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Peace Fellows Empower Community-based Advocacy!

by The Advocacy Project
Peace Fellows Empower Community-based Advocacy!
Peace Fellows Empower Community-based Advocacy!
Peace Fellows Empower Community-based Advocacy!
Peace Fellows Empower Community-based Advocacy!
Peace Fellows Empower Community-based Advocacy!
Peace Fellows Empower Community-based Advocacy!
Peace Fellows Empower Community-based Advocacy!
Peace Fellows Empower Community-based Advocacy!
Peace Fellows Empower Community-based Advocacy!
Peace Fellows Empower Community-based Advocacy!
Peace Fellow Beth and AP Zoom with NEFAD in Nepal
Peace Fellow Beth and AP Zoom with NEFAD in Nepal

This update is being sent to friends who have kindly donated to our fellowship program through GlobalGiving. We have raised $22,016 so far with your help.

This is not the report I expected or hoped to send.

In January, our 2020 fellowship program got off to a fine start when four major universities - Tufts, Georgetown, the University of Maryland and SAIS/Johns Hopkins - agreed to help us recruit their students and contribute half of the stipends ($2,000). We received almost 40 strong applications and made 8 offers. Our partners in Vietnam, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda were excited.

Then came the pandemic. We cancelled all international travel and went into lockdown, like our partners.

In spite of this, our message to you is quite positive. Like most of the world, we have adjusted to the new normal and been forced to experiment. We are optimistic that this will strengthen our organization and allow us to support international service by graduate students more efficiently in the future.

Programs: The change starts with the partner organizations that host our Fellows each summer. When the pandemic struck they asked if we could help them launch small-scale emergency projects to combat the virus and generate some desperately-needed income. They also noticed that face-masks and soap were suddenly in high demand. Several knew how to stitch after working with past Fellows to produce advocacy quilts, so face-masks came easily. Our partners in Mali and Zimbabwe have also trained vulnerable women to produce soap with help from Fellows and they proposed to ramp up production. We raised $2,000 and added another $2,500 from our own core budget. This has enabled us to seed 8 micro-enterprises in 6 countries. All are doing well.

Sister Artists Quilts: We are also enjoying the fruits of Sister Artists, an innovative project to help survivors of gender-based violence in Mali produce art quilts in collaboration with quilters in the Global North. This produced 40 gorgeous quilts which we auctioned last week. The auction raised $10,210, which will be invested in an embroidery project for the survivors in Mali. Three past Fellows - Giorgia (2014), Refilwe (2015) and Rose (2016) - laid the groundwork for this successul initiative by training survivors to produce embroidery while they were serving in Mali.

Remote Fellowships: Three 2020 Fellows are working remotely for partners (photos). Beth, a graduate at the Fletcher School, is producing a report on transitional justice for the Network of Families of the Disappeared in Nepal (NEFAD). Wilson from Georgetown is the first-ever blind Peace Fellow and is sharing his unique expertise with the Gulu Disabled Persons Union in Uganda. Alex from Johns Hopkins is advising advocates for indigenous peoples in Colombia that have been hard hit by COVID-19 and paramilitary violence. All three Fellows have become fast friends with their distant hosts.

Interns/assistants: We are also fortunate to have attracted four talented students to back up our Fellows and address our many tech needs (including online conferencing). They have already nudged us closer to becoming a virtual organization by expanding our use of social media, live streaming, online tech support for partners, and podcasts. We have even started to produce pages for all past and present partners, something we have dreamed of for a long time.

Blogs: All Peace Fellows to serve at AP have produced weekly blogs, but blogging has taken on added importance this summer. Partly because they have no distractions in the field, and partly in response to the shocking murder of George Floyd, this year’s Fellows have already produced outstanding blogs. Beth asks whether aid is racist. In a forthcoming blog Wilson will ask whether disability is necessarily disempowering. Alex explains the link between Black Lives Matter, COVID-19 and the marginalization of indigenous communities in Colombia. Fellows have so welcomed the chance to express themselves that we have asked the entire AP team - and not just Fellows - to blog. We are also inviting Board members and partners from the Global South to contribute blogs. If it happens, this will make our site more democratic and authentic.

