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Empowered Women & Girls Around the World

This International Women’s Day, March 8, is a day to celebrate women and girls everywhere — to empower them to rise above gender-based discrimination, lift themselves from poverty and pursue their dreams.

Empowering women and girls is work that Holt donors support every day.

Here are just some of the amazing women and girls whose lives you are changing!

woman holding small girl laughing

When Diana got pregnant at 17, she thought her dreams — and her dreams for her children — were over. She hoped to finish her high school studies, but with limited resources and no outside help or support, all her time and energy went toward caring for her newborn daughter. And within a couple of years, she was pregnant again. 

Then she discovered Holt’s partner program in Colombia, offering services like free, sponsor-supported daycare where children receive critical early education and a safe place to go while their parents work or finish school during the day. With this extra help, Diana learned that she could study to graduate from high school. 

“I would love to give them everything, that’s why I want to study, prepare myself.”

Diana, a mother of two

Although continuing her education is a personal dream, since having children, it has also become bigger than that — it’s also about giving her children the best future possible. 

“I would love to give them everything, that’s why I want to study, prepare myself,” Diana says. “So they will have a better quality of life. I would give them the world. I want them to study, to have a career…to be somebody in life.” By becoming educated herself, she is giving her kids her “best example.”

four girls sitting at a desk in school uniforms

“Why do they want to let the children to study?” says Payal, her dark brown eyes perplexed.

“Especially girls…?” Mayvis adds hesitantly. Payal, Sanjana, Manixa and Mayvis sit in their classroom in Bengaluru, India. As young teenage girls living in a society in which they’d traditionally already be married at this point, they are grateful to be here.  

Young girls in India, and around the world, are often married early when their family lives in poverty — when they can’t afford another mouth to feed. Her childhood ripped away from her, she drops out of school. She is now susceptible to continued poverty and nearly every form of abuse. 

“That is called a bal vivah,” Sanjana says, the Hindi word for child marriage. “We should not do this.” 

But the most powerful tool to keep this from happening is exactly what these girls are receiving right now — an education.  

Payal, Sanjana, Manixa and Mayvis are just four of the over 1,000 girls Holt donors help go to school in Bengaluru, India. Through the gift of a one-year scholarship for girls who are most at risk of dropping out, the cost of their school fees, uniforms, school supplies and more are completely covered. 

All multitalented, Payal, Sanjana, Manixa and Mehrunisa are taking full advantage of these opportunities. When they grow up, they want to be an actor, a fashion designer and actress, a dancer, and a singer, respectively. Their dream jobs — as 11-to-13-year-olds — are a bit fanciful perhaps, but exciting. And with an education, they have the foundation they need to work toward whatever profession they want someday. They say they want to get good jobs, ones that will allow them to support their families. That is, if they choose to get married — many years from now.

As quickly as it started, this serious conversation ends and lends way to an active game of tag. Within seconds, Payal, Sanjana, Manixa and Mayvis are running and laughing, playing tag in the courtyard of their school. Shrieks, squeals and schoolgirl braids fly through the air as the girls run and play. And this is exactly as it should be.

two women working on plumbing

A 20-year-old single mom, Stephanie did everything she could to provide for her two young boys. She worked as a street vendor — selling bananas, eggs and bread — but it was never enough. Her sons weren’t even getting enough to eat, and were severely malnourished. 

As a woman, it’s not surprising that Stephanie struggled to find work that payed enough to provide for her family. In Haiti, as in many places, skilled trades earn significantly more —but these are considered “men’s jobs.” But when Stephanie had the opportunity to learn a trade, she chose a “man’s job” — and became a plumber!

“So many women do not have that opportunity in Haiti, and for me to be here, I feel very happy, very proud — and thankful — for what’s happening in my life.”

Stephanie, a 20-year-old single mother

Stephanie received the Gift of Hope of job skills training from generous Holt donors and enrolled in Holt’s single mother empowerment program. In this program, each single mother enrolls in a training program of her choice, and is equipped with the skills she needs to earn a stable income and provide for her children. Stephanie receives a small monthly stipend to cover her expenses as well as a monthly package of food and nutritional supplements for their children, which is sustaining her family and healing of them of malnutrition until Stephanie can provide this food herself.

Stephanie is one of just four girls in her plumbing class of about 20 — all four of them a part of Holt’s single mother’s program. And she is absolutely succeeding. “I thank you a lot for what you have done in my life, and I would like you to be able to continue the program to help other women in my condition to whom you have given a second chance at life,” Stephanie says. “So many women do not have that opportunity in Haiti, and for me to be here, I feel very happy, very proud — and thankful — for what’s happening in my life.”

Meet Sophia. Sophia lives with her grandmother and four of her cousins in Biika Iwamigo village, a small farming community recovering from both the spread of HIV and years of brutal conflict in central Uganda. And like many girls in her community, Sophia may have never gone to school…  

Around the world, more than 31 million girls do not attend school. Girls are far more likely than boys to drop out of school at a younger age. And when struggling to make ends meet, many families opt to keep boys in school and pull girls out to help earn income for the family. But when girls receive an education, they’re equipped with the tools to pursue their dreams, earn a stable income and rise above poverty — even ending the cycle of poverty in their families. And that’s exactly what’s happening for Sophia.  

With so many children in her household, Sophia’s grandmother didn’t have the resources to send them all to school. But that all changed when a generous Holt donor gave the Gift of Hope of a school scholarship. Now, Sophia attends school each day. The scholarship covers her school fees, uniform, textbooks, supplies and daily lunch. Sophia wants to be a nurse someday, and now she has the tools to make it happen!

“We call ourselves the brave women because everyone has to be brave and speak up.” At a meeting of the Brave Women, this explanation of the name draws nervous laughter — as if the idea of brave women is a laughable concept. But in Cambodia, the act of gathering together as a group of women is nothing short of brave. Each month, 30 women meet in this Holt-initiated support group to discuss common hardships. They talk about parenting their children and raising animals, and share advice and wisdom about their newly developed job skills. One of these women is Saywen. 

After receiving job training and encouragement through the Brave Women, Saywen, a 29-year-old mother of two children, expanded her small grocery stall. Now she stays home with her children while her husband travels for construction jobs.

“I always dreamed of owning a shop like this. I never went to school. I can’t read or write.”

Saywen, a mother of two

“I always dreamed of owning a shop like this,” Saywen says. “I never went to school. I can’t read or write.” But now, because of the financial and job skills training she’s received from generous Holt donors, Saywen’s dreams are becoming a reality. Once she pays off her first $100 loan, she wants to borrow again and add an electricity source and small refrigerator to her shop so she can keep produce fresh longer and sell cold items. Today, Saywen can confidently care for herself and her children on a reliable income. And her biggest goal? To keep all of her children in school, so they can have the same opportunities in life that she has now.

Young girl sitting in class in Ethiopia

Send a Girl to School this International Women’s Day!

When you give education to a girl living in poverty, you empower her to change her life forever!

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