. Some of this will double the October donations from our Give Together members; the rest can be used to amplify gift to our Give Direct projects related to women. Starting at just $5, you can contribute to our nonprofit partners working to provide agricultural training, environmental sustainability and maternal health for women in rural communities.

Two ways to support rural women through Jolkona today:

Train Women in Bio-Intensive Farming in Kenya

Women in Kenya do 80% of the farm work, but only receive 5% of the input, and own 1% of the land. The Feed Villages program from Common Ground/Village Volunteers educates rural communities in Kenya in bio-intensive farming techniques and sustainability strategies.

For every $64 raised, the program can train two Kenyan women in bio-intensive farming techniques, such as seed saving, which improves agricultural output, increases bio-diversity, and tree coverage. With this training, women farmers can improve their harvest and invest their profits in their communities.

Provide Healthcare for Nepalese Women

himalayan healthcare

When rural women don’t have access to effective healthcare, they often sacrifice their education and work because of unplanned pregnancies, and their children are more likely to suffer from malnutrition and preventable disease. Himalayan Healthcare provides healthcare to Nepalese women from contraception to postpartum care.

A donation of just $25 can fund a month of contraception or a prenatal exam for one woman, ensuring that she can remain healthy and help her community thrive.

By making a contribution through Jolkona’s Give Direct or Give Together programs, you can empower specific women around the world today. In return, she will help eradicate poverty in her family and community — and drop by drop, our collective impact can make an ocean of change!

Find out more about Day of the Rural Woman through the U.N. Women Commission, and spread the word with #ruralwomen on Twitter.

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Anne FrankI had a poster of Anne Frank on my bedroom wall when I was growing up. On my 16th birthday, I looked up at her, sadly and somewhat apologetically, thinking about how I would now always be older than her — and about all the other innocent girls around the world struck down for reasons beyond their control and my comprehension.

Malala Yousafzai

Today is International Day of the Girl Child, and for me, it feels like we’ve gotten a second chance with Malala Yousafzai. The Pakistani teenager, who miraculously survived being shot in the head by the Taliban over her fight for the right to girls’ education, turned 16 this summer. She’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and has been making the rounds to promote the Malala Fund and her new book.

I took notes as I watched the livestream of her appearance, with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, at Mashable’s Social Good Summit last month. Some notable quotes:

Malala:

I want education for every child.

We shall not wait for someone else. We shall not wait for the governments to do it. We shall do it by ourselves. It is our duty.

My dream is to see every girl be educated, in every country.

A Talib chooses guns to solve a problem. We choose our voice… a peaceful way to solve problems.

I believe that today it would seem like a dream that we are saying tomorrow there will be equality. It seems a dream now — but in future, it will be reality.

Ziauddin Yousafzai:

In most parts of the world, when a girl is born, right from the very beginning, her wings are clipped. She’s not let to fly. The only thing I did: I tried to make her free, to make her free and independent. I dreamed for her. All that is good. Now it’s up to her what she chooses for herself.

A few days ago, she also had a charming visit with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. (Sorry, the embedded video is not working, so just use the link for now. –NNG)

Jon Stewart should have had her on for the whole show, or at least two segments — the government shutdown news mockery will be good for a while (sigh) — but TDS did add two extended interview clips to the website:

Each of us can do something more to support girls and women, whether in desperate situations like Malala’s Swat Valley or in our own neighborhoods. This month, donations through our Give Together program will help fund three nonprofits working with women and girls in Nepal, Sudan and here in Seattle. The pool we raise this month will be matched by Seattle International Foundation funds, so there’s twice as much reason to give — starting at just $10. Join Jolkona’s Give Together for Women & Girls in October, and make a big difference for women in Africa, Asia and the United States.

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Our final Partner Spotlight for October’s Give Together for Women and Girls campaign is the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation. This organization changes the lives of young women in Nepal by giving them the means to pursue higher education, either at colleges or trade schools. We asked them some questions so you can get to know them.

Remember, we have $1,500 in matching funds from the Seattle International Foundation for October’s Give Together campaign for Women & Girls. Join Give Together and your donation will be doubled this month!

LorrieSunitaMarilynWhat’s your mission? Why? What inspires your organization?

The Bo M. Karlsson Foundation empowers underprivileged young women in Nepal by providing access to higher education. We believe that by helping one woman at time we can make a meaningful difference for that individual and the world – that the rippling effect is monumental. Our goal is to empower young women through higher education, to help them become confident, self-reliant, productive citizens in their country.

In Nepal, young women face numerous obstacles to education, including extreme poverty and cultural stigmas related to gender, class or caste, and, in many cases, disability. Most families don’t have the money or motivation to send girls to school, and a majority of young women are married by age 15. Less than 3% of Nepali women go on to college, so every scholarship we give makes a difference.

We have tremendous respect for our scholarship recipients. Most are from very poor, often very remote villages. Some are from regions that suffer from human trafficking, others have overcome disabilities to pursue their education. Their powerful personal stories, professional goals, courage, and perseverance continually amaze and inspire us.

What’s your project for this month’s Give Together campaign?

Over the past decade, the Foundation has awarded $100,000 in scholarships to 39 young women in Nepal. This year, we broke our record — and awarded 21 scholarships. But we need your support in order to renew these scholarships for next year. Our Give Together goal is to raise the equivalent of at least one student’s room and board fees for a year.

If Jolkona’s Give Together members raise $250 for your organization, what’s our impact?

$250 will provide room and board for one BMKF scholar for a whole school year! Compare that to the cost of room and board for a U.S. college student — which is closer to $2,500 per quarter at a Washington State college.

In a nutshell, why should Give Together members support your project?

This $250 will make a life-changing difference for a courageous young woman in Nepal, who would not otherwise be able to afford the cost of living while earning a degree at a college or university in a community that is far from her home village.

Ganga at Janakpur, NEpalWe love impact reports at Jolkona, do you have a favorite story about how your organization changed someone’s life?

All of our scholarship recipients are passionate advocates for promoting women’s education and women’s rights in their country, and most plan to pursue work that will allow them to give back and support the communities they come from.

At age 28, Lali Kumari is unmarried and single-handedly runs a health care outpost in a remote village where she serves as a midwife and health care provider to people who walk for hours to receive her care. Lali learned to take care of wounds as a 14-year-old nurse in the Maoist army. Last spring, she approached some filmmakers from Seattle and asked if they knew of any scholarships for women. With her BMKF scholarship, Lali is pursuing a four-year nursing degree. She believes that with advanced skills she will be able to save more lives in her remote community.

Ganga Tamang was abducted as a child and trafficked in India for years before being rescued. She started school late and graduated from high school at age 23. Ganga is studying to be a social worker and she works as an activist, helping other women and girls who have survived human trafficking experiences.

Sunita Dangi was severely burned as a toddler and grew up disabled. She is pursuing sociology and rural development studies, and she volunteers for a rehabilitation program that helps people with disabilities. Her goal is to show other disadvantaged and disabled girls that it is possible to be successful, self-reliant, and pursue their dreams.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for helping empower women in Nepal! Please visit our website or Facebook page to learn more.

This is one post in our ongoing Partner Spotlight series. When you join Give Together, you can allocate your October contribution to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation, or one of our other Women and Girls projects. Email your choice to givetogether@jolkona.org, or tell us via Twitter: @Jolkona #GiveTogether.

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