Insert a blog post list using the blog shortcode. Add the shortcode to a page or other content area to produce a list of blog posts. Optional parameters allow customization of the display.
Blog from Categories
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Posts from categories with paging and post details:
Can you believe it’s been over two years now since those devastating earthquakes hit Nepal in 2015? It’s long out of the news cycle now, and with so much other important stuff going on (Aussies, make sure you’re registered with the AEC to vote in this marriage equality plebiscite!) I’m...
Guess what?! We just opened a brand new computer and English lab for women in Cambodia! Do you remember when you first went online? I can, but only just. That sense of amazement (and the ten minute wait!) at the sound of a modem firing up. Suddenly, all my friends – the...
At The Global Women’s Project we know that we stand on the shoulders of giants every single day. We wouldn’t be here doing what we do without the women who fought for our rights, who sacrificed so we may have it that bit easier and who showed immense resilience and...
We are committed to celebrating the many roles that women play in our lives. Our organisation is made up of daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts and a couple of mothers too. In fact, three of our team members as well a Board member have welcomed four new babes into the world – two...
We know women experience discrimination, poverty, violence and inequality every day and in every country. So it stands to reason that we need to pay particular attention to women’s intense vulnerability during and after the chaos of a natural disaster like the earthquakes in Nepal. We’ve said it before and...
The Global Women’s Project in partnership with the Women’s Melbourne Network is proud to present The Disaster Agender: An exploration of women’s vulnerability and resilience during natural disaster When: Monday 23rd November, 6pm Where: Bella Union, Melbourne Tickets: Waged/full price: $12 online, $15 on the door Unwaged/concession: $8 online, $10...
International Day of the Girl (IDG), which falls on October 11 each year, gives us an opportunity to highlight the unique challenges facing girls across the world. A chance to pause and consider all of the implications of being a girl in this day and age, both from an individual...
One thing I’ve realised in the seven weeks since I moved to Kathmandu, Nepal, is that you can get a lot done in a short space of time if you’ve got the right people on the job. Luckily for GWP, our partner organisation, the Women’s Foundation Nepal (WFN), is a...
An Invitation to GWP x One Girl “I Am A Girl” Screening from The Global Women's Project on Vimeo. We are thrilled to be partnering with One Girl to celebrate International Day of the Girl this year. For the special occasion we will be screening the critically acclaimed documentary ‘I Am...
At the start of this year I was lucky enough to visit our partner organisation, the Stung Treng Women’s Development Centre (SWDC) in Cambodia, and to have a holiday along the way to re-charge the batteries. Arriving on New Year’s Eve so as to start 2014 afresh, I spent my first three...
Posts from categories, full post no images:
Can you believe it’s been over two years now since those devastating earthquakes hit Nepal in 2015?
It’s long out of the news cycle now, and with so much other important stuff going on (Aussies, make sure you’re registered with the AEC to vote in this marriage equality plebiscite!) I’m sure most of us are thinking about other things.
But I’ve been reflecting recently on what it was like to be in Nepal during the months following the quakes. What it meant to be able to provide such important and necessary relief to the women and their family members affected.
I recall being up all night on that first night, stationed at the headquarters of our local partner organisation and taking in an endless stream of people. Sleeping with hundreds of others on the floor of our partner’s textile production centre. Leaving at 3am to carry relief supplies to remote villages that had been absolutely flattened. Seeing images of the gorgeous hills of the Langtang Valley that I’d trekked so enthusiastically a couple of months before, now a muddy landslide.
So many of my memories are haunted by the recollection of thousands who lost their lives, and the sheer force of destruction and devastation.
But I have beautiful memories too.
The knowledge that, with your support, we were able to provide relief to over 65,000 people.
Yes, 65,000 people received food, water, clothing, bedding, hygiene and sanitation packs and more because of your support.
The tireless energy, compassion and selflessness of the staff at our partner organisation, the Women’s Foundation Nepal (WFN). Oh, and the time that Renu, WFN’s President and fearless leader, without giving it a second thought, literally jumped onto the back of a police truck distributing supplies, taking control from police because they were doing nothing to keep a desperate crowd in check. Renu successfully wrangled two orderly lines.
And how could I ever forget the 173 perfect babies brought safely into the world because of our Shelter for Pregnant Women and New Mothers? A program so close to my heart, being 7 weeks pregnant myself.
