Project GEM Malawi

Two years ago a Teacher from Malawi named Yamiko Kawale reached out to Tobi Jo Greene, founder of The Girls Empowerment Workshop in Ojai, CA, to seek support in developing a program to empower girls in her community. Tobi was eager to mentor Yamiko and support her in her mission. After two years of regular correspondence, what has resulted is a cross-continent collaboration between The Girls Empowerment Workshop and Yamiko's growing program, GEM (Girls Empowerment and Mentorship). The presence and success of Yamiko's program, GEM, is vital not only to the empowerment, but the general well being of young girls growing up in her community. For example, Malawi has only recently prohibited child marriage, and girls must continue to survive through rampant sexual assault and harassment with little to no advocacy, resources, or support. Many Malawi girls from rural areas also lack access to education as well as safe, hygienic supplies for their menstrual cycles, and as a result miss upwards of a week of school every month because they do not have needed menstrual care products.

The Project:

Part 1: The Community Sewing Projects
The Girls Empowerment Workshop is hosting a series of Sew In Camps at The Ojai Valley Woman's Clubhouse  led by local seamstress Diane Steele. These camps will gather adolescent girls together with experienced seamstresses to learn how to sew menstrual pads that will be donated as part of self-care kits to the girls in GEM.

Part 2: The Traveling Education Team
The Girls Empowerment Workshop is sending a team to GEM Malawi, where Diane will teach Yamiko and her girls to sew their own menstrual pads, along with a donated sewing machine, that will provide a way to sustain a supply that will keep them in school and actively engaged in creating their own bright futures.

Santa Cruz based Nurse Midwife and Women's Health Practitioner, Elise Garrett, will provide lessons to the girls of GEM on the female menstrual cycle and self care, along with lesson plans for Yamiko to use to carry on the education throughout her programming.

Malibu based photographer, and dear friend of Diane, Janet Birch, will accompany the education team and contribute her photo journalism skills.

Part 3: Providing Self Defense
In response to the epidemic of sexual assault and harassment young  girls around the world face every day, we are using some of the raised funds to bring a Malawi-based self-defense training program to GEM to offer Yamiko's girls tools to empower them physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

We need your help to make this important project take full flight.

Your Donations Will…

1. Help us host more Sew In Camps in Ojai, which will continue to engage adolescent girls within a mentoring environment to feel empowered about their bodies and involved in projects aimed to inspire and educate girls everywhere, paired with providing an ongoing source of menstrual kits for girls in need globally, which in turn keeps girls in school.

2. Provide Self Defense and Assertiveness instruction to the girls of GEM in Malawi, and possibly others.

3. Make our project in Malawi possible by providing funds for travel expenses, needed supplies, self-defense training for Yamiko and her girls, and more.

4. Fortify our relationship with GEM so we can continue to collaborate on our shared goal to empower girls locally and abroad with education around menstruation and their bodies.

To donate through PayPal - please find the link at the bottom of our website:
The Girls Empowerment Workshop™ is a nonprofit 501(C)3 Charitable Public Foundation
California Corporation Federal ID #3555600

To learn more about the people, project and organizations involved, please click on the links below:

Learn more about The Girls Empowerment Workshop 
Meet Yamiko as she shares a heartfelt message to all who become a part of this project 
Learn more about GEM
Meet Diane Steele, Seamstress and Teacher 
Meet Elise Garrett, Nurse Midwife and Educator 
Learn more about The Ojai Valley Woman's Club 

On behalf of the thousands of girls and women who are part of GEM and The Girls Empowerment Workshop, we thank you for your generous support.

Much love and gratitude to the team of people who are working passionately to make this project possible:

The Ojai Valley Woman's Club  for the ongoing support and donation of the use of their Clubhouse.
Diane Steele for her sewing expertise, love for this project and drive to make this happen.
Elise Garrett for saying yes, and being a vital part of the travel/education team.
Janet Birch for joining and documenting the Education team in Malawi.
Siobhan McDevitt for her time, networking, input, and financial support.
Lori Hamor tirelessly helping with all aspects of this project.
Jill Oliveras and All-State Insurance/WE Campaign grant money for supplies to get us started.
Grace Malloy of Poco Farm  for the handmade soaps which will go in each menstrual care kit.
Anna Nozaki of Catty Wampus  for donating workspace & fabric for our community first Sew day.
John Phaneuf for his generosity of time, camera skills, and support of this project
Odessa Runyan
who led and organized our first community SEW IN to provide menstrual kits.
Jaquelyn Toth for her editing skills and support of this mission.
Yamiko Kawale for trusting in The Girls Empowerment Workshop & her dedication to the girls in her community.

Donations (40)

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  • Gail Garrett
    • $200 
    • 5 yrs
  • Briana Beebe
    • $100 
    • 5 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $500 
    • 5 yrs
  • Amy Dobras
    • $100 
    • 5 yrs
  • Jacqueline Dorfman
    • $20 
    • 5 yrs
See all


Tobi Jo Greene
Ojai, CA
Girls Empowerment Workshop
Registered nonprofit
Donations are typically 100% tax deductible in the US.

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