We at LearnVest like to celebrate women every day.
But since it’s International Women’s Day, we’d like to celebrate them even more than usual today.
Whether or not you're attending one of the many worldwide events honoring the holiday, you can do one thing to recognize the importance of women in our world—and that's donating to other women.
"When you invest in women, they typically invest 90% back into the health, nutrition and education of their families, as opposed to 30-40% for men," says Karen Sherman, Executive Director for Global Programs at Women for Women, a non-profit that provides financial aid, job training, rights awareness and leadership education to women in conflict and post-conflict countries.
Giving to women doesn't just impact the woman who receives the gift. It can improve the family's lives for generations. In fact, if you help enough women in one location, you can even lift a whole community out of poverty.
Read on to learn why it's best to give to women, and where to send your hard-earned dollars to make a difference.
Why You Should Donate to Women First
Before we focus on the economic benefits, there's a hard truth you should know. In certain parts of the world, women suffer much more than just gender discrimination: They suffer trafficking and slavery, violence and even death—just for being born a woman.
In fact, when you add up the selective abortions of female fetuses, neglect by families not as willing to pay for medical care for their daughters and the violence against women mentioned above, "It appears that more girls have been killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the 20th century," say Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in their best-seller, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide."
“It doesn’t take a huge amount of money to make a difference in the lives of women and girls," says Sherman. "It looks daunting, but a little bit of money goes a long way. It’s better to start somewhere than not start at all.”
How a Donation Ripples Through a Woman's World
The truth is, "donating to women" actually isn't just donating to women. This is what happens when a woman gets a little leg up:
- She sends her kids to school, particularly her female children, which helps future generations.
- She prepares healthy foods.
- She seeks, and can pay for, treatment for her own and her family's health issues in time to make the treatment effective.
- She makes sure her daughters eat, even in cultures where women and girls are often the last to eat, if they get to eat at all.
"So, when women earn an income, it’s really a game changer for the entire family," Sherman concludes.
Talk about return on your investment. Though, actually, research has shown that more than helping just her family, donating to women impacts their entire communities, even their countries.
"Studies by organizations like the World Bank show that investing in women allows countries to grow and govern more effectively," says Sherman. "When women can earn an income and have a seat at the negotiating table, they can create a more stable and peaceful society and economy. When women’s rights are not taken into account ... the health and well-being of the economy and society deterioriate."
Here's How You Do It
So, you want to help. While all donations have an impact, we've selected four causes that reap particularly big benefits:
Stop Trafficking and Sexual and Domestic Violence
We'll get the hardest one over with first. We often think slavery ended long ago, but it still happens to millions of people (estimates range from three million to 27 million worldwide). And certain women in particular are targets: Rural girls who don't have a lot of money or political power—and whose virginity can be sold—are often enslaved into a profession that exposes them to abuse, rape and the AIDS virus.
In many countries around the world, if a girl is not in school, she is more likely to:
- be forced into an early marriage
- get pregnant early and possibly experience birthing complications if her body is underdeveloped
- not be able to participate fully in the workforce
On the other hand, every extra year of schooling raises a girl's lifetime wages by 10%-20%. Kristof and WuDunn write, "One study after another has shown that educating girls is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty."
Are You Proud of Your Charity Work?
Discuss your contributions, goals and more in LV Discussions. SHARE
Invest in Women's Health
Around the world, women with treatable ailments are dying because of a lack of proper medical care; their deaths, in turn, may harm the future of any orphans they leave behind. But even poor countries can improve women's health. Sri Lanka is just as impoverished as India, but through political will, it has cut its maternal death rate from 500 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births to 58.
Empower Women Economically
Microloans are tiny loans in amounts as little as $25 that can help a person in a developing country get the seed capital to start their own business (for example, for someone launching an embroidery business to buy beads). Microcredit institutions have had more success with women than men because unwise spending by men often exacerbates poverty and, as mentioned earlier, women are willing to spend the extra money for the good of their whole family.
Now, you're probably itching to donate, but how do you choose who to give to? There are many, many worthy organizations, as evidenced by the number of organizations Kristof and WuDunn feature on the Half the Sky site (see rotating logos on bottom right). We've picked a few we believe are especially worthy of your dollars. Click on the first slide below to see the slide show.
More From LearnVest
Inspired by the thought of giving today? Actually, you can make it part of your budget all year long.
Think our holiday giving ideas are only useful during the holidays? Think again.
Sometimes your investments can even do good—and we don't mean just for your wallet.
Photo: American Assistance for Cambodia