International Women’s Day 2018

Women across SOS Children’s Villages push for progress

SOS Children’s Villages is committed to empowering girls around the world, ensuring they have the opportunities, support and confidence to achieve their dreams. Crucial for this is giving girls role models – successful, inspiring and ambitious women who make a difference in the lives of children, families and the communities around them.

To commemorate International Women’s Day 2018, inspiring women from across SOS Children’s Villages told us how they, through their various roles in the organisation, are working to press for progress and achieve gender equality.

Olive Lumonya, National Director, SOS Children’s Villages Uganda

"As we globally celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. I strongly believe that positive steps have been gained all over the world on issues of accelerating gender parity. … At SOS Children’s Villages Uganda, women have had a significant, positive impact, with hundreds of SOS mothers raising disadvantaged boys and girls who go onto to positively impact the world."

As we globally celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. I strongly believe that positive steps have been gained all over the world on issues of accelerating gender parity. However, the journey still has a long way to go, and more commitment, focus and determination is required from both women and men to enable environments where women flourish. I believe polices have been put in place and more are being debated, but we need to focus on implementation and impact. At SOS Children’s Villages Uganda, women have had a significant, positive impact, with hundreds of SOS mothers raising disadvantaged boys and girls who go onto to positively impact the world.

I myself am a proud beneficiary of the journey for gender parity. I represented the young women from Uganda to the World Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995, and I was chairperson for the Commonwealth Youth Programme Africa region. I have participated in a number of forums for the advancement of women, and I have used this vast experience to have an impact on SOS Children’s Villages Uganda. We are running programmes at SOS Children’s Villages which address the gender gap. I have offered career talks to girls and women, and I have served on several government, private and NGO boards where I have advocated for gender parity.

The magic that will positively trigger change the world over is enshrined in the empowerment of women in the various roles including leadership, politics, business, environment, corporate and social services. I believe the world will be a better place. At SOS Children’s Villages Uganda, we have impacted the lives of children through women, supporting more than 60,000 children over our 25 years of existence.

Dr Gitta Trauernicht, Vice-President, SOS Children’s Villages International

"As a global social development organisation for children, it is our particular responsibility to fight against all forms of gender-related discrimination so that girls and boys can grow into adults who can live independently and are socially aware."

Children start absorbing the expected gender roles in early childhood, through their upbringing, and carry this with them throughout their lives. As a global social development organisation for children, it is our particular responsibility to fight against all forms of gender-related discrimination so that girls and boys can grow into adults who can live independently and are socially aware. Taking action on gender inequality opens up opportunities – for children at school, for young people starting their professional lives and for parents looking for ways to support and empower their families. This in turn strengthens the community.

In my role as Vice-President of SOS Children’s Villages International, I am proud to champion the topic of gender across the federation. I have met many inspiring women at SOS Children’s Villages and am passionate about listening to them. From girls challenging gender norms in their daily lives, to young women planning careers in non-traditional fields, to the many inspiring SOS mothers making a difference every day – I take action to ensure their voices are heard.

Nancy Gicheru, SOS mother, SOS Children’s Villages Buru Buru, Kenya

"In my house, I tell my children that we are a family and we all help each other regardless of gender. A boy can do the cooking and a girl can scrub the verandas. While a very simple concept, it is quite an instrumental and monumental opportunity because these children will grow up to be the leaders of tomorrow. It is important they carry this diversity of thought into their workplaces and other community spaces to promote equality of the genders."

Having grown up at a time when girls did not have equal opportunities as boys, for example in education, I am very sensitive to and conscious of gender equality issues. My mother and brother felt I had a lot to contribute to society and fought very hard for me to get an education at a time when it wasn’t deemed fruitful for girls to attend school. As a result, I truly believe it is my duty as an SOS mother to instil similar values of respect for all genders in my children. First, I ensure that each child is raised with love, security, trust and respect. By respecting and valuing their individuality, voice, and who they truly are, I believe this builds confidence and independence.

