Elca Grobler Found Her Calling Working With the Women of India

elca grobler group photo

Elca Grobler Found Her Calling Working With the Women of India
Author: Elca Grobler (Member, Women Moving Millions)
Date: April 2016

They say a dream is something you want to do but a calling is something you have to do.  I can still clearly recall the moment I met Bibi and was confronted with her life, her reality. She was being trained as one of our very first PeaceMakers and was sharing her own personal story of domestic violence. She spoke about the brutal daily physical violence by her husband, of frequently being locked up and starved and continuous sexual abuse. My heart was ripped open and has never been fully put back together again. Sadly, I found Bibi’s story all too common in India, and the stigma and shame around abuse meant that there were few services to protect women and girls.

It was 2011, my husband and I both ‘resigned from our careers’ in Sydney, Australia and moved to India with our three young children. Not knowing what I was going to do, but compelled to work in women’s empowerment, I started talking to women across the country about their most urgent needs. I was hoping to use my background in finance to design a program around financial literacy.

Having completed a Masters in Mathematical Statistics, 3-year Investment CFA and MBA and worked in Risk Management, Investment Banking and Funds Management in Johannesburg and Sydney the majority of my career, I had never expected my ‘stars-aligning’ moment to happen in the slum areas of the Old City in Hyderabad, India.  Yet there I was, faced with the most serious human rights issues in India and I knew, I could never again look or walk away.

Four years into this journey and through the support of my team – who continue to bravely lead innovative programs, that many are unwilling to try – evidence shows My Choices Foundation is making a real difference. Our two programs, Operation PeaceMaker and Operation Red Alert, work toward addressing two of the most pervasive and resistant to change human rights abuses – domestic violence and human trafficking respectively.

Operation PeaceMaker was founded in early 2012 directly addressing shocking statistics that close to 50 percent of married women suffer domestic violence. It’s a grassroots initiative that provides 100 percent free counselling, rights education and legal aid to victims of domestic violence. We train local women, called Peacemakers, to work in their communities and meet the challenges of domestic violence in a way that does not disrupt family, culture and religion.

Today Bibi is one of our 70+ PeaceMakers in the field, for her and many others this is their first skills training and job and a huge step towards self-empowerment. Collectively, we have already successfully helped more than 2,300 cases of domestic violence, invested over 80,000 hours of field support to victims and reached over 10,000 school girls. We currently have Counselling Centres in 5 strategic areas around our state, with more planned to open shortly. These centres are a place of refuge, support and counsel for many women & girls.

Working with these courageous women and girls each day, I personally draw courage to continue my work from the strength they have not to only help themselves but also to step up and help those around them too.

We strive for excellence in everything we do at our Foundation and firmly believe in the power of technology to harness the younger generation and include men in all our work. Our recent campaign won the Grand Jury Award for Women Empowerment at the Social Media for Empowerment Awards, 2016 and garnered the support of big name celebrities like world #1 batsman, South African cricketer AB de Villiers and Indian cricket captain, MS Dhoni.

An inevitable next step in our journey in India was to expand our work into the area of prevention of sex trafficking. Operation Red Alert addresses the horrific statistics that India is home to over 14 million of the world’s 27-30 million slaves, with around 80 percent of these victims being sold into forced sexual exploitation. The average age of an Indian girl trapped into a life of sexual slavery is now only 12 years old! Only 1 percent of these girls will ever get rescued – which is why Operation Red Alert’s main focus is on prevention and why we have launched India’s first national anti-sex trafficking helpline.

Human Trafficking is a cause that demands great urgency. I believe that if we don’t do better research and get better organised than the traffickers, then it is a cause we will never win. Operation Red Alert’s programs and messaging are based on the findings of groundbreaking research we commissioned through the Behavioural Architects of Final Mile (who have worked with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Indian Government and more). This research is being presented at ESOMAR in Tokyo this year, and we hope it will also inform other NGO’s work and help build a coalition effort to end trafficking.

Our team has developed what we call a 2-day ‘Safe Village Program’ in which we connect with all the stakeholders involved in the protection of the girl: the father, mother, young boys and the girls themselves. We have created the concept of a Guardian girl – in which we get young girls to ‘sign a pledge’ that they themselves will be the guardians of each other. In the 6 months since we started the Safe Village Program we have already rolled out over 140 program visits, in which we have equipped over 200,000 people across 4 regions. We’re currently operating in 3 states of India and will be starting in our 4th state, Karnataka, in June alongside our existing programs.