GlobalGiving: This year’s Fellows are posting four microprojects on GlobalGiving for their hosts in advance of the July 15 matching day. Once again we hope these will encourage innovation and lay the foundation for sustainable programs when the pandemic eases. NEFAD is launching a new online strategy to market Tiger bags from Nepal. The GDPU is supporting two micro-enterprises to produce soap and masks by persons with disability in Uganda. Alex is seeking funds to create a communications intranet for two indigenous villages in the Amazon region of Colombia, to share information about COVID-19.

Nothing can compensate for what has been lost to COVID-19, but these organizations are resilient and they are using what we can offer with flair and imagination. This applies in particular to our Fellows, who may be missing the excitement of working in the field but are helping their hosts to navigate this terrible crisis. In the process they are building their own skills as surely as if they were present on the frontlines.

We would not be in this strong position if it were not for the support and encouragement we have received from friends the years.

Please stay safe.

In gratitude

Iain and the AP team

Alex is advising indigenous advocates in Colombia
Alex is advising indigenous advocates in Colombia
Wilson offers inspiration to his host in Uganda
Wilson offers inspiration to his host in Uganda
Beth will report to the UN on justice in Nepal
Beth will report to the UN on justice in Nepal
Happier times: McLane and hosts in Zimbabwe, 2019
Happier times: McLane and hosts in Zimbabwe, 2019

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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
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2019 Fellows at training in Washington
2019 Fellows at training in Washington

The Advocacy Project launched this appeal in early 2016 to help fund our fellowship program. In the three years since it has yielded $20,609 from 141 donations. A big thanks to you all!

This report will review lessons learned from this summer, when we deployed five Fellows to Nepal, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda.

As you may know from previous reports, our mission is to help survivors of abuse or injustice in the Global South to launch innovative startups for social change. We do this by recruiting a graduate student to spend ten weeks with our partners and offer the kind of support that students do really well - crowdfunding, social media, and story-telling. After ten weeks of friendship and collaboration, we hope that the host organization will be stronger and better placed to take their startups to the next level.

Here’s what our Fellows achieved this summer:

Uganda: Peace Fellow Spencer helped the Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) to install accessible toilets and hand-washing at the Abaka School, where the toilets had been so bad that the government planned to close the school. In the last four years GDPU has upgraded toilets at four schools in Gulu, with over 2,000 students. The money has come largely through GlobalGiving.

After this latest success, it is time to think of scaling the program. Our best hope lies in a formal partnership with the Gulu district government. We are also looking for Rotary clubs in the US that might work with the Gulu Rotary Club to support more GDPU toilet projects.

Zimbabwe: Peace Fellow McLane (Fletcher School) helped the Women Advocacy Project to confront child marriage by recruiting girl “ambassadors” to help girls who are threatened by marriage. McLane produced excellent blogs and photos; raised over $2,000; developed a plan to train girls in soap-making; and coordinated the making of 12 embroidered squares which depict child marriage.

The fruits of McLane’s excellent work are now being seen. The squares are being assembled into an advocacy quilt which will be exhibited at a forthcoming UN summit on women’s health in Nairobi (ICPD25). Constance, from WAP, will attend the conference and use her quilt to explain child marriage to an international audience. WAP has also launched soap training for 60 girls in Harare with the money raised by McLane.

Kenya: Ben (Fletcher School at Tuft) was the latest of several very talented Fellows to work at the Children Peace Initiative Kenya (CPIK). His main task was to help CPIK launch an ambitious new program of conflict resolution between the Turkana and Samburu tribes in northwest Kenya. Like his class-mate McLane from the Fetcher School, Ben also helped local artists to produce embrodered squares for a quilt that will be shown at the ICPD conference in Nairobi.

