By Jane Erikson
SPECIAL TO THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.21.2009
The Partnership for Women and Girls is taking bold steps to respond to the problems of poverty, inequality and violence toward women and girls.
The partnership – a new collaboration of Emerge Center Against Domestic Violence, Sahuaro Girl Scout Council and the YWCA – is itself a bold step. Formed earlier this year, it supports the already excellent collaboration among the three nonprofit organizations, building on their collective strengths while helping them avoid duplication of effort.
The partnership took another bold step earlier this month when it hosted a community conversation with Sheryl WuDunn, co-author of “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.”
WuDunn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, wrote the book with her husband, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. The couple have dedicated much of the last 20 years to documenting and drawing world attention to 13-year-old girls being sold to brothels, bride burnings in response to meager dowries, wife beatings, rape and other abuses of women and girls. WuDunn and Kristof identify violence and oppression of women as the most pressing moral challenge of our century. “Half the Sky” is disturbing but uplifting. It showcases the strength of women even in the face of extraordinary violence and poverty. The book tells the story of Saima, a Pakistani woman who was beaten daily by her unemployed husband. Her amazing will to survive helped Saima obtain a $65 micro-loan with which she purchased cloth and beads. She now is the owner of a company that sells beautiful embroidered fabrics to merchants throughout the world. Her husband no longer beats her. In fact, he now is one of about 30 people who work for Saima.
The solution will come from “changing the culture – and that can only be accomplished through education and economic empowerment,” WuDunn said. The $65 loan that transformed Saima’s life is proof, WuDunn said, that “it takes so little to do so much.”
But make no mistake, WuDunn said: “In order to be effective in the world, you have to get your own house in order.” That’s why Sarah Jones, Janet Marcotte and Debbie Rich – the chief executives of Emerge, the YWCA and the Girl Scout Council, respectively – started the partnership.
The three nonprofit organizations serve a total of 60,000 women and girls each year. After all, there are Saimas in Tucson. About 20,000 women a year seek help from Emerge, which in turn links them to job counseling and skill-building classes at the YWCA. The Sahuaro Girl Scout Council is starting scout troops at Emerge shelters, to offer women and girls the kinds of positive experiences and friendships that can help them build better lives. The partnership believes women and girls already have everything they need to be leaders in their own lives. “It’s our job to help them learn to believe in themselves,” Marcotte says. “And if we help a woman become a leader in her own life, we change her family, her children’s schools, the community, our country and the world.”
We can help by donating dollars, time and skills to Emerge, the Girl Scouts and the YWCA. As Greg Hart, YWCA board president, told the 150 people gathered to hear WuDunn last week, “It’s not just about what’s happening in Afghanistan or the Congo. “It’s also about what’s going on right here in Tucson.”
Please visit the Partnership for Women and Girls at http://www.thepartnershipforwomenandgirls.org.