Paying It Forward: Uplifting Women

by Alyx Carolus



Gender equality, women’s empowerment, along with the upliftment of marginalized groups is a global topic of discussion. CARE, a global humanitarian organization that focuses on uplifting women, explains that women and children are often the hardest hit by poverty. 


Pay It Forward

Beyond making our voices heard in our respective governments and changing policies on a bigger level, we can start small. Paying it forward is a simple way to spread kindness and generosity. The concept focuses on giving back and encouraging the benefactor to do an equally good deed for someone else. The idea is that something small causes a ripple effect, can change our own behavior and forms a stronger community. After all, in a world in which we pay so much money to just exist, it costs nothing to be kind. 


So how can this uplift women (or any marginalized group)?

In a 2019 article, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres stated that Women’s empowerment and gender equality are “essential to global progress”. It makes sense that if you help and uplift the most vulnerable groups, you’ll see a societal change across the board. It can start with us, and here’s how you can uplift your own community (whether you have money to spare or not). 


Providing resources

Don’t have much emotional space to take on mentoring at this time? You can easily set up a direct debit to donate to an organization that aligns with your values and empowers women around the world. A great example of this is Kiva, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco that offers microloans to women and burgeoning entrepreneurs from developing countries. The premise is that there are lenders and borrowers, the lenders are donors who sign up to donate a particular amount. Borrowers who need capital to set up their businesses apply for loans and ultimately can support their community. You can read up more on the process on the official site. 

If you don’t have too much money to spare right now, providing resources to anyone who is struggling doesn’t have to cost a lot. You can crowdfund with a group of friends to make food or household parcels to donate. You can offer up time to take care of kids, volunteer at a soup kitchen or work at an animal shelter. Sharing resources strengthens a community. 


Creating spaces 

Paying it forward can also come in the form of providing safe social spaces for women to commune, share stories or engage in a new hobby. The conversations shared between marginalized groups can be affirming, wise and filled with similar experiences. There are more common threads than differences. You can host a rotating monthly night with friends or community members who come together where each person aims to do the same thing within the year as “payment”. This can be a space for healing, affirmation, and learning.

As Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist Jordan Du Toit mentions, “I think allowing women to share with each other is often a beautiful experience. From therapy spaces to community spaces, the act of being heard is often transcendental for women who may not always have their voice heard.”

Paying it forward can be as simple as allowing someone to feel seen and heard, along with encouraging them to do so.  Du Toit explains, “Making these spaces non-judgmental and centered on the women’s experiences is essential to making them the most effective and supportive spaces. Everyone has their own answers because everyone is the best expert on themselves. Sometimes it just needs a space with someone else to find that answer.” 


Making your voice heard 

As life coach, author and speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru aptly said, ‘Tomorrow’s leaders will not lead dictating from the front, nor pushing from the back. They will lead from the centre – from the heart”

It’s no secret that women deal with workplace difficulties, as this 2017 Pew Research Center article explains that around 42% of US women have faced discrimination on the job because of their gender. If you’ve been helped or assisted by another woman or member of a marginalized group, pay it forward by creating a safer space and support for one another. Mentorship is an integral part of career growth and can create invaluable networks. In a Forbes article about how women mentoring other women can change the world, Liz Elting mentions that women in positions of power need to utilize that power to mentor and lift up other women. 

Atlas Corps, a global organization reiterates that most women still don’t have access to good job opportunities and resources to get a better-paid job.

Ultimately, paying it forward creates a culture of giving to help others and to reciprocate that to better the overall society. Uplifting women and marginalized groups will require a cultural shift, but just starting helps. The ripple always begins with something small. 


Image credit: @hello_dongwon

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