Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Girls, women to benefit from projects funded by US Embassy

Published:Thursday | March 29, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
From left: Lianne McNaughton, founder and director of Youth Can Do IT, and colleague Julene Gentles pose with Maura Barry Boyle, acting deputy chief of mission, United States (US) Embassy, and colleague Jeremiah Knight, public affairs counselor.The Youth Can Do IT representatives yesterday received US$20,000 grant from the US Embassy to fund their project which educates women in the use of information communication technology.
An elated Shelly-Ann Weeks after winning her grant from the United States Embassy yesterday to fund the project Her Flow.
Eve For Life, co-founder and director Joy Crawford making her presentation to judges at the United States Embassy-sponsored Women’s Empowerment Pitch Competition. She won a grant of US$20,000 to assist her project which cares for childhood sexual abuse survivors.
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Three grass-roots projects aimed at providing much-needed assistance to women and girls in Jamaica were yesterday adjudged winners of the first Women's Empowerment Pitch Competition, a project of the United States (US) Embassy.

Approximately 40 applications were received after the competition was announced on a number of social media platforms, with several shortlisted for the finals. These included Her Flow, Pinky Promise JA, #MoneyJustice, Youth Can Do IT, Women In IT, #MeToo, No Violence in Love, the Sameer Younis Foundation, R.E.A.L.M.E., All Flowers Are Roses, Poetry and Self-Defence, #MoneyMentors, and Eve For Life.

In the end, Eve For Life, Her Flow, and Youth Can Do IT - separate projects with distinct characteristics and targets - were awarded with cheques of US$20,000 after making strong, resourceful and powerful pitches to a group of adjudicators at the US Embassy in Liguanea, St Andrew, yesterday.

Jeremiah Knight, counsellor for public affairs at the US Embassy, shared the genesis of the competition. "This idea came about as the embassy thought about how best to honour Women's History Month. We thought of something different from the normal women's lunch or breakfast, something that will have an impact on women in their communities," Knight recounted.

"So the idea of doing this Grant Pitch Competition came about, having tried it in a previous country, in South Sudan, and it was very productive and garnered a whole lot of attention," he related.

The focus was on economic empowerment and dealing with girls' mentorship. "In this way, instead of always talking about women's issues, we are empowering Jamaicans to have resources to effect change in their communities," Knight told The Gleaner.

Winning women elated

Shelly-Ann Weeks expressed joy at being named one of three winners of the US Embassy-sponsored Women's Empowerment Pitch Competition for her project Her Flow, which addresses 'period poverty' in Jamaica through education and mentorship.

"I am literally trying to wrap my head around the fact that I will finally be able to do a lot more for the project, which has been operating on measly sums of cash," said Weeks. "I am just grateful to have been selected for this grant, and I want to thank the US Embassy for their faith in me and this project, which will, no doubt, assist girls across Jamaica," said.

The project highlights the fact that students are unable to afford sanitary products, and it affects the ability to dedicate their full attention to their studies.

Eve For Life co-founder and director Joy Crawford said that the grant would be used to expand the work that is currently being undertaken to reach childhood sexual abuse survivors and the link to HIV and teenage pregnancy.

"We believe that it is at the community, grass-roots level that we will create the most impact, and so this grant will be critical in educating the young to initiate a change of attitude and behaviour," she said.

Lianne McNaughton, founder and director of Youth Can Do IT, also expressed her excitement at being named among the winners. She said that the money would be used to contribute to the pilot Women in IT Mentoring Programme, a one-year project that starts on International Girls in ICT Day, April 26, 2018, and ends on International Women's Day, March 8, 2019.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com