For me, one of the most gratifying parts of our work is when we are thanked by the girls themselves. We have received over a thousand calls already on our helpline and the majority of these calls were from the families thanking us for the work we do and empowering them to be informed and equipped on how to prevent trafficking. Just recently a young 12-year old girl stepped forward after our program and had the courage to speak up and ask us to help her stop her forced marriage planned for April 20th.

There is still a lot to do and each day brings its own challenges, heartaches and joy. Living in India is not easy at all and the work we do has a way of slowly creeping into your soul  – but the courage of all the girls we work with everyday gives us endless joy and strength and I cannot see myself doing anything else!

Elca volunteers all her time and energy to My Choices Foundation and is also one of the primary funders. She is pictured in the middle of the photo above. 

If You Know How to Ask for Money, You Will Have A Job for Life

If You Know How to Ask for Money, You Will Have A Job for Life
Author: Jacki Zehner (Member, Women Moving Millions)jacki photo
Originally posted on March 23, 2016 on LinkedIn

I left Goldman Sachs and the private sector in 2002, and since then, I have worked primarily in the nonprofit space. To this end, I have served on Boards and Advisory Committees and joined several philanthropic-giving circles, and I currently serve as both Board Chair and the Chief Engagement Officer of Women Moving Millions (WMM). My industry is the world of nonprofits, and with over 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the United States, I’m not alone in this endeavor. It is estimated that fully 10% of the U.S. workforce is employed by a nonprofit organization, translating to a workforce of over 10.7 million people, and nonprofit employment is the third largest industry in the U.S. behind retail, trade, and manufacturing.

Jobs in this field are plentiful, but like most industries, so is the competition, so what exactly do you need to stand out? What are the hottest jobs in this industry? More importantly, what can you do to land one of them? Like most things in life, much of it comes down to money.

Read More From Jacki Here

What I Would Tell The Next President

What I Would Tell The Next President
Author: Jacki Zehner (Member, Women Moving Millions)jacki photo
Originally posted on April 23, 2016 on LinkedIn

On January 29th, 2009, a mere nine days after being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It was his first piece of legislation as President, and it set the stage for a presidency that has been visibly committed to equal rights for men and women. Since that historic day over seven years ago, Obama has reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, signed into law the Affordable Care Act, created theTask Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the White House Council on Women and Girls, issued an executive order that mandated federal contractors to publish pay data according to gender and race in order to combat the wage gap, and this May, the White House will host The United State of Women, a three day summit in Washington DC that will tackle gender inequality across a range of issues, including education, health, leadership, and economic empowerment. Throughout his presidency, Obama has never been shy in declaring his commitment to gender equality, often referencing his two young daughters as his inspiration, but with his presidency soon coming to an end, it’s time to look to the future. Come November 8th, the United States will have a new President, and regardless of who that President is, I have one question I want to ask them: What are YOU going to do to improve gender equality in this country?

Read more from Jacki here.

Women of the World, Victims of Climate Change

EARTH DAY Reminder: Environmental iLARGE WATER IMAGEssues are also  gender issues 

Author: Allison Mercurio,  Board Liaison & Development Manager

You are a fifteen-year-old girl.

It’s Friday morning. You just woke up, crept out of bed and went to the kitchen. Like every morning, you grab a glass from the cupboard and fill it with water from the kitchen sink, taking a few big gulps. You wearily hit the Start button on the coffeemaker you filled with beans and water the night before and head to the bathroom for a quick shower.

You are a fifteen-year-old girl.

It’s Friday morning. You just woke up and walked out of your home, a room you share with your whole family. You put on your shoes, grab the machete leaning against the side of your house and begin walking down the path, humming along and taking in your surroundings.

You walk about 30 minutes until you reach a line of trees.  You hastily climb up a few feet on one of them and started chopping off limbs. Once you have enough branches, you hop down, bundle the limbs and scurry home with them as the sun is beginning to rise. At home you drop the pile of branches in front of your door, grab a bucket and run to the village well that is about ten houses down from yours.

You pump the well, fill the bucket with water and, balancing it on your head, you walk home, trying not to spill too much.

As you approach your house you see your mom outside already starting a fire with the wood you brought home earlier. You carefully set the bucket down next to your mother and run inside the house to grab the kettle. By the time you return, your mom already has a fire going. You carefully fill the kettle with well water, set it on the fire and patiently wait for the water to boil.

Your mom has poured the coffee beans she ground yesterday into the water and is letting it boil to make coffee for the family. You fetch cups for your mother, father, brother and yourself. You grab the water bucket again and pour what’s left into a pot to heat for your family’s bathing.

