Knowledge is power. This is the phrase that comes to mind when I think about Women Empowering Women with MEDA (WEW). Through the WEW network, North American women are gaining knowledge of different cultures and issues that affect women in the developing world. This knowledge empowers them to contribute to the advancement of women globally by supporting MEDA projects. In turn, through MEDA projects, women clients are gaining knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices, market information, business skills and new technology. With this knowledge, they are able to improve their livelihoods and help create more inclusive, social, economic and environmental systems that provide their families and communities with a viable future.
Last week Women Empowering Women with MEDA (WEW) groups in Lancaster and the Delaware Valley met for our first meeting of 2017. Several things have changed over the past year including the addition of a new WEW group meeting in Waterloo, ON and new event spaces in both Pennsylvania locations. In our first year, the WEW network raised a total of $33,000 to support women entrepreneurs around the world including women farmers and their families in Ghana and Ukraine. We heard the stories of MEDA clients and learned how MEDA’s work has helped them reach their full potential by overcoming barriers that stand in the way of business success and sustainable livelihoods. We also learned why the unique contributions of women are key to the creation of just, peaceful and prosperous communities and economies.
The women involved in MEDA's Libya Women Economic Empowerment (LWEE) project are perfect examples of this.
"It will never work! People are used to getting handouts – if you're not giving out free things, your project will fail."
This is the message that one of MEDA's project managers was met with when MEDA first proposed working with women farmers in Ghana. Five years later, MEDA's GROW (Greater Rural Opportunities for Women) project has reached over 20,000 women who now have nutritious food throughout the year and larger and improved farms. At our third Women Empowering Women meetings in Lancaster and Souderton, PA, we featured the GROW project and had the opportunity to hear from three MEDA supporters who recently returned from a MEDA Field Experience visit to the project. Joan Nathan, Rita Hoover and Lisa Gautsche said the following after seeing the project firsthand:
On September 6 and 8, 2016, our newly-launched women's groups, Women Empowering Women with MEDA, met in Lancaster and Souderton for the second time! Our second meeting featured MEDA's project in Ukraine, where MEDA is working with women farmers to move them from the country's social and economic margins to mainstream markets.