Bangalore – Join My Village, an innovative social change initiative created by General Mills to support CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization, is expanding to India. Join My Village gives girls and women from disadvantaged communities in the Global South increased access to education and support, providing a gateway to better opportunities, outcomes and lives. Educated girls grow into educated women, have healthier babies, educate their children and are better prepared to help build stronger communities.

Since Join My Village was launched in Malawi in 2009, it has supplied more than US$1.4 million to help more than 2,000 families. Last year alone, Join My Village donated US$900,000 to fund CARE programs for girls’ education and economic empowerment in the southeast African nation, one of the poorest in the world.

The success of the program in Malawi inspired CARE, with the support of corporate partners General Mills and MSD India (wholly owned subsidiaries of Merck & Co. Inc., Whitehouse Station, N.J., USA), to expand Join My Village to India. Girls and women in India face steep odds. UNICEF has found that more than 40 percent of the world’s child marriages occur in India[1]. According to the UN, about 40 percent of Indian girls under 14 do not attend school[2]and less than half of adult females are literate[3]. Access to education and maternal health resources are key to improving these situations for women and girls in India.

“Join My Village will be a potent tool to bring women and girls from poor and marginalized communities to the center stage and equip them with the right tools and opportunities,” said Dr. Muhammad Musa, CARE India CEO and country director. “This will enable them to take control of their lives, which is imperative in the fight against poverty.”

Join My Village is an innovative click-to-commit social change initiative that gives individuals the power to unlock charitable donations from companies like General Mills and MSD to women and girls in Malawi, and now India, through CARE. Every “Like” on the Join My Village Facebook page will trigger a $1 donation from General Mills and The Merck Company Foundation to CARE’s programs supporting women and girls in India and Malawi. Together, the companies will donate a total of US$1.5 million to CARE by the end of 2012.

Bollywood star Juhi Chawla joined General Mills, MSD and CARE at the India launch of Join My Village to encourage her fans to help unlock US$50,000 in funds for the program. “When you face a large problem such as this, it can be difficult to see how one person can have a real impact. That’s why I’m excited to be part of Join My Village, a unique program that gives all of us the power to help change the lives of women and girls in India,” Chawla said. “By simply liking the Join My Village Facebook page, reading about CARE’s programs in India, and sharing the stories with friends, we can work together to help make India better by opening opportunities for our country’s women and girls.”

In India, these funds will help build on current successful CARE India programs by enhancing CARE bridge programs that promote learning at government-run KGBV boarding schools. Additionally, donations will help to provide training, education and support for maternal and infant health to pregnant women in Uttar Pradesh and to expand CARE’s accelerated learning school program, Udaan, which has operated in Uttar Pradesh for 11 years, into Haryana. In Malawi, Join My Village will continue to help build housing in villages for female teachers, provide scholarships that send girls to secondary school and fund microfinance tools that help women launch their own businesses.

“We believe that women everywhere are a powerful force for change,” said Ken Powell, General Mills chairman and CEO. “Join My Village offers a unique model for fighting global poverty. It channels the power of online communities to help women and girls in Malawi – and now India – create a better future for themselves, their families, communities and eventually the world by giving them an opportunity to succeed.”

In conjunction with the Join My Village announcement, MSD India hosted a panel discussion on “Opportunities for Building New Partnerships to Invest in Women and Girls in India” to highlight innovative approaches to the challenges faced by women and girls in India. “As we offer individuals the chance to help effect change through Join My Village, we hope to shed light on how reducing poverty and improving health are inextricably linked to better education,” said K.G. Ananthakrishnan, MSD India managing director. “Through Join My Village, girls in India will gain more access to improved education and learn how to take better care of themselves and their babies during and after pregnancy, two steps that can improve life for girls and women throughout the country.”

To learn more about Join My Village, visit www.facebook.com/joinmyvillage. The program will provide up to US$1.5 million in 2012 for CARE programs focused on women and girls in Malawi and India.

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