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Women-led businesses overseas find support from local group

Women Empowering Women (WEW) leverages the support of local women to help women entrepreneurs around the world. [Submitted]

Members of a women’s group in the region are actively working to support their global counterparts succeed and thrive as entrepreneurs.

Run through Women Empowering Women (WEW, pronounced “Woo”) events, which bring local women together to support their peers in developing countries, the movement is now receiving some sizable support from local business as well.

Kindred Credit Union announced it would be matching donations made to WEW events up to $20,000. All the money raised through WEW goes towards the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), which helps women overcome social and cultural barriers to earn a sustainable livelihood.

The program was a perfect fit for Kindred Credit Union, says Mary Ann Mooney, Kindred’s member experience and brand integrity chief, and a member of the local WEW committee.

“This partnership with MEDA and with Women Empowering Women aligns nicely with our purpose statement. And our purpose statement is cooperative banking that connects values and faith with finances, inspiring peaceful, just and prosperous communities,” said Mooney.

“And so this, what MEDA’s work with women in developing countries also inspires peaceful, just and prosperous communities. So we have this terrific alignment with the work that MEDA does. And that’s why we want to support them by having this sponsorship of the women empowering women event.”

The WEW events are run by a local network hub of women in support of MEDA’s numerous global initiatives, explains Krista O’Brien, communications manager with MEDA.

“Women members of the hub wanted an opportunity to give in a way that reflected their core values and highlighted the ongoing struggle and inequality that women faced in developing countries,” she said. “They wanted to create a community that brought women together to support other women around the world.”

Each WEW event is held with a focus on a particular project being run by MEDA, with guest speakers offering an insight into the particular situations and problems being worked on. In Haiti, for example, MEDA’s “Pathways to a better life” project focused on food security amongst the country’s “ultra-poor” women by enhancing access to tools and financial services for business. In Burma (Myanmar), the organization is working to support women in the primarily agrarian society participate and lead in the country’s agricultural sector.

“The money raised from each WEW event is put towards the project being spoken about [or] highlighted at that particular event,” said O’Brien. “For example, the February WEW event last week raised money for the Nigeria WAY project and had a senior project manager of Nigeria WAY speak at the event. The money goes towards operations of the project and is a gift, not a loan.”

The next WEW meeting held in May will center on Mother’s Day as a mother-daughter event.

“So I think also with the partnership, what we’re trying to do especially with this specific WEW group, we’re trying to engage the younger generation into the good work that the WEW group and MEDA is doing,” added Jenn Shaw, Kindred’s community engagement specialist.

“It’s a special Mother’s Day event. So we’re inviting existing members of WEW to invite their daughters, their daughters-in-law, their nieces – really anybody – to come out and join us and learn about what WEW does, and that way we can keep the group going for years to come.”

The WEW meeting will be held on May 2, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the community room at the Mennonite Central Committee building in Kitchener, 50 Kent Ave. The suggested donation for people attending is $100, adds Shaw, noting if WEW members invite just one other family member, a $100 donation from each will quickly turn into $400 through Kindred’s offer.

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