The Women's Global Empowerment Fund is truly a one of a kind organization dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable populations in Northern Uganda. I just finished a summer internship with the Fund this week. During my time, I had the privilege of working with the incredible team of compassionate individuals who run the organization and set it apart from other microfinance programs. The small staff of employees and volunteers go above and beyond their expected duties, making every effort to connect with their clients on a personal level. This enables them to fully understand the complexities of their clients' poverty and to create holistic solutions. For instance, in addition to microfinance loans and business training, the Fund has created several additional programs such as their Access to Justice Initiative and Healthy Periods Initiative to address problems with women's menstrual health and access to legal rights. While both of these initiatives are still in their early stages and need additional funding, their efforts are already successfully addressing some of the non-monetary issues that prevent individuals and families from escaping poverty in Northern Uganda. The Women's Global Empowerment Fund is creating incredible change in Uganda and I am very lucky I had the opportunity to be a part of it.
I interned at WGEF last summer in Gulu, Uganda. Not only did it change my life, but it significantly helped those in the community. Women's lives, as well as the lives of their families were bettered in every way. Children were always in school, and women finally had autonomy over their lives. The non-profit worked in a very efficient way where every employee was involved from the field work to working with corporate partners. An amazing crew of employees and an amazing set of clients!
In fall of 2015, I had the honor and privilege of accompanying Women's Global Empowerment Fund on a trip to Gulu District in Northern Uganda to observe field visits, meet some of WGEF's most inspiring clients, and attend the annual drama festival, which is WGEF's innovative and original capstone program to elevate women's' voices—to a place of social, political, and economic empowerment—through indigenous song, dance, and storytelling.
I became acquainted with WGEF when I covered the organization for Denver's city magazine after our readers voted it (as they have multiple times) Denver's top humanitarian organization. Since then, I've found myself at fundraisers, performances, and collaborations that highlight the organization's work. In other words, I was familiar with WGEF's mission and accomplishments. But not until I witnessed the following in Uganda, did I truly, truly get it:
“I was blind…but now I can see.” It was a short statement, but spoken slowly, with intention, directed toward WGEF founder Karen Sugar. A group of women in a rural village in Northern Uganda—participants in WGEF's literacy trainings—had gathered beneath the shade of a hulking jackfruit tree to greet a small WGEF team during their field visit. The woman stood as she spoke. She walked to a blackboard propped against the tree, picked up a piece of chalk, and carefully wrote her entire name across the smudged slate. Sugar watched from a wooden bench in the dusty clearing as her tears fell. That tiny moment was what her life’s work is all about.
In the grand scheme of our trip, it was the smallest of moments. But it was so big. It made such an impact on me as a moment of such raw honesty and joy. This is what WGEF does: It creates humanity in a space where it had once been extinguished.
I could go on about our visit to the brand new market in Gulu Town, and the WGEF clients we met selling vegetables there. I could talk about the gracious chicken feast that one women's group prepared for us when we visited their village and dairy collaborative, or the endless fields of beans and millet and tilapia ponds that one client led us through—agricultural projects she launched with loans from WGEF. I could recount how mesmerized I was by the drama festival, and the passion and creativity the women put into their performances to convey the theme of "women and gender equity in civic participation"—a topic that couldn't be more relevant in a year when 10 WGEF clients pursued political office. I could talk about WGEF's dedicated, relentlessly hard-working staff who pour their hearts and souls into serving their clients and giving women a voice in their communities, sometimes under the most trying circumstances.
I could go on and on about all of these things. But I'll leave it here, with my sincerest thank you to Karen Sugar and Women's Global Empowerment Fund for sharing their work—and for caring enough to do it.
The Women's Global Empowerment Fund is literally a life-saving game-changer for so many women in the post-conflict, northern Uganda region. Through founder Karen Sugar's vision, innovation, dedication, and passion, the organization has been instrumental in helping women re-discover their entrepreneurial spirit and acquire the skills and education to support themselves and their families in a region mired in recovery. WGEF gives a collective voice to the northern Ugandan women it serves, not only to stand up for themselves as people, but to embrace their power as women in a traditionally male-dominated society. It's rare to see an organization with such compassion, heart, and soul.
