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. Pre-pandemic, restaurants organised 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 are still peddling ‘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 2021.
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 – and survivors can be left unsettled for months or even years.
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, supporting them in working towards a better future and rebuilding their lives with practical and moral support.
Women for Women International’s year-long training programme brings women together in safe spaces to access life-changing skills, enabling them to move from poverty to stability, earn and save money, improve their family’s health and make sure their voices are heard.
Show your support by… Sponsoring a sister to change their life for £22 a month. You can also add your name to Women for Women International’s #PowerToChange challenge to commit to becoming a change-maker in your own community.
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. Wish also 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. 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”.
Show your support by… Donating cash or items such as mobile phones, greeting cards and IT equipment; find out more at 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.
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. The charity also 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.
Show your support 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 charity specialises in giving those battling poverty and unemployment the tools to succeed.
Young Women’s Trust (YWT) 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 has also been a vital voice advocating for young women in the UK during the coronavirus crisis, publishing research into the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on young women and campaigning for policies that take gender and intersecting inequalities into account.
Show your support by… Making 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.
“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.”
Show your support 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 puts women and girls at the centre of everything it does. Working across 79 poor and developing countries, it has helped millions of people find routes out of poverty since it was founded in 1945.
Show your support by… Making a regular or one-off donation, joining Stylist’s International Women’s Day 2021 virtual event with CARE on 7 March, or using the #StopTellingHalfTheStory selfie filter on social media.
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.
Show your support by… Donating, volunteering or organising a fundraising event. Find out more at mayacentre.org.uk
Bloody Good Period
Period supplies are essential. But for many people who menstruate, especially those seeking refuge in the UK who have no source of income, the cost of dignity and hygiene is too high.
Bloody Good Period aims to end the period poverty felt by asylum seekers by distributing donations to drop-in centres and food banks in London and the UK. It also provides long-term education to those who need it to promote menstrual health from the ground up.
Show your support by… Donating money (please don’t send items such as period supplies, toothbrushes or baby wipes during the pandemic). Bloody Good Period has also launched a new campaign, ‘No Shame Here’, for International Women’s Day 2021; find out more at @bloodygoodperiod on Instagram.
Savera’s work focuses on shining a light on subjects surrounding ‘honour’-based violence, including FGM, forced marriages and domestic abuse, specifically within Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) 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.
Show your support 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 through empowering the women it supports to speak out about their experiences.
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 they are treated with dignity and respect.
Practically, the charity supports refugee women through English and drama classes, feminist discussion groups and mothers’ and children’s groups (all currently being run via Zoom). It has 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.
Show your support by… Donating, fundraising or organising a virtual event to share the voices of refugee women. Find out more at refugeewomen.co.uk
Having deep roots in the women’s suffrage movement is not the only thing that makes 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 supported the campaign that eventually secured the vote for most women in 1918.
These days, Fawcett Society furthers its founder’s calling by creating national campaigns to challenge sexist beliefs and practices, lobbying the government on policy issues and (in non-pandemic times) going into schools to educate young people on the importance of gender equality. 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.
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 Worldwide’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.
Show your support by… Making a regular or one-off donation. For International Women’s Day 2021, your donation will be doubled at no extra cost to you. You can also find inspiring suggestions for feminist action by playing Womankind Worldwide’s Feminist Bingo.
Words: Moya Crockett; Megan Murray; Jude Swan; Isabella Hambley
Main image: iStock