Women's Issues

Give to Girls All Over the World.

If you have visited this blog before, you are familiar with LitWorld's work in empowering young women in countries such as Kenya, Iraq, Ghana, Liberia, and in various locations in the U.S.

This Holiday season, we have decided to engage our international community in a gift that lasts a lifetime:  launching five new Girls Clubs sites throughout the world. LitWorld Girls Clubs for literacy provides mentoring, literacy & leadership workshops, health & safety information, and lessons on female empowerment & the importance of education to girls in vulnerable communities. We equip these young women to become literacy leaders, thus allowing them to be more self-sufficient, educated, and empowered.

Please visit our Global Giving page on how you can give your gift to girls , and please tell your friends to pass the word along. You can also watch our video below, and go to this link for more information!


Introducing the "Venus Girls Club in Erbil"!

Girls Clubs in Iraq have officially launched in Erbil,with 13 young women in participation! When the girls were asked what to expect from the program, they replied that they expected Girls Club to "empower our personality in the right way, have an opportunity to know more about others". One of the other participants also offered, "I have goal to  achieve, and I hope this program will help me get on the right steps toward this goal".

When we asked the girls about their goals , their replies were as follows:
- To be a journalist not only on Iraq level, but on the world level, in order to let the world hear an Iraqi woman's voice.
-To be a police officer, in order to enforce and apply the  law.
-To  explore the world by traveling and learning the people's customs and traditions.
-To be an Arabic teacher in order to help other Kurdish people to know the language of their partners( Arab people) in Iraq.

The girls felt so empowered, they elected club officers to create a more formal organization of the club and spread its mission even further to other young women. They've even officially named the club as the Venus Girls Club in Erbil.

The girls exchanged their stories, and were so pleased to have the right of speech and to have the freedom to express their ideas. Our second meeting is set for the earlier part of 2011. More to come soon!

As reported by Girls Club Erbil Leader, Saadia Hassoon

Girls Club Kibera is on a Roll!

The Girls Clubs of Kibera have been on a roll all year, participating in numerous uplifting projects thanks to the leadership of Joscelyn O. Truitt and Jeff Okoth. The photo above shows the girls with a remarkable quilt made especially for them by the Children of Kibera intern, Jackie Espana, after the girls participated in knitting lessons. The fabric in the quilt are made from their first pieces, a reminder of all their time spent together during lessons!

Aside from their quilting project, the girls in Kibera have also been discussing peaceful tactics for conflict resolution, and dialoguing about peer pressure and self-respect. Talks on health and hygiene have also been important topics, resulting in their story project, "Nesla's Dillema".  As you might remember from our previous post, the Kibera girls have also been exploring ideas of esteem, and celebrating the multifaceted beauty of black women through their photo shoot project, "A Girl Is...".

We can't wait to see the new adventures the upcoming year has in store for the Kibera girls. We thank Joscelyn and Jeff for their inspiring leadership in Kenya!

LitWorld Girls Club Launches in Erbil, Iraq!

Young women from the Together organization in Erbil, Iraq

As you may remember from earlier this season, we at LitWorld launched a campaign to benefit students in Iraq called "Change is in the Air", a campaign to send school supplies to Iraqi children. Our efforts to build with Iraq doesn't stop there. We've also partnered with an organization called Together to launch a Girls Club in Erbil, Iraq. Recently, we got a chance to interview our Erbil Girls Club Leader, Saadia Hassoon, so she can properly introduce the Girls Club. Read on to see what it's all about!

1.)What is the learning environment like at Erbil? Can you describe what the schools and classrooms are like for the children there?

There are three types of learning environment in Erbil, I will describe them below.

*Private Schools (one American school –Shwaifat ):  This is very expensive, and only rich people can send their children. They are very good schools, and the teaching language is English for all levels.

*Less Expensive Private Schools (Turkish school- Ishiq,): The teaching language also English, as well as Turkish. Also Media school is a good private school.

*Typical Public Schools –These types of schools accept only high scoring students, and are also very good schools, with no fees from students.

*Schools for talent students, only one school in Erbil, one in Mosel, and more than one in Baghdad.

Then there are many other public schools with many needs like:

Bad bathroom facilities and a lack of healthy drinking water, no labs for physics, chemistry, biology, language, painting, music, or art, and no entertainment activities. Teachers who teach here are in need of new training in their teaching practices.

2.)What are some of the greatest needs of the girls in Iraq? What are some of their most pressing challenges?