We were able to support 578 people through the Shelter. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it! And this wasn’t just the 173 mothers who received shelter, food, clothing, neonatal support and safe passage to hospital for their babies’ birth, their 173 gorgeous newborns received care and shelter for their first crucial months of life too, and we could support an additional 232 family members to stay with the birthing mum too.
I want to say a deep and heartfelt thank you to everyone who made a donation to our relief efforts during this tumultuous time. We were able to do what we did in large part because of you.
I want you to know we’re still working hard to give women in Nepal the tools they need to build better lives for themselves. This includes supporting 622 women through membership at one of three rural Women’s Hubs, at which they’re able to access vocational training, business development support and loans, legal support, counselling.
And we’ve got another really exciting program in the pipeline – a women’s entrepreneurship and business program that we’ll share with you really soon!
In the meantime, please consider helping us continue this kind of work by clicking here. We are grateful for every dollar and believe me, we run a tight ship. We make every dollar count.
CEO and Co-Founder
We just opened a brand new computer and English lab for women in Cambodia!
Do you remember when you first went online? I can, but only just. That sense of amazement (and the ten minute wait!) at the sound of a modem firing up. Suddenly, all my friends – the whole world – was at my fingertips. Suddenly anything was possible!!
Today, it’s everywhere. I can’t imagine a life without the internet now and I’m willing to bet it’s the same for you. How would you win an argument at a bar with friends? Pay your bills? Find a job? We’re so saturated with the internet that it’s easy to forget how radically it’s changed our lives.
But it’s not just here in Australia. The internet is vital for women in developing nations, and we’re getting on the front foot.
How are these for some astounding facts? Today, 3.9 billion people still don’t have access to the internet. Only 15.2% of those in less developed countries are online. More than 250 million fewer women worldwide are online than men and the internet gender gap in developing countries has increased to 16.8% since 2013!
Digital illiteracy is having a huge impact across the developing world, on a country’s overall development, and on women’s ability to build better lives for themselves. On their ability to access information. On their participation in the economy and employment prospects. Their social and political participation. Their fundamental connectedness.
So with tourism on the rise in the Stung Treng region, we’re making sure that local women are prepared with the skills and resources they need to take advantage of job opportunities as they arise – computer and English language skills.
We’ve committed to funding this project for the next three years and we’re so excited to have you along for the ride!!
At The Global Women’s Project we know that we stand on the shoulders of giants every single day. We wouldn’t be here doing what we do without the women who fought for our rights, who sacrificed so we may have it that bit easier and who showed immense resilience and courage in the face of adversity, injustice and patriarchal systems.
We also know that there are women, the world over, who are continuing that fight and it is our mission to support them as they challenge gender stereotypes and make gender equality a reality in their corner of the globe.
One of our aims as an organisation this year is to honour the women who blazed the trail for us and, in doing so, raise funds to support those grassroots women leading change in developing communities right now.
As you know, we partner with two remarkable women-led organisations in Nepal and Cambodia who provide education, livelihoods and leadership programs for women. These women are some of the most economically and socially disadvantaged people in the world, yet some of the most resilient, capable and courageous.
We are always looking for innovative and creative ways to support them so we decided that, for 2016, our major fundraising event would be an exhibition and art auction showcasing the trailblazing women of herstory to try and raise $25,000 for our work and our partners. It’s a big goal but we know that, with your help, we can get there.
Funnily enough, the idea for the event was inspired by a brief encounter between our Womanager of Comms & Community, Carmen, and none other than feminist icon Gloria Steinem. But more on that to come…
Here’s what you need to know about why we are doing this:
First and foremost it is to raise money for our partners in Cambodia and Nepal to keep doing what they are doing for women in their communities
We believe that doing the work of creating gender equality can be fun and meaningful and there is something very special about coming together in a room full of like-minded people
Art is an important way to agitate for change and celebrate women who have blazed the trail for us – plus we need to find ways to celebrate herstory in our everyday lives
Art can and should be accessible to everyone
Women/artists should be paid for their time and skills
On this last point, we see every day that women and artists are asked to give up their work product up for free and we do not want to be part of propagating this culture wherever we can. For this reason, we are offering all artists 50% of the sale price (or reserve price for auction items) of their piece.
Want to be involved?
