International Women’s Initiative – the fruition of women’s rights begins when they can equally participate in decisions that affect their communities

by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following my interview with Aubrey Shayler, the Executive Director, CEO and Founder of the International Women’s Initiative.  A very interesting interview to understand the objectives and areas of activity of the organisation and also to understand the core values supporting the struggle for women’s rights. Would like to thank Aubrey for her detailed answers. 

 Which are the main objectives for the International Women’s Initiative?
IWI’s main objective is to ensure that one day, women all over the world will be the protagonists of their own lives. In order to achieve this, we work to raise awareness of the threats to the human rights of women across the globe and to promote and assist in the achievement of gender equality. International Women’s Initiative is a young, thriving organisation consisting of a volunteer staff from all over the world committed to the advancement of women and girls’ human rights globally. We are a group of passionate and determined problem-solvers who believe that human rights are an indivisible set of standards for all people to enjoy, and the fruition of women’s rights begins when they can equally participate in decisions that affect their communities.
Which are your main areas of activity?
Currently, our two main areas of activity are our programmes and education.  Our programming is currently focused on helping women achieve their fundamental rights through safe maternal healthcare, the right to liberty and security of person.  In terms of education, our Research Team produces original news stories highlighting the struggles of women around the globe which is then disseminated both on our website and through our social media. 
Additionally, IWI has recently developed and will begin advocacy work aimed at improving the lives of women living in the UK.  Our advocacy will span a broader spectrum of assistance by working through legal channels, and through collaboration with lobbyists, to work at the government level in an effort change or create policy aimed at protecting women’s human rights.

 Tell us about your program Human Project.
International Women’s Initiative’s The Human Project is looking at forms of human trafficking that disproportionately affect women and girls and the methods of recruitment that target these groups. We will help to create a world where women and girls can live free from exploitation and full of dignity. In the initial phase of the programme, The Human Project team will be producing regional and country reports to raise awareness of the trends in trafficking of women around the world. In its second phase, The Human Project will use the research on trends and recruitment tactics to facilitate early intervention and preventative awareness raising at a local level. We will ensure that women and girls are more aware of recruitment tactics and lessen their potential to become victims of trafficking themselves.  Through its third phase, IWI through The Human Project will collaborate with grassroots women’s rights NGOs to institute a safe house based in Latin America in which females victimised by trafficking will be able to rehabilitate their lives both physically and mentally.  Once recovery has been complete, participants will receive an education scholarship to further improve their lives and futures.
What are the main objectives of your Safe Birthing Programme?
International Women’s Initiative’s Safe Birthing Programme’s (SBP) main objective is to reduce maternal mortality in the Amolatar District in Northern Uganda, through providing birthing kits to health centres to enhance sanitary conditions for mothers while giving birth. Beyond their immediate effect, IWI believes this programme will have a far reaching impact: changing attitudes surrounding maternal health care and raising local awareness on the benefits of seeking assistance at health centres, and the importance of safe birthing practices. As a result, IWI is directly impacting Uganda’s gender equality, ensuring that women’s right to health is protected and fulfilled. The Safe Birthing Programme is currently in its pilot stage which will conclude in November 2017 at which point we will expand to a further 13 health centres, enabling us to reach up to 12,800 women by the end of 2018.
Additionally, the Safe Birthing Programme will provide education workshops for both women and men within the villages of Amolatar on HIV/AIDS prevention, safe family planning practices and literacy instruction in a manner which ardently educates villagers, yet incorporates community influences and customs that honour their culture.

Which are the basic values of your work?
All of our work operates under the following five values: 
  • Transparency: We take personal responsibility for using our resources effectively, and we want to be open and honest about our projects, activities, and spending for the betterment of women across the globe.
  • Collaboration: We work together, both internally and externally, in order to create a better world for those who live in it.
  • Inclusiveness: We realise that women’s equality is not only a women’s issue. We seek to include all women, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, and colour, as well as men. We believe that people of all identities are equal partners in solving these issues.   
  • Integrity: We do our best to be honest and transparent in order to provide the best information possible. We always act in the best interest of women everywhere. We hold ourselves to a high standard as we realise this is the only way to successfully implement change.
  • Tenacity: We fight for what we believe in, and will continue to do so until human rights violations against women have been eradicated all across the globe. 
What have you achieved up to now and which are the objectives you would like to achieve in the near future?
As a result of our social media campaigns and our advocacy work, the International Women’s Initiative has a strong online network, reaching thousands of people worldwide each year. The International Women’s Initiative’s News page ( features a wide variety of original human rights focused news stories and reaches an average of 500 people a week. Our social media accounts provide information on women’s rights to over 3,000 followers every day. Though our programming is in its infancy, we have already made great strides towards improving women’s rights. In August 2016, our Safe Birthing Programme provided its first set of birthing kits to three health centres in Uganda enabling them to provide sanitary birthing conditions to 600 women. We will continue these distributions on a quarterly basis before expanding to additional centres.

How important are intercultural and inter-religious understanding for the struggle for women’s rights?

Understanding intercultural and inter-religious perspectives is crucial to the struggle for women’s rights and our work. Having a good sense and understanding of other cultures and their beliefs allows women’s rights advocates to work within all cultures to ensure women are afforded every right given to them but in a culturally sensitive way. Throughout our work IWI strives to be inclusive in the struggle for women’s rights ensuring that all women have a voice, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds, in accordance to their beliefs.