Yesterday was International Women’s Day – a date set-aside, since the early 1900s, to honor and pay tribute to women worldwide. This year’s UN theme is: “Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty”.
Exemplifying the real-life fruition of this theme is Rosaline, a woman I met on a recent trip to Haiti. Rosaline was provided with a micro-loan to start a coffee roasting business. Haitian coffee is very different from the coffee that we’re used to in that they roast the coffee with sugar (yum). Rosaline was able to purchase beans and a roaster to start her business, and now she runs one of the most successful small businesses in her community in Les Cayes, Haiti.
Rosaline is a great example of how a little support can go a long way to her path for a better future. Today, we enjoy the progress of women’s rights and have seen an attitudinal shift in recent history. Women’s empowerment initiatives are now a core focus for many Fortune 500 companies and thousands of nonprofit organizations and NGO’s. But, there is so much still to do. According to the UNESCO, over 1 billion people in this world live in extreme poverty – and the majority of them are women and children. According to Kiva.org, research shows that women reinvest a majority of what they earn to provide herself and her children with a better future. For each additional year a girl attends school, she yields a 20% increase in her future earning potential. It is with this determination that many women around the world are creating change and helping to pull their families out of poverty to provide their children with hopes for a better future.
My trip to Haiti was eye-opening. As it had been a decade ago when I first went. We all saw the devastating images of the earthquake that hit in 2010 and I was eager but nervous to see the country again. When I arrived, I was shocked to see how much but how little had changed. Most importantly, what I did see and experience was the steadfast hope that Haitian people have for their futures. While the rebuilding efforts will be a long process, I spoke with many Haitians – women, men, young, old who have the passion and determination to be a part of the solution and see a day when the country is lifted out of poverty.
Whether in a rural countryside village in Haiti, or a busy working mom in the city, let’s celebrate all that women have accomplished and contributed to our society. Here’s to the future, to helping a new generation of girls everywhere get the chance to learn, thrive, live out their dreams, and create social change. To learn more and get involved, visit www.internationalwomensday.org.