Q: What does women’s empowerment mean to you?
A: In its simplest form, it suggests one is able to access resources, make choices, challenge inequality through participation and determine life outcomes. For me the concept gives life to the idea that a woman can be an agent of change, determining her own future.
When I worked in a shelter in Atlanta, I learned that being poor is not just about not having money, it’s about not having choices.
Q: What female figure would you say has inspired you the most?
A: My father was both mother and father to me; he was the most influential person in my life. He taught me to care about others, to follow my heart always, and enjoy life. He also taught me to not be afraid to struggle.
Some of my favorite women, who I have learned from and fuel my passion are Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinem, Marion Wright Edelman, Wangari Maathai, Arduhnti Roy. They are all true warriors for justice and equality.
Q: Where did your passion for women’s empowerment come from?
A: I have spent pretty much my entire life committed to social justice; believing in equality and human rights. While I have spent my life focused on women and believe wholeheartedly that women are natural leaders (and when given opportunities, play an important role in their communities and countries, rising above poverty with dignity), I also know that only when all human beings are imbued with dignity, justice and human rights can we truly say we are empowered.
Q: What has working with Women’s Global Empowerment Fund taught you?
A: I have learned more than I ever thought possible. I have seen the elusive concept of sisterhood, alive and vibrant; the resiliency of the human spirit, even through dark and unimaginable times; and the beauty of what can happen when women work together to create opportunities based on equality and respect. I have become a more enlightened and hopeful person.
Q: If you could leave behind one thing as your legacy, what would it be?
A: While I am asked that question from time to time, I try to avoid it whenever possible. But today I can say simply, fighting for human rights for all is worth it, and one person can make a difference. We can all make a difference, in small and big ways, and they are all important.
Q: What can we do to spread awareness for women’s empowerment?
A: Support organizations (hopefully WGEF!), and movements that focus on elevating women’s voices. That provides mechanisms for women to address inequality and challenge systemic failures.
My hope is that through The UltraViolet Edge initiative and the collaboration between Urban Decay, Wende and her team, WGEF will grow in capacity and create a greater awareness of our program, clients and successes.
Q: What gives you an edge?
A: Hands down, passion. I have a great passion for equality and women’s empowerment, making my work a true privilege. Also, Urban Decay, is giving WGEF a major edge. Their belief and support is invaluable!
Women’s Global Empowerment Fund is honored to be selected as the first organization to receive a donation from Urban Decay’s new initiative – The Ultraviolet Edge – their global initiative to empower women. By helping to fund organizations that fight for the rights of women everywhere, Urban Decay encourages all women to embrace their individuality in everything they do. That’s the definition of beauty with an edge™.
Women’s rights is a complicated landscape with many worthy causes, so Urban Decay decided to pool together the money raised by The Ultraviolet Edge, which will provide the flexibility to support a variety of organizations that are doing incredible things to empower women. With this new initiative, Urban Decay plans to donate three million dollars to causes that support women over the next five years alone.
If that wasn’t exciting enough, as part of the efforts to empower women through The Ultraviolet Edge, Urban Decay will be recognizing inspirational women who rock our world—starting with a woman we’ve all admired forever: Gwen Stefani. Like us, she has a history of breaking down barriers and hails from Orange County, California. We dig Gwen’s innate ability to set trends and defy expectations. She also shares our passion for empowering women and will help give this initiative the attention it deserves.
Women’s Global clients celebrated International Women’s Day in Gulu, Uganda on March 4-8 with a series of debates, discussions, and mentoring sessions for girls. On March 8, in recognition of IWD 2015, women (and men) marched for equality, justice and each other.
As we made the six-hour drive from the capital to Gulu, everything felt like it was falling into place. I had never been somewhere so entirely different from home that still felt so comfortable. Before leaving, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting myself into; I watched the news, did plenty of research, and chatted with friends who had volunteered elsewhere in Africa. I felt confident, knowledgeable, and prepared, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Every preconceived notion and first-world misconception I had of Africa was shattered. After living amidst conflict for so many years, I expected the survivors to be a broken and bitter people, but I have never felt so genuinely welcomed by a community. Irene, who worked at our hotel, hugged us every time we saw her. Joyce, a WGEF client and force to be reckoned with, invited us into her home and called us her daughters. The city I call home the rest of the year is big and cold, and people hardly smile at each other. This was culture shock in the very best way.
Check out Rent The Runway’s blog featuring WGEF & Founder, Karen Sugar as one of their favorite women-led charities!