International Women's Day

On Women’s Day I find myself thinking of the exceptional women I have met through MMEG: how special and diverse they are. I am always amazed by their tenacity and by the tremendous impact they are having in the developing world.

I found this picture from two years ago: from the left Rong Zhao from China, Nkiruka Okafor from Nigeria; and Maryam Sadat Sharifian from Iran.

Maryam is researching the impact of trauma among Syrian children and teachers in war zones and refugee camps. 

Nkiruka is simultaneously working on her doctorate and a master’s degree, in order to offer counseling services to women coming out of prison and to sex workers in Nigeria. 

Rong aims to specialize in women’s employment policies, especially targeting gender inequality in academia. 

While I see them smiling in this picture, I remember the general excitement of all volunteers when the grantees came to Washington and talked about their aspirations. It was so refreshing, so simple, and yet so inspiring.

We realized that our small contribution was empowering them to achieve their full potential. 

In Nigeria Nkiruka volunteered as a chaplain for youth and incarcerated women, offered free counseling sessions, and mentored young people. And in Nigeria… Nkiruka also was a professional soccer player! 

Now, she volunteers as a minister of the Eucharist and worship leader in Minneapolis and serves meals at the Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul.

We were amused at the idea of having a ‘sister soccer-player’ in our group of grantees, and we were very touched when we received this letter from her:

I am grateful to MMEG, which made this phase of my life possible. I deeply appreciate that I will no longer cry at the end of each semester worrying about the fact it would be my last. I am grateful that I will no longer incur penalties for late registration. I am grateful that I will no longer incur interest charges for late payment of tuition fees. I am simply grateful for all the wonderful people I met at MMEG

Let me also express my gratitude to all grantees, who inspire us everyday and to all volunteers for their work. MMEG brings us all together - women and men - to empower these extraordinary grantees from all over the world.

Monica Vidili, MMEG President