Comics, Witchcraft and Produce – International Women's Day 2018

International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8, 2018, with people of all genders showing support for women’s rights and appreciating their contributions to history. This year’s theme, #PressforProgress, encourages the global movement for gender equality. While positive developments are being made, the programs taking effect in different parts of the world reveal just how much progress is still needed.

Hilton Prize Coalition members are empowering women by changing the society around them. Programs that include community involvement have shown progress in expanding women’s roles in their community. As groups #PressforProgress, the focus is on encouraging communities to acknowledge the rights of women and come together to close the gender gap. Here is a glimpse of what several Laureates have been doing.

In Lebanon, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has produced an interactive comic book to instruct female refugees on how to handle dangerous situations. The comic book follows Hala, a Syrian refugee who encounters conflicts on her way to work. At checkpoint, Hala must decide whether to give the guard her number or find another way to work. If she takes another route, she may then encounter harassers or get lost in a foreign city. Hala’s story touches on issues that refugee women may relate to, or perhaps have experienced firsthand. The comic books are made available in women’s centers that provide counseling and other services to female Syrian refugees. The books are read in group settings to encourage discussion and allow women to share their own experience. Through their collective knowledge, the community of women grows stronger as they support each other. Together, they are better equipped to handle the dangerous situations that refugees may face.

Landesa’s “Girls Project” helps insure the rights of girls in West Bengal, India. The program seeks to change perceptions in a society that views girls as a burden. The first step of the program is to change the girls’ views of themselves. Through peer-leaders, girls are educated on their property rights, so that they will be prepared to make claims to their land and inheritance. The program also encourages girls grow “kitchen gardens.” The gardens may contribute food for their tables or serve as an additional source of income, helping families recognize the value that the girls can offer.
The second component of the Girl’s Project is to educate boys on women’s rights. Through Landesa’s curriculum, boys are sensitized to the vulnerabilities of girls, and acknowledge the benefit of their connection with land. With support from their communities, girls will be able to achieve economic and social empowerment. The Girls Program has reached more than 1,000 villages, resulting in more girls with assets in their names, and less child brides.

Young women and girls are not the only ones who face threats from their society. Elderly women are often targets for discrimination due to their age and sex. Even in the twenty-first century, accusations of witchcraft may force women to leave their communities or face harassment and death. HelpAge works with communities in Tanzania, where it is estimated that a thousand people are killed each year due to witchcraft accusations. The accused, who are mostly older women, are scapegoats for hardships that befall the community, such as disease or famine. Women who outlive their husbands may be targeted in order to dismiss their land rights or inheritance claims. HelpAge works with local NGO partners to educate the community and provide support to the accused women. By training village committee members in women’s rights, the organizations strengthen the justice system and support laws to protect widows. Community members are also taught about HIV and other illnesses, which are often blamed on witchcraft. For those who have been accused, houses and other resources are provided to help women who have been threatened or isolated by their community.

While there are many hurdles, progress is being made to lessen gender inequality. In "Prepared to Lead," a video clip from the Hilton Prize Coalition's "Leading Thoughts" Storytelling Program series, the president and CEO of Heifer International" describes the organization's efforts to educate and empower women. Given the opportunity, female leaders are stepping forward to make their communities safer and stronger.

Across the Hilton Prize Coalition, the theme of International Women’s Day continues through the year, as do efforts to #PressforProgress in communities, both locally and globally.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

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