Youth activist rallies for gender equality in Rwanda
United Nations Foundation

This story was originally shared on #EqualEverywhere — a campaign to champion the changemakers working to make equality for girls and women a reality. You can find the original story here.

Irene Irere, a youth activist living in Musanze city in northern Rwanda, is committed to eliminating gender-based violence and preventing pregnancy among young girls. She participates in a youth club connected to Huguka Dutore, a youth workforce initiative operating in her country. Irene understands from her own life the importance of having links to jobs and self-employment, entrepreneurship training and coaching, and access to financing, family planning, and reproductive health services.

What does #EqualEverywhere mean to you?

For me, #EqualEverywhere means women and men can be treated equally at home, in their communities, in schools, and at work. Many people perceive this statement differently based on their culture, interests, and faith. To me, #EqualEverywhere means to treat women and men equally and respect their natural differences.

Why do you advocate for equal rights for girls and women?

I started advocating for equal rights for girls and women after seeing the harm gender-based violence was inflicting in my community. As an African living in Rwanda, it is common to say that men are more powerful than, or superior to women. Certain people assume women cannot contribute to community development. Because of this, women continue to face different forms of violence, including marital abuse. The main issue is young girls below 18 years impregnated by older men, something I strongly advocate against. Awareness of this touched me deeply and led me to push for policies to ensure such men are seriously punished. However, some families cover up for men who impregnated young children and claim it is taboo to prosecute them through the courts.


What motivates you to do this work?

I am highly motivated by the progress my advocacy is making in my home community. In fact, before I started, the pregnancy rate among young girls was high. Then, over the past year, 200 fewer were reported. This progress motivates me to continue my work.

What are the main challenges you experience in your work to advance gender equality?

As I push ahead, I face daily challenges. First, I am a girl, which means that some people in my community, even leaders, might consider my voice to be irrelevant. For example, someone might discount the ideas I express during a meeting by stating that I am merely conveying a woman's perspective. Also, we still [experience] gender violence in daily life. For example, I might need a service and be asked for sex before getting what I requested.

What progress are you seeing as a result of your work?

More positively, Rwanda is closing the inequality gap between men and women by steadily appointing more women to leadership positions. This has made a great impact, because, among other things, women and men are having an equal chance to attend any school. Also, gender-based violence has declined and the number of women taking jobs that in the past were only filled by men has risen. In fact, before this wave of progress, the number of girls able to attend universities, especially those wanting to pursue science, was very small, but now their numbers are increasing.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.