Since Ben's departure the northwest has been the scene of violent clashes that illustrate both the challenge and the importance of CPIK’s work.

Vietnam: We asked Peace Fellow Mia to visit families that participate in our program for Agent Orange victims – a heart-breaking assignment. We have raised over $15,000 for eleven families since 2015 and Mia confirmed that our grants (raised through GlobalGiving) have been well used. Mia also produced a wealth of valuable household data which will help her host, the Association for the Empowerment of Persons with Disability (AEPD), to develop a new facility to reach more families.

Nepal: Boroka worked at the Centre for Agro-Ecology and Development (CAED) which campaigns against menstrual banishment (chhaupadi). The government passed a law against chhaupadi in 2018, but the law will be difficult to enforce. We had hoped that CAED would take advantage of Boroka's presence to explore innovative local approaches, but CAED was not interested. Sadly, Boroka’s considerable talents were largely underutilized.

All of these fellowships have yielded valuable lessons. As we explained in a recent report to GlobalGiving, by raising $2,000 for WAP McLane was able to jumpstart soap training whch we hope will provide girls with an economic incentive to resist early marriage. By helping CPIK to produce professional reports for its German donor, Ben ensured that CPIK will likely attract further funding at a time when its work is more vital than ever.

Have Fellows really strengthened our partners? Absolutely, to judge from Uganda where Patrick (a survivor of polio) saw the Abaka project through to a successful conclusion after Spencer, his Peace Fellow, left prematurely. After working with five Fellows since 2015, Patrick is now a recognized expert on disability, WASH and education.

Even the disappointments must be seen in a larger context. We will invest heavily in Nepal again next year and draw on Boroka’s insights into chhaupadi, but with a different partner.

While there is plenty to be proud of, we face some headwinds. For example, we face growing competition from larger, better-endowed university fellowship programs. We argue that our model does a better job of triggering social change, promoting diversity and providing students with unique first-hand experience on the front lines. But it does mean that we depend heavily on generous indviduals like yourself.

We will be hoping for renewed support on Giving Tuesday (November 27).

In gratitude

Iain and the AP team.

Ben competes with the kids in northern Kenya
Ben competes with the kids in northern Kenya
Boroka defends menstruation in Nepal
Boroka defends menstruation in Nepal
Mia with Mr Phuc in Vietnam
Mia with Mr Phuc in Vietnam
McLane with the girl ambassadors in Zimbabwe
McLane with the girl ambassadors in Zimbabwe
Spencer sizes up the challenge at Abaka in Uganda
Spencer sizes up the challenge at Abaka in Uganda
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Heading for the Global South - the 2019 Fellows
Heading for the Global South - the 2019 Fellows

This report is being sent to friends of The Advocacy Project who have generously supported our Fellowship program through GlobalGiving. Since we launched this appeal in 2016, 129 donors have given $15,379. This has helped us to send 35 talented Peace Fellows out to work with partner organizations in 11 countries. Thank you!

As we explained in our last report in March, our fellowship program is all about matching the talents of graduate students with the needs of community-based advocates. Five more Fellows are now testing out the model in difficult assignments. This message will describe their work.

Spencer (George Mason University) is working with Patrick Ojok, director of the Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) in Uganda to install accessible toilets at the Abaka School. When AP visited the school in December, enrollment stood at 386 students. Over 100 students have since dropped out because of the terrible state of the toilets. Working with funds from the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Dublin Ohio, Patrick and Spencer have hired a contractor and mobilized over 60 parents to dig a new latrine pit. We hope to have new toilets and handwashing in place by mid-August. This program is described on our website.

Boroka (Graduate Institute in Geneva) is in west Nepal, helping a team from the Centre for Agro Ecology and Development (CAED) to investigate the menstrual banishment of women and girls (chhaupadi). The practice is extremely dangerous to women and girls but it will not be easy to reverse centuries of custom. We have asked Boroka to test out a number of new approaches, including the initiation of a legal test case and a Facebook page to connect girls during menstruation. We await her findings with interest!

