Women lifting each other up

Shamima Nasreen, left, founder of Shadhin Bangla Garments Sramik Karmachri Federation, and her coworkers outside a garment factory in Bangladesh. The group lobbies for better working conditions in garment factories. Saikat Mojumder/Oxfam

Anything is possible when ladies support ladies.

Galentine’s Day, in the iconic words of Leslie Knope, is a day for “ladies celebrating ladies.” In a 2010 episode of the TV show “Parks and Recreation,” Knope—played by Amy Poehler—explains that every February 13, she convenes the women in her life for a lunch to honor the strength of female friendships. Since the episode aired, Galentine’s Day has transcended the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, to become the unofficial holiday for recognizing the special bond women share with each other.

We believe women are important drivers of sustained improvements in women's rights and a powerful force to end poverty—not only for women and girls, but everyone. Oxfam has worked with women and girls for decades to help them overcome gender discrimination, assume leadership roles in their communities, and ultimately break the cycle of poverty.

Here’s a look at some of the women we’re celebrating this Galentine’s Day.

Responding to COVID-19

Women have kept the world running during this pandemic, picking up a greater workloads in clinics, in homes, and at the workplace. They’ve also been fearless advocates for each other.

Wangu Kanja advocating for sexual violence survivors Photo Provided by: Wangu Kanja Foundation

Wangu Kanja directs the Wangu Kanja Foundation in Mukuru Kwa Rueben, a settlement in Nairobi, that’s dedicated to ending gender-based violence. As a result of pandemic-related lockdowns, job loss, and isolation, more women are experiencing gender-based violence. The foundation is working with Oxfam to ensure survivors have access to the care and support they need, including justice.

Community activist Carmen Villanueva Photo: Coco McCabe/Oxfam

Carmen Villanueva lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and works with Oxfam to bring emergency food to her community, connect people with health services, and improve COVID-19 prevention and control. “Today more than ever, I feel committed to showing solidarity with families that have no way to bring food to their table for their children,” she says. “Especially with women who are heads of families, like me.”

Saving for change

One of our most well-known programs is Saving for Change, a community-based program that educates groups of women in rural villages to save their money regularly, borrow from their group’s fund, and repay loans with interest.

Rubelina Guevera in one of her two stores in Calvario, El Salvador. Oscar Leiva/Oxfam America

Rubelina Guevera, a single mother of two, started two stores in Calvario, El Salvador, using loans and savings from her women’s saving group, which is called Saving for a New Life.

“When women earn an income, it makes them no longer dependent on men, so they have respectability,” says Conchi Maravilla, a coordinator for Oxfam in El Salvador. “The women support each other, and it radiates out into the community.”

Read more about how Saving for a New Life is opening doors for women like Guevera

Midwife Kaltoum Mohamed shows some of the supplies she was able to purchase with her savings. Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam

Kaltoum Mohamed, a midwife in Golo village, Sudan, took out a small loan through a Saving for Change group in Darfur to purchase medicines and equipment. Her services are essential to villagers who are unable to get to the capital city six miles away for health care. Now, she contributes significantly to her children’s school fees, and her family eats three times a day instead of two.

Read more about how women in Darfur, Sudan, are transforming their lives through savings groups.  

Supporting survivors

Oxfam also works with local organizations to help women recover from traumas. 

Oxfam partners Lillian Obiale (left) and Donna Juliet (right) make a home visit in the Rhino settlement in Uganda. Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam

More than a million South Sudanese refugees are living in Uganda; those in refugee camps are still processing the horrors of war. And for women, another threat looms: gender-based violence. Oxfam’s partners Community Empowerment for Rural Development and African Women and Youth Action for Development are organizing women’s groups to serve as safe spaces for women to talk freely, raise awareness about services available, and take action against domestic violence.

Find out more about our partners’ work in refugee settlements

Marta Sanchez (right), with her daughter Katharine Perez (center), and colleague Karla Gutierrez (left), at the Shaira Ali Cultural Center in Ahuachapan, El Salvador. Photo: Oscar Leiva/Oxfam

In rural Ahuachapan, El Salvador, volunteers at the Shaira Ali Center are training women, students, and activists in 29 nearby communities on how to prevent violence. The goal is to train as many people as possible so more women and girls learn about their basic rights and how to protect them.

Read about how the women of the Shaira Ali Center are helping women who have faced violence navigate the justice system and are educating high school girls about sexual assault and abuse prevention.

Encouraging economic empowerment

Tuzamurane cooperative members (from left to right) Theresie Nyirantozi, Valerie Mukangerero, Christine Bangiwiha, Josepha Ayinkamiye, and Mukeshimana Leocadie outside their cooperative center in Eastern Rwanda. Photo: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville / Oxfam

With training from Oxfam, the women of the Tuzamurane pineapple cooperative in Eastern Rwanda are thriving. Profits from pineapple sales are re-invested into the business and shared among members. With their earnings, the women are able to send their children to school, pay for healthcare, buy land, and even invest in other small businesses.

Learn more about how the women of this cooperative lift each other up.

Learn more about Oxfam's work with women and girls.

Related content

Oxfam.org Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+