If you have spent time away from friends or family, you may have been sent a “care package.” It probably included some comfort items from home like your favorite foods and needed supplies. It is likely that the care package also brought you the feeling of being loved, or being thought of, or it served as a reminder that someone cared. Did you ever wonder where the term originated? Would you guess that it all started with one of the world’s most impactful international relief and development organizations?

Founded in 1945, the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe (or CARE®) was created to deliver food aid packages to Europe in the aftermath of World War II. These first CARE Packages contained staples such as canned meats, powdered milk and dried fruits along with a few comfort items such as chocolate and coffee. During the next 10 years, the organization delivered millions of CARE Packages throughout Europe.

Today, CARE, which now stands for the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, has greatly expanded their work beyond their original CARE Packages. One of the largest and oldest humanitarian aid organizations focused on fighting global poverty, CARE works in 100 countries and reaches nearly 70 million people through more than 1,000 programs. They focus on a wide range of important issues including disaster relief, economic development, health and food security. With International Women’s Day coming up on March 8, I wanted to take a closer look into one area of their work – women’s empowerment.

First, let’s consider a few statistics:

  • Women own less than 20% of the world’s land.
  • Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Fifteen million girls of primary school age will never get the chance to read, write or learn.

CARE recognizes that women and girls make up the majority of the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty. Although they bear the brunt of poverty, they are also the key to overcoming it through equality. That’s why CARE focuses on improving the health and well-being of women in a few different areas:

Dignified work: From domestic workers to those employed in the garment industry, CARE works around the world to ensure women can access dignified work opportunities. They have found that the most effective way to inspire change for large numbers of workers is to support women with the skills and opportunity to take action themselves. For example, in Bangladesh, CARE has helped develop the leadership, communication and negotiation skills of more than 35,000 women workers in the last decade.

Bangladesh: Rabeya Sultana Rabi is a car mechanic in Dhaka. She grew up extremely poor, but through CARE Bangladesh, she was offered the opportunity to learn to sew or drive. “Hearing about driving, I thought, I never drove and never saw a woman driving, so this is a great opportunity.” In the end, Rabeya turned out to be more interested in fixing cars than driving them – which was even more of a male-dominated field. She’s since become a successful mechanic to the disbelief of many in her community and has supported her parents through some very difficult times. She is now raising her own family and has plans to open a garage in the future.

Preventing child marriage: Globally, 12 million girls under the age of 18 are forced into marriage each year. These girls are less likely to complete their education and are at a higher risk of being physically abused, contracting HIV and experiencing birth complications. CARE runs programs that apply innovative learning solutions to help keep girls in school. They also work to promote the human rights of women and girls in order to decrease the harmful traditions of bride abduction, bride pricing and early marriage.

Child marriage infographic

Gender-based violence: Worldwide, as many as 1 in every 3 women has been beaten or abused in some way. Women and girls are often targets of gender-based violence because of social norms and beliefs that perpetuate their second-class social status. CARE takes a holistic approach that combines prevention with comprehensive services and addresses root causes driving various forms of gender-based violence. Currently, CARE works in more than 40 countries, taking action that includes advocating on behalf of women and girls, raising awareness about gender issues, and providing medical, legal, social, and protection services. ]

According to a 2019 poll by Verizon Media Brands, 68% of American women want to play a role in reducing gender bias around the world. So, how can you get involved? This year, CARE created an International Women’s Day campaign to rally Americans to help make all #WomenEqual.

There are so many ways you can take action on International Women’s Day to empower women globally. Engage your workplace in the #WomenEqual campaign with these ideas:

  • Learn and share. View compelling, real-life examples about the lives of resilient women around the world, the challenges they face and how CARE programs make a positive impact in their lives. Organize a brown bag lunch event to share stories with your coworkers.
  • Engage. Utilize Global Impact’s Corporate Toolkit for turnkey ways to engage employees and inspirational resources to share on International Women’s Day.
  • Speak out. Become an advocate for women and girls around the world by signing CARE’s petition and using your voice to help make #WomenEqual.
  • Rally others. #WomenEqual power, progress and potential. #WomenEqual survivors, peacemakers, mothers, educators and leaders. Follow CARE on social media, share what #WomenEqual means to you and tag others to get them involved.
  • Give. Support CARE through your workplace giving campaign or through Global Impact’s Women and Girls High Impact Fund.

“Just as the original CARE Package allowed compassionate Americans to respond to devastation and poverty in the wake of World War II, our #WomenEqual campaign will allow Americans to fight for the rights of women globally,” said John Aylward, CARE’s chief marketing officer. “The #WomenEqual campaign will return this year with easy and accessible ways for individuals to engage and support women globally. We will have exciting media moments, celebrity and influencer participation, creative social media content, and powerful stories of women.”

This International Women’s Day on March 8, pledge to make a difference in the lives of women and girls globally. Share what it means to you to make #WomenEqual and encourage others to get involved. Together, we can make a difference!