Stories of Hope & Resistance: Activists find power and strength to create change

The beginning of a new year offers the possibility for a fresh start — to change in ways that will benefit ourselves, the people we love and the world at large. The power to make change is always within us, but sometimes we need a push, like a new year or a significant event in our lives, to inspire us to act.

In this edition of Stories of Hope, we’ve collected stories of AJWS partners who found this strength within themselves, and sprang into action. For many, it just took a spark — the motivation of a local grassroots leader, or the growing energy of a social justice movement — to realize that the power to make change was always theirs.

At AJWS, we’re embracing 2024 by supporting courageous people who have found their power and are harnessing it to change their lives and the world.

The challenges that our grantees faced in 2023 didn’t reset when the clock struck midnight on December 31. Their fights — to expand the rights of women and girls; to defend free and fair elections; to build pride and self-worth among persecuted youth — are ongoing. The activists you’ll meet below have found the strength in themselves to carry on. And the critical work they do is made possible by generous, compassionate people like you.

Read their stories to find your own spark to make change — we know a little hope and inspiration can go a long way right now. Then scroll further to find a very special podcast: an episode of Person Place Thing with Randy Cohen, featuring our very own President and CEO Robert Bank as his special guest. And wrap up with a chance to take action yourself.

Onward — with hope, courage and strength.

Your friends at AJWS

Around the World


In the slums of Nairobi, young women’s voices are rising

In Dandora — one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Nairobi, Kenya — Lucy Wanjiku Njenga was tired of the violence, poverty and dead ends that faced nearly every woman she knew. “All the inequalities we speak of as Black women in this world, we face them here. And we wanted to see if we could change that story,” she said. Read about how Lucy survived tragedy and found the strength in herself to change the lives of thousands of women in Dandora by founding her grassroots organization, AJWS grantee Positive Young Women Voices.

How hand-stitched dolls are changing Black women’s lives

In the Dominican Republic, descendants of people who migrated from neighboring Haiti experience immense persecution, racism and social exclusion — told by society that they are nothing. But AJWS grantee is teaching young women in this community that they are no less valuable than anyone else. They do so through workshops making handmade dolls with Black skin — and it’s working. “1,000 earthquakes could not separate me from my identity,” says one woman, now filled with pride instead of shame. Learn more about this innovative, inspiring initiative.

“We can’t wait for change”: Congolese activists are fighting to ensure a free and fair election

Last month, millions of Congolese people headed to the polls to choose their next president and parliament — but many couldn’t vote when they got there, due to faulty voter registries or missing voting machines. Still, the incumbent government declared a landslide victory, the opposition called fraud, and people have taken to the streets and the courts. In the midst of it all, AJWS grantees have played a critical role. Just before the vote, we wrote this piece about Lutte pour le Changement (LUCHA), which mobilized 30,000 people to educate voters and monitor the polls. They witnessed the voter obstruction in action, and now are calling for the results to be annulled. Read about their important work for a more peaceful, democratic future.

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Take action for a lifesaving HIV/AIDS program

Without treatment, an HIV diagnosis can become a death sentence. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program founded by President George W. Bush with long-term bipartisan support, has saved 25 million lives since its inception in 2003 through testing, antiretroviral treatment and prevention programs. But some members of Congress are playing politics with people’s health and want to shut down this program for good. Contact your members of Congress today and urge them to save PEPFAR. Take a moment to sign AJWS’s open letter urging the Senate to introduce and pass this important bill.

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