VGIF Portraits

Each month, read about the amazing women of VGIF who promote the rights of women and girls around the globe.

February


Sketch by Amanda Goss

Michaela
80 years old
VGIF Committee Member and Adviser to the UN Internship Program, New York

“Cooperation, forget it! Its collaboration!” says Michaela of the United Nations. She says, “My love for the UN grows every year. It was the one place where I saw women talk to each other, to governments, and to corporations, to make change.” Michaela is a critical support and mentor of the VGIF UN Internship Program and its interns. Through the program, local university students have the opportunity to represent VGIF at weekly UN meetings. Michaela says, “I believe VGIF is one of the most financially efficient and effective – and hopeful! – NGO programs for uniting grassroots women and young female students.”

Originally from the American Midwest, Michael considers herself “a global citizen” after having lived in New York City and London, the Middle East, and several African countries. In the late 1970s, she developed Women’s World Banking, in collaboration with 30 other women, to provide banking and financial services for low-income women around the globe. Michaela continues to support women’s economic empowerment. She says, “Now, I work to create opportunities for financial ownership of small and local business in local communities around the world.”

January

Busayo
50 years old
Women Inspiration Development Center (WIDC), Nigeria
CEO and Founder

I have always been very passionate about gender equality and have dedicated much of my work in life to support women in many capacities,” says Busayo. Through her work at WIDC, Nigerian women and girls were trained in tie-dye fabric production and marketing strategies to improve their self-confidence, self-reliance, and income generation capacities. Busayo says this allowed them to “envision and create new possibilities for their lives, families and communities.

Busayo says, “VGIF was the first organization that believed in our work and gave us a grant. The project we did with the grant is giving us more visibility now and other organizations are now considering us for grant." She continued, "Some of the girls that participated in the project are now self-reliant making money to take care of themselves and their family. I feel so overwhelmed with joy and seen my dreams coming true as I saw those girls coming up with better lives.

This work is truly a family affair as Busayo's husband, daughter, and two sons all contribute to the programs offered at Women Inspiration Development Center.

December

Mabel
Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer (FEIM), Argentina
Founder and President

I’m a feminist so I’m especially interested in improving women’s lives and defending equality,” says Mabel. Trained as a Medical Doctor with a specialty in Public Health and Epidemiology, Mabel created FEIM in the late 1980s. She has worked as a feminist activist and researcher ever since. She says, “I consider working as an activist and training marginalized women to be a useful way to improve women’s rights.”

Through their VGIF grant in 1991, FEIM developed educational materials and hosted HIV/AIDS prevention workshops for young women at two community health clinics in Greater Buenos Aires. According to Mabel, this was/is very important since “gender inequity is a main driver of the HIV epidemic.” The clinics provided family planning services, sexual and reproductive rights education, and other trainings “to promote women’s empowerment.”  

November


Sketch by Amanda Goss

Isabelle
COVAM - Communicating Values and Empowering Women, Mexico
Founder and President

“I am passionate about creating consciousness on gender issues and about empowering women and making their eyes shine. I believe women are real heroes to have survived and even thrived in spite of untold opposition throughout the ages,” says Isabelle.

COVAM was founded ten years ago “to transmit values to children”. Isabelle explains, "We expanded to work with the mothers (who repeatedly told us about the domestic abuse they endured), to women victims of violence, women inmates, and now to teenage girls in conflict with the law.” Through their 2015 VGIF grant, COVAM is empowering girls in juvenile detention centers through workshops and individual coaching sessions on emotional healing, self-esteem building, and gender equality.

Of the girls involved, Isabelle says, “All of them were hurt in their past, mistreated, abused, deceived. And behind the often brash façade hides a girl longing to be seen, accepted, loved and taught." Through the project, the girls are "rebuilding their sense of worth and dignity, challenge their destructive beliefs, acquire new values and modify their behavior."

October

Majd (pictured bottom right)
38 years old
Try Center for Training and Education, Jordan
Project Director

“I understand that ending violence against girls will take time. It’s about addressing deep seated cultural beliefs that have created an ingrained power relationship between men and women,” says Majd. Through their VGIF grant, Try Center for Training and Education trained teachers in domestic violence and child abuse so they could educate young Palestinian refugees on these topics. Majd says, “We’re empowering girls and trying to change the minds of community, schools and parents through research, training and campaigns. The project supported us in implementing our initiative and beliefs to end violence against girls and make the society a safer place.”

Majd continues, "I feel empowered in my role with the VGIF-funded project. I am proud to build this network with VGIF as a funder and partner in our work on protecting refugee girls. I am happy with very talented colleagues and supportive refugee community." Despite challenges, Majd is hopeful for the future. She says, "I find the culture of gender based violence is a big challenge, but not impossible! I believe that one of the key ways to end violence against girls and women is to tackle the root causes of discrimination and cultural norms."