“Are you sitting down?”

Our 2015 slate is complete with programs addressing women’s health, mental health, support for victims or terrorism and conflict and more. Our executive director looks at the difference you are making in the world. 

By Beth Ellen Holimon
DFW, Executive Director

Two weeks ago, I joined Program Director Dr. Veena Khandke in her office for one of the two biggest days each year we have at Dining for Women. Veena had a stack of files in front of her, one hand gripping them while she called the U.S. representative of the Muditar program in Myanmar that supports Pa-O tribal villages through sustainable development.  “Are you sitting down?” she asked.  Then, “I would like to congratulate you!  Your “Safeguarding Maternal and Infant Health” program will be featured by Dining For Women in July 2015 and we are committing $36,107 to you!”

I left her office misty-eyed. The hours of chapter meetings, the rigorous work of our volunteer program selection team which reviews, evaluates and selects the six programs from more than a hundred proposals each cycle, meetings, board meetings and everything else that WE ALL DO culminates on that day when we partner with these organizations in changing the lives of women and girls. I wish you could have been with us for that call.

I am so pleased to announce that the six programs selected for funding in July-December 2015 address mental health, physical health, education and safety for women and girls in both hemispheres.  You, our members, are funding programs that directly reach 45,314 women and in 2015.  That means that each member is reaching more than five women and girls this year!

The issues that our partner programs address are big, but there is a lot of progress to report.

  • Since 2010 2.4 million maternal and child deaths have been averted in the most at-risk countries
  • Maternal deaths have dropped 45 percent since 1990.
  • Two billion people gained access to clean drinking water between 1990 and 2010.
  • The women holding political office around the world has doubled since 1990

I love seeing this progress; it means that we are making change and we need to keep our momentum going. Maternal health is definitely improving, but 800 women still die every day from complications related to pregnancy. Ninety-nine percent of those deaths happen in the developing world. This is a situation many of our programs from Bumi Sehat and MamaBaby Haiti to Midwives for Haiti and many others work to resolve.

While clean water is accessible to many more people, women around the world spend 16 million hours per day fetching water – walking through barren land, open to attack by animals, to sexual violence. Our 2013 program Create! Senegal is just one of many working to bring clean water closer to home, making life markedly safer for women in Senegalese villages.

As members of Dining for Women, we are agents for change and we have to balance grim realities with the moments, the stories, and the community we create. I hope you can visualize a few of the 31,000 faces of the women we are supporting in the last half of 2015 Guatemala, Myanmar, Uganda, Peru, Togo and Nepal and the feel the connection you have created.

Link with Beth Ellen on LinkedIn

Source: UN Women, infographic.

Featured photo: The Program Selection Committee at work during final selection meeting in Greenville last month.