Mia (University of Maryland) is helping the Association for the Empowerment of Persons with Disability (AEPD) in Vietnam to design a revolving fund for families affected by Agent Orange. AP has raised over $15,000 for 11 individual families (much of it through GlobalGiving). We have asked Mia to visit them and find out if they have made good use of our investments. If the answer is yes, as we expect, we hope to design a new facility that can make small loans to many more families and show that Agent Orange need not be a death sentence. Meet the families here.

McLane (Fletcher School, Tufts University) is hard at work in Zimbabwe on child marriage, which feeds on poverty, ignorance and cultural practices that – among other things - allow parents to repay debts by marrying off their daughters. McLane's host, the Women Advocacy Project (WAP), has trained four girls to serve as "ambassadors" against child marriage and manage several clubs where girls learn about reproductive health. Of the 150 girls who have participated since December 2018, not one has married. McLane is off to a quick start. She has met with the ambassadors and redesigned WAP’s website.

Ben (Fletcher School, Tufts University) has already made a field trip to Northern Kenya where his host, the Children Peace Initiative Kenya (CPIK), is working to broker peace between the Turkana and Samburu – two tribes that have fought over cows for years. CPIK’s model is described in these pages. The program is funded this year by the German Foreign Ministry. Ben’s talent for evaluation and reporting will be put to good use!

The five Fellows have started to post blogs and photos, and most of them will launch appeals for their hosts on GlobalGiving in July. They are supported from Washington by five hard-working interns - Abby (University of Texas, Austin); Rachel (University of Kentucky); Emily (Wheaton College); Nathan (Pomona College); and Sam (University of Maryland).

We are exceptionally fortunate to be working with such a talented team. It would not have been possible without your help!

Once again, our thanks.

Iain and the AP team.

McLane will work on child marriage in Zimbabwe
McLane will work on child marriage in Zimbabwe
Ben will support peace-making in Northwest Kenya
Ben will support peace-making in Northwest Kenya
Boroka will research menstrual banishment in Nepal
Boroka will research menstrual banishment in Nepal
Spencer will build accessible toilets in Uganda
Spencer will build accessible toilets in Uganda
Mia is on the track of Agent Orange in Vietnam
Mia is on the track of Agent Orange in Vietnam
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Fellows Ginny and Sarah in Afghanistan, 2004
Fellows Ginny and Sarah in Afghanistan, 2004

This report is coming to you because you have been kind enough to donate to our appeal for Peace Fellows on GlobalGiving. Thus far 126 donors have given $15,319, for which we are truly grateful.

Our last and eighth report to you in November reviewed the accomplishments of our 2018 Fellows, who were deployed to six countries. With recruitment again under way for this coming summer we want to share some of the lessons learned. In this day and age it is more important than ever that young people are exposed to the challenges that face people in the Global South. We feel that our program offers them a unique opportunity. But it can always be improved.

Finding innovative solutions

Over the past sixteen years we have deployed 305 Peace Fellows from over 60 universities, including those shown in the photos. Their job has been to provide 10 weeks of technical support to our community-based partners, and we are constantly reminded of just how well they do it. We recently posted new web pages on Uganda, where we help the Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) to install accessible toilets in primary schools. GDPU has built 19 toilets and hand-washing stations in three remote schools since 2015. As a result, 2,000 young Ugandans can enjoy their right to a decent education. We can also see how WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) can lift enrollment, build tolerance towards students with special needs and involve the local community – in other words, change the way these rural schools operate.

This is as exciting as it is unexpected and it would not have happened without the hard work of the eight Fellows who have served at GDPU since 2011. This Uganda project shows how graduate students can come up with innovative ideas and trigger social change which still studying for a Masters degree. We have posted other inspiring examples on our website.

