Today is International Women’s Day, a worldwide campaign which aims to raise awareness of women’s rights and stories across the world.
Here at Comic Relief we are committed to empowering women and girls so they’re safe and free to lead the lives they choose. We believe women and girls must have the right to have control over their own bodies, live free from violence, have a voice in their community and country, and work safely and earn a decent wage. Which is why we’ve been funding projects supporting women and girls since Comic Relief began in 1985. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’d like you to meet some of the inspirational women from around the world, which thanks to your generosity have been supported by Comic Relief cash:
Maanda - Pastoral Women’s Council, Tanzania
Ever since Maanda witnessed her friend being beaten and forced into an early marriage, she has been fiercely passionate about empowering women in her Maasai community.
Refusing to get married, she ran away in order to get an education, and has since spent years mobilising women’s groups to campaign for their rights.
She founded the Pastoral Women’s Council, which uses Comic Relief cash to get girls into education and to train Maasai teachers. It also campaigns for the Maasai’s land rights. On top of this very successful work, Maanda takes in young runaways, supporting them to take control of their futures.
Mariam – The Boaz Trust, Manchester
Due to ongoing tribal unrest and domestic violence, Mariam had to flee Somalia in 2008. She travelled to the UK where she claimed asylum. She was homeless and desperate for shelter, but luckily she found the Boaz Trust which is funded by Comic Relief to support destitute asylum seeking women.
She now speaks out on behalf of women in her situation and offers support to those who need it. In March 2016, she was named ‘Woman of the Year’ at The Women on the Move Awards, which celebrates the leadership and contribution of migrant and refugee women to the UK.
Ikmatu – YMCA, Sierra Leone
During the Ebola outbreak, Ikmatu helped her community stay safe. She began volunteering for YMCA as a peer educator, informing people about basic health, hygiene and sanitation and urging her community to spread the word to others to prevent more deaths.
The work was difficult and dangerous and people were hostile to her advice at first. Many of the elders in her community did not want to be peer educators out of fear of catching Ebola. Some of her school friends shunned her because of the stigma around the disease. But gradually they started to listen.
‘It was important for me to do this because the adults were afraid and if nobody acted, everyone in my community would have been wiped out.’
Sierra Leone is now Ebola free, but Ikmatu continues to work as a peer educator for YMCA helping to clean the streets and talking to people about hygiene because they are still at risk from other illnesses.
Rhiannon – Llanelli Women’s Aid, Wales
Rhiannon works at Llanelli Women’s Aid, which is funded by Comic Relief to support young people who have experienced domestic abuse. She Rhiannon dedicates her time to helping young people who are trying to move on from what they’ve experienced – helping them deal with mental health issues and make positive progress in their lives.
‘A lot of people in their lives have made them feel less than important and they are important.’
Rhiannon works hard to provide vital support to rebuild the young people’s confidence and to help them create a positive future for themselves. Giving them the chance to enjoy being children again.
To find out more about our work empowering women and girls, click here.