Both mornings consist of a teenage girl taking on the same tasks: drinking a glass of water, making coffee and preparing to wash up. Both mornings are starkly different. In the developing world women and girls are more dependent on natural resources that are threatened by climate change.  Women and girls typically are the family members who gather wood for the fire and water for the household meaning that they are disproportionately affected by global warming.

Because women and girls are spending more time and often traveling further to find fuel and water as resources dwindle with global warming, they are spending less time in school, working in the formal economy and participating in decision-making.

Global warming is a gendered issue. It’s important to remember this and continuously advocate for solutions that help lift women out of poverty and positions where they miss out on education and the opportunity to reach their full potential.

However you’re celebrating this Earth Day—whether providing funding for or volunteering at projects to end global warming– please consider not only how you can help the environment but how you can help end the gender bias inherent in environmental issues.

Image courtesy of Georgie Sharp


Kylie Schuyler & Global G.L.O.W. Girls Go!


EVERY GIRL HAS A STORY:  The HerStory Summit

Author: Lisa Anderson, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Women Moving Millions

Every girl has a story. She grows stronger and the world conversation becomes richer when she tells it, as the first Global HerStory Summit vividly illustrated.

There was Yasmina, a slender young woman from Nepal, who boldly told a packed auditorium, “No one has the right to think that a woman’s tears are her weakness.  They are her strongness.”

And Candice, a teenager from Detroit, who said she hoped women around the world would realize that “we are just as much a part of the world as men.”

“I want to live to tell my story. I want to live in all my glory,” Yasmina, Candice and dozens more sang out with conviction as the summit got underway.

One of the most moving side events during the United Nation’s recent Commission on the Status of Women in New York, the HerStory Summit celebrated the power of storytelling as a tool for improving literacy and emboldening girls to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve their full potential.

The event, which involved some 90 girls and 49 of their mentors from 10 countries, drew a standing-room only audience of over 300 people in a midtown auditorium.  The program was presented by three HerStory partners: NEWI, a Kenyan educational initiative for girls; LitWorld, a New York-based global literacy advocacy organization for girls, and Global G.L.O.W., a global literacy and mentorship program for girls aged 10 to 16, based in California.

Women Moving Millions member Kylie Schuyler, a former bond trader who has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, founded Global G.L.O.W. as a 501 (C) 3 nonprofit organization in 2011 and is its Executive Director.

She said her philanthropic journey toward creating Global G.L.O.W. began 10 years ago, when she was   building rural schools with World Assistance for Cambodia.

Although she helped build some 600 schools, Schuyler realized that families were sending only boys—and no girls– to attend them.

“That was my first wake-up call about gender disparity,” she said, adding that she found her calling in working to change that inequality.

Schuyler, through her work with World Assistance Cambodia and its offshoot program Girls Be Ambitious, knew that education and literacy are key to empowering girls in vulnerable communities.

The facts are clear and well-documented.

Girls who complete primary and secondary school are more likely to:

  • Earn greater income
  • Marry later
  • Have fewer unwanted pregnancies
  • Have fewer and healthier children
  • Be better able to lift their families out of poverty and educate their own children

Global G.L.O.W., an acronym for Girls Leading Our World, operates a G.L.O.W. House in Santa Ana, California. There, girls can find a safe space to tell their stories and improve their literacy and creative expression skills as well as work with mentors to enhance confidence, self-esteem and resilience.

In addition, through its many partners, Global G.L.O.W. works in 26 countries and serves over 10,000 girls around the world annually, Schuyler said.

The result can be seen in girls like Yasmina, the teenager from Nepal.  “My wish for women and girls is to be empowered not by others but by themselves,” she said.  Her advice to women and girls: “If they don’t give the power to us, snatch it!”







PEACE CORPS: A New Era of Possibility through Documentary Film

natalie lrPEACE CORPS:  A New Era of Possibility through Documentary Film
Author: Natalie Lynn Rekstad (Member, Women Moving Millions)

A TOWERING TASK:  A Peace Corps Documentary (Alana DeJoseph, Producer & Director)

peace corps towering task


Alanna Joseph
Alanna Joseph

Republic of Mali, West Africa, 1993.  Twenty-three year old Alana DeJoseph followed the village midwife through the African night with only a kerosene lantern to light winding paths leading to a small, round, mud hut where a young Malian woman reclined stoically.  Inexperienced, scared, and resolute, Alana did more than show up as a Peace Corps volunteer; she was a woman crossing a cultural bridge during one of the most unifying times in women’s lives:  childbirth.

With over 220,000 chosen Americans having invested their youthful idealism and fine minds in the Towering Task of Peace since 1961, this snapshot of the Peace Corps experience is one of millions  shared by a declining number of souls who call the Peace Corps the most profound and transformative experience of their lives.  New graduates brimming with potential, they thought they would change the world; by Peace Corps design, the world changed them.

