Thinking equal, building smart and innovating for change this International Women’s Day

March 8, 2019
A restaurant owner in Cambodia cooks for lunchtime customers.

Each year on March 8, Pact proudly takes part in International Women’s Day. We celebrate the women on our staff, the women we serve around the globe and their many triumphs, and we acknowledge and discuss challenges that remain. This is because we firmly believe that only when we advance gender equality and the empowerment of women will we see a world where everyone owns their future. This is the world Pact strives for. 

Globally, about 70 percent of the people Pact serves are women. We touch the lives of millions through our integrated programming that is reducing economic inequality between women and men, increasing access to health, building local capacity and self-reliance, boosting citizens’ engagement in their own governance, leveraging market forces for social impact and more. I’d love to be able to give a personal “shout out” to each of the women we’ve partnered with this year and to ask what #WomensDay and #BalanceforBetter mean to them.

Obviously, that isn’t possible. So instead, in light of this year’s International Women’s Day theme – “think equal, build smart, innovate for change” – let me share three examples of how Pact and the women with whom we work are contributing to the progress we are all working for.

Let’s begin in Kenya, where Pact’s PEACE III project, funded by USAID, is strengthening conflict-management systems and building the capacity of regional and national institutions to stem cross-border conflict along Kenya’s borders with Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia. Historically, such matters have not included the voices of women. PEACE III is different. Pact recognizes the critical role that women must and do play in peacebuilding, and through the PEACE III Women’s Forum and other initiatives, we are leveraging women’s contributions for impact.

Along Kenya's borders, women are helping to lead peacebuilding efforts.

Next let’s go to Cambodia, where Pact has just launched the WE Act project, which is working to empower young women entrepreneurs to reach their full potential. Taking a systemic approach, WE Act is addressing factors that traditionally have put women business owners at a disadvantage. We’re strengthening their skills, business linkages and access to resources and associations to build an environment for success. WE Act recognizes that when women do better in business, it strengthens families, communities and Cambodia overall. 

Finally, let’s go to Zambia, where a remarkable group of young Zambian women is working to end menstrual absenteeism and keep girls in school. Kozo Girls began as a Pact pilot, getting support along the way from PEPFAR and DREAMS. Today, Kozo Girls is blossoming into an independent social enterprise, creating reusable pads and economic opportunities for young women.

Kozo Girls at their workshop in Lusaka, Zambia.

These efforts are not examples of change that Pact is making for women. Rather, it is change we are making with women, in true partnership, to the benefit of entire communities. Because when women are heard, capable and vibrant, we all move closer to ending poverty and marginalization. This is what Pact works for, on International Women’s Day and every day.

Dr. Gloria Sangiwa is Pact’s vice president of integrated program advancement.