Women’s Federation for World Peace
By Helen T. Rotich, UN Representative of WFWPI for Africa
The Kenya chapter of WFWP is proud to share two distinct success stories that positively impact efforts for the eradication of poverty and hunger. These cases were initiated at the grassroots local level in the Bomet district of Kenya.
Women’s Federation for World Peace members in Bomet sponsor and support thirty orphans. These orphans receive school uniforms, blankets, beans and cooking fat. The orphan’s guardian families also are given maize seeds, beans and fertilizer on an annual basis to help these families with food security. This family support has made it easier on the guardian families to continue to sustain and care for the orphans in their homes. The guardian families are typically extended family of the orphans.
WFWP continues to network with local people, institutions and government to further the cause of caring for these children. We are planning a fundraising walk-a-thon to raise funds later in 2007.
Our second success story is our Anti-Feminine Genital Mutilation program, also in the Bomet district of Kenya. This is such an important matter to be faced because this practice supports a tradition of early marriage of young girls (13 to 15 years old). Early marriage means that the girls discontinue their educations, which affects so many aspects of their lives. The other serious matter about female circumcision is the potential negative impact to girls’ physical and emotional health and the potential spread of HIV/AIDS and other infections through the procedure due to poor hygiene methods.
Overcoming this tradition is a complex matter; consequently our program uses many approaches. We hold trainings for young girls to inform them of the potential health consequences of undergoing FGM. We also discuss the problems related to marrying very young, and encourage them to continue their education.
FGM is used as a rite of passage to adulthood. So we have created alternative rites of passage such as conducting a weeklong workshop to help the girls understand the value and meaning of life. This helps them understand how they are maturing, not just physically, but psychologically and spiritually. This program has helped children stay in school. These workshops are held during school holidays (three times a year).
In March 2004, we began conducting programs to educate the traditional surgeons who perform FGM about the dangers of the practice to both the girls and the surgeon. When the surgeons came to understand this, they have surrendered the practice willingly. Initially eight women surgeons stopped the practice. Now, twenty-four women have stopped. The numbers are growing. Those who surrender the practice are invited to join an income-generating project to help replace the income they lost. We have a machine that manufactures building blocks. The former FGM surgeons are given the opportunity to sell the building blocks to make money to support themselves. Through these programs, girl children come to understand why it is better not to undergo FGM, for the sake of health, education and their future. They have alternate rite of passage experiences that are constructive. The practitioners have learned and are learning the problems with the practice and are given an alternative means of income. This type of complex cultural issue must be addressed from many angles. We have done this successfully. Discontinuing the practice of FGM allows girls to protect their health and wellbeing, continue in school and postpone marriage. All are factors that enhance their chances of increased prosperity and future success.
ECOSOC, the AMR Innovation Fair
Women’s Federation for World peace International (WFWPI)
By Motoko Sugiyama, VP and Director of UN Office, WFWPI
As an NGO in General Consultative Status accredited with ECOSOC in 1997, WFWPI is committed to being a good partner to the United Nations by focusing on peace-building world wide through our unique and special signature project, the “Bridge of Peace” Sisterhood movement and poverty eradication through our International Service Projects (ISP) in fifty developing nations. (For further reference please visit: http://www.wfwp.org/)
Since the MDGs were introduced in the year 2000, our focus has been on achievement of Goal 1. Our International Service Projects (I.S.P.s) are also impacting achievement of Goal 2, Goal 3, Goal 6, and Goal 7. WFWPI’s I.S.P.s were instigated in 1994. At that time, we initiated International Volunteer Service activities in over 100 countries. During fact finding trips, women volunteers from developed nations witnessed the consequences of war, conflict and poverty firsthand. They saw how women and children suffered tremendously without husbands, fathers, sons and became impassioned to start projects to help and support those in need. Their determination and compassion was the inspiration behind people-to-people grass roots activities that is making a real and positive impact. Volunteers, primarily from Japan, brought ideas and proposals for projects back to their home country. Support systems were developed in Japan, initially and later in other national chapters of developed countries. As a result, currently WFWPI is operating twelve kinds of service projects in fifty countries. It has been a priority since their inception for the projects to be sustainable once they were created, built and set up. One aspect of sustainability has been to choose and train project managers from within the communities where projects are located whenever possible. Cultivating local leadership for projects allows the initial volunteers to continue in the capacity of consultants as well as direct their energy to developing an ongoing support system in their home country for the projects.
Therefore, WFWPI’s success story is the method we have been using to support and maintain our projects to keep them successful. The key word for our success story is: “Seeing is believing.” There are two excellent programs carried out annually to involve people from developed nations in WFWPI service projects. The first program is geared toward project supporters (donors). The second program focuses on engaging youth who are interested in international cooperation.
The first program that is offered is STUDY TOURS to ten developing countries each year. The ten groups have three to ten people each. The study tour groups travel to countries where WFWPI has service projects. In Africa, the tours go to Kenya, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Guinea, or Ethiopia. In Asia, the countries are Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, and Thailand. In Latin America: Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, or Dominican Republic receive tour groups. In CIS: Belarus. Activities of the tour include visiting WFWP supported schools, meeting with children who are supported by the foster parents program (foster parents meet with their foster child), sisterhood ceremonies between participants and local people, bringing and donating medical materials, stationary, schools supplies, toys, and more for underserved people and public institutions. Tour participants also offer teaching skills and exchange knowledge and friendship with representatives of governments and NGOs. Visiting the countries and seeing the projects and foster children as well as working together with local people give great impact to the program participants. Supporters witness the difference they have made in people’s lives and how much they are appreciated.