Girls in rural areas present the greatest needs. Their greatest challenges are illiteracy, tribal habits, violence, and early marriage, which prevents them from continuing the studying  process.

Among these, the most pressing challenge is illiteracy, because we realize that when we combat illiteracy, then we can go forward and fight for other women’s rights.

"What We Care About", Part 1 (From Accra, Ghana)

Last week, the Harlem Polo Grounds Girls Club offered their own missions of how they would change the world. This week, Madison's group in Accra, Ghana, share their own ways of changing the world and sharing compassion. Take a look at the heartwarming photos and poignant visions of change that the girls in Ghana offer:

Our Girls Club takes place in a cinder block cell of an old schoolhouse, with no roof, no floor, and no desks, so we try to make due with our notebooks and markers and the supplies we have.  Today we tackled the topic of compassion, one I was weary of discussing with girls who have so little themselves.  To understand compassion, we wrote the word itself out on a piece of paper, and then talked about what we thought it meant.

Unlike other topics, I noticed how the girls were drawn to the idea of compassion – they took out their notebooks and began scribbling everything that was said, straining their necks to see how to spell the word.  It was an early indicator of how amazingly they handled this topic.

I wasn’t able to print out a book about compassion, so I made up a story about a little girl named Abby, who, while walking home from school in Accra, meets another girl on the road who cannot go to school because she doesn’t have a uniform, so must sit alone outside all day.  Abby goes home and searches her room, and finally finds her old uniform to give to the girl so she could go to school.  When we discussed the story afterwards, the girls automatically started shouting out other ways they could help people in their community, from giving money to food to a place to sleep!  It is amazing how a child who has so little can be willing to give so much, and so many people who have so much give nothing at all.

We had a piece of chart paper today, and we wrote across the top “What We Care About”.  The girls wrote ideas like “we need to help people who are in need”, “we have to help people who are sick”, and “we must take care of our environment”.  Then we went around in a circle, and the girls shared the changes they would make in the world.  I had a chance to jot down what they said – it is too wise not to share.

My name is Hannah and if I could change one thing in the world, all girls should be respectful and brilliant.

My name is Irene and if I could change one thing in the world, everyone would love themselves.

My name is Ophelia, and if I could change one thing, all parents should take care of their children.

My name is Matilda and I think all people would care about others.

My name is Leticia and I think we need to respect our parents.

My name is Lucy and if I could change one thing in the world, all parents would educate their children.

My name is Mary, and we should respect people.

My name is Eugenia and I think we should love one another.

My name is Naomi and if I could change one thing in the world, we need to apologize to people we offend.

My name is Ophelia and if I could change one thing, we should all be compassionate to others.

My name is Dora, and we should love one another.

After the girls shared their thoughts (which struck as beyond their years) the girls each wrote a letter to the world.

I’ll let those speak for themselves, and simply say that we ended our girls club dancing because we were all so happy, and taking some photos hugging each other and laughing.  I know wisdom comes with age, but some of it must be intrinsic.

(continued in Part 2)

Stand Up for Women In Congo

Congo's First Lady, Mrs. Lembe Kabila, led thousands of women in a march against sexual violence.

Although we regret that we missed Congo Week (October 17-23) here on our blog, it is never too late to spread awareness about the tragic events surrounding the sexual violence against Congolese women. Please take a moment to read about the issues facing the people of Congo, and find a way to get involved through this website here. For over ten years, 1,500 people die each day. This is an urgent crisis that needs our attention. We hope you will help us in spreading the word.

Watch the video about Congo Week:

Taken from the Congo Week Website:

The Congo is the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today where nearly 6 million people have died since 1996, half of them children under 5 yrs old and hundreds of thousands of women have been raped all as a result of the scramble for Congo's wealth. The United Nations said it is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War Two. However, hardly anything is said about it in the media. Can you imagine 45,000 people dying each month and hardly a peep from anyone in the age of the Internet? This is literally what has happened and continue to happen in the Congo. There is a media blackout about Congo and no worldwide resolution to end the conflict and carnage there.

Related Articles:
Congolese Women March Against Rape and Sexual Terrorism via Change.Org
Democratic Republic of Congo's First Lady Lead Women On March Against Sexual Violence via BBC

Photos: Hello from Girls Club in Accra, Ghana

Girls Club Leader, Madison Graboyes, shares her reflections and photos abroad in Accra, Ghana: 

I think sometimes it is easy to forget that we never stop learning.  Coming into this Girls Club experience, I was knew I would have a fantastic experience, and I hoped to teach girls valuable tools and life lessons.  I’m starting to realize just how many life lessons they are teaching me.

