The Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund provides small grants for
grassroots projects that empower women and girls in developing countries.
NEWS AND UPDATES
Happy Earth Day from VGIF! From 1970-2012, VGIF supported 96 projects that included an environment, food and/or water security component. These projects employed a wide range of effective strategies to improve the lives of women and girls through their natural environment in a sustainable way, including agricultural projects, training on clean water management, and women’s nutritional gardens.
by Abi Scholz and Oletta Semple
Last Friday marked the launch of the 2014 Economic Report on Africa with a panel featuring Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary on the Economic Commission for Africa. Entitled “Dynamic Industrial Policy in Africa: Innovative Institutions, Effective Processes and Flexible Mechanisms,” the panel addressed the importance of the report in analyzing the economic climate of the African continent, as well as planning for growth and a healthy economic future. A permanent representative from the African Union, Tete Antonio, noted that the report emphasizes the potential growth and opportunity that the continent has, in particular its unique demographic make-up. Most notably, by 2040, the African workforce will be the largest in the world, making the next twenty-five years critical to strengthening good governance and existing industrial policy while transforming harmful social, cultural, and economic practices.
While Africa is often referred to as “the global economic frontier” due to its rapidly growing economy, abundance of natural resources, and strong youth population, it is still plagued by many issues, including massive youth unemployment and discrimination against women. To tackle this challenge, the panel advocated for industrialization, claiming that it is critical for reducing youth unemployment and gender disparities. Improved industrial policy could boost labor productivity and create job opportunities. Furthermore, industrialization is necessary for the attainment of inclusive growth that would benefit the majority of the population and allow women better access to income-generating activities.
Despite the challenges facing the continent, the message of “Africa Rising” was central to the meeting’s tone and dialogue. This positive and hopeful message grew out of the progress of the past decade, as African economies experienced rapid economic growth. Six out of ten of the fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa. However, the aspirational nature of “Africa Rising” was not lost in the report or the on the panel: Six out of ten of the countries with the highest income and wealth inequality are in Africa. As Carlos Lopes stated, “We are growing, but we are not transforming.” Increased educational opportunities and programs, as well as poverty reduction efforts are the foundation for sustainable economic growth and to truly embody the message of “Africa Rising.”
For summaries, case studies and the entire report click here.
At VGIF, we’re inspired by the stories that our grantees share with us about their participants. Rebecca is a 60-year-old widow living in rural Kenya. She has never attended school and is raising six grandchildren. In spite of a limited income, Rebecca made education a priority for her grandchildren -- all six of them are going to school, including the four girls. Through the VGIF-sponsored Voice in the Wilderness’s Turkana Women Basketry Program, Rebecca has become a leader and spokesperson for the participants, and she has also improved her economic situation. She is grateful to this program for enabling her to acquire new skills, and open new doors . Photo Credit: Voice in the Wilderness