When I set out two years ago to create a nonprofit, based on a small, unexpected inheritance, I thought a lot about the role of giving — both to grantees and to myself as a prime donor. My overall goal was to empower women and girls in the developing world through new projects dealing with their health and education.
I was uncomfortable with the word “philanthropy.” I knew from speaking Modern Greek that “anthropos” means “person” or “man” but what I wanted to do was completely woman-centered. So, I created the word “philogyny” or “loving and caring for women” as a way to draw attention to the impact that support for women can have.
Why women, especially women in developing countries? First, we know from years of research that women are the main caretakers and caregivers in their families and communities. When a woman in a developing country has income, she is likely to spend 95 percent on her own family while a man will typically spend a third to a half of his income on family, the rest, on himself. Secondly, contributions to women’s and girls’ education and health have a significant impact on a community resulting in higher employment, lower fertility rates, and healthier populations.
As a new philogynist, I also needed a name for my nonprofit. I wanted to avoid the words most often used in such endeavors — gender, sex, development, empowerment, etc. — and to come up with something memorable that captured the lives of women in the developing world. Thus, LIGHT MY FIRE was born, an image that captures the lives of the two billion women globally who light a fire every day or evening to cook for their families.
What has Light My Fire accomplished in two years? We have given small grants, usually around $5000, to women’s and community organizations in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and the Middle East. We believe a small grant goes a long way in a resource-poor country. Our total over two years is about $100,000 to 28 programs with some grants made to the same program in both years.
Rather than list all our projects, let me provide an idea of the range of our activities. We have supported programs dealing with: sexual abuse of children in Bolivia; production by women of soya oil in Malawi; girls’ education in Nepal, India and Kenya; health training of Bedouin and Palestinian women and Guatemalan girls; agricultural training of Kenyan women; financial literacy of Ugandan women; employment training for Haitian single mothers. And there is a lot more.
Clearly, Light My Fire seeks practical outcomes. At the same time, however, philogyny has a strongly spiritual element. Giving to women all over the world offers a sense of connection to our planet. We don’t just talk about global sisterhood, we do it. Philogyny also connects the donor to live-giving and life-saving efforts. It is a practice that touches the soul more deeply than the checkbook. To put it simply, giving to women has made me feel good, in fact, better than in any other life work I have done. The gift of philogyny is giving to women and also giving oneself a spiritual boost.
Anyone interested in joining our community of philogynists is welcome to join us: making a donation will make you feel good! Even the smallest amounts can make a big difference in the developing world– our global sisters and our circle at Light My Fire will be deeply grateful.
Ellen Boneparth has enjoyed a range of careers from academia to diplomacy to work in nonprofits dealings with women’s issues. Currently, she is the Director of Light My Fire, a nonprofit promoting women’s and girls’ health and education in developing countries. Her passion for writing has generated 7 novels and 2 memoirs. Her most recent novels, available on Amazon or at Author House, include DO NOT HURRY THE JOURNEY, a love story revolving around Alzheimer’s, and POSITIVE WOMEN, a tale about HIV-positive women in Africa and the obstacles raised by Pharma.