The class I taught before our last Girls Club session was a difficult one, and I left the room exasperated.  I felt overwhelmed, both by my inability to get my students attention, and by the negative reinforcement being thrown at children constantly.  Sometimes trying to make a small change in an environment can seem like an uphill battle.  When I walked into the girls’ classroom, however, everything was different.  It felt like a breath of fresh air.  All 12 young women were so excited to get started, that any stress I had felt instantly melted away.   These children want to learn so badly, and they soak up positive reinforcement like a sponge.  It is all about the approach.

We began our Girls Club this week with a poem.  When I asked the girls what a poem was, I was met with blank stares: none of the girls had ever hear the word poem, let alone read one.  I was momentarily heartbroken by the idea of not knowing poetry for the first 12 years of my life – I can’t claim to be a poetry aficionado, but certain rhymes carried me through those years, and I can’t imagine living without them.  I read the girls their first poem, and then asked if they would like to write their own.  It was a resounding yes!

The week before, I had asked the girls to go home and write a little blurb about their dreams for the future.  This is what we used for our first poem together, our Dream poem.  Each girl came to the board and wrote one line from her dreams for the future.  In the end, we had a beautiful piece filled with love and big dreams!

Our Dream Poem by the girls of Ghana’s Girls Club
I dream one day all girls will read
I dream that I will go to the USA
I dream about becoming a doctor
I would like to be rich
I dream that I will become a lawyer
I dream one day I will become a doctor
I dream one day to become a newscaster
I dream that I will become a model
I dream one day that I will be a police in my future
I dream that I will be a nurse
I dream that I will be a teacher
I dream that I will become a policewoman
I dream that all girls will be virgins and also that I will be a journalist in the future

Read and See more by clicking the link here...

Girls at Harlem Polo Grounds Share Visions of Change.

This past Tuesday, I led the girls at the Harlem Polo Grounds in a discussion and writing exercise that urged them to talk about their purpose. Their visions of change included everything from education, women's empowerment, child development, and the elimination of all the "isms"- racism, sexism, classism, and the celebration of love in all its forms. It is inspiring to watch these young women develop their personal mission statement, and to create a space where they can learn to hone in on their "WHY". Watch the videos below from some of the Girls Club participants in Harlem, and listen in on what they want to contribute to our world. - Ruby

"I want to legalize gay marriage." - Daija Spaulding

" I want to help kids stay kids, and become adults when the time is right." (On nurturing child development) - Natasha Croom


"Women are empowered, independent, and strong. My power lies in my hands, and [it's ability] to withhold change." - Tiffany Collins


How do you envision change?

Women are Integral to Peace Making.

“Whether we are discussing sustainable development, public health or peace, women are at the core,"- Ban Ki-moon

“Advancing the cause of women, peace and security must be integral to our peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, not an afterthought,” -Ban Ki-moon

In a statement made during the Global Open Day on Women and Peace and Security, United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki moon stressed women's role in peacemaking. Held on October 21, 2010, Ban-Ki moon reiterated his support and pledge to empower women, emphasizing their role in peacemaking, peacebuilding, and peacekeeping.

Mr. Ban expressed hope that the newly-created UN Women will help the world body implement resolution 1325 through better coordination and enhanced activities in the field.

The UN has recently implemented their first UN super-agency on female empowerment, which will oversee all of the world body’s programs aimed at promoting women’s rights and their full participation in global affairs.

Women merges four UN entities: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).

Read the full story here.

A New Report by UNICEF: Girls Education in Iraq 2010

An excerpt from AWID's website (Association for Women's Right in Development):

Source: Reliefweb

"In Iraq the overall number of children receiving primary education has declined between 2004-05 and 2007-08 by 88,164, with no improvement in the percentage of girls enrolled. Gross enrolment figures provided for the academic year 2005 – 2005 show 5,163,440 children enrolled in primary education. Girls account for 44.74% of students. Figures for 2007-2008 show 5,065,276 children enrolled in primary education, with 44.8 % being girls. This means that for every 100 boys enrolled in primary schools in Iraq, there are just under 89 girls.

