Caroline Gallois is the Policy and Business Development Officer for Women for Women International in Germany. They serve marginalized women in conflict affected states.
Caroline Kent is the managing director of Women for Women International Germany. They are both guest speakers at elbMUN.
Veronika Volkova: What do you think are the main challenges in the topic of women rights?
CK: I think there are numerous challenges but maybe we break it down to three. I think the first is the lack of funding for women's rights organizations in particular, local women's rights organizations who can't access the larger funding pots. The second challenge is the resistance to talking about women's rights, the resistance to framing things as feminist development policies or feminist foreign policies because it comes with assumptions that I think are ill informed and don't translate to the realities. And the third biggest issue is conflict, war and the fragile situation of so many million women who are affected by having to leave their homes because of conflict, who live in extreme poverty and are thereby denied access to education, work, health care and social life.
CG: I would just add that women's rights should never be for discussion. In war time, there are other humanitarian issues at stake, there's not enough water supply, there's not enough food supply and that makes women's rights something negotiable in those countries.
Additionally, violence against women is a big issue for women's rights. The whole system does not enable women to speak up and say who their perpetrator is.
I: And what does “Women for Women” do to change the situation?
CG: We work in fragile, and conflict affected states all around the world. And we try to help women understand their rights, know their rights, and have access to their rights. So, for us, our logic is that if women know their rights, they have the power to transform their community, their world and transform their Childrens lives. So, we give them resources, we support them to have access to knowledge and to a yearlong training program where they gain a vocational skill and can be economically sufficient, have savings and also send their daughters to school and not only there their sons.
We have the mindset that women's work is valuable, Women's contribution to society can be valuable although it might not be seen in, in most of the communities where we work.
I: What can each and everyone of us do to change the situation?
CK:. I think the first thing is to inform yourselves about women's rights. About the different perspectives of women in different contexts and to learn about their lived realities and what can be done.
The second is then to share that knowledge with families, with men, with people who might be skeptical about talking about women's rights. Also share with them that women’s rights are not about excluding men, but it's just making sure that everyone has the same equal opportunities. In addition, you can fund organizations to do that or you can volunteer and support.
I: And how did you come so passionate about this topic? Why have you started this?
CK: There's no silver bullet to ending poverty or injustice. If f there were, we would have solved it. But in my experience and to my knowledge, the best chance we have to end injustice and to end extreme poverty is to invest in women. And I think it's something that we haven't done enough and that's why I'm very passionate about our work and the work that is being done to support women worldwide.
CG: We have one figure that we always mention in presentations, that women reinvest 90% of their income back into their families and men only 40. I didn't know all that before I joined women for Women International, but that we really see that women talk to their neighbors, they talk to their friends, they educate their daughters, and they really have this ripple effect in their communities that can also cause structural changes for the long term. So I'm passionate about a lot of things, but I'm mostly passionate about our mission because I think it just works out.
I: Thank you for your time.