The Fight for Right

By: Andrea Xu

Despite the monumental obstacles the world has overcome in recent decades in pushing for universal human rights, there are still some rights yet to be practiced by certain populations in the world, some which may be seen as a rudimentary and fundamental right. For the women in Saudi Arabia, the right to choose her spouse is exactly one right they have yet to exercise.

In Saudi Arabia, choosing a spouse is not solely up to the woman, but rather is dictated by her father and brothers, with them usually pressuring her to marry a cousin. This inability to choose a spouse not only demonstrates how patriarchal Saudi Arabia’s society may be, but also the lack of control women have over their lives against their sometimes abusive guardians. Under Islam rule, a woman is able to choose her partner as long as he is considered a moral and upstanding individual. Yet, under the guardianship system, which stems from tribal traditions and deeply entrenched Saudi Arabian culture, women must still get permission from their guardians to marry.

Take the case of Samia, a surgeon who is responsible for her patients’ lives; yet, ironically she is unable to control her own life. For years her father withheld her salary, giving her only a small monthly allowance, a motive as stated by Hussein Nasser al-Sharif, manager of the Jeddah branch of the National Society for Human Rights, common in abusive guardians. When her father and her brothers forced her to marry her cousin, Samia’s refusal resulted in a beating and an imprisonment in her room that lasted for weeks. Her living situation for the past five years? A government-funded sheltered for battered women. Samia has taken her case to two courts, both of which have ruled against her, and is now taking her case to the country’s Supreme Court.

While Samia’s story tragically illustrates how prevalent and serious gender inequality is in certain countries, the fact that Samia is challenging this traditional system serves as an inspiration for all. As more and more women are now challenging their abusive guardians, there can be nothing but hope for women all over the world, to fight for the right to control their own lives.

To learn more about Samia’s story, see the full story from The Christian Science Monitor.

If you would like to help promote women empowerment:

Profile of Pernille Ironside, Protector of Endangered Children

By Bridget Botelho, Marketing Specialist

One of the greatest challenges to modern society is the struggle to resolve conflicts of war and protect those involved.  In certain countries, modern warfare includes the abuse of children, through their involvement as soldiers, military support and sex slaves.

Picture of Pernille from

Endangered children have been one of the most important global causes being attended to by international organizations and relief efforts. But this crisis has yet to be resolved. Luckily, Pernille Ironside has accomplished extraordinary feats in rescuing child soldiers and other children in areas of need.

Through her work at UNICEF, Ironside worked in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which included leading a team to the release of 150 children from military forces. Additional work in Nepal resulted in rescuing over 2,000 children tied to the army of the United Communist Party of Nepal.

Pernille Ironside works fearlessly while putting her life in danger to rescue children worldwide. Her work continues through her role as UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist in Emergencies, through which she rehabilitates children and returns them safely to their families, while also providing psychological care, educational opportunities, and life skills for a better future.

Ironside’s work is truly inspiring. May we all remember her bravery and nobility when considering how we too can make the world a better place.

See an in-depth profile of Pernille Ironside from the Christian Science Monitor, as part of its “People Making a Difference” series.

If you would like to help improve the lives of endangered children:

For more ways to help, visit

UniversalGiving’s™ interview with Charyit!

By Jeremy Kenton, Marilyn Lin, and Ranjani Shanker

Recently, Ranjani Shanker of UniversalGiving™ was privileged to interview co-founders of Charyit, Jeremy Kenton and Marilyn Lin. Charyit is an early-stage, pre-seed company with the intention of allowing consumers to interact with corporations through recent content aggregated from media sites across the web.

Q: Story of Charyit – How and who made it happen?

LIN:  The idea started when corporations began to focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and place more emphasis on the importance of social media to their brands.  We asked ourselves, “How likely are we to support a company’s brand in the future based on their recent actions?”  And, “If a large population of consumers are also aware of these actions, would the masses be able to influence the plans of or affect a corporation’s “triple bottom line” (people, planet and profit)?”

KENTON: We recognized the significant momentum building around CSR, with companies and consumers using social media to discuss their initiatives. People within our networks post articles about how companies are interacting with society, both positively and negatively. Because posting an article on Facebook lacks permanence, we created Charyit to change that.

LIN:  We want to provide a linkage between the public’s comments on corporate actions back to those corporations.  Charyit aggregates stories on the economic, environmental and social fronts.  Leveraging social media and crowd-sourcing, we offer the public the ability to interact with the news content and influence a company’s future actions.

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Capturing a Single Day

By Cheryl Mahoney

Did you ever wish you could preserve a single day?  Wrap it up neatly and take it out to look at whenever you wanted to?  In a way, that’s what One Day on Earth is trying to do–and the day they’re preserving is October 10th, 2010: 10/10/10.

One Day on Earth intends to create a visual snapshot of life on our planet during a single day.  They have invited people all over the world to contribute videos, capturing thousands of perspectives.  The footage will all go into an online archive, which will be available to participants.  Footage will also be used to create a documentary film.

I think the most exciting aspect of the project is its international focus.  It isn’t One Day in the United States, or One Day in Europe–it’s One Day on Earth.  People from over 190 countries have committed to contributing footage.  How many total countries there are in the world varies a little bit on who you ask (not everyone agrees when it comes to Taiwan, and I suspect differing opinions exist about Palestine too…but that’s a different blog post).  However, a good figure is 195.  I think we can agree that 190 out of 195 countries is a pretty amazing percentage!