This under representation of girls in primary school in Iraq has been known for many years. The fact that there are declining numbers of girls in each successive grade has also been identified analyses of the data. Analysis of the 2007 -2008 data shows the same picture. In every governorate a smaller percentage of girls than boys start school. There are no governorates where the number of children completing primary education is acceptable, and it is even less acceptable for girls. The current data replicate previously available data in showing a generally declining percentage of girls in each successive primary school grade. Some 75% of girls who start school have dropped out during, or at the end of, primary school and so do not go on to intermediate education. Many of them will have dropped out after grade 1. When all governorates' figures are combined, there are 21.66% fewer girls in grade 2 than in grade 1. Similarly there is a 28.63% national drop in the number of girls between grades 5 and 6. By the first intermediate class, only 25% the number of girls in grade 1 are in school; by the third intermediate class the figure is 20%."

Read more by visiting AWID's website here.

LitWorld is contributing to the advancement of young women's education in Iraq by starting Girls Club in Erbil. We will update you all as the project progresses!

We Believe in the Education of Iraqi Girls.

The number of Iraqi students enrolled in primary education has dramatically declined between 2004-2008, with female students becoming increasingly under represented. There is little importance placed on girls’ education, and 75% who enroll drop out during, or at the end of, primary school with no succession to higher grade levels. Iraqi families hesitate to retain girls’ education due to concerns about safety, family poverty, a reluctance to allow adolescent girls to continue to attend school, the distance from home to school, early marriage, and the need to help at home.

Furthermore, girls in Iraq are not greeted with welcoming learning environments. They are threatened by teachers who beat and insult them in the classroom, and teachers show them little support in the learning process. Many girls describe their schools as dirty, poorly maintained, and uncomfortable. Safety is a major concern as military conflict is rampant, and these young women fear going to school because of their added fear against abduction and rape.

These young women of Iraq deserve better. They need a safe space for learning, where they can build confidence to be self-sufficient. In addition to our "Change is in the Air" campaign benefiting Iraqi youth, we are also planning to launch a Girls Club in Iraq in partnership with the Sponsor Iraqi Children Foundation.

We invite you all to start a movement to bring a Girls Club in your City. Do you have a place where you think a Girls Club should be launched?

We Need A Solution For Girls Around the Globe.


We found this video by The Girl Effect, a movement created by the Nike Foundation and Novo Foundation to raise awareness about improving and nurturing the lives of young women in developing countries. While the video mentions that a girl's life begins to become endangered at age 12, it is arguable to say that the risk begins at birth, with baby girls having a significantly higher infant mortality rate than boys.

As this video expresses, there is an urgent necessity to care for girls. Girls will grow into women who will have their own families, and as mothers, they will usher in the next generation of healthy and educated children. Young women not only give birth to new children, they also carry with them the birth of a renewed cycle of life.

Here at LitWorld, we offer a solution to the movement for young women. By building Girls Clubs chapters across the world, we are helping to bring individual attention to young women who have the potential to become leaders of their communities. Girls Clubs empower young women by encouraging them to own and tell their stories, and by promoting the power of reading and writing as a tool for change. Through literacy and education, LitWorld has a mission to strengthen the lives of girls, contributing to every young woman's ability (and right) to take control of her life.

Girls Clubs Are Growing In Kenya


Our LitWorld Girls Club in Kibera, Kenya, confidently dance to Waka Waka in front of 500 people at the Children of Kibera Foundation Music festival!

And that's not all the good news we have from Kenya: Last Friday, LitWorld and Executive Director Pam Allyn launched a video chat training on Skype for four schools in Kisumu, Kenya to launch Girls Clubs there. The young women at Kisumu have a high rate of early pregnancy, drop out, and abuse, so it is imperative to create girls empowerment programs to inspire and bring extra care and support to Kisumu's young women. Each school that participated in the Skype video chat has about 1,000 students and 22 teachers PER school. We cannot wait to grow the Girls Club movement in Kenya, and hope you'll all join us along for the journey ahead.

Millenium Development Goals Place Importance On Female Empowerment

In its 2000 Millennium Declaration, the United Nations set eight goals for development, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals set an ambitious agenda for improving the human condition by 2015.

Of the eight, we are happy to see that one of the initiatives target the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality. The initiative aims to eliminate the gender disparity in education by the year 2015, giving women all over the world an opportunity to raise their literacy rate, and thus, create empowerment so that women can be self-sufficient and able to care for themselves and their families better.

While literacy is a human right, did you know that two thirds of all the world's illiterate are women? This is an issue that needs urgent attention, as women who are literate and have more education prove to be much more likely to have better personal health and nutrition. Moreover, the families of women with education tend to have better housing, clothing, income, water, and sanitation.

Empowering women through literacy can truly be world changing. It gives us far more reason to spread these Girls Clubs for Literacy throughout the world. Will you help? We welcome you all to join the movement.