Study Tours (Photos)
The second program is YOUTH VOLUNTEERS FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION. This program operates in two developing countries each year. Ten high school and university students per group travel from Japan to provide short-term service work. So far, programs have taken place in Bangladesh, Thailand, Mongolia, Paraguay, Cambodia, and Philippines. The projects undertaken were school construction, renovation work in schools, temples and public facilities, reconstruction work in the disaster area of the giant tsunami, agricultural work to foster financial independence for disabled people and cultural and friendship exchange experiences. Youth learn how to live and thrive in situations very different from their daily lives. They enjoy working together for mutual understanding and cooperation. Most important, the youth come to understand a sense of responsibility toward people in much more difficult circumstances than their own.
Youth Volunteers For International Cooperation (Photos)
The precious, inspiring and lively experiences that participants have through these programs make great stories to be shared when they return home. The sharing of these stories generates more support and cooperation for further development of the International Service Projects and ultimately more success in achieving the MDGs.
ECOSOC, the AMR Innovation Fair
Women’s Federation for World Peace United Kingdom(UK)
By Martina Coombs, Vice President of WFWPI for Europe
The story of the Interfaith Children’s Home began in early 1998 when Mrs Patricia Earle, Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP) representative for the Midlands region of the United Kingdom, was invited to visit the state of Andhra Pradesh in South India. There she witnessed the desperate plight of some Dalit (‘untouchable’) communities, encountering a large number of orphaned children whose parents had committed suicide. The main reason for this was crop failure, in the cotton farming industry, and the resulting burden of debt. Most of the orphaned children could not receive any education, due to their having to go out to work, or beg on the streets, or the lack of schools in remote rural areas.
Developing an idea.
Back in Birmingham, UK, Patricia put the idea of building a Children’s Home to care for some of the Dalit children, creating the possibility for them to receive an education, to the ladies of her Women’s Peace Group. The group comprises women from all faiths, races and ethnic backgrounds who have been meeting together each month since 1993. The ladies embraced the idea and began raising money individually, as well as in their temples, mosques, churches and gurudwaras, etc. WFWP groups in other parts of the UK also held fundraising events to support the project.
By December 1998, sufficient funds had been raised to begin building what was to become ‘The Interfaith Children’s Home of Hyderabad’. An associated organisation, the Religious Youth Service, brought 36 young people, again representing all the world’s faith traditions, to lay the foundations for the Home. Additional support came from the International Relief Friendship Foundation. The young people spent two weeks together in the rural community of Uppal, 15km from Hyderabad, both constructing the foundations and also spreading the message of interreligious cooperation and Communal Harmony in schools and to the local population.
Completion. Local builders completed work on the Home during the year 1999, and it was officially opened in 2000 by a member of the ruling Telegu Desam Party, Hon Vijaya Rama Rao, Minister for Roads, Buildings and Ports, and formerly responsible for the national CBI, together with Mrs Della Godfrey MLA, nominated representative in the State Government of Andhra Pradesh for the Anglo-Indian community. More than thirty Dalit children have been cared for at the Home during the past eight years, a mixture of boys and girls of various ages, enabling them to attend a local village school and receive an education which would otherwise be denied them. So far, 8 children have graduated from the Home and all have done well enough in state exams to continue their education at Intermediate Colleges.
Maintaining the Home.
Although the ultimate aim is to find support for the Children’s Home within India, rather than it being an Aid-type of project, the majority of funding to maintain the Home has so far come from the UK. The WFWP has made substantial contributions towards maintaining the Home during the years 2000 – 2007, both from specific fundraising events and through individual child sponsorship.
In Birmingham, in addition to donations from numerous churches, temples and other places of worship, financial support has come from the Mother’s Union, Soroptimists International, Sikh Nari Manch, the Asian Women’s Network, the Hindu Women’s Club and the Indian Consulate. In April 2003, the wife of the Consul General of India in Birmingham brought together a number of voluntary organisations and NGO’s in a day of fundraising, raising £18,000 (US$ 35,000) of which £7,000 was donated to the Interfaith Children’s Home.
In India, the Children’s Home has become well recognised for its realistic contribution to Communal Harmony and good relations between people of different faiths, receiving the national Samaj Vikas Peace Award and, in January 2003, the international Hind Ratan (Jewel of India) Award, presented by Former President of India Shri K R Narayan.
Consequently, the state government of Andhra Pradesh is in the process of granting new land for the project’s expansion and development. A new home is to be built, with better and separate facilities for boys and girls, staff and guest accommodation and a clinic to provide Mother and Baby healthcare for the local community. The latter will be sponsored by a matched funding arrangement between Birmingham and Hyderabad Rotary Clubs, who wish to assist in the overall development of the project. Other funding partners who wish to support the development are Muslim Aid and Sikh Aid.
Six of the eight children who have now gone to College