Empower girls and women through effective service projects

By Hauwa Abbas, Rotary Club of Abuja Metro (Nigeria). Past Assistant Governor, District International Service Chair for District 9125, The Rotary Foundation Cadre Adviser, Board member of the Rotary Action Group on Mental Health Initiatives. 

Hauwa Abbas speaking at a Rotary event

In 2013, I felt a piece of a puzzle was missing, I wanted to learn more about structure and leadership, so I searched online for an organization and found Rotary. At the time, I had been involved in advocacy and service delivery for about six years through my NGO Silver Lining for the Needy Initiative. I was deeply rooted in community service and had seen first-hand during fieldwork the impact of humanitarian service. I sent a message to Rotary International and received an email connecting me to my home club, Rotary Club Abuja Metro. As they say, the rest is history. In building my leadership story, I have made many mistakes, but I have gained extensive knowledge from these experiences. With the help of leaders, some of whom I have had the honour to meet in Rotary, I have stretched myself beyond what I believed was my capacity.

My hope is that this post will help you generate ideas to advance girls’ development and women’s empowerment. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal Five calls for achieving gender quality and empowering all women and girls. According to a World Economic Forum report, by 2050, 75% of jobs will be related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) areas. Yet today, women hold just 22% of positions in artificial intelligence, to name just one STEM field. The topic of women and girls is one that all of us have a strong connection with through our mothers, sisters, daughters, cousins, nieces, friends, and partners. We must continue to work to achieve gender equality and empowerment to support sustainable development in society. 


Rotary’s resources for developing effective projects offer a step-by-step approach that can guide your project, from inception to finish.

The first stage: Planning & organizing

It covers the importance of undertaking an assessment and identifying the right stakeholders and partners to help overcome identified barriers. To support your club with this space, connect to local mentors with expertise in assessments and project design through your District International Service Chair.

In this stage, focus on elevating the right voices – especially those of girls and women – to define the problem, understand the root causes that have led to the issue, and define the project goal. Once you’ve identified these components, it is also important to define how you will measure whether your project plan is helping you achieve your goals. Identifying the right community partners can bring more expertise, resources, and community voices to your effort. Take time to explore Rotary Showcase to get ideas from past projects concerning women and girls. A few common areas where girls and women have fewer opportunities compared to their male counterparts include computer training and academic support, access to arts and sports programs, access to adult education, participation in motorsports, and training on women’s health and access to needed resources or services. The list is endless.

The second stage: Acquiring resources

This stage includes securing funding, in-kind contributions, and volunteer support. This is a key prerequisite before moving to implement a project. Look at your district funding pools, explore partnerships with other Rotary and Rotaract clubs as well as Rotary Community Corps (RCC), and reach out to domestic and international partners whose vision and mission are aligned with your project for women and girls.

The third stage: Implementing your project

This stage covers what to do while executing your plan. It is important to ask questions and be okay to make mistakes to then learn and adjust project plans based on new information. Advocacy is often an important step in raising awareness while implementing a project.

The fourth stage: Evaluating & promoting, looking at lessons learned

It asks for outcomes, outputs, and eventually impact. How many people benefit from the project? How are they benefitting from the project? Try to gather testimonies from project stakeholders. When will your team revisit the community to review the progress of the project stakeholders?

The final stage is PUBLICITY and PROMOTION

It is important to keep the conversation going. Giving women and girls access to opportunities in this digital world will not only empower them but also their communities. Protecting the rights of women and girls can never be overemphasized, especially online.

Inform your audience. You, your club, and your district can continue to celebrate women and girls by highlighting their achievements.

Be intentional about all your projects. While impacting women and girls, remember to keep the men and boys informed, and include them in the process for sustainability and ownership.

Review Rotary’s Empowering Girls brochure and presentation to get started. More resources are available on the Presidential Initiatives webpage.

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