Mar 20, 2020

Evelyn stars as the fight against child marriage goes international!

Evelyn from Chitungwiza
Evelyn from Chitungwiza

This report is being sent to friends who have generously supported the efforts of our partner in Zimbabwe, the Women Advocacy Project (WAP) to combat early marriage. We have launched three appeals for WAP on GlobalGiving since the summer of 2018 and raised $4,692 from 45 donors. In total, we have transferred $10,499.30 to WAP since the startup begun.

This report is, of course, coming to you at a very difficult time. But WAP’s work is a reminder that communities and families are the first line of defense when a crisis strikes. Early marriage may lack the drama of COVID19 but it is certainly a slow-burning emergency for girls across Africa. One third of all girls in Zimbabwe are thought to marry before the legal age of 18.

With this in mind, we would like to introduce you to Evelyn, 21, a leader in WAP’s campaign. Evelyn, seen in the top photo, is one of two girl “ambassadors” who have been selected by WAP to lead teams of girls in the under-served communities of Epworth and Chitungwiza, Harare.

WAP’s hope is that the two ambassadors will work with their teams to educate girls about early marriage, identify girls who are vulnerable to marriage, and enable WAP to intervene.

WAP’s second goal is to train girls to make and sell liquid soap and so relieve the economic pressure on their families to marry their daughters off to older, richer, men. After years of economic mismanagement and neglect, the pressure is brutal. Zimbabwe is in an economic freefall, and the value of the Zimbabwe bond against the dollar has fallen by 50% in the last six months. This falls most heavily on poor families.

But Evelyn also shows that there is enormous resiliency in these communities. We have told Evelyn’s story in a recent video – The Soap-maker of Chitungwiza. Evelyn's parents earn between 1 and 2 dollars a day. Her two younger sisters often go to school hungry and there are holes in their shoes. But the family is loving and they can fall back on a tightly-knit community, in which neighbors share precious resources like water.

Evelyn herself handles it all with grace and humor, and never loses sight of her core message: "Even (as) girls we can be someone in life. You can be a lawyer, you can be a doctor, you can be anything you want in life rather than getting married while still under the age of 18."

Evelyn also uses the movie to describe WAP’s soap startup, launched last summer with help from McLane, an AP Peace Fellow, and by donations from Rockflower and Action for World Solidarity in Berlin. By the time AP visited in November last year, the two teams had produced and sold over 900 bottles of their own brand of Clean Girl soap. While the soap only sells for a dollar a bottle, WAP reports that some girls are earning enough to contribute towards school fees.

As the movie shows, these productions are a source of entertainment and companionship for the girls and admiring parents. Clean Girl soap is “taking the girls away from child marriage and unnecessary bad things like rape, prostitution and drug abuse,” according to Molene, a WAP program officer.

WAP has also used advocacy quilting to spread the word. In the summer of 2019 eleven girls, including Evelyn, told the story of child marriage through embroidered squares which were then brought back to the US by McLane and assembled into the Zimbabwe Child Marriage quilt in Rhode Island. Evelyn’s disturbing square shows a 13-year old girl married to a much older man who already has three wives. His young wife is already pregnant. As Evelyn explains on camera, she has known of such cases in Chitungwiza.

In November 2019, WAP used the quilt to take its message to the international community when Constance joined AP’s delegation to the UN summit on women and girls in Nairobi (ICPD25). Constance spent three busy days using the quilt to denounce child marriage to delegates and followed up by visiting the UN on her return to Zimbabwe.

WAP’s work will no doubt be affected by COVID19, but the fight against poverty and injustice will go on. And in Zimbabwe, as elsewhere, it will be led by communities that are on the frontlines.

Thank you again for your generous support.

Iain, Constance and the teams from AP and WAP.

Michelle, 19, makes soap at WAP
Michelle, 19, makes soap at WAP
Soap-making builds community and sells soap!
Soap-making builds community and sells soap!
Trish tells her story for the child marriage quilt
Trish tells her story for the child marriage quilt
Constance from WAP supervises soap-making
Constance from WAP supervises soap-making
Constance shows her quilt at ICPD25 in Nairobi
Constance shows her quilt at ICPD25 in Nairobi

Links:

Feb 18, 2020

Thank You for Supporting International Service!

Peace Fellow Kathryn at GDPU in Uganda  (2014)
Peace Fellow Kathryn at GDPU in Uganda (2014)

This update is being sent to friends who have kindly donated to our fellowship program through GlobalGiving. We have raised $22,824 with your help.

First, let me thank you for your commitment to supporting international service at a time when it has never been more needed! We are proud to have deployed over 300 graduate volunteers (Peace Fellows) around the world since 2003. But we have also found it increasingly difficult to sustain the program in the past two years.

In response, we are building active partnerships with a small number of leading university programs – MSFS (Georgetown University); the Fletcher School (Tufts University); the School of Public Policy (University of Maryland); and SAIS/Johns Hopkins. All four are helping us recruit students and will contribute half of each stipend ($2,000). We are putting up the other $2,000. This is double the amount we gave last year, but it will put our program on a more sustainable path. So far we have received 37 strong applications from the four schools.

Working directly with schools will also make it possible for Fellows to help in the design of their fellowships and tailor their work to their academic requirements. We expect to make 8-9 offers this summer.

