In countries affected by conflict, rape is used as a brutal weapon. In fact, it is now believed that it is more dangerous to be a woman as opposed to a soldier in modern wars. Females are directly targeted with violence and are the victims of arranged marriages to abusive husbands; as a result, their lives lack hope and progression.
Honorata—a rape survivor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo—is just one of the many victims of sexual enslavement. As she was ashamed of her past, she initially suffered in silence; however, over time she decided to vocalise her pain. With the help of Women for Women International, she recognised her own value, and is now a self-sufficient individual who actively helps other traumatised women within the organisation.
Now in its 23rd year, Women for Women International continues to strive for female empowerment by helping many other women like Honorata. At the impressive age of 23, the Iraqi-American Zainab Salbi decided to create a humanitarian organisation to aid oppressed females in countries affected by war. Having witnessed the horrific genocide that occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s, Salbi was compelled to act. Now 23 years on, the global sisterhood has helped over 462,000 marginalised women in countries including Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq and Nigeria.
With the majority of men fighting on the front line in war torn countries, an immense weight of responsibility is shifted onto the women. They are solely given the task of supporting their children and the elderly; thus the entire community depends upon the strength of its women.
Yet, WfWI believes that females are not victims of war; they are instead catalysts for change. WfWI provides an intensive yearlong course that allows women to learn valuable and sustainable life skills. The sister is given a monthly stipend and is taught the basics of business and how to save money. She learns about her health, the importance of nutrition and good hygiene. She also recognises her rights as a woman, including her ability to vote and the issue of domestic abuse. Most importantly, the organisation fosters a space for abused women to talk about their issues, so that they can heal and find strength together.
Equipped with a newfound confidence, the sister graduates into the world as a self-sufficient and resilient woman. She is then connected to financial services and support networks to increase her ability to earn, save and access capital. Many have set up their own businesses and have specialised in embroidery, textiles or agriculture. WfWI allows marginalised individuals to reach their full potential so that they can support themselves and their families.
Not only does WfWI focus on women, the sisterhood realises that significant change can only occur through educating the men of the community. WfWI encourages workshops to try to obliterate pre-conceived ideas of women that constrain their independence and their place in society. Through circulating positive ideas of the opposite sex, men help facilitate the empowerment of women in countries affected by conflict.