The mission of Women's Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) is to empower women thru economic, social and political programs; creating opportunities while addressing inequality, strengthening families and communities.
Our objective is to provide women with the framework necessary to create viable opportunities for themselves and their families. Thru grassroots strategies, women are given the tools necessary to alleviate poverty thus facilitating sustainable development and empowerment. Our goal is to work for social justice, increased human security and women's empowerment.
"Our initiatives build self esteem and confidence in a relevant and meaningful way so that women can address systemic inequality, while promoting economic, social and political transformations. This is allowing women the opportunity for self-expression, expanding their liberties and amplifying their voices' - Karen Sugar, Founder
WGEF was created based on the belief that women are natural leaders and, when offered meaningful opportunities, are able to rise above abject poverty with dignity, while advancing self-determination.
Our Credit Plus program combines microcredit services with social and educational services in three areas of focus—literacy, leadership development and health initiatives—into a single service reaching under-resourced women. Borrowers form groups and attend business trainings, where they elect leaders, develop a business plan and work with staff to ensure their success. What makes our intervention unique is the inclusion of a political dimension. Poverty is the result of inequality in many spheres, and meaningful interventions must include a political dimension that enables addressing systemic inequality through participation and advocacy.
To date WGEF has given out over 10,000 loans; over 3000 women have participated in our literacy initiative, while 16 have run for local and regional political office. Our commitment to leadership development is highlighted by several programs, including:
* Peer Counselors - a team of highly trained clients who desire leadership opportunities within the program and in the community. These wise women help to navigate and mediate challenges; these may include: land disputes, family disputes, early childhood marriages.
*Access to Justice Initiative - because women have unique challenges in accessing the justice system, WGEF has trained clients who assist women in our program and the community when experiencing breakages in the justice chain, including gender based violence, sexual assault, theft.
*Gulu Women's Resource Centre - opened in 2016, this one stop centre provides critical information on wide ranging issues, has on-site support, a computer lab and print centre, all free for WGEF clients. It also provides democratic space for community gatherings and dialogue.
*Healthy Periods Initiative - WGEF's groundbreaking health initiative, addressing the issues around menstrual health management. It's about equality and dignity, period.
While financial support is critical to achieving our goals of fighting poverty by establishing a sustainable microfinance organization, providing an integrated package of educational, social and political development services, women can begin the slow process of changing the oppression.
In order to understand impact, it is important to define empowerment. WGEF defines empowerment as "one's ability to access resources, make choices and determine life outcomes." While many definitions are focused on financial mobility, we contend it is much more complex, suggesting financial agency alone does not create empowerment, but may be a catalyst to other variables that enable empowerment; other variables are contextually important and valuable in the process. Below is the list WGEF uses in defining/evaluating empowerment:
1. Increase in participation in household (decisions)/community activities
2. Increase in mobility
3. Decrease in violence
4. Increase in decision making (personal, household, financial)
5. Increase in health, food security, access to care, rest
6. Increased self-esteem/confidence
WGEF does not include a specific financial measurement; access to financial resources alone does not necessarily translate into greater autonomy, increased security or mobility. Using our definition of empowerment, we believe our clients are experiencing economic and social empowerment.
WGEF clients have utilized educational and financial tools to create viable businesses, making strategic choices that increase decision-making capabilities and control over resources. All of our surveys have shown increases in areas that we consider empowerment markers (see above). These changes also address systemic problems, allowing women to have a greater voice in their communities and policy development.
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