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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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