Aug 20, 2019

Aya's Story Continued

Aya*, a young widow, lived on a farm in Iraq with her two adult stepsons and her own children before ISIS took over. Iraqi tribal law says that land passes down to sons, not wives, so after her husband died Aya’s home belonged to her stepsons, but her children worked the farm so they were allowed to remain. When ISIS invaded her town, however, Aya’s eldest son was killed, so she fled with her two younger children and infant grandchild.

Once her town was liberated from ISIS control, Aya tried to return home. But without her eldest son to work on the farm, her stepsons refused to accept her.

Desperate for a place for her family to stay, Aya searched for shelter. She met a farmer who offered her lodging in exchange for work, but the conditions were so dismal she needed a way out. A neighbor who knew of her situation suggested our partner, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), and asked them to help her.

OWFI brought Aya and her family to a shelter where they stayed for seven months. Under OWFI’s care, they received much needed support and resources to help rebuild their lives: medical care, psychosocial support, and basics like food and clothing.

Once Aya’s basic needs were met, OWFI began mediations between Aya and her stepsons, hoping to reach an agreement that would allow the family to return home. Through a months-long process guided by OWFI staff members, trust was rebuilt among the family, and Aya’s stepsons agreed to let her return. Thanks to your support, Aya and her children once again can live safely on their farm.

In addition to finding Aya’s family a safe place to live, OWFI also wanted to ensure that the family would thrive. Helping Aya secure IDs for her children has enabled her to enroll her children in school so their futures can be brighter.

Thanks to OWFI — and thanks to you — Aya and her family bare living more securely with a solid plan for the future. Thank you for making this life-changing work possible!


*Names have been changed to respect the privacy of individuals.

Aug 19, 2019

Reflections on our Interconnectedness

Our partner, Lucy, and MADRE board member Anne
Our partner, Lucy, and MADRE board member Anne

Longtime MADRE board member, Elyse Lightman Samuels, wrote a beautiful and thoughtful piece about our work in Kenya. She shares reflections about our Kenyan partner, the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), their leader, Lucy Mulenkei, and building connections with MADRE members like you. We hope you find it as inspiring as we do. Thank you for making our lifesaving climate justice work with IIN possible!

“We are all connected,” said Lucy Mulenkei, Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network (IIN) in Kenya and longtime partner of MADRE, who spoke earlier this year at a gathering hosted by MADRE Board Co-Chair, Anne Hess.

When Lucy meets with women from rural Indigenous communities to talk about climate change and human rights, she leans into the theme of interconnectedness. The message that we are more powerful when we work together, was woven through her remarks as she addressed a small gathering of MADRE members.

Lucy described how women experience climate crisis firsthand, such as the severe weather that causes droughts and decimates crops. IIN teaches women to plant trees around their homes and how to create and sustain small farms. Lucy’s organization also helps women create corrugated roofs and a water catchment system, so water is available for farming and livestock.

These are huge steps forward: instead of spending nearly two-thirds of their time gathering muddy water from the river, women can raise nutritious food from their family farms. They can raise money by selling vegetables and send their daughters to school, rather than trading them for a dowry in early marriage to make ends meet.

Lucy reminded us, thoughtfully and directly, that our actions in the US impact climate crisis the world over, with particularly harsh impacts on rural and Indigenous women. The need is great for policymakers in the US and elsewhere to hear from women experiencing climate crisis firsthand in their communities. Women have the solutions, declared Lucy, and we must uplift their voices.

“True partnerships begin with trust,” Lucy said, referencing MADRE’s long-term partnership with IIN. “When we began working with MADRE, it was like a sister-to-sister way. They became family. Everybody is important, and everybody has a place. That’s why we feel comfortable, and why we have worked together for over 15 years.”

As Lucy was speaking, the topic arose of MADRE’s recent delegation to Kenya. Referring to the MADRE members who had visited the local communities, she shared, “Sometimes it’s not just the material that you give, but the company that you are. For you to come to women’s homes, sit with them, see how they cook and make a living, this is powerful. When I go back, they’ll ask me about you all, they’ll remember your names. And they will show your pictures to their children, again and again.”

Many of us wonder what difference we can make, as one individual, to help communities under threat or to confront global emergencies like the climate crisis. Without question, providing our financial resources, when we’re able to do so, matters a great deal. So does listening, learning, lending our voices, and standing with one another.

When we recognize and embrace our interconnectedness, we move closer to MADRE’s vision: a world where all people enjoy the fullest range of individual and collective human rights; where resources are shared equitably and sustainably; where women participate effectively in all aspects of society; and where people have a meaningful say in policies that affect their lives. This vision starts with each of us.

Photo credits: MADRE

Women dance together at a MADRE-organized exchange
Women dance together at a MADRE-organized exchange
We are stronger when we stand with one another
We are stronger when we stand with one another
Jul 2, 2019

Red Hand Day

After decades of war, many children in Colombia have never known what peace looks like. But violence is all too familiar. Armed groups forced children to become soldiers. Girls and young women were the targets of sexual violence, turning their bodies into battlefields. 

Earlier this year, MADRE visited an elementary school in Colombia with our partner, Taller de Vida, in recognition of International Day Against the Recruitment of Child Soldiers (Red Hand Day).

We commit ourselves to protect children and open healing spaces that allow them to dream big. With your support, we provide art therapy and counseling for former child soldiers and survivors of sexual violence. These activities create a safe space for children to build friendships and imagine a peaceful world.

In these photos, you can see children from the elementary school participating in an art activity for Red Hand Day. Thank you for all you do to support these children!

Photo credit: MADRE

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