Longmont City Councilmember Shiquita Yarbrough worked remotely in January from Nepal, where she volunteered her time helping women in Kathmandu and surrounding regions.
Yarbrough said her experience was “eye-opening,” and as Women’s History Month continues, she’s encouraging community members to support women’s equality locally and abroad.
“It’s just so evident that we have a long way to go, and we have to broaden our perspectives — yes, take care of home, take care of what’s right in front of us — but at the same time, help our brothers and sisters in other countries too,” she said.
Yarbough, who serves as the director of community engagement and equity for YWCA Boulder County, worked with the YWCA in Kathmandu, which provides workshops, initiatives and aid to women in rural Nepal.
“They are just doing so, so, so much with the small resources that they have there,” she explained.
The organization teaches Nepalese women skills — such as farming, jewelry-making, sewing and gardening — so they can make their own money and sustain themselves. The group also provides girls with scholarships, because education isn’t free in Nepal.
Yarbrough was asked to host a workshop on advocacy for the local YWCA workers and members, who presented her with some of the biggest issues women face in the country, and possible solutions to those problems. The women brought up gender discrimination, the gender pay wage gap, class discrimination, domestic violence, poverty, public health and other important issues, she said.
“One that was really disturbing to me as a woman — and probably to a lot of women … young women, when it’s their time for their menstrual cycle, they are considered unclean, so they have to leave the house,” Yarbrough explained. “You may be in the barn on the property or somewhere where there’s no electricity, and it’s cold … so they’re scared.”
That isolation can cause depression, and the girls are also vulnerable, she said.
“A lot of times rape will happen during that time too for these young girls, because they are off by themselves.”
Some of the girls run away from home, and the Kathmandu YWCA offers a few rooms where the young women can sleep overnight. The organization has also fundraised to offer sanitary pads to young women in rural areas, in addition to underwear, which many women don’t have, she said.
In late 2019, Yarbrough visited Ghana, and met women who — similar to the Nepalese women — face many challenges in their day-to-day life.
“We have many more advantages than other countries — thank goodness there are YWCAs there that are helping these young women,” she said. “In Ghana and Kenya, we’re talking West and East Africa, I know for a fact they’re still working on passing a law that girls need to be 18 years old before they get married, instead of 13, 15 years old, getting married to a 40, 50-year-old man.”
As Women’s History Month continues, Yarbough is urging people to make donations of any amount to the World YWCA in addition to local organizations that help women.
Even a few dollars goes a long way in many countries, she said.
“In Nepal, in that YWCA office that serves their entire region … I asked what ‘what is your operating cost?’ — $2,000 a month,” Yarbough explained. “Peanuts, so every dollar counts for them … I’m not saying take away from the funds at home, because there are girls and women here who also need the resources, but if you skip out on a couple of cups of coffee a month, then it would be so appreciated to donate to other nonprofits.”
Many world organizations also look for people who are able to teach their skills — such as coding, medical knowledge or building — to people who live in poverty overseas, she said.
Yarbough is the first Black women elected to Longmont City Council. She runs several programs for YWCA Boulder County, including Reading to End Racism, Latina Achievement Support and STEMe3 for girls of color.
“Life isn’t forever — it’s what you do while you’re still alive that makes a difference for the future, so I’m trying to do as much as I can, while I can,” she said.