By Molly Labell
I grew up in a family that encouraged helping out those in need; when I first started getting an allowance, my parents had me divide it among three jars: one labeled “Fun,” one labeled “Savings,” and one labeled “Tzedakah” (the Hebrew word for charity). This budgeting technique stuck with me—the “Fun” and “Tzedakah” part at least—and I still give to charity when I can, but sometimes it can be disenfranchising. It’s not always clear where your money is going, or how it will help exactly. Even if you donate to a cause you know a lot about, it’s easy to feel disconnected to it—almost like you’re donating money to an abstract idea rather than to real people with real problems. What’s worse is that I don’t always have dollars to spare—I’ve got the Mt. Everest equivalent of student loan debt to climb, and my degrees in English and Gender Studies aren’t exactly helping me rake in the cash.
DoSomething.org and Kiva.org’s new awareness campaign acknowledges those issues and turns giving into a really engaging experience. The organizations are great: DoSomething is a non-profit dedicated to getting young people involved with social change, and Kiva provides small business loans to impoverished people all over the world (a practice known as microfinance). DoSomething and Kiva are now working together to help women living in poverty. You can get involved, too—for free and all through texting!
Here’s how it works. Text WOMEN to 38383 (or sign up at DoSomething.org). You’ll then receive a series of texts with info on the plights of low-income women in developing countries. At the end of the text experience, Kiva will give $25 to a hardworking and entrepreneurial woman—a small amount that can go a long way in other parts of the world.
Awesome, right? It won’t cost you anything and it’s so easy! After texting WOMEN to 38383, I got a text asking me to choose either Kenya, Pakistan, Mongolia, the Philippines of El Salvador to learn about the hardships working women face there. I chose Pakistan, and then received four what-would-you-do questions. The first told me that I was a Pakistani woman whose family needed money, and then asked if I would stay in school while my family struggled or if I’d leave school to make an extra few cents a day. I responded that I’d leave school, and then got a text that told me leaving school might help right away, but in the long run it’d ruin my chances of making more money. There were a few more questions like that, and all of my answers were then responded to with more facts about what impoverished women have to endure or give up to survive. At the end of our text exchange, I got to choose which woman Kiva would lend money to on my behalf. All the women had a picture and a description of what loan they were applying for. I chose to give my $25 to a woman in Kenya who needs $300 to expand the small general store she owns.
Wonder why this campaign is focused on women? Here’re some infuriating numbers from DoSomething’s website:
Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours, produce half of the world's food, but earn only 10% of the world's income and own less than 1% of the world's property. They make up 50% of the world's population, but represent 70% of the world's poor.
Those stats are really upsetting, but we can change them! If you want to make a difference and learn more about the conditions working women face, visit DoSomething.org or text WOMEN to 38383.
Photo courtesy of Mary Daily Brown - www.SowHope.org