In a cultural system which elevates the boy child much more, I think seeing the SOS mother as the head of the household and a role model provides an enriching experience where boys learn to value and respect the girl child and her potential. For my young children, I first demonstrate equality via basic principles that they can understand at that age, such as simple chores in the house. In our society, it seems that chores are divided along gender lines and people perceive that some chores are only done by women, such as cooking or kitchen duties. In my house, I tell my children that we are a family and we all help each other regardless of gender. A boy can do the cooking and a girl can scrub the verandas. While a very simple concept, it is quite an instrumental and monumental opportunity because these children will grow up to be the leaders of tomorrow. It is important they carry this diversity of thought into their workplaces and other community spaces to promote equality of the genders. I require all the children to respect each other and value their contribution therefore we speak often about these issues. I also engage them with my relatives and other families who have similar beliefs in equality as practical examples to emulate.

I think the SOS system as a whole, especially in Africa, emphasises the important role of women in societies as most of the children end up bonding more with mothers over their entire life. Having administrative staff as women, such as village educators, also helps with women empowerment. I am keen to show the boys other positive examples of women leaders outside the village. Gender equality creates a better society in that everyone feels valued and appreciated therefore reducing instances of social injustices. Instead, there is peace and general well-being of a society. Women, just like men, add value to the society and failure to empower them means less than optimum socio-political and economic capital for the society.

Finally, in line with International Sustainable Development Goal No. 5, I believe gender equality is important because of the major contributions women have made. Let's say I and the very many other SOS mothers in Africa didn't go to school or receive the training during our time because it was looked down upon for a girl to go to school instead of getting married, who would have raised and comforted these amazing children that are now dear to us? Food for thought? I concur with the common adage that: "You empower a woman, you empower a Nation."

Jumana Abu-Hannoud, Managing Director, Gulf Area Office, SOS Children's Villages International, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

"Gender equality is necessary for social and economic sustainability. Empowered women and mothers are strong role models for children, they inspire girls to be confident and independent and raise boys who are respectful of the role of women, growing up to be empowering to others."

Gender equality is necessary for social and economic sustainability. Empowered women and mothers are strong role models for children, they inspire girls to be confident and independent and raise boys who are respectful of the role of women, growing up to be empowering to others. Families and communities become stronger economically and are equipped with better leadership and decision-making abilities. Children who are raised equally and given equal opportunities thrive and become productive and constructive members of the community.

My role at SOS Children’s Villages contributes to gender equality through advocating for the rights of children and our commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including providing equal access to opportunities, and empowering SOS mothers and youth.

There are many ways in which we promote gender equality within SOS Children’s Villages, for instance our caregivers promote equal participation of girls and boys in decision-making platforms in order to build their confidence. Practices such as these are essential to integrate gender equality and eliminate all forms of discrimination.

Kistie Singh, Village Director, SOS Children’s Villages British Columbia, Canada

"It’s crucial that we demonstrate to our young kids that men and women are all able to achieve and succeed in life regardless of their gender. … I can show the children and young people that as a woman I am able to lead, and that they can too."

The opportunity to model equality at our SOS Children’s Village is of high importance. It is important for our children, youth, families and team to experience equal opportunities within our community. Not all aspects of our communities share a balance of equality among men and women. Our children and youth see this in their home lives, in their school lives, and in their personal lives. And so it can mean a world of difference if a child sees people who they identify with in the roles they take pride in. It’s crucial that we demonstrate to our young kids that men and women are all able to achieve and succeed in life regardless of their gender. 

As a village director, I feel deeply connected to the children and families I work with, including our small team here in British Columbia. We have a large number of girls and young women who live at our village who often see the way we conduct ourselves and tend to the needs of our families. I often remind myself as well as the team that its important how we model ourselves because so many of our children and youth look up to us. Even when it comes to small things like making sure you follow through and that you do what you say, it is important to be a model. Above all, my hope is that the children and youth see that loving and taking care of one another is how we move forward together. I can show the children and young people that as a woman I am able to lead, and that they can too.

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