It might be 2017 but every day we read about the problems in our society that continue to hold women back in the fight for gender equality, which can be frustrating to say the least.
But instead of letting this become the dominant narrative, we want to shift the focus from issues to solutions and have profiled five organisations who make it their goal to empower and enable women in the UK and around the world, through volunteering, mentoring and fundraising.
The Girl’s Network
Who are they: North London secondary-school teachers Charly Young and Becca Dean first dreamed up The Girl’s Network back in 2013, after seeing first-hand how the teenage girls in their classrooms were struggling.
They saw that young women were facing pressure to conform, a lack of self-confidence and self belief, and had limited access to professional female role models. And they wanted to do something about it.
What do they do: The Girl’s Network aims to inspire and empower girls from disadvantaged communities by giving them a personal mentor, who works one-on-one with them to do everything from give career advice to checking over their CV and asking practice interview questions. As well as giving them a network of professional female role models to tap into.
Why should you help: Recent studies have found that young British women are having a crisis of confidence. Although 63% of our seven to 10-year-old girls say they “feel confident in themselves”, just 31% of 17-21 year olds agree with the statement, meaning it drops as women go through adolescence.
How can you help: The Girl’s Network now works with more than 1000 girls across the UK each year and they need more mentors.
A spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK: “We are looking for women who have had experience of the work place, who have time and willingness to support a girl from one of the least-advantaged communities across the country, and who want to support a girl to overcome obstacles and seize opportunities.”
They ask mentors, who sign up to the scheme, to commit to at least one hour a month with their mentee, over the course of a year.
Geek Girl Meet Up
Who are they: Geek Girl Meet Up is part of a network of organisations around the world that host events that put women in technology on stage. What first started out as a small group in Stockholm is now an international organisation, opening their first UK branch in 2012.
What do they do: Geek Girl Meet Up brings together panels of female experts to talk about tech, in order to create new role models for other women in the industry and to highlight the incredible talent working across the sector.
Why should you help: The technology industry in the UK is still largely dominated by men. According to the Women’s Engineering Society UK, the proportion of young women studying engineering and physics in our country has remained virtually static since 2012.
While only 9% of the UK engineering workforce is female and only 6% of registered engineers and technicians are women (compared to 30% of students in India, and 20% in Latvia and Bulgaria).
How can you help: The easiest way to help is to go along and show support by attending the Geek Girl Meet-up events (which happen regularly across the UK, and you can find out more details nearer the time on their Twitter page). If you are feeling brave you can also nominate yourself to speak at one of their upcoming events, or nominate a friend. They also have a podcast and newsletter.
Girls Out Loud
Who are they: Girls Out Loud is a multi-award winning social enterprise, founded in 2010 to battle the ‘teen girl crisis’. The focus is two-fold: early intervention and mentoring programmes.
What do they do: Girls Out Loud run a ‘Big Sister Programme’ which essentially gives mentoring to local girls. They train and support women to be mentors to a young girls and nurture them via a peer mentoring process throughout the duration of the programme and connect them to other awesome women.
Why should you help: Jane Kenyon, founder of Girls Out Loud, exclusively told Huff Post UK: “We are failing girls and girl power is definitely in question. Being a teenage girl in the world today is a challenge. Attempts to retain an element of individuality are threatened on a daily basis by the media, celebrity culture, premature sexualisation, peer pressure and bullying, privacy invasion and misuse of the internet, ladette behaviour and increase in aggressive behaviour amongst girls, to name a few.”
Indeed Kenyon’s statement is supported by a November 2016 study from Girl Guides that found a third of girls aged seven to 10 in Britain think the most important thing about them is their appearance, but 38% feel they are “not pretty enough”.
How can you help: Help by becoming a big sister, as Kenyon says: “We believe the opportunity to mentor a young girl and be instrumental in the way she sees the world and her place in it is a true privilege. We invite you to join our big sister posse and promise you that we will keep you informed of all our contracts as and when we seal the deals with schools!”
They are also looking to raise funds for their projects, so even if there are no ‘big sister’ programmes currently happening, you can help with fundraising.
Code First: Girls
Who are they: Code First: Girls run coding workshops, and free community courses to teach women of all ages how to code, and how to further develop skills that can help no matter what industry they work or study in. They also connect women into their network of talented and like-minded females who can help further their career.
What do they do: Every year Code First: Girls run classes that teach more than 2,000 women in the UK how to code, for free. Over the past four years they have delivered free coding courses worth more than £2 million. With one purpose, to increase the number of women in tech and girls taking STEM subjects.
Why should you help: Citing recent research by Tech City UK, Code First: Girls explained to HuffPost that the UK will need an extra one million tech workers by 2020, and by not having women in tech roles we are not only leaving half the population out of well paid jobs, but stifling economic growth.
In addition, research conducted by Accenture revealed that 50% of 12-year-old girls at school, perceive STEM subjects as more suited to boys. Something that has to change.
How can you help: You can become an instructor. Code First: Girls instructors come from a variety of backgrounds, and include computer science/technical post graduates, company based professionals with programming experience, freelance developers and university lecturers. All instructors work on a voluntary basis.
Women’s World Wide Web
Who are they: Women’s World Wide Web [W4] is a crowdfunding platform exclusively dedicated to projects that address women’s issues around the world, in both developed and non-developed countries. W4 was founded by Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke while she was doing humanitarian work in slums in the Philippines.
What do they do: W4 manages and funds women’s empowerment programs across the world. These include stopping FGM in Egypt, mobile finance for poor women in Guatemala, IT training for women survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, mobile health services to save mothers and babies in South Africa and mobile apps to help domestic violence survivors in Spain access crucial services.
Why should you help: Women’s World Wide Web is addressing issues that affect women all around the world – poverty, FGM, HIV, homelessness, education, and gender inequality. Of the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty today (less than $1.25 per day), most are girls and women. Instead of just focusing on problems at home, W4 allows users to address problems abroad too.
How can you help: W4 offers both monetary and non-monetary ways of getting involved. Via the Women’s World Wide Web platform, you can make a donation to existing female-centric projects, set up projects of your own, or invite friends and family.
But you don’t have to reach for your wallet, you can volunteer your time and skills through their e-Mentoring programme, which can take the form of teaching a language or IT skills, or helping field teams with organisation, ranging from accounting to logistics, without ever having to leave your sofa.
HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today.
Through blogs, features and video, we’ll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity.
If you’d like to blog on our platform around these topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org