International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the historical and cultural achievements of women. But in tandem with International Women’s Day, the celebration of women should be an important reminder of women who struggle daily with housing costs and honor those who have overcome overwhelming obstacles to gain access to proper shelter, as well as the women who continue to seek adequate shelter for their families.
On average, women are disproportionately impacted by inadequate and unsafe housing. Nearly one in three single mothers live below the poverty line. In the U.S., one in six families must choose between having a place to call home, pay for food, health care, childcare, education or reliable transportation.
Jannetta’s home in Kansas City, Missouri was unsafe and unhealthy for her and her family. “The roof caved in six times. It was drafty and poorly insulated. My bathroom pipes would freeze every time it was below 30 degrees, so I would have to crawl under the house with a hairdryer to thaw them. If I waited for the landlord, it would be days before he’d fix it.”
Beyond high energy bills and ever-increasing rent, Jannetta’s home was too small to fit her family’s needs. Her grandchildren, who visited on the weekends didn’t have room to play, and there was no space for her mother, for whom Jannetta provides daily care.
Jannetta applied to the Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City homeownership program and was approved. In 2022, with the help of a team of volunteers comprised solely of women, Jannetta built her new home. She said, “I’m through with paying rent. The cost is always going up and you’re not getting anything for it.” Her new home has enabled Jannetta to achieve her dream of providing a safe home for her family.
Women, families and Habitat for Humanity’s mission
Women and families are an integral part of Habitat for Humanity’s mission, with housing at the center of well-being for individuals and families, which is why Habitat is a steadfast advocate for women, and particularly minority women, in their journeys to homeownership.
With the support of partners like Whirlpool Corporation, Habitat reduces barriers to home ownership around the world through the following programs:
Habitat Builds serve women and families by increasing access to affordable housing. The majority of U.S. households served by Habitat for Humanity are female-led and most of these households are led by a woman who identify as Black or African American. In response to this need, new home construction and repair work for female-led households has steadily increased over the last five years. This work is also impacting family members in need, as female-led households are more likely to have dependents, a person over 65 and/or a person with disabilities living in the household.
Outside the U.S., the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter (TCIS), part of Habitat for Humanity International, expands low-income families’ access to innovative housing products, services and financing. TCIS is currently working with Whirlpool Corporation in Mexico to explore washing machine solutions for families in rural areas where access to electricity and clean water is limited. Whirlpool Corp. is proud to partner with Habitat and TCIS on what could potentially be another innovative solution that empowers women and provides the tools needed to break these cycles of poverty.
In Kenya, a housing microfinancing project through TCIS is creating positive impact on women’s livelihoods, health, and standards of living, while building confidence, skills and decision-making power. The financial stability of participating women improved, from using their property as a productive asset, to freeing up previous rent payments, to having more time for business activity through improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and energy solutions. Together with the increased income, having a decent and stable home enabled the women’s children to pursue education longer and the investment in clean energy, cooking and WASH facilities led to improved diets, cleaner homes and reduction in water-borne and respiratory diseases.
Habitat’s Women Build was developed in 1991, in recognition of the overwhelming power of women to make a difference in their communities and for one another. The program empowers women to help families build strength, stability and independence by offering them the opportunity to take a proactive step in serving and changing their communities through hands-on learning. In developing countries, this is done through partnerships with organizations to assist in bringing the full rights and responsibilities of homeownership to women.
Women Build also supports Habitat’s advocacy programs by collecting information on the challenges, particularly with property rights, that women face worldwide. Through Women Build, Habitat is increasing advocacy efforts on these important issues and demonstrating the many benefits of female ownership.
Thanks to partners like Whirlpool Corporation, together, we are making the cost of a house something women, like Jannetta, around the world can all afford and the reality of a home possible to achieve.