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Women and Girls Opportunity Awards Highlight Partners’ Dedication to Gender Inclusion

By Lydia Baldridge Meier

Opportunity just concluded our second year of the Women and Girls Opportunity (WeGO) Awards. This award was launched in 2018 to celebrate and promote innovations in economic empowerment for women and girls as an essential part of ending extreme poverty. It honors staff and clients in Africa, Asia, and Latin America who work selflessly in challenging environments, and it calls attention to good work that deserves expansion and replication.

A little background on the award process: we solicit applications from our partners around the world, asking them to tell about their most innovative projects focused on women and girls’ empowerment. All of the submissions were really inspiring!

Forty-five women supporters from around the country joined our WeGO Awards Panel to narrow seven semi-finalist projects down to three by participating in a video conference to discuss the projects in depth before submitting rating score sheets. These accomplished women from around the U.S. dove into the details and merits of each project: the value of technology, the need to include men in social change, the challenge of focusing on the next generation…the list goes on. It was clear the panel would have a hard time choosing our top three finalists!

We posted summaries of the three finalist projects on Opportunity’s website and invited staff, panelists, and supporters at large to vote for the winner.

Last week at a women’s luncheon in Minneapolis, Muffy MacMillan, Opportunity’s Global Ambassador for Women and Girls and Chair of the WeGO Awards, announced the winners:

  • Operation PeaceMaker in India 1st Place with an award of $5,000: Opportunity partner in India, My Choices, “Operation Peacemaker” project.This project trains young women on issues of domestic violence and providing survivors with shelter, legal aid, counseling, and finally, vocational training to launch businesses and support themselves in their new life. Opportunity’s financial institution partners join them in their journey toward self-sufficiency. Since 2012, Operation PeaceMaker has opened five support centers and trained 215 PeaceMakers. The program recently launched PeaceChampion, focused on getting young men on college campuses to be allies in eliminating violence against women and girls.


  • Vocational Training for at-risk young women in Ghana 2nd Place with an award of $2,500: Opportunity Savings and Loans' project in Ghana provides vocational training and income-earning opportunities to vulnerable young womenworking as water porters in the major urban areas. Many girls and young women living in extreme poverty in the northern regions of Ghana migrate to cities so they can send money home to their families. They are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Opportunity Ghana has worked with these young women since 2015. Their tailored vocational training and livelihood program provides young women with the business skills, financial knowledge, and physical supplies to start their own small businesses (making soap, beads, or bread). By earning a safe income, many are able to move back closer to their families. The vision is to put 1,500 women through the program in two years.


  • Serving Families and Girls with Disabilities in Uganda  3rd Place with an award of $1,000: Opportunity Bank of Uganda’s project to provide economic opportunities for families of children with disabilities.This innovative project includes addressing the schooling needs of children with disabilities, the income needs of their parents, and local stigmas against disabilities. In Uganda, 91% of school-aged children with disabilities are not enrolled in primary education. This is a combination of social stigma, lack of accessible facilities, and family economic means. The project specifically reaches out to parents of children with disabilities and offers them training and financial tools to boost family income and break down cultural barriers. Opportunity also works with local government and education leaders to address issues of stigma and physical access in schools.

Congratulations to all the winners, and really to every partner who submitted a project. All were very deserving! Many thanks to everyone who was involved with this year’s awards. Thank you to each woman who served as a panelist for taking the time to engage with these amazing projects and for spreading the word to your friends and family.

Thank you also to Muffy MacMillan for chairing this program as part of her tireless work as Opportunity’s Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, and my thanks to Julia Wade for the generous funding of the prizes and the execution of the program.


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