One Day on Earth has partnered with the United Nations Development Project (the UN has 192 countries) to reach developing nations.  This is especially imperative, because a main goal of the project is to highlight key issues facing our world…and you can’t do that without going to where the issues are, like in Afghanistan, Haiti and Rwanda.  One Day on Earth is partnering with NGOs, asking them to film their work in order to share their stories too.  It’s a perfect way to highlight the social issues the world faces every day.  So if you’re involved with an NGO or nonprofit, you can sign up to share your cause.

Even if you aren’t with an NGO, are you interested in sharing your story?  You can!  All you need is a camera–and even a cell phone camera will do.  Then head over to to get signed up to help capture a single day.

The Story of Aisha…

By: Lillian Wang

On my usual Tuesday, I’ll go down to the mailbox and grab the mail, happily receiving my weekly Times Magazine. Times has been educating me since junior high, and continues to do so. But this week was different. While the famous red border was present in all its glory, what really caught my eye was the hauntingly deep picture of 18-year old Aisha.

Times Magazine brilliantly put Aisha and her story as the cover and headlining story, which was written by Aryn Baker. Before even opening the crisp Times Magazine, I just stared at the cover. Stared and gasped and became more horrified by the second. Aisha was missing her nose- no, it wasn’t a birth defect, but purposefully sliced off. Aisha’s features are beautiful… minus the gaping hole in the middle of her face. What happened? (I would have posted a picture of Aisha, but it is so heart-wrenching… I couldn’t. Please take a look at it yourself. )

Well, apparently Aisha ran away from her abusive in-laws…. and a local Taliban commander sentenced her ears and nose to be cut off by her own husband. She was left for dead. What about her family? They were too ASHAMED and afraid of being RIDICULED. What?! Insanely, this happened LAST YEAR. And continues to happen to Afghan women. Forget the insurgency war, there is another war producing more humanity crimes. Aisha was brave and bold enough to share her story, but there are possibly plenty other women suffering from such crimes too.

Please please please help with all your kindness and generosity to stop these humanity crimes from continuing. Last year it happened to Aisha; who will be next?

Please check out these organizations working to provide gender equality and human rights. Here is the article (abridged) with the picture of Aisha on the Times website.

Willie Nelson

By: Lillian Wang

I felt like an incredible disaster this morning: I got off on the wrong stop at BART, I woke up late, I did not have cash on me to pay for my BART ticket, I forgot my cellphone at home, and I arrived to work late. In my head, this morning suddenly made my day come crashing down around me- it sucked. But arriving at work, I began reading an article Pamela (our wonderful CEO) had assigned me. It was about Willie Nelson and his organization, the Willie Nelson Peace Research Institute.

As UG Team Member, Ranjani, had eloquently stated in a previous post: “the wise words of Willie Nelson … really affected my thoughts on death and after.” I could not agree more. In the article by Dotson Rader for Parade magazine, Willie’s pain, heartache, and music were cited as his inspiration to create the Willie Nelson Peace Research. Mr. Nelson has suffered through three failed marriages, a son who committed suicide, troubles with the IRS, and drug busts.

And through his hardships, he created this wonderful organization. Visit his website and see how his vision of compassion, kindness, and love triumph suffering. Peace comes from hope.

I wonder if one day I can somehow even become remotely close to how inspiring Willie Nelson is. He’s still motivated to help others. After my bad morning? I think I will restart my day with a positive outlook. After all, if Willie Nelson overcame all that, I can at least recover from a bad morning.

Productive Sisterhood – Enhancing international ties

By Ranjani Shanker

When I first heard about sister cities, my first reaction was “WOW!” It sounded so exciting and as I tried to understand more, I saw this fabulous concept to be so global in nature and yet so local in flavor!  Truly glocal :)

As defined by the Sister Cities International, “a sister city, county or state relationship is a broad-based, officially approved, long-term partnership between two communities, counties or states in two countries.  A sister city, county or state relationship becomes official with a signing ceremony of the top-elected officials of the two local jurisdictions, following approval by the local city councils  (county commissions or state legislatures), as appropriate.”

It is amazing how these partnerships have limitless possibilities of diverse activities, and encompasses municipal, business, professional, education or cultural events or projects.  The concept aims at combining the influential, powerful and community driven energy generated by three main sectors of any city – local government, businesses and non-profits!

San Francisco has definitely been a forerunner in establishing these sister-city partnerships in 17 countries across the world, starting as early as 1957 with Osaka, Japan and has continued over the years to establish relationships with Manila, Sydney, Bangalore, Shangai etc.  The most recent sister we have is Amman, Jordan!  I love how San Francisco is so internationally embracing and has an inbuilt culture to develop friendships that benefit individuals, communities, cities, countries and the world on the whole.

We at UniversalGiving are committed to identifying such initiatives not only because we are currently supporting organizations and projects in our sister cities but also because we LOVE San Francisco!  We have multiple projects and organizations who we partner with and feature, in the countries where SF fosters sister-city partnerships.  For instance, In Caracas, Venezuela we have an organization called ACCION International that provides people with financial tools such as microenterprise loans and business training to work their way out of poverty.  So we are steadily supporting the development our lesser-privileged sisters and brothers and by the looks of it, we are poised for growth in that direction!

The Sister City concept has drawn its share of flak over the years for showing minimal economic development as part of the arrangement.  As I see it, developing nations have a recurring problem of seeing their rich getting richer and their poor getting poorer, which can be addressed through these partnerships.  To provide opportunities to the lesser privileged, it would be wonderful to see non-profits and the government hold hands in these cities to find newer avenues of growth and development.

Everyone yearns for family and at UniversalGiving, we are always looking to expand ours!