“Why can’t we have a sisterhood (society/sorority) of our own?” is a theme that can be found in most of the histories of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) women’s fraternities/sororities. It was a similar kind of thought that led to the creation of the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation, a non-profit organization whose goal it is to use the collective power of millions of sorority women to help women around the world.
In November 2009, Ginny Carroll, a consultant who has extensive experience working with Greek-letter organizations, was watching an Oprah Winfrey interview. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, authors of the book Half the Sky, were discussing their visits to poor countries around the world. They told of how women were victims of oppression and violence simply because they were women. Carroll felt compelled to do something. She discussed it with some of her friends who were sorority women. Within five months, the Circle of Sisterhood became reality and five months after that, the IRS granted it 501(c)3 status.
In their book, Kristof and WuDunn noted that, “One study after another has shown that educating girls is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty. Schooling is often a precondition for girls and women to stand up against injustice, and for women to be integrated into the economy. Until women are numerate and literate, it is difficult for them to start businesses or contribute meaningfully to their economies” (page 168).
The Circle of Sisterhood Foundation’s mission is to “to uplift girls and women from poverty and oppression through education.” To date, it has invested in the education of women and children in impoverished areas around the globe including Tanzania, Zambia, Ethiopia and the highlands of Peru.
Campuses where there are two or more NPC groups have College Panhellenics which govern the groups on that campus in accordance with NPC Unanimous Agreements. Many College Panhellenics have adopted the Circle of Sisterhood as a philanthropic focus. The Southeastern Panhellenic Association (SEPA), an organization of College Panhellenics at Southeastern colleges, raised $13,000 at its March 2012 conference. That amount will provide a year of schooling for 250 young girls. SEPA’s 2013 conference at the end of March will mark the third year that SEPA has supported the Circle of Sisterhood. It is anticipated that the amount raised will top last year’s contribution.
In October 2012, the Public Broadcasting System aired the film Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. There were more than 1 billion tweets with the hashtag #halfthesky between October 1-3. Many of these were from sorority women who had gathered in chapter houses and on campuses across North America.
For more information about the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation, visit www.circleofsisterhood.org.