Celebrating women who choose to challenge the unacceptable
Each year International Women’s Day (IWD) has a different theme, this year’s is ‘Choose to Challenge’.
We can all choose to challenge ourselves in our daily lives – calling out gender bias and inequality, lifting voices of those who traditionally lack platforms, and choosing to seek out and celebrate women’s’ achievements. In the words of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, “If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair”.
At Virgin Unite, we are celebrating four incredible women and their organisations this IWD. We are grateful to be in partnership with them and encourage you to get to know these leaders, their life’s work, and the communities that they serve.
Roya Mahboob and the Digital Citizen Fund
Directed by CEO, Roya Mahboob, the Digital Citizen Fund (DCF) helps girls and women gain access to technology, virtually connect with others worldwide, and obtain the necessary skills to succeed in today's expanding global market. DCF's mission is to increase women's participation and advancement in the workplace by providing them with quality education, training, and support to secure well-paying jobs and contribute to their local economies.
DCF is currently raising funds to build a high school of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) in Afghanistan to educate the next generation of global tech leaders. We are honoured that Roya is one of The New Now Leaders and encourage you to learn more about the Digital Citizen Fund and support their work.
Graça Machel and the Graça Machel Trust
Founded by the indomitable Graça Machel in 2010, the Graça Machel Trust (GMT) aims to transform the lives of Africa's women and children by focusing on child health and nutrition, education, women’s economic and financial empowerment, leadership, and good governance.
Understanding the untapped growth potential of women’s enterprises, GMT, with support from Virgin Unite, is implementing its Women Creating Wealth Programme: A Pan-African women’s entrepreneurship development program that is designed to significantly grow the businesses and enhance the skills and confidence of female entrepreneurs.
Topeka K. Sam and Ladies of Hope Ministries
As the founder and executive director of the Ladies of Hope Ministries (LoHM), Topeka K. Sam has designed and run multiple programmes serving women and families impacted by contact with the US criminal justice system. While in federal prison herself, Topeka saw first-hand the disparities and cruelties inflicted on women within the system. Topeka said, “I felt the urgency to bring the faces and voices of women in prison to the public in order to bring awareness to women’s incarceration and post-incarceration issues in order to change the criminal legal system”.
While advocating for reform, Topeka and her team are simultaneously working to lift-up the voices of women with experience in the criminal justice systems and give them the resources to reach full, meaningful employment. You can participate in these aspects of her work directly by utilising the LoHM’s speaker’s bureau and supporting their Pathways 4 Equity programme – with great thanks to several members of the Virgin Unite community who are founding supporters of the Pathways programme.
Eve Branson and the Eve Branson Foundation
Founded by Eve Branson in 2005, the Eve Branson Foundation (EBF) supports the lives of people in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, and specifically the education and opportunities available to local women and girls. Through instructional craft centres which assist local young people in the development of stable, employable skills, health and community wellbeing resources, and community education programs, EBF is making a difference for generations of Atlas Mountain residents.
Sadly, the world lost the brilliant light that was Eve Branson earlier this year, but her work shines on through her beloved foundation. During the pandemic, EBF has developed and refined product design for the international market while continuing to deliver daily structured artisanal crafts training programmes to women in the community.
This International Women’s Day, please join us in celebrating these leaders and others, and in choosing to challenge ourselves in the year ahead.