70% of the poor in the world are women and at least one in every three women, or up to one billion women, have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in their lifetimes.
This is the shocking statistic released by Womanity, a charity founded by Swiss entrepreneur Yann Borgstedt, which reveals that even in the 21st century, women are still viewed as subservient – even as dispensable – to men. It’s a view that Borgstedt is working hard to change. “Men should understand that it is not about control; the more you empower women, the more a society develops itself,” he reveals.
Womanity works to give women across the world an equal voice to their male counterparts, through social and political empowerment. But, as Borgstedt points out, it’s this concept of equality that is important. “It’s human rights, not women’s rights,” he explains, “because for a society to function well, you have to give the same rights and chances to everyone.” So, why “womanity,” and not humanity as a whole? Borgstedt is pragmatic. “The logic was to focus on one issue,” he says. “If you want to have impact, you cannot do everything. So that’s why I decided to focus on girls and women.”
Current Womanity projects include the promotion of education, employment and women’s rights, which in turn lead to realistic income prospects, whilst protecting the physical and psychological integrity of the women. Two other innovative projects are Radio NISAA FM (the first commercial women’s radio station managed by women in the Middle East) and boosting girls’ education in Afghanistan through the transformation of girls’ schools into model schools. Borgstedt admits there is still more to be done but says, “we’re pushing the boundaries and we are getting better and better at [it].” In turn, it transpires that the women he helps are a constant source of inspiration. “I meet so many great women,” he adds.
But what of Borgstedt himself? “I always say that I come from a very materialistic environment – the environment in which I live and in which I grew up – but there is more than just that. Life is a long, spiritual path. If you’re on that path, you realise that if you were given a lot, you need to give back.” With Womanity making such a difference to the lives of women across the globe, Borgstedt certainly seems to have found that purpose.
Borgstedt is currently getting plans together to go to Brazil. Since 2011, the Womanity Foundation has run its WomenChangeMakers Fellowship here, supporting social entrepreneurs who work for women’s empowerment. He explains that at the moment, the Foundation is working with Alice Freitas, the founder of Rede Asta, based in Rio de Janeiro, assisting women artisans from the local favelas and other poorer areas of Brazil’s society to design, produce, market and sell crafts made from recycled or sustainably grown materials. The aim here is to double the number of artisans who collaborate with Rede Asta and thus provide sustainable revenues for about 1500 women by 2015, while at the same time ensuring that Rede Asta becomes financially self-sufficient and able to continue its expansion throughout Brazil.
The Womanity Gala
With Chopard, Hublot, The Swiss Development Group, UBS, HBK Investments and more….
Womanity will be holding their annual Gala on 30th January 2014 at Espace Hippomene, in Geneva. The theme is Fire & Ice, and guests can be sure to expect plenty of surprises on the night! This event is a bi-annual fundraiser, where Goodwill Ambassador Rosanna Arquette, alongside Borgstedt and other high profile internationally acclaimed personalities, give their time to help raise funds for the charity.
The auction lots are second to none. Amongst other high profile luxury brands, and support from Chime For Change, Chopard will create a bespoke one-and-only piece of jewellery for the auction, and Hublot a limited edition range of men’s and women’s watches for Womanity.
The live auction also features a custom designed Mini, a new Fiat 500, a Villa in a ski resort, a Yacht on the seas for a week, along with many more, but strictly all money-can’t-buy prizes. There are star performances to boot, and the night never fails to be a mix of glitz and glamour, whilst all are reassuringly focused on the needs of the Foundation’s great cause. Rosanna Arquette, Womanity’s goodwill ambassador said, “during my travels around the world, I often had the opportunity to meet girls and women living in deprived conditions. Each time, I was deeply impressed by their generosity, dedication and determination, even in the face of the greatest of difficulties. These meetings convinced me that the poorest women can be powerful agents of change, if we believe in them and encourage them in their efforts.”
For more information, visit www.womanity.org.