Want to do your bit for women in need in the UK and around the world? These incredible female-focused charities will help you do just that.
In recent years, International Women’s Day has been adopted and co-opted by organisations that don’t necessarily have women’s best interests at heart. Restaurants organise International Women’s Day brunches as a means of getting groups of female friends to part with their cash, with none of the profits going to women’s causes. Fast fashion brands peddle ‘empowering’ slogan T-shirts made by female sweatshop workers. Big corporations organise splashy panel discussions about women’s empowerment, while failing to introduce policies that would improve the lives of their female employees. All told, it would be easy to feel cynical about what International Women’s Day actually means in 2020.
But at its heart, International Women’s Day is still about pushing for global gender equality. And that requires backing organisations that work hard to support women around the world – whether that means advocating for survivors of domestic abuse, lobbying governments on policy issues, funding education for girls in developing countries, connecting marginalised women with professional mentors, or something else entirely.
Millions of women rely on charities that provide invaluable services, support and education, and we think there’s no better way to honour the true spirit of International Women’s Day than by donating money, volunteering your time or spreading the word about their work.
Feeling inspired to support your sisters in need? We’ve picked some great female-focused charities that deserve your support below.
Women for Women International
Subjected to rape, the deaths of loved ones and the destruction of their homes, while also struggling to provide care for their families, women are left traumatised as an effect of war.
Stylist’s official charity partner Women for Women International has helped more than 500,000 marginalised women war survivors in eight different countries affected by conflict and war to work towards a better future and rebuild their lives with practical and moral support.
Survivors have been left unsettled for months or even years. Women for Women International rolls out a year-long training programme bringing women together in a safe space to access life-changing skills to move from poverty to stability, earn and save money, improve their family’s health and make sure their voices are heard.
Fatima, a young Bosnian woman was able to rebuild her life with Women for Women International after suffering violence during the Rwandan genocide. “It was the start of the war when they killed my husband by machete. When they finished they had turned to me. They told me to choose: either have sex with us or we abort your child,” says Fatima. She adds that Women for Women International “helped me, and I stopped thinking too much about my issues. It has been great for us to be together as women.”
Support them by… Sponsor a sister to change their life for £22 a month. Join their global movement to mark International Women’s Day 2020 by sending a #MessageToMySister expressing a few simple words of support to a woman survivor or war. Send your message of hope and friendship here.
We hear a lot – quite rightly – about the negative effect that gender stereotypes can have on men’s mental health. But women’s experiences of mental health problems can also be heavily influenced by gender. Abuse is often a factor in women’s mental health issues, and gender bias may also occur in the treatment of psychological disorders.
As a result, Wish’s work is vital. The only UK-wide, user-led charity working with women’s mental health needs in prison, hospital and the wider community, it provides women with independent advocacy, emotional support and practical guidance as they navigate the mental health and criminal justice systems. Last year, Wish launched the Women’s Mental Health Network, a project that seeks to give women with mental health issues in the UK a say in how services are run.
Wish’s inspirational director, Joyce Kallevik, is a former Stylist Woman of the Week. “We want to empower women who have been on the margins of society,” she told us in October 2018. Wish’s ultimate goal is to “have better mental health services for women,” she explained – so that eventually, “women will have less need of services”.
Support them by… Donating via womenatwish.org.uk. Wish is also supported by wellbeing brand philosophy’s hope & grace initiative, which donates a portion of the profits from every product sold to community-based mental health efforts and encourages women to have more open conversations about mental wellbeing by asking “how are you, really?”
Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK)
MWNUK is a small but mighty national charity designed to give Muslim women a voice in modern Britain. Originally launched as an advice service for the UK government, it has now been an independent organisation for over a decade, working towards achieving “an equal and just society through Islamic feminism”. MWNUK’s work includes educating Muslim communities on women’s rights under Islam, conducting research on Muslim women’s lives in the UK, and supporting Muslim women via counselling, advocacy and a specialist helpline.
Most recently, they launched a campaign that was instrumental in getting the government to abolish forced marriage repatriation fees – a practice whereby victims of forced marriage were obliged to pay the costs of returning them safely to the UK.
Support them by… Donating via mwnuk.co.uk.
Young Women’s Trust
If you’re interested in supporting women under 30 in the UK, who are struggling to survive with a low income, this trust specialises in giving those battling poverty and unemployment the tools to succeed.
Young Women’s Trust provides advice and support to women and girls between the ages of 16 and 30 to aid their personal and career development. Using their expert knowledge, HR professionals work closely with young women to improve their CVs, cover letters and job applications.
The charity understands that when someone is in a vulnerable place, emotional and mental support is just as important as practical skills. This is why they also offer life coaching, to prepare young women for job interviews by boosting their confidence and helping them to recognise their best skills and stay motivated.
Support them by… Becoming a Young Women’s Trust ‘Champion’. Giving £3 a month will get you insider updates about the young women you’re helping, as well as opportunities to volunteer at promotional events and tips to help you plan fundraising events throughout the year.
Alternatively, you can make a one-off or regular donation at youngwomenstrust.org.
Black feminist organisation Imkaan works at local, national and international levels to address violence specifically affecting black and minority ethnic (BME) women and girls.
