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Our story

Our story

Since our origins during the Bosnian war in 1993, Women for Women International has reached over 500,000 marginalised women in 8 conflict-affected countries.

During 1992-1995, an estimated 50,000 Bosnian women were subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Thousands more witnessed the killing of loved ones and destruction of their homes, and were left struggling to provide and care for their families whilst dealing with severe trauma.

Survivors said that they felt invisible, that the world had forgotten about them, that no-one cared.  

After hearing these women’s stories, Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi-American humanitarian, entrepreneur and author, founded Women for Women International at the age of 23.

Bosnian women taking part in our #MessageToMySister campaign. Photo: Women for Women International
Bosnian women taking part in our #MessageToMySister campaign. Photo: Women for Women International

Women for Women International created ‘sister-to-sister’ connections between isolated women in Bosnia and individual ‘sponsor sisters’ around the world.

A letter exchange provided these Bosnian women with solidarity and emotional support, along with small amounts of financial aid to help them meet their basic needs as they began to rebuild their lives.

To this day, our approach remains inspired by this spirit of sisterhood, and the combination of social and economic investment.

We have gone on to support over half a million women across 8 conflict-affected countries to overcome the horrors of war and work towards a better future for themselves and their families.

Participants in Afghanistan taking part in our year-long programme. Photo: Rada Akbar
Participants in Afghanistan taking part in our year-long programme. Photo: Rada Akbar

Women enrol on our year-long training programme, where they build support networks and develop skills to earn and save money, improve their family’s health and make their voices heard at home and in their community. They will pass on their knowledge to their neighbours and children, creating a ripple effect.

Every day, hundreds of women come to our training centres, each with their own personal story of violence, loss, trauma – and survival, against the greatest odds. We remain committed to investing in these women’s potential.

We have seen that with the right support, women can rebuild their lives, break cycles of poverty and seize opportunities to create better futures for their children.

Fatuma's story

Fatuma rebuilt her life after suffering unimaginable violence during the Rwandan genocide.

“It was the start of the war when they killed my husband by machete. When they had finished, they turned to me. They told me to choose: either have sex with us or we abort your child. [I said] God is the one who can do everything, so whatever you'll do is what is supposed to happen."

The training helped me and I stopped thinking too much about my issues. It has been great for us to be together as women, talk to each other… Everyone at Women for Women International began loving me when I told them my problems.

More about us

16 Days of Activism

One in three women experience violence during their lifetime, and in countries affected by conflict women are 50% more likely to experience domestic violence. Since the start of the pandemic, this violence has intensified. Together, we can change this. Sign up to get your free 16 Days of Activism Calendar and get ready to take action. 

Our Impact

We help women survivors of war rebuild their lives and choose their own futures.

Our programmes

Participants in our year-long programme work to strengthen themselves across four critical areas of social and economic empowerment.