Top 5 Humanitarian Gifts for Every Feminist on Your List
As the holidays loomed closer, I found myself fretting over this guide. I considered a list of the top 10 feminist books, I considered T-shirts and mugs and aprons with fun feminist quotes. I considered a list of the best independent bookstores for women’s literature, like novelist Ann Patchett’s recently opened Parnassus in her hometown of Nashville. Or my own fabulous local bookstore,Vroman’s in Pasadena, with its unique selection of old-fashioned toys and gifts.
But I kept coming back to the idea of giving something more lasting and significant, something that embraces the holiday spirit and also gives to disadvantaged women and girls. (Who needs another bookstore gift card from Santa anyway?) Because it resonated with so many of you the first time, I resurrected the Humanitarian Gift Guide for Feminists.
Herewith, then, are five additional organizations that offer life-saving gifts for women and girls:
Global Giving provides funds for community projects and individuals. Imagine your daughter or son or best friend receiving a holiday tribute card that says “Wow. You are incredible.” Cool, right? That’s the message your loved one receives when you donate to this marvelous organization that funds social entrepreneurs and local charities. A $25 gift sends a child to school for a year in South Africa or supplies diapers for 100 orphaned babies in China. Twenty dollars provides sanitary supplies so a girl in the Dominican Republic can attend school. Just $15 plants a vegetable garden in India. Or if you have more to give, $50 buys school uniforms for girls in Liberia, home of Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
I had the privilege of seeing the International Rescue Committee up close when I reported on their work in the Albanian refugee camps during the war in Kosovo. Besides providing essential medical care, they’re also one of the few groups geared toward treating victims of sexual assault and rape. In Kenya, at the Dadaab refugee camp, where hundreds of thousands of women have already fled to escape the famine in Somalia, the IRC reports a fourfold increase in sexual violence since June. It's heartbreaking and enraging, but you can help. IRC just opened a health clinic for women and girls there. They also just announced a holiday campaign where “friends” of IRC will match all online gifts, dollar for dollar, up through December 31. This is a gift I’m giving my stepmother, a nurse who served in the Pacific during World War II.
As bloggers we know the power of the written word, how it can elevate important issues, connect us to each other, or help a mute young girl find her voice or share her story. But many girls face violence, prison, even death for simply speaking out. That’s why journalist Marsha Hamilton founded the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, a volunteer-based organization in May 2009. You can learn so much about Afghan’s women’s lives by reading the poems, essays, and writings of women on here who would otherwise remain silent. I love that you can send comments to individual writers about their work. But the group also has a much loftier goal: to bring Internet service, laptops and books to Afghan women, including in Taliban-run areas. I don’t know about you, but I often take these things for granted. When I recently lost power for three days, it was a big wake-up call how dependent I am on these tools for writing. So imagine how much Internet access means to a girl in Afghanistan.
Women for Women International is devoted to helping women victims of war rebuild their lives and strengthen their families. To that end there are dozens of projects they oversee and support in countries from Kosovo to the Congo. If you give a woman a wheelbarrow ($35), for instance, did you know you can change her life? Or how about seeds to sustain an organic garden she can use to feed her family? Are you a baker? Here’s something fun: a bakery kit with a rolling pin, flour, and tins for $25. Because I sew, I loved the sewing kit with needles, thread, scissors, buttons and a measuring tape for $25. Or what about a carpentry set ($35) for women in Kosovo who are learning carpentry? Whatever you give, know that you’ll be supporting WWI’s mission: “Gifts that give back.”
The Feminist Majority Foundation supports a range of important women’s projects in this country and abroad, including one called A Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls. For $40 you can help send a young Afghan woman to study in the United States, help support an female-led NGO for health and education programs, or help an Afghan woman support herself by buying her handmade jewelry. If you want to make a difference for women in the U.S., there’s the National Clinic Access Project, to keep women’s health clinics running. There are also holiday gifts on the site, including some lovely sterling silver necklaces engraved with sayings, ranging in price from $62 to $102. One says “be the change.”
Peace, and happy holidays.