Aug 19, 2015 • By

An extraordinary effort to empower girls

Women and girls in developing countries around the world typically bear the greatest brunt of poverty. When families struggle to grow enough food to eat, or earn enough money to send all their kids to school, it’s the girls who are often the last to eat and first to be kept home from school.

In these same communities, it’s the women who are frequently denied the right to own the land they’ve farmed their entire lives.


As a company, we believe women and girls can be a catalyst for overcoming poverty and with the right support and resources, they have the power to ultimately change their family tree.

This commitment is brought to life at General Mills through a unique program called Join My Village (JMV), which was founded by General Mills in 2009 in partnership with CARE International.

JMV’s mission is to economically empower women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa and India by expanding access  for young girls, providing safe housing for female teachers, helping women start or grow a business through micro-financing, and much more.

Earlier this summer, Kim Nelson, senior vice president of External Relations at General Mills, and president of the General Mills Foundation, had the opportunity to see JMV programming in action during a trip to Malawi and Kenya through The Gates Foundation.


The week-long trip included several female U.S. legislators and focused on educating the lawmakers on how U.S. aid is being spent to help empower women and girls in countries like Malawi and Kenya.

At the start of the trip, Kim and the group visited a girls’ school in Malawi that is supported by JMV, where she got to see first-hand how the programming is enabling girls to dream big and achieve their goals.

Following the visit to the JMV school, Kim and the group had the opportunity to sit down with a small group of Malawian female leaders, including members of the Malawi Parliament, non-profit leaders and human rights activists. Together, they discussed the current climate for women and girls in Malawi and programs that are making an impact for these women.

Kim noted, “It was exciting to connect with these leaders one-on-one. And, especially to talk to them – from woman-to-woman – as we all share the same goal of making the world a better place. I was especially in awe at how these women overcame some of the obstacles that they face and still were able to do extraordinary things.”


Another particularly inspiring and all around sobering experience Kim had during the trip was when visiting an organization called Lea Toto in Kenya.

Swahili for “to raise the child,” Lea Toto is a community-based outreach program providing services to HIV+ children and their families who live in and around Nairobi. One community Lea Toto serves is the Kibera Slum, which is said to be largest and most poverty-stricken slum in the world with residents earning less than $1 per day.

Kim and the group joined the Lea Toto staff as they made rounds to their patients in Kibera.

To learn more about General Mills’ commitment to empower women and girls around the world, visit

Editor’s note: Photos courtesy of Josh Estey/CARE.