This year we will be working with nine community-based partners like the GDPU. Six will be receiving Fellows. As always we advertised the placements widely and received around 50 applications for the six slots. We charged a small fee ($25), to make sure applicants were serious, and visited as many universities in person as we could. We also received several strong applications from Europe.

Providing technical support - without imposing

Our main goal in recruiting Fellows is to strengthen partner organizations in the Gobal South and enable them to meet their program goals. This poses something of a dilemma. Community-based organizations (CBOs) are strong in motivation and social capital (contacts, networking etc) but weak when it comes to professional skills (monitoring, evaluation, money management). They are the first to acknowledge that they need help. But there is also the risk that “capacity-building” by a foreign NGO, however well-meaning, will be resented if it is imposed.

We try and thread the needle by offering six services (developed with partners) and inviting the partner to choose. We then provide a week of specialized training for Fellows before they leave. The services offer help with startup development, story-telling, fundraising, social media/websites, and international outreach. Our Fellows can also help produce annual reports and strategic plans – important deliverables that can be written in ten weeks and provide lasting benefits.

This approach has shown us that in spending our grants and working with our Fellows, CBOs acquire important skills such as keeping receipts, reporting to donors, setting goals and developing budgets. We call this “indirect capacity-building.” The other point to make is that “capacity-building” works both ways. Our Fellows – and our own organization – benefit from these partnerships. As a result, we ask partners to assess our capacity and let us know how we can do better.

We have gone into some detail about our approach because we feel very strongly that CBOs can be agents of change, but only if donors tailor their support to the needs and strengths of their partners instead of imposing their own agenda. This is one reason why we appreciate GlobalGiving.

What we look for in Fellows

So what is special about a Peace Fellow? Over time we have come realize that a 26 year-old graduate student with relevant professional experience (eg Peace Corps) possesses attributes that are badly needed by CBOs like GDPU in Uganda. To list a few: curiosity, friendship, adaptability, the ability to work in a difficult environment, a commitment to goals and achieving results, a knowledge of English, international contacts, a liking for online fundraising, and a familiarity with ICT (websites, social media, and Excel). These are valuable resources for a group of highly motivated people who are trying to build a professional organization on next to no money.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out. In recruiting Fellows, we can misjudge someone’s ability to put up with pressure (which can take many forms). Partners, too, have to invest in their Fellows if they are to get the most out of them – and sometimes they don't make the effort. But such examples have been few and far between. Of the 305 Fellows we have deployed since 2003, only five left prematurely. Most of the others exceeded our expectations. Last summer alone, Fellows raised $70,467 for their hosts and gave us a wealth of blogs and photos which attracted over 120,000 views. Most important, they left their hosts stronger and better able to manage cutting-edge programs like the WASH program in Uganda. And as always AP benefitted. Our website received 524,764 visits from 193,451 individuals in 2018 – a 31% increase over 2017.

We’ll report back in June when this year’s Fellows head out for their assignments. In the meantime we invite you to read more about the Fellowship program; dive into the blogs; see how Fellows live throigh their videos; view their photos; and get a sense of how the lives of Fellows have been changed by the experience. You can also read more about the field programs in our annual reports.

Your donations have gone a long way!

In gratitude

The AP team.

Sylvie writing blogs in the DRC, 2010
Sylvie writing blogs in the DRC, 2010
Dina offers IT training in Uganda, 2011
Dina offers IT training in Uganda, 2011
Mariko sells Malaysian baskets, 2007
Mariko sells Malaysian baskets, 2007
T.J. helped make the Nunca Mas quilt in Peru, 2014
T.J. helped make the Nunca Mas quilt in Peru, 2014
Chris joins the dig for toilets in Uganda, 2018
Chris joins the dig for toilets in Uganda, 2018
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Organization Information

The Advocacy Project

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AdvocacyProject
Project Leader:
Iain Guest
Washington, DC United States

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