In another departure from past years, we are hoping to send out three teams of two Fellows to work on challenging assignments in Nepal and Uganda:

Transitional justice in Nepal: Faced by a complete deadlock in the TJ process, we are asking two Fellows to prepare reports on reparations and disappearances. These will be submitted to two important UN human rights investigations by our partner, the Network of Families of the Disappeared in Nepal (NEFAD). The UN might be the last best way of securing satisfaction for NEFAD’s long-suffering members.

Installing accessible toilets in Uganda: After installing WASH packages in four primary schools we are stepping up support for this important program. We hope to deploy two Fellows to work with the Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU). One Fellow will install toilets in a fifth school (Lapuda). The other – an expert in disability – will advise GDPU on how best to address disability challenges in Uganda.

Menstrual banishment to the cowshed (chhaupadi) in Nepal (photo): After four years we now have a clear strategy for combating this dangerous practice and will ask two Fellows to: a) help Nepali survivors produce an advocacy quilt describing their own banishment; b) produce recommendations on how best to enforce a new law at the local level; and c) identify like-minded advocates among the legal aid community here in America.

In addition to Nepal and Uganda, we will also deploy Fellows to work on Agent Orange in Vietnam; Climate change and conflict in northwest Kenya; and early marriage in Zimbabwe. At least two of this summer’s Fellows will work on advocacy quilts.

One important final note: All Fellows build on the good work of their predecessors, like Kathryn (2014), one of the pioneers of our WASH work in Uganda (photo). Refilwe (2015) is one of several Fellows who have worked in Mali and laid the foundation for our innovative current project Sister Artists, which connects survivors of gender-based violence in Mali with quilters in the US. Peace Fellow McLane (2019) organized soap training for 30 girls in Harare, Zimbabwe that generated over $900 in sales in just three months (photo). Ben (2019) helped Children Peace Initiative Kenya to produce a spectacular quilt about climate change which was shown at the UN summit on women and children in Nairobi in November (photo).

We’ll have more information on this year’s Fellows in May after they arrive in Washington for training prior to their deployment. For the moment everything seems to be on track for another active and fulfilling summer of service!

In gratitude

Iain and the AP team

Peace Fellow Refilwe (left) served in Mali in 2015
Peace Fellow Refilwe (left) served in Mali in 2015
Girls against early marriage make soap in Zimbabwe
Girls against early marriage make soap in Zimbabwe
Hilary from CPIK uses the Cow Quilt at ICPD25
Hilary from CPIK uses the Cow Quilt at ICPD25
Banished to a cowshed during menstruation in Nepal
Banished to a cowshed during menstruation in Nepal
Feb 14, 2020

Generating Income and Seeking Justice in Nepal

Making tiger bags in Bardiya
Making tiger bags in Bardiya

This update is being sent to friends who have kindly donated to our appeals on behalf of family members of the disappeared in Nepal since 2015.

To recap:

Nepalis are still struggling to recover from the wounds of a long conflict (1996-2006). The worst-affected by far are the relatives of more than 2,500 Nepalis who were seized and have never reappeared. Working through the Network of Family-members of the Disappeared (NEFAD) we have developed a close relationship with a cooperative of around 30 family members in the western district of Bardiya, which suffered more disappearances than any other district in Nepal.

So far, with your help, we have raised $15,142.66 for the Bardiya cooperative.

We began in 2016 by working through Peace Fellows to help the women commemorate their lost loved ones through embroidery, as we have done with many other partners in the Global South. By the end of 2018, they had produced over 40 embroidered squares.

As we wrote in previous reports, we asked Bobbi, an expert quilter and member of our board of directors, to visit Nepal in April 2019 and help the cooperative members assemble two quilts. The quilts and artists are profiled on our website. You might also like this video of Bobbi’s reaction to working with these brave women.

We then turned to using the quilts to advocate for justice. Sarita, the head of the cooperative, kept one of the quilts in Nepal. Iain showed the second quilt to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in Geneva (photo). This is in line with NEFAD's strategy of persuading the UN human rights bodies to engage more actively in Nepal. We plan to deploy two experienced Peace Fellows in Nepal this coming summer to produce studies on the disappeared and reparations, which will then be submitted to the UN.

Our second approach is to move from story-telling to income-generation. During her trip to Nepal, Bobbi helped Sarita and her team to design new Tiger bags. We purchased two sewing machines and material. Kushma rented an office. Sima agreed to act as the cooperative treasurer. Kancham – one of the best artists in the cooperative (photo) – began making new designs.

As of now, the Nepali bag-makers have produced 35 bags and hope to reach 50 by the time our Peace Fellows arrive in the summer to collect the bags and assess progress. Meanwhile, our Washington team is exploring the possibility of auctioning the bags online, or selling them through retail. One way or another, the fight for transitional justice will continue –  in Nepal and here in the US.

In gratitude

The AP team

Kancham is the best artist in the cooperative
Kancham is the best artist in the cooperative
Binita's embroidery commemorates her lost husband
Binita's embroidery commemorates her lost husband
The Bardiya memorial quilt at the United Nations
The Bardiya memorial quilt at the United Nations
Tiger tiger! New bags from the Bardiya cooperative
Tiger tiger! New bags from the Bardiya cooperative
Bobbi and Sarita with the first tiger bag
Bobbi and Sarita with the first tiger bag
 
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