When you realize that a small contribution can make such a huge difference to others, it's very hard to ignore impact we're able to make.
I had the pleasure of joining Women's Global Empowerment Fund in 2007 and I've witnessed how our efforts and our focus on women's empowerment have positively shaped the lives of 1000s of women and their families in a post-conflict region.
Women who were once marginalized are now successful business people who provide for themselves and their families while creating stronger socio-economic ties within their community.
Women's Global Empowerment Fund is a shining example of microfinance in action!
When you realize what a large impact a relatively small amount of money makes to the lives of the clients of Women's Global Empowerment Fund, you begin to understand how small the world truly is.
WGEF empowers women through microcredit loans and social programming which directly and positively affects her life, the lives of her family and, to a larger scale, the quality of life within the community.
If you're familiar with the adage "When a butterfly flaps its wings," you'll understand the power and significance of WGEF's mission and results.
I have been involved with WGEF for over two years now and am excited about how Women's Global Fund continues to directly empower women. The new Healthy Period Initiative (HPI) provides women with resources needed for their health while also enabling women to start the business. Women in Uganda come to WGEF with their business ideas and leave empowered. I love being part of this non profit which promotes leadership roles for amazing women!
As a new board member, I see the positive impact WGEF makes in the lives of women. I volunteered in Tanzania three years ago, and while I was teaching women I felt the impact wasn't enough because women didn't the ability to be financially stable on their own. WGEF starts planting the seeds for big changes through small loans to women. Women become empowered and positivity spreads!
Women's Global Empowerment Fund is doing amazing humanitarian work for women and families in Uganda; the organization has empowered many women and families through micro-lending that has funded new businesses, allowing families to earn income. That financial empowerment has lead to local women becoming involved with the political system, resulting in women running for and winning local elected positions. Women becoming part of the political landscape and having a say in the local government goes well beyond the "empowering" financial benefits that come from a micro-loan. WGEF has fulfilled (and will continue to fulfill) a truly beneficial mission.
Being on the board of WGEF has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. The women we work with in Uganda are unbelievably inspiring, hard-working, and determined. I feel very fortunate to be involved with an organization that impacts lives so deeply.
Women's Global continues to do amazing work in Gulu, northern Uganda. Karen and her team have an inspiring commitment to providing resources and access to leadership opportunities for women and families. In the recent Ugandan elections, 6 women from the program were elected to district or division office - lifting their voices! New parternships have allowed WGEF to grow their programs and provide the additional resources that women have requested. We're excited about the new opportunities in 2016 and beyond!
Women's Global Empowerment Fund is a truly inspiring example of the power of education and sisterhood in building healthy, sustainable, and economically viable communities. WGEF staff and clients work tirelessly to provide opportunities for women leaders in Uganda, always providing high quality resources and services. Cannot recommend WGEF and their work highly enough!
WGEF is an exceptional organization for so many reasons. The model of micro-finance paired with literacy, leadership, and health training is effective and addresses more than just the "symptoms" of poverty. This model also allows women to decide HOW they are going to improve their lives by giving them the tools to feel empowered and important. This is the model that should be followed by every organization helping underserved communities - to let the PEOPLE speak for themselves. As an intern and volunteer of WGEF for many years, I was inspired to attend law school to address these and similar issues. WGEF touches on so many lives, both in northern Uganda and abroad, and has taught me the power of empowerment and togetherness.
Women's Global Empowerment Fund is a meaningful, thoughtful and multi-faceted approach to alleviating poverty and inequality and assisting in sustainable development. I've had the privilege to work alongside Founder and Director Karen Sugar, both as an intern and volunteer, and in doing so, I've witnessed the transformative effects of microfinance paired with educational and health programs. The women of Gulu are inspiring, intelligent and hard-working, and they act as a constant source of inspiration. Additionally, I've personally gained confidence through my experiences and opportunities with WGEF. This organization, in every way, is fighting for a healthy, thriving humanity and I can think of no greater cause. Thank you WGEF and Karen!