Graphic for International Women's Day

International Women's Day (March 8) was established in the early 1900s as a way to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Great strides in gender parity have been made since then, but there is still lots of work that needs to be done to achieve full equality.

Below are stories of smart, capable, and motivated women from projects that Planet Aid supports around the globe who are building better lives for themselves and for their communities.

Telma, AIDS activist in Mozambique

"The worst thing you can do to yourself is to lose your self-esteem. You are a person and you need to live your life with confidence!" asserted Telma Ignácio Banze, a 45-year old HOPE activist from Boane, Maputo Province, when talking about living with HIV/AIDS.

Telma, AIDS activist"It is the stigma that kills," she continued. "But not just the rejection and discrimination by other people—I am also talking about the one that comes from inside."

Telma knows the brutality of stigma firsthand. She and her husband both live in an area with elevated HIV-infection rates, which has been caused by a transient population working at the local aluminum factory. They were tested for HIV through the HOPE Project in 2011. Both were diagnosed with the virus.

"My husband never accepted the result and continued living as before, drinking and not taking the medicine," Telma recalled with a heavy tone. Three years after the incident, Telma's husband died of related illnesses, leaving her alone with their five children.

Fortunately, Telma's story is quite different, thanks to the Planet Aid-supported HOPE Project. She has transformed from a person who suffered from constant pains and had only vaguely heard of the disease into a strong and openly HIV-positive activist who leads a healthy life, spreads information about HIV prevention and care in her own community, and supports other HIV-positive people in leading a positive life.

"One of the best things of the project has been the association in which HIV-positive people can meet and support each other and learn about health issues," Telma said. "I especially enjoy working with the orphan children at the demonstration garden, and sharing tips on healthy food with other members of the Positive Living Club.

"This makes me feel that I am needed and gives me a reason to get up every morning," she explained.

What is her advice for other people in a similar situation? Telma answers without hesitation, "Don't be afraid: go to the nearest health center and do the test. If you are HIV-positive, start the treatment and never stop. Sleep enough, eat healthy food, and keep your spirit up by being active and helping others because you, too, were once helped. This is what I do. And, most important of all, never lose hope!"

This story was originally featured on the website of ADPP.

Juliana, Future Teacher in Angola

Juliana Adão Tangue began her studies to become a teacher in 2012. By 2014, she was student teaching in a classroom of third graders in the town of Sungue. "I have 60 pupils in my class," she said. "It is a lot, but I am managing better now than in the beginning."

future teachers in AngolaJuliana was one of 82 students in her cohort to go through the teacher training program supported by Planet Aid in Angola. The program's approach is centered around inspiring teachers to become self-driven and effective catalysts for change in both the classroom and the community.

"I can see that some of the children are making a lot of progress," she said. "In the beginning some of them did not know how to write very well, neither were they good at reading."

Juliana went beyond the standard duties of a teacher in Angola. She organized clubs for her pupils after school and on Saturdays, which helped those who had struggled to catch up. "It was especially some of the girls who had difficulties," she said. "I think because I am a girl they have been encouraged to learn together with me."

Many of those same girls that had fallen behind also joined Juliana's "Girls Club" that she ran on Fridays. During these meetings she would teach the girls about nutrition, sing songs, and discuss issues affecting the community, like HIV/AIDS. Around 40 girls of all ages participated.

The club, and others like it, instituted by Juliana's colleagues in training, gave young girls an opportunity to talk about issues that may not be addressed at home. "The teenage girls we have like to discuss sexuality and how it is to become grown up," Juliana said.

Though the job can be tough, Juliana enjoys leading her classroom, "I am very happy to work as a teacher and I am looking forward to graduating and continuing."

Read more about teacher training here.

Bharti, motivated student from India

Bharti Chauhan is 17 years old and lives in Gurgaon, India. She is studying for an undergraduate degree in arts, but she was motivated to pursue even more education. "I wanted to attend a computer course to enhance the chances of my employability, but my family's economy condition did not allow for this extra expenditure," she said.

Bharti, a student from IndiaTeachers from the Step-Up Centers in Gurgaon visited her house for a survey and told her family about a basic computer course they offered with nominal fees. "I was elated to hear about it and enrolled myself for the course right away," said Bharti.

Planet Aid supports the Academies for Working Children, which are a solution to the substantial problem of child labor in India. There are at least 35 million children on the sub-continent who are not in school, usually due to the economic circumstances of their families. In addition to providing affordable courses like the one Bharti undertook, these academies help children reenter the mainstream schooling system.

Bharti and 20 other students began learning Microsoft Office, Windows Movie Maker, the capabilities of the Internet, and more. She noted that the course was a good blend of theory and practical skills.

With her newly-acquired knowledge, Bharti was able to bolster her resume and increase her chances of getting a well-paying job. "I feel privileged to have encountered this course and the wonderful teachers, who pay good attention to every single student," she said.

Read more about Academies for Working Children here.

Nongejile, smallholder farmer from South Africa

Nongejile Matomane is from the eastern part of South Africa. Her village, called Mpakama, is in a rural area where many of the residents are farmers.

"My family has always been interested in farming," she says. "We have a 0.2-hectare piece of land on which I grow maize, sugar beans, and pumpkin. We have another piece of land where I mostly grow maize."

Nongejile, a smallholder farmerAs a member of Farmers' Clubs, she has been able to increase her yield. "The club has added to my knowledge and experience, particularly in the area of conservation farming," she says.

The objective of the Farmers' Clubs Program is to empower smallholder farmers by providing technical support and creating a community through which individual farmers can support and learn from each other. This is achieved through a variety of interventions, including training, field visits, and building autonomous community structures.

Nongejile now uses techniques such as potholing and intercropping. "I am happy with my production, especially pumpkin," she says. "I have already sold some pumpkins because they are many and are big."

Women farmers are often denied the same resources and respect as their male counterparts, despite their significant contribution to the agriculture sector. Nongejile's newfound knowledge will allow her to pass it on to other community members, increasing the production of her country as a whole and boosting development.

"I like farming because it provides me with an opportunity to sustain my family and earn an income," she says. "I have learned a lot through my experience as a participant of Farmers' Clubs."

Click here to learn more about Farmers' Clubs.