Womanity Foundation’s commitment to women’s empowerment: 2018

By Rafia Qureshi, Director, Womanity


The last 12 months brought about many remarkable movements, from #MeToo and #Timesup through to the global Women’s March. No doubt these were a result of huge negative setbacks in society, but they created inspiration and hope at a mass level. They also brought to the forefront the inspiring network of individuals, organisations and initiatives across the world fighting for women to have equal rights and a chance to fulfil their potential. On International Women’s Day, Womanity is proud to count ourselves a member of this global community and reinforce our commitment to doing everything in our power to accelerate progress for women and their communities in 2018. By working together, we can build on the momentum of 2017 and effect real, positive change for millions of women and girls.

At Womanity, our focus is unfaltering: the safety and wellbeing of women and girls, their education and skills development, their voice in society and their economic empowerment. Our education programs alone mean we have enabled over 33,000 girls and boys to access a quality education in Afghanistan, and we’ve also created a unique global programme working to prevent violence against women. So far this has created a feminist campaigning collective in Mexico and reached 438 Lebanese men and boys with a ground-breaking gender-respect training that highlights the positive role men and boys can play in this debate. However, we are still conscious of the challenge ahead of us in reaching Sustainable Development Goal #5 of Gender Equality by 2030!

We are contributing to this movement by launching the following new activities in 2018 to complement our existing portfolio of programmes. We invite each and every one of you who is tirelessly fighting the same fight to work with us, to support us and to challenge us so we continue to improve the way in which we work to support female empowerment. We strongly believe that it is only by pooling our resources and working together will we see long term, systemic change.

In 2018, we will:

1 Create new partnerships against gender-based violence

The UN estimates that one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime and rates of sexual harassment are often much higher, with only a minority of women unaffected.

Womanity is proud to be working in this critical area of preventing violence against women. We do this through a unique partnership model between two organisations which is designed to scale solutions helping prevent such violence. We search for a proven, innovative model which prevents violence against women and support its scale up in a new geography – to describe this we coined the term ‘scaling up innovation through replication.’ This way of working is specifically designed to capitalise on proven solutions rather than reinventing the wheel.

Every two years we support a new partnership between two organisations and this year, the latest exciting partnership will be announced in June and will focus on creating safer urban environments for women.

2 Launch a new season of our animation series and use the media for ‘good’

Media is an extremely powerful tool, which if used right, can help achieve a tremendous positive impact. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case. In fact, quite the opposite as our media often perpetuates gender discrimination. Just 10% of all news stories globally specifically focus on women and girls and only 4% clearly challenge gender stereotypes. Women talk less than men and have fewer opinions while roughly 80% of the “experts” interviewed by news media are men.

Our B100Ragl (worth 100 men) programme is an animated series of bitesize episodes engaging society with key issues affecting women across the Middle East. It aims to change the prevailing narrative and use media to challenge and influence adverse gender norms, ultimately seeking to change regional attitudes. This ‘edutainment’ fiction series which tackles social issues first aired in 2014 in nine Arab countries and was a visible success. Series 2 reached 1.9million people and 70% of the community screenings organised following the launch resulted in a positive follow-up action. This month we are proud to launch the third series of B100Ragl, along with a refreshed tour of community round-tables and public screenings across the Middle East organized with civil society and women’s groups. Check out the teaser here at 1pm GMT today and join us on this exciting journey!

3 Design a new women-centric digital media platform in the Middle East

We know that media can play an influential role in transforming power relations, societal norms, and gender relations – we have seen it through our extensive work in media so far. And we are more convinced than ever that investing in innovative ways to effectively reach people and influence societal opinions will help bring about the long-term change needed to benefit women and the economies and communities in which they live.

Along with our fiction series B100Ragl we co-founded Radio Nisaa in 2010, the first independent women’s radio station in Middle East. Based in Ramallah, Palestine, this has been a huge success, with an audience share of 20% in the Palestinian Territories and a proven ability to change attitudes of listeners.

In 2018, we hope to continue using the power of media to create positive change by co-creating a digital platform which appeals to Arab youth and encourages equal rights and opportunities for women and men. We are currently in the process of better understanding and identifying regional needs for this platform, but we aim for its content to not only reinforce the active social, economic and political participation and leadership of women but also highlight topics such as masculinity, stereotypical gender roles and ways to overcome them. We are in the early stages of this venture – as in everything we do, we want to make sure we approach it from a place of understanding and use our resources to provide a solution that plugs a local need and gap. We welcome you to join us in this journey and look forward to engaging with you as we develop this innovative model.

At the core of everything we do at Womanity, we ensure we engage men as much as possible in this debate to prevent preaching to the converted. We invite all our male agents of change to join us in the fight to empower women and girls across the world. In the words of our Founder and President, Yann Borgstedt, who has been honoured in the prestigious male Agent of Change Power List 2018, “if we do not engage men in the debate, we lose (at least) half the battle.”

This International Women’s Day – let’s be the change we want to see! We are proud of what we have achieved so far, but there is a lot left to do – and we can’t do it alone. We look forward to collaborating with you so please do get in touch with us!