WASHINGTON, D.C. – Women for Women International (WfWI) is a non-profit organization aimed at empowering “socially excluded women” by providing them with direct financial and emotional support. In times of war and social turmoil, these women have lost everything and WfWI is a unique opportunity for them to start over again.
WfWI operates by giving these women both the knowledge and the resources they need. WfWI enables their reinsertion into society and establishes a sponsorship program enabling women suffering from psychological, physical and emotional abuse to get a “sister”: another woman across the world who was touched by her story and who is willing to help her by donating as little as $30 per month.
The organization began back in 1993 when, after hearing reports about the atrocities inflicted to women during the war in the former Yugoslavia, Zainab Salbis decided to visit the country herself. There, she realized the situation was even worse than reported. She spoke with sex slaves, victims of rape in refugee camps, survivors of the Srebrenica massacre, and women who lost their entire families to ethnic cleansing. Touched by their stories, she founded Women for Women International to help these war victims rebuild their lives.
Since then, Women for Women International has aided more than 372,000 women in eight countries: Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan.
Among the many horrifying life-stories of women aided by WfWI, Honorata’s story is one of the worst. Honorata is a mother of 5 who lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2002, as the country descended into a bloody civil war, she was captured and tortured by armed militias. She was forced to become a sex slave for more than a year and was repeatedly gang-raped in public and “forced to endure unimaginable humilities.” She was able to escape when another militia attacked the camp, and was reunited with her children. However, as she started to rebuild her life, she was, once again, forced to become a sex slave. The families who had previously helped her then rejected her, fearing she was doomed.
Honorata got another chance in 2004, when she joined Women for Women International and became an advocate for women’s rights. Through WfWI she met with other women who had been ostracized from society as a result of the war. Together, they learned basic business and marketing skills, discussed women’s rights and family law, discussed reproductive health issues like HIV/AIDS and STIs, and attended special skill training classes to develop a specific knowledge to direct their future.
WfWI is a unique sponsorship program between two women, based on a relationship of trust and mutual respect. In 2004, Honorata appeared on the Oprah Show. By providing women with the pragmatic resources to empower other women across the globe, WfWI has given hope for a better future to socially marginalized women in the most dire situations.
– Lauren Yeh
Sources: Look to the Stars, WfWI
Photo: March for Women