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Review for Women's Global Empowerment Fund, Denver, CO, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

Akello Beatirice is a single mother of seven living in Gulu, Uganda. Like many other women in her community, Akello still feels the lasting effects that ongoing conflict has inflicted on her community. Abducted at the age of six, Akello spent several years in the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army before being returned to her community parentless and alone. For the years that followed, Akello continued to suffer under the hands of a drunk and abusive husband plagued with feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem. These are the challenges facing many women currently living in Uganda. Marred by a history of trauma and facing economic hardships and oppression, these women seem to be fighting and uphill battle. However, it is not these hardships that Women’s Global Empowerment Fund chooses to focus on in their work to address poverty and the marginalization f women in Uganda. Taking a strengths based approach in their programming, WGEF puts emphasis not on the hardships facing these women, but rather on the potential of women as natural leaders in their communities. The results are stunning.

WGEF employs a clever combination of microfinance loans and social programming in their Credit Plus program as they work to help the intelligent and powerful women of Uganda realize their potential. In small groups, women borrow money to fund projects and business ventures toward which they already have an affinity. Through this program, Akello chose to borrow money to invest in a live stock project whose profits are now being used to support her family and send her children to school. In addition to these loans, women are offered access to a variety of social programs including literacy, leadership development and basic business classes. Looking at these programs through the lens of empowerment theory offers exciting insight into how WGEF women are able to work toward self-efficacy to regain power and control over their own lives.

Of vital importance in the quest for self-efficacy is the use of critical consciousness to determine ones place within an existing structure of power and oppression and push back in favor of a more equitable system. Through their Access to Justice initiative, WGEF helps women to define the gender discrimination inherent in the current justice system, as well as teaching them grassroots strategies to advocate for changes that will better provide for them and their families. Many women are then able to use these skills and knowledge as a gateway to political involvement, acting as leaders in their community to hold their government accountable for its actions. On a mezzo level, WGEF trainings in Gender Based Violence allow women to identify and fight back against power dynamics within their own families. When paired with the economic security reaped from participation in the Credit Plus Program, this knowledge allows women to make changes in their own lives, with many now finding themselves in a position of autonomy that conflict, oppression and unequal distribution of power have long deprived them of.

I strongly believe in the work being done by WGEF and feel that, by addressing the needs of both the individual and society, WGEF is posturing these communities for sustainable growth. It is an exciting time to be involved with WGEF and I encourage anyone interested in microfinance or women’s empowerment to learn more about their work.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I think the WGEF model is very strong and would love to see it applied to more communities.

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For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Quite well

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Role:  Volunteer