Accessing Pathways to Build a Thriving Future

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024

It wasn’t all that long ago here in the United States, when women were not allowed to own property, open a bank account by themselves, or apply for a credit card on their own. It wasn’t until the passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974, that women were finally granted the right to open a bank account on their own. This act also allowed women to apply for credit and commit to a mortgage without a male co-signer.

I was in high school, working, and had no bank account yet. My mother was divorced. She had been a teacher when I was young but wanted to go to law school not only because she had a passion for the law but because she needed a way to provide a secure life for her three children and some financial security for her future. She had graduated UCLA and been a stellar student. UCLA Law turned her down because, they told her frankly, without a “male co-signer” for her law school tuition they didn’t believe she could pay her way on her own. She found a small law school located deep in the heart of the San Fernando Valley where the dean was a divorced woman. They accepted my mother – she worked a job all day and then attended law school at night. She paid the tuition all on her own. She passed the bar the first time and became a successful union attorney. But it was an absolute, exhaustive struggle, one that her male counterparts did not have to face.

While women today have greater autonomy over their finances than they did back then, they are still significantly economically disadvantaged compared to men across the globe. Women continue to have to fight for basic avenues of security. For their financial security – for access to education, for loans and entrepreneurial start-up support, leadership positions, and for the closing of the gender pay gap. For their housing security – to be safe if they are unhoused, to be safe in shelters, to find support and vital services during community or country-wide crises. And they fight for their health security, the very access to affordable, foundational services.

Rarely does a day go by when you don’t pick up a newspaper, a magazine, watch the news, or read on the internet a story about women somewhere around the world whose security has been threatened, terrorized, violated, or suppressed. Young women trapped working in the sugar cane fields in India being forced to get hysterectomies because they can’t see doctors when they begin menstruating. Women forcefully taken by armed groups in Haiti and used for tactical gains. The continuing failure in the United States to stem the tide of maternal deaths. (The CDC puts the current U.S. maternal mortality rate at a whopping 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births. That already staggering number jumps up to 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births for Black women.)

In the ensuing pages you will read about women changemakers and their inspirational organizations who share the common goal of fighting to help women and girls have access to crucial, fundamental services needed so that women and girls can thrive and build a future. A secure future. Their work shines a light on grassroots organizations that are building hope, stability, and a more equal future for women and girls. They are helping to increase women’s access to financial resources, support systems, education, training, healthcare, revenue generation, and so much more. From Somalia to Guatemala to the United States, these organizations run by women to reach out and lift other women up, are providing loans, business savvy know-how, they’re building health and homelessness centers, and they’re helping the most vulnerable women find paths to safety and security.

And they never ask if that woman can pay her way.