From a young age, Christine Savino has been a strong advocate for social justice. Now a senior at the University of Connecticut where she majors in business management, Savino is focused on helping underprivileged women obtain the skills and resources they need to improve their lives through the organization Her Global Initiative.
Savino was first motivated to create Her Global Initiative when she entered into the business field and saw firsthand the difficulties that women face in the sector. “As I got older, I became very involved in the business world. I saw the women around me struggle to move up, and I realized that there’s definitely a double standard,” she says.
After witnessing the disparity between men and women in business in the United States, Savino realized how damaging the phenomenon must be in developing countries—and how far-reaching its effects can be. “The culture in many third-world countries is such that women are supposed to be reliant on men,” she says. “It doesn’t really encourage female independence.” With women unable to engage in entrepreneurial endeavors and limited in terms of the jobs they can occupy, it is difficult for them to achieve the financial freedom that would allow them to improve not only their own lives, but those of their families and communities as well.
Her Global Initiative lends to women in countries such as Uganda and Kenya at low interest rates, which allows them to start building their own businesses and, over time, become self-sufficient. In addition to having raised its own funds, the organization also partners with other philanthropies to gain a wider reach. The group’s emphasis, rather than focusing solely on donating money, is to actually educate women and give them the initial means to eventually reach a point where they are able to make their own living. This is the best way, Savino asserts, to have a lasting impact. “I think that a common mistake that people make with philanthropy is to just give money or some form of capital, like an object,” she says, “but the key to really giving back to people who need it is to give them skills.”
In empowering individual women, Savino hopes that she will, in turn, be able to help end the cycle of poverty faced by previous generations. Ultimately, she would like to see her work with Her Global Initiative have a quantifiable impact on the GDP of the countries in which it has been implemented. In other words, she wants to help the economies of these developing nations grow through enabling women to contribute to them. “Of course, it takes many years to increase GDP and develop whole societies, but that’s what we’re really working toward and have made progress on already,” she says. “We think that by having the lowest interest microcredit loans, we’ll be able to make an impact on the market.” In order to achieve this goal, Savino plans to continue Her Global Initiative for many years to come.
More locally, Savino has also extended her desire for social justice to her campus. She co-founded the organization Women’s Legacy, which aims to empower women and holds events in keeping with this objective. “We’ve had seminars between men and women talking about gender equality and how we can advocate for it; we’ve talked about feminism for men, we’ve had self-defense classes and we’ve had fun events just for our organization,” she says.
She also co-founded the Student Coalition for Social Justice at UConn, which advocates for underrepresented groups. “Basically it’s an umbrella organization that partners with other social advocacy groups,” Savino explains. “Our goal is to bring people who are passionate about social advocacy together, to pool resources, ideas, capital, people and to make a large-scale impact in our community through teamwork and collaboration.”
Her passion for philanthropy, along with her desire to be part of a strong community, also inspired Savino to become a member of the sorority Pi Beta Phi at UConn. “I decided to rush, and I chose Pi Beta Phi, mainly for their positive community. My sorority, in particular, strongly emphasizes community, diversity and sisterhood, and I immediately clicked with them,” she explains. One major benefit of being a part of Pi Beta Phi is the encouragement that her sisters give her, both with regard to her work and in general: “They are huge advocates of diversity and inclusion, and of course philanthropy, so my values directly parallel the values of Pi Beta Phi Connecticut Alpha. They’ve been a huge help and a major resource for support.”