#SheisWe shows that when women are empowered, protected, trusted and invested in, there are benefits for all of us. The campaign emphasizes striking stories of people everywhere in the world, and engages renowned personalities, activists, and members of the development community. This campaign is organized by EuropeAid for the European Development Days – a global forum focusing this year on "Women and Girls at the Forefront of Sustainable Development" to promote a safer, more inclusive and open world for women.
Child marriage often perpetuates an intergenerational cycle of poverty. When girls get married at an early age, their prospects for a healthy and successful life will be at stake.
When Mestawet Mekurya, 14, confronted her parents who wanted to marry her off, she was strong enough to explain her objection. Her ability to ‘argue her case’ was because she had been attending a girls’ club at school where she learnt about child marriage and its consequences. She was informed and prepared. When her parents insisted, she ran to the police and found protection.
With the help of village elders her parents ultimately understood and agreed with Mestawet’s decision. This experience convinced Mestawet to be fully involved in her girls’ club, committed to making a difference. She wants other girls to be able to do the same. She is making Ethiopia a better and safer place for young girls and boys. She is We.
“If somebody would have said to me 45 years ago that I would have sat here today and really get to the end of slavery, I would not have believed them,” Myrtle Witbooi said from the Palais des Nation’s podium in Geneva in 2011 a few moments after the adoption of an international convention for domestic workers’ rights. It has been life-long fight for Myrtle. And the odds were indeed against her when she started campaigning in the 60s for domestic workers’ rights in South Africa.
“My story begins in a small room in the backyard of an employer’s house. I was separated from my child when she was one month old – because a domestic worker cannot have her children with her.” At that time, domestic work was regulated by the "Master and Servant Act". “It meant that anything the master said had the force of law and the worker had no say at all,” Myrtle recalls.
After the first meeting she held, she got elected to represent her peers. “I didn’t even know what a chairperson was,” she says. But she took up the challenge with one motto: "where women take the lead, things happen." And thing happened. She dedicated her life to being a spokesperson for those who are not heard. By pushing for the adoption of laws and international conventions, Myrtle activism changed the life and conditions of hundreds of thousands of domestic workers globally. She is We.
“When I told them early pregnancy could kill Draupadi or ruin her health forever, they agreed to cancel the wedding,” Abha Mandal says. Abha is a social worker in the Nepalese region of Saptari. She committed to empowering adolescent girls so that they can realise their rights and bring change in their own communities.
Draupadi Kumari Sah was only 15 when Abha started working with her. She taught Draupadi and other girls about sexual and reproductive health and emphasized the dangerous consequences of child marriage. However, Draupadi’s family had already received a match from India – a boy seven years her senior. In her region, adolescent girls are usually married as soon as they leave school, so they won’t become a burden for their families.
When Draupadi heard that her mother accepted the wedding on her behalf, she sought Abha’s help to convince her otherwise. “Families here are so poor and don’t have access to information and knowledge about these issues,” Abha says. By raising awareness, Abha saves lives. She is We.
Dozens of individuals, activists, institutions and organisations around the world answered our call for a better and safer world for women and girls by joining the #SheisWe movement. Here are some of them.
Noella Coursaris Musunka
Kalebuka, DRC – She educates. We prosper
"When my father died, my mother didn’t have enough education to earn money, so she couldn’t take care of me. She gave me away because she wanted to give me a chance.”
Noella Coursaris Musunka was just five when she had to leave her birth country of the DRC to fly alone to join relatives in Belgium and then to Switzerland.
At school, Noella excelled. “When you have nothing, you know that if you fall there’s no one to pick you up. So you have to stand. I resolved very early on that I would study and work and be independent.”
After embarking on an international modelling career, she launched her non-profit organisation, Malaika, in 2007 with a mission to tackle the education crisis that is endemic to the DRC. Today, Malaika empowers thousands of Congolese girls and their communities. Its projects include a school for 280 girls which cultivates the leadership potential of each student so that she gives back to her community and has a positive, long-term impact on the future of the DRC, a community centre that provides education, health and entrepreneurship programming to 7,000 youths and adults, and nine wells that supply clean water to 18,000 people in Kalebuka, near Lubumbashi.
Today, Noella is one of the leading voices in education for girls in Africa and an ambassador for the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
“In a way, Malaika is the story of me,” says Noella. “When parents do have money they educate the boys, but if you educate girls there’s less pregnancy, less HIV infection, less poverty. We need to elevate the education of women. It empowers them. It moves the country forward. It matters.”