By partnering with a range of organisations, the group works to improve policy and practice responses to women of colour, around issues such as domestic violence, forced marriage and ‘honour’-based violence.
Imkaan specialises in supporting these sectors by carrying out crucial research, improving strategies around service delivery and providing training for those offering support to women facing violence.
“The activism that I feel connected to, calls on us to imagine the world beyond that which we know,” Imkaan’s executive director Marai Larasi (pictured above with Emma Watson) wrote in an essay for stylist.co.uk last year.
“It demands that we believe in something that is worth striving, struggling or fighting for. Critically it also demands that we do something – that we act.”
Support them by… Donating via goldengiving.com.
Care International – the charity behind the annual #March4Women – works around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice, and they put women and girls at the centre of everything they do.
Working across 79 poor and developing countries, they have helped millions of people find routes out of poverty since being founded in 1945. Now, the charity’s aim is to support 150 million people from the most vulnerable communities in the world in 2020.
To do this they plan to invest in education for girls, end child marriage and enable women to earn their own incomes.
Support them by… Making a donation, which can be done on a regular or one-off basis. You can also get involved with Care International’s #ThisIsNotWorking campaign against workplace harassment; find out more at careinternational.org.uk.
The Maya Centre
A “safe space run by women for women”, the Maya Centre in north London provides free counselling for women who have experienced mental health issues, sexual abuse, domestic violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and other traumatic experiences.
The centre’s female staff are accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and speak multiple languages, with the aim of helping disadvantaged women – who may not otherwise be able to afford the cost of therapy – recover from trauma.
Support them by… Donating, volunteering or organising a fundraising event. Find out more at mayacentre.org.uk.
Bloody Good Period
Period supplies may not be cheap, but they are essential. But for many women and girls, especially those seeking refuge in the UK who have no source of income, the cost of dignity and hygiene while menstruating is too high for them to afford.
Bloody Good Period aims to end the period poverty felt by asylum seekers by distributing donations to asylum seeker drop-in centres and food banks in London and the UK. It also provides long-term menstrual education to those who need it to promote menstrual health from the ground up.
Support them by… Donating money or items such as period supplies, toothbrushes or baby wipes to Bloody Good Period. The team will make sure they reach the people that need them the most.
Savera’s work focuses on shining a light on subjects surrounding ‘honour’-based violence, including FGM, forced marriages and domestic abuse, specifically within black and minority ethnic (BME) communities in the UK.
It does this by raising awareness of these issues in schools and educating young people in the communities most affected by these practices. By delivering training through conferences and events, it also expands the knowledge and skills of professionals working with survivors of domestic abuse and other harmful practices.
The grassroots charity also provides a helpline and one-to-one support for women who are under threat, to try and help them out of dangerous situations.
Support them by… Making a one-off donation or setting up a monthly direct debit at saverauk.co.uk.
Women for Refugee Women
Women for Refugee Women aims to break down the social exclusion and injustices felt by women who enter the UK looking for asylum. It does this by using the incredible stories of the women it’s trying to help, empowering them to speak out and shine a light on the heartbreaking journeys they’ve been through.
By highlighting these narratives to the media and policymakers, Women for Refugee Women aims to give a voice to women who are all too often unheard and unseen, and ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect.
Practically, the charity also puts on free events for refugee women such as yoga, English classes and mothers’ and children’s groups. They have also set up several groups for asylum seekers, including the London Refugee Women’s Forum – which specialises in campaigning to change attitudes towards refugees – and the Rainbow Sisters, for lesbian and bisexual women.
Support them by… Donating, fundraising or organising an event to share the voices of refugee women. Find out more at refugeewomen.co.uk.
Having impressively deep roots in the women’s suffrage movement is not the only thing that makes the Fawcett Society special. Established in 1866 by Millicent Fawcett, this pioneering women’s organisation has been advancing women’s equality ever since the young suffragist set out to collect signatures supporting votes for women at just 19 years old. This groundwork went on to support the campaign that eventually secured the vote for most women in 1918.
These days, the Fawcett Society is set on furthering its founder’s calling. It does this by creating national campaigns to challenge sexist beliefs and practices, goes into schools to educate young people on the importance of gender equality, and lobbies the government on female-focused policy issues. Not only did it persuade the government to require large employers to report on their gender pay gap, it was also a major player in the lobby for the Equal Pay Act 1970.
Support them by… Becoming a member for as little as £8 a month. If you’re looking to help in a way that feels a little less committed, you can make singular (or regular, if you’re so inclined) donations, too.
At least one in every three women around the world has experienced violence in her lifetime. This is a shocking, sobering and harrowing fact that highlights the breadth of oppression women face globally.
Womankind’s number one priority is to end violence against women and girls for good, a goal which they recognise can feel overwhelming. To tackle this issue effectively the charity has refined its approach to work with women’s movements in Africa and Asia in three main ways.
Not only do they push for policies and laws to be put in place to protect women, they also drive social change to ensure that women’s rights are supported.
Support them by… Making a regular or one-off donations. Womankind also suggests that women who are passionate about start-up projects become part of their Giving Circle. Members can create their own Giving Circle or join an established group to back a project, country or area of work that inspires them, then work together to make change happen.
Words: Moya Crockett, Megan Murray, Jude Swan, Isabella Hambley.
Main image: iStock