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Aug 28, 2006

Harvesting Hope: Putting Hope in the Hands of Women

Every investment in Harvesting Hope has a ripple effect. Women not only lift themselves and their families out of poverty, but empower themselves in the process, creating hope and opportunity for their community.

In Waspam, on Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Coast, the Harvesting Hope program is transforming the community as women invest in agricultural projects and later on, bakeries, and shops to support their families and the community. Here are a couple of recent success stories from the North Atlantic Coast…

Patricia: I Want My Children to be Able to Finish School For as long as she can remember, Patricia’s community in Waspam, Nicaragua has been plagued by war, hurricanes, and grinding poverty. She’s always dreamed of improving her life, but she was never even able to finish high school. She had to quit school and go to work to help support her family. She dreamed that her own children would not face a similar fate.

So when Wangky Tangni offered the opportunity for women to participate in business management training, Patricia was one of the first to sign up. After the training, she received four chickens and ongoing instruction about how to care for them and develop a small business selling eggs. She worked hard, and with her savings she was able to open a modest store. She sells bananas and basic necessities like rice and cooking oil. She lends space to other women in the community to store and sell their small harvests of bananas and other crops.

Thanks to this innovative program, Patricia’s children will not have to quit school to work. But Patricia has also used her new economic security to improve the entire community. She volunteers with Wangky Tangni to organize reproductive health trainings for women and helps promote children’s literacy through a MADRE-supported Children’s Book Corner at the community center.

Bibidilia: Proud to be Contributing to the Community As a 72-year-old woman and an Indigenous healer and midwife, Bibidilia is an important person in the Waspam community. She is godmother to nearly half of the children and she provides traditional healing services at no charge to many poor people. Although she is a community leader, revered for her skills and dedication, Bibidilia is herself very poor. She works alone, growing beans, rice, and vegetables. Every afternoon, she walks the two hours back to the river, carrying whatever she has harvested – it is only enough to feed herself; there is rarely anything left over to sell.

As Bibidilia began to age and her capacity for farm work diminished, she worried about how she would feed herself. Fortunately, Wangky Tangni’s Helping Hands program provided Bibidilia with the resources and training to start a modest bread-baking venture. The money she earns pays for business supplies with enough left over for food, ensuring that she can continue to live independently and with dignity.

Like Patricia, Bibidilia gives back to the community. Every week, she welcomes more than 40 community members to the Children’s Book Corner where she coordinates play and learning activities for young and old alike. Bibidilia is determined to help build a brighter future for her community’s children.

When we offer women the means to invest in themselves, we are investing in the future. Harvesting Hope enables women to develop successful small income-generating projects and reinvest in their community, sowing the seeds of hope in the midst of hardship.

Aug 28, 2006

MADRE in Umoja: A Delegation Update

MADRE staff and members recently returned from a delegation to Kenya, where they visited Umoja and other nearby villages. Umoja is an Indigenous Samburu community established and led by women who have declared their village a violence-against-women-free zone, and is the site of Breaking the Silence, an initiative to fight HIV/AIDS and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) among young Indigenous Kenyan women. MADRE works in Umoja through the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), our sister organization in Kenya.

While visiting Umoja and other Indigenous Maasai communities near Nairobi, the delegation met with activists who promote women’s health and human rights and advocate for the environmental preservation and sustainable development of Indigenous Peoples' lands. MADRE staff and delegates returned invigorated and inspired by the work of MADRE's partners to promote Indigenous Peoples' rights and end sexual violence and HIV throughout their communities.

During the delegation, MADRE staff facilitated human rights trainings for women in the communities they visited, and welcomed many additional participants from the villages nearby. Delegates had a chance to participate in the workshops and hear directly from Samburu and Maasai women and youth about topics such as women's political participation, women's human rights, and HIV/AIDS. Young people—including students from the US and Latin America, and youth from Umoja and nearby communities—participated in an exchange during which they shared perspectives on issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and community involvement.

As part of a related educational initiative called Hope for the Future, MADRE also offered early-childhood education trainings to teachers in three villages, including Umoja. MADRE brought the director of a local pre-school in New York as a Sisters Without Borders volunteer to conduct the workshops, where local teachers received training in early childhood development and pedagogical models to improve their skills as pre-school teachers. With the outstanding support of delegates, MADRE was also able to deliver donated school supplies, didactic materials, and toys to pre-schools in and nearby Umoja. Delegates were invited to help decorate Umoja's school with the new materials, which amplified the students’ excitement about the coming school year. MADRE hopes to continue working with the women of Umoja in the future, to bring high quality trilingual education to the Umoja School so that the residents of Umoja can become empowered and effective participants in the development of Kenya.

Jun 22, 2006

Darfur Crisis and Project Update

As the crisis in Darfur rages on, into its third year, more than two million people have been forced to flee their homes and are spread across a vast, unprotected area, where they continue to be attacked by government-allied janjaweed militias. UNICEF reports that nearly two million children have been directly harmed by the violence, some of them displaced multiple times. The war has now spilled over into neighboring Chad, where janjaweed militias massacred villagers in April, adding to a death toll that already surpasses 460,000. Since April, fighting between rival rebel groups has also affected civilians, escalating the death toll even further. In late May, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that the violence had reached unprecedented levels. The UN announced May that it might withdraw its aid workers from Darfur.

Rape is a primary weapon in this war. Women—who are struggling to keep their families alive in remote refugee camps that lack food, water, and healthcare—are routinely raped when they venture outside of the camp to fetch water, collect wood, or plant crops. Women who survive these attacks are often ostracized by their families for having been raped. Many have been banished from their homes for pregnancies resulting from rape.

With your help, MADRE is responding to the crisis with our partner Zenab, a Sudanese women's organization working in El Sieref and other refugee camps, where women have been systematically raped, children fear for their lives, and traumatized families lack even basic necessities.

The generous response from MADRE donors in the last two months has made it possible for Zenab to begin:

• Building enclosed toilets within the camp, allowing women to enjoy a modicum of privacy and security and reducing the need to leave the camps, which will help to improve security for displaced women and girls.

• Providing three trained social workers to offer play therapy to traumatized children, as well as conduct training sessions for local women and men about the harmful consequences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)—which Zenab reports is practiced on almost every young girl.

• Feeding fifty families—approximately 400 people. Food resources are an incredibly important part of aid efforts, especially as UN and other aid agencies in the region are scrambling to find enough funds to pay for rations needed by more than two million displaced people.

The onset of the rainy season this month will make large-scale aid deliveries even more difficult, as roads become impassable. Yet MADRE’s partnership with a locally-based women’s organization will make it possible for us to distribute emergency aid directly to women who are most in need.

None of Zenab’s work—feeding families, promoting safety and security, and empowering women—would be possible without the support of people like you.

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