Numerous research studies have shown that if you want to speed change within a region, a nation, or a community, help the women in that group. Often it’s women who shoulder the extra burden when their families or their societies are facing tremendous difficulties like suffering poverty or surviving a disaster. Whether they raise food, work at jobs, operate businesses, educate children or provide for their communities in other ways, women get the job done. At the same time, however, women are typically paid less, are often victims of abuse, receive less education, and in many places, have fewer legal rights than men.
In order to help heal the world more efficiently, we must pay special attention to assisting our mothers, our daughters and our sisters achieve their goals. As the world is coming to understand, gender equality doesn’t just help women, it helps everyone.
Here are a few brief examples of how Tzu Chi programs in various countries have helped women to cope with their present challenges and chart a brighter course for themselves and their children.
After the earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, Tzu Chi immediately sent aid to Haiti. Part of its disaster relief efforts there included the reconstruction of College Marie-Anne and Christ the King Secretarial School. Both schools were reopened on May 17, 2013.
Ermionne Simeon, a recent graduate of the secretarial school, is grateful for the education and those who helped her attend it by obtaining a tuition loan. She is full of optimism and looking ahead.
Tzu Chi began providing aid in Guatemala in 1998, following Hurricanes Mitch and George. In 2010, the new Tzu Chi School opened in Palencia, Guatemala.
“I have been working here since 2009,” said school Principal Vilma Guiroz. “But in 2009, this building didn’t exist. At that time, we were working in a shed made out of sheet metal. And that was where we used to give our classes.”
Guadalupe Herrera Reyes is a single mother whose son, Jeremy, is a fourth grade student there.
Tzu Chi also started work in the Dominican Republic in 1998, after Hurricane Mitch and George. A Tzu Chi School was built in La Romana in 2000, serving students from kindergarten to 8th grade.
Felicia, now a teenager, is an alumna of the school. She, her sister and mother have been inspired by their experiences with Tzu Chi and have started volunteering to help others.
The village of Monjaras suffered from a series of 14 floods in 2011 destroying many homes. Local volunteers, led by Jorge Chang, were able to build 160 new houses for local residents. This group of houses was named the DaAi Village. Tzu Chi also built a concrete block factory to create jobs, and the blocks they produce are used to build more houses locally.
Yessenia Nunez, a local resident described the changes in her life since Tzu Chi arrived.