In response to the Cold War threat and a race for global favoritism over Russia, the Peace Corps was founded by John F. Kennedy, Jr. as an international cultural bridge, particularly among developing countries lacking infrastructure and vulnerable to oppression.  The Camelot ideal of peace was a beacon of hope for an increasingly cynical youth of America, including young Alana.

From a perch of relative privilege, Alana attended Washington and Lee University, an environment at the time more dedicated to educating young business leaders and lawyers than searching for new approaches to peace.  Yet a passionate business school professor noticed her shining eyes as he described engagement in the world, not as a periphery concept, but at the core of living a fully expressed life.  He suggested the Peace Corps, and Alana, like so many of her American compatriots, applied for the ride of their lives.

Since it’s inception, the Peace Corps has served in 141 countries, many of which have become stable global citizens and US allies, Superpowers and peace brokers. They’ve led the charge on global initiatives like food security, disease treatment and prevention, and gender equity. These efforts went on to have an even greater impact through educated leadership:  In Africa alone, Peace Corps volunteers were the initial teachers to twelve students who went on to become top political leaders.  In the face of opposing messages, their personal experience of the United States afforded unprecedented understanding and connectedness, and a shared vision of collaboration and peace.

Although difficult to measure in facts and figures, the global impact of the Peace Corps is overwhelming.  For fifty-five years volunteers have been striving to meet three main goals:  Meet the need for trained men and women in developing countries; promote an accurate and accessible view of Americans throughout the world; and illuminate generations of Americans on the universality of the human experience among all peoples, regardless of race, religion, and geography.

But if you ask a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) how the experience impacted their lives, invariably they tell stories of knowledge transformed into wisdom, western idealism transformed into humility, and above all, a deep connection and grace that bridges cultures to this day.  Now awakened world citizens, they embody a loyalty to humanity while identifying as Americans, and they take their roles as engaged “super citizen” to heart.

As a celebrated documentarian with a powerful journalistic ethic, Alana has become a steward, archivist, and catalyst for the Peace Corps, a role she considers sacred and urgent.  To RPCVs, including Alana, the marginalization in the past several years of the Peace Corps is a form of blasphemy and a reflection of fading ideals; the overwhelming response among returned volunteers has been “Not on my watch.”  Within this community is a fierce determination to see the Peace Corps remain relevant and vital on the international stage and in the intimacy of the informed American dining room.

For Alana, that has taken the form of producing and directing an unprecedented landmark documentary not only as a vehicle to create a baseline history of one of the greatest global emissaries of peace in history, including capturing the early voices before they fade away, but to usher in a new era of possibility in today’s context.  With countless opportunities already squandered, the stakes are staggeringly high.  

To warriors like Alana DeJoseph, the global leaders she has assembled, and Americans who care about how we show up in the world, the call to action is clear and urgent:  Keep the Peace Corps relevant on the world stage by honoring its iconic past, while ushering in a New Era of Possibility.

#PledgeForParity – I’m In. Are You?

#PledgeForParity – I’m In. Are You?
Author: Jacki Zehner (Member, Women Moving Millions)jacki photo
Originally posted on March 8, 2016 on LinkedIn

Every year, on March 8th, events are held all around the world to celebrate International Women’s Day. And every year, without fail, these events are often accompanied by a chorus of dissenting voices questioning why we need an International Women’s Day at all. I must admit, I sometimes find myself asking that very question, because I want more than anything for this day to become obsolete. I want to live in a world where men and women are treated justly, and enjoy the same rights and opportunities, regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. I want these things to be our reality right now, but unfortunately social change doesn’t work that way. Long term social change is exactly that: long term, which means these things don’t just happen overnight, as much as we all may want them to.

The good news is that in today’s digital age of communication, it’s easier than ever to move the dial and accelerate positive social change when an issue gets the attention it deserves. Examples of this are everywhere. For example, this year’s Oscar short listed documentary The Hunting Ground shone a spotlight on the issue of campus sexual assault in the United States, and since its release at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, it has gone on to be screened at thousands of campuses, ignited a public discourse over the issue of consent and sexual assault, partnered around the It’s On Us and See Act Stop campaigns, and brought the issue to a global audience with Lady Gaga’s powerful performance of “Til It Happens To You” at this year’s Oscars. (full disclosure, I am one of the many Executive Producers of The Hunting Ground) Though sexual assault on college campuses has been a problem for a long time, never have we had such focus and accountability. This is something to celebrate.

Read more from Jacki here.