Creating positive change: Rotary’s Empowering Girls initiative

Pace Universal
Pace Universal is a school for girls in Piyali Junction, outside of Kolkata, India, funded in part by Rotary clubs and The Rotary Foundation. Rotary’s Empowering Girls initiative encourages projects like this one to empower girls to be able to make choices and create positive change.
Elizabeth Usovicz

By Elizabeth Usovicz, Rotary International Director, chair of Rotary’s Empowering Girls Task Force

What does it mean to be empowered? For girls throughout the world, empowerment is the ability to make choices and create positive change in their own lives, as well as in their families and communities.

Empowered girls become empowered women. Reaching out to the girls of our world is the heart and purpose of Rotary’s Empowering Girls Initiative. Our stories of supporting girls are interwoven with their stories of empowerment, like the story of Atupele, a girl in Malawi.

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Rotary e-club empowers girls in Kenya

Young women receive training in self defense during a project to empower girls in Kenya.
Young women receive training in self defense during a project to empower girls in Kenya.

By Roberta Porter, Rotary E-Club of District 5450

I was shocked and stunned as I sat in silence listening to the pain in my daughter’s voice. She was calling me from Kenya where she had travelled as a volunteer with an Australian volunteer organization.

She described witnessing first-hand the impact poverty was having on the health and wellbeing of families and especially the children she was working with. The main focus for her at that time was lack of education about puberty, sexual health, and sexual violence.

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5 ways to help on World Refugee Day

Train station in Pardubic, Czech Republic.
People displaced by the war in Ukraine arrive at a train station in Pardubice, Czech Republic. April 2022.

World Refugee Day, 20 June, is an international day designated by the United Nations to honor refugees around the globe. Members of Rotary and Rotaract clubs have been taking action through a variety of international projects to help raise awareness of the plight of refugees, advocate for humane policies related to refugees, and provide for immediate needs of refugees. Quentin Wodon, Chair of the Rotary Action Group for Refugees, Forced Displacement, and Migration, has written a blog on 5 ways to support newcomers and migrants on the Rotary Service in Action blog. Also read about some of the efforts of Rotary and Rotaract members to support refugees through the years:

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Decades of improving life in Uganda and Kenya

Woman at tippy tap
A woman in Uganda uses a new tippy tap to wash her hands in front of a latrine built by Rotary members.

By Chris Roesel, a member of the Rotary E-Club of WASH, District 9980

Chris Roesel
Chris Roesel

I am a Rotary member and the son of a Rotarian, and grew up in rural Georgia, USA, before the Civil Rights Movement. I saw structural and economic problems that I wanted to help but didn’t know how. Later, I attended the Air Force Academy, but that didn’t show me how to empower the people in impoverished communities, either. After I graduated from the academy, I joined the Peace Corps and volunteered in Guatemala. What I saw and experienced there shocked me.

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Supporting education for girls in Bangladesh

By Abdullah Al Fahad, immediate past president, Rotaract Club of Dhaka Orchid, Bangladesh

Esara is a seven-year-old girl who lives in the Habiganj district of Bangladesh with her mother. She lost her father three years ago when he was killed in a traffic accident. They live on the income of her mother, who barely makes enough to put food on the table.

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On International Day of the Girl Child; start your Empowering Girls project

By Elizabeth Usovicz, Rotary International director for Zones 30&31, USA

Elizabeth Usovicz

October 11 is International Day of the Girl Child. Along with the United Nations, today is a day for Rotary members to support and celebrate the girls of our world by participating in Rotary International’s Empowering Girls initiative.

As the leader of a Vocational Training Team for a Rotary Foundation grant project, my team and I worked alongside teachers in Malawi to develop and deliver an after-school program in village primary schools. The program empowers children, especially girls, to stay in school.

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Empowering girls in Mexico

Sofia Brega founder of Activators de Paz Cuidad Juarez
Sofia Brega founded Activators de Paz Ciudad Juárez, a group that trains other agents of change and develops Positive Peace content for schools.

By Sofía Brega, Rotary Positive Peace Activator and member of the Rotaract Club of Juárez Centro, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Growing up in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, I always knew I wanted to work on girl empowerment and the rights of women. I wanted to be an activist for women’s rights, and learned about Girl Up, an organization that strives to advance opportunities for girls to be leaders. It’s a club-based initiative that supports projects that focus on women’s rights and builds awareness of current challenges for women in Mexico and elsewhere.

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Venezuelan refugees find help, meals

Food distribution to refugees at Alberque Douglas center
Volunteers from Albergue Douglas distribution center provide food for people in Pamplona, Colombia in the winter of 2021.

By Cristal Montañéz Baylor, International Coordinator for Hope for Venezuelan Refugees and a member of the Rotary E-club of Houston, Texas, USA

It is immensely gratifying to witness children, in the midst of crisis, smiling again over a shared meal. Your heart is touched as you sense their parents’ tension ease and see expressions of hope radiate across their faces.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes access to food as a fundamental human right. And access to food continues to be a focal point of the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis.

We are in the fifth phase of the Hope for Venezuelan Refugees project, which is providing hot “soup meals” to Venezuelan refugees, migrants, and walkers (also known as “caminantes”) on the Cúcuta-Pamplona humanitarian route.

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Australian Rotarians speak out against family abuse

By Dorothy Gilmour, Rotary Club of Melbourne, Australia

As a grief therapist, I have assisted individuals impacted by suicide. My work as a therapist and as a lecturer in the areas of trauma, loss, and grief counseling included explaining to people how we cannot “save” a suicidal person ourselves, but need to refer them to trained professionals.

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Saving lives in the Pacific

Senerita Pouvi, 9, receives a measles vaccination in December 2019 as part of a UNICEF-supported National Vaccination Campaign in response to a measles outbreak in the Pacific region. Photo Courtesy UNICEF.

By James Allen, Project Director and member of Rotary Club of Sydney, Australia

I am part of a team of Rotarians that came together nearly four years ago to initiate a project to recognize and celebrate the Centenary in Australia and New Zealand in 2021. It started as a group from the original four clubs in this part of the world – Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, and Wellington. Since then, many other clubs and districts have participated and are providing support. We called the project Give Every Child A Future because importantly, it will reduce child mortality and ease the burden of cervical cancer, thus giving every child a better future.

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