The exhibition will run for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence with an opening event on Friday 25 November. On the night all pieces will be for sale or auction and so we encourage all forms those creatives among us to submit a piece for exhibition. Paint, sculpt, draw, stencil, print, decorate, photograph or do something else entirely – your work just needs to be original and a portrait of a trailblazing woman.
We are taking expressions of interest until July 31st 2016, and we will advise artists of the outcome in the first week of August.
Simply click here to fill out the submission form.
You will be asked to provide your name, links to your work, and your portrait idea. If your work is not online, no worries! You can send us some photographs to email@example.com instead.
If we haven’t covered your question, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can’t think of anyone? Here are some of our favourite suggestions…
We are committed to celebrating the many roles that women play in our lives.
Our organisation is made up of daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts and a couple of mothers too.
In fact, three of our team members as well a Board member have welcomed four new babes into the world – two boys, two girls. Equality, right?! It seems we’re populating the next generation of change makers here at The Global Women’s Project. Suffice it to say it’s been a busy start to the year!
This Sunday, May 8th, is an opportunity for us to celebrate the vital role that mothers play in our global community. They give life. They nurture. They care. They lead. They teach. They are nothing short of amazing.
As you know, we work alongside a couple of grassroots women’s organisations in Nepal and Cambodia to improve the lives of women in some of the most disadvantaged communities in the world.
Often these women are single mothers, either divorced or widowed, with low literacy levels and few prospects to support themselves and their families.
Through the programs we support, many of these women have become primary bread-winners and equal decision-makers in their families and we believe that deserves to be celebrated!
We can’t think of a better way to celebrate them than by investing in them on Mother’s Day! Your financial investment can give these mothers the support they need to thrive.
Honour the mothers of the world this Mother’s Day by making an investment in The Global Women’s Project. Visit our MyCause page… and make sure you download the e-certificate to give to your special mum.
We know women experience discrimination, poverty, violence and inequality every day and in every country. So it stands to reason that we need to pay particular attention to women’s intense vulnerability during and after the chaos of a natural disaster like the earthquakes in Nepal.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: inequality + natural disaster = further inequality and even more disaster. It’s a vicious cycle.
We bet you’re wondering how those vulnerabilities manifest and what has happened to women in post-disaster Nepal. Well that’s what we’re here for!
In a nutshell, women are even more vulnerable to gender-based violence, trafficking, child marriage, maternal health complications and other related menstrual or sanitary infections following a natural disaster than they are in times of relative calm. The UNFPA’s humanitarian response coordinator in Asia and the Pacific, Priya Marwah, said recently in a statement that “in times of upheaval or natural disasters, pregnancy-related deaths and gender-based violence soar.”
Gender-based violence and exploitation
In the chaotic post-disaster period, women and girls face an escalated risk of sexual and gender-based violence, as the community spaces and ties that provided a semblance of stability and safety are disrupted and dismantled.
Leading researchers in the field of gender and disaster, Dr Claire Zara and Dr Debra Parkinson, have confirmed that displacement, stress and trauma following a disaster can create an increased risk of gender-based violence and sexual assault. Indeed they found that increased violence against women is actually a characteristic of the post-disaster period.
The grief and loss that is caused by intense disasters, coupled with the financial and bureaucratic demands of the recovery and reconstruction phase as well as the increased contact between family members — often in cramped and makeshift accommodation — can increase tension and the likelihood of violent behaviour. When this behaviour coincides with widely held community attitudes that excuse violence against women, we sometimes see up to a 400% rise in women seeking refuge from a violent partner. You can read more on this here or come and see Dr Deb Parkinson present at our upcoming event on gender and natural disaster.
Additionally, the prevalence of rape and sexual exploitation greatly increases the likelihood of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and complications regarding reproductive health during and after natural disasters.
During times of disaster, we also sometimes see women partaking in risky sexual behaviour such as transactional sex. According to the UNFPA, such ‘transactional sex’ typically involves non-marital sexual relationships, often with multiple and older male partners. Its prevalence is a reflection of men’s superior economic position and access to resources and women’s difficulties in meeting basic needs, among other things. It is important to point out that these behaviours are often a survival mechanism and form of resilience or defiance for women in a world where their body is their only currency and they find themselves using sex as a commodity in exchange for goods, services, money, accommodation, or other basic necessities.
Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by human traffickers in many countries, particularly across Asia, and there are grave fears that they may target Nepal in the chaos. Organisations like international anti-slavery and trafficking organisation The Freedom Fund, have ramped up activities in Nepal following the earthquakes knowing that one of the many consequences of a natural disaster is that many more people are vulnerable to exploitation of all kinds, including commercial sexual exploitation.
Prior to the earthquake, Nepal already had a high level of child marriage. One in 10 girls are married by the age of 15, and four in 10 are married before their 18th birthdays. Similar to many other countries, the reason for child marriage in Nepal is largely due to poverty, and is aggravated by a dowry system. Child marriage rates are expected to soar in the quake’s aftermath because parents who have lost everything can no longer afford to raise their daughters and so are forced to sell them for their dowry. Orphaned girls are often preyed upon and even sometimes with the best of intentions to protect their daughters from sexual violence, some parents try and ensure their safety by marrying them off. Again, these were issues in countries like Nepal prior to the earthquakes and are likely to become even more of an issue in the wake of disaster.
Pregnancy related complications and maternal deaths soar in times of upheaval or natural disaster, according to the UNFPA who, at the time of the earthquake, estimated there to be 126,000 pregnant Nepali women. When we were delivering aid we met lots of pregnant women, many of whom were being forced to give birth under tarps and in fields because their houses and local health clinics had collapsed. You can imagine how unsafe this is for women and their newborn babies. If you would like to find out more about how you can give one woman and her newborn baby access the shelter, services and supportive environment she deserves, click here. It’s important that we all do what we can to ensure that there is not a dramatic increase in the maternal and infant mortality rates.
What are the dangers of focusing on women’s vulnerability?
When we talk about women’s unique vulnerabilities in this way it is hard not to perpetuate or reinforce existing gender stereotypes about women needing ‘saving’ or women needing ‘protection’. Thus, shifting our view from women as ‘victims’ to women as ‘agents of change’ and focusing on women’s immense capabilities in using the resources available to them is essential. As organisations working in a post-disaster context, and as an organisation focused on supporting women to empower themselves, we must not allow this narrative to overshadow women’s immense resilience and the role they have to play in leading recovery and rebuilding efforts. This tension will be the topic of our next blog in the series and also the subject of our upcoming event on Monday the 23rd November – the Disaster Agender. Details below – we’d love to see you there!
This is the third blog in our series, (Wo)managing disaster in Nepal, on the unique and disproportionate ways women have been affected by the earthquake. You can be part of the conversation by leaving a comment below or get involved in the discussion on Facebook or Twitter.
*We would like to acknowledge the sad passing of Dr Claire Zara in 2014. She is sorely missed by all who knew her and had the pleasure of working alongside her.
The Global Women’s Project in partnership with the Women’s Melbourne Network is proud to present
The Disaster Agender: An exploration of women’s vulnerability and resilience during natural disaster
Monday 23rd November, 6pm
Bella Union, Melbourne
Waged/full price: $12 online, $15 on the door
Unwaged/concession: $8 online, $10 on the door
What’s it all about?
The community will come together for one night to discuss what a gendered response to natural disaster actually looks like in practice with a panel of experts. Together we will explore the tension between women’s vulnerability and their resilience in crisis, as well as the importance of working with grassroots organisations in distributing relief.
Speakers include our very own Board Director and former UN World Food Programme Senior Coordinator Christina Hobbs, who has recently returned to Australia after coordinating a disaster response in Nepal.
This event is a joint initiative of The Global Women’s Project and Women’s Melbourne Network to mark International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women, the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence as well as seven months since the first earthquake devastated Nepal.
All funds raised will go towards The Global Women’s Project’s Nepal recovery programs including a Shelter for Pregnant Women and New Mothers displaced after the earthquake in Nepal.
- Christina Hobbs, former UN World Food Program Senior Coordinator and Board Director of The Global Women’s Project, who has recently returned to Australia after coordinating a disaster response in Nepal;
- Dr Debra Parkinson, a leading academic and women’s health practitioner in gender-based violence and natural disaster and co-founder of the Gender and Disaster Pod;
- Marita Davies, i-Kiribati and Melbourne-based writer, producer and frontline climate change activist;
- Stacey Sawchuk, Gender, Resilience and Disaster Reduction Advisor at ActionAid Australia.
Tickets on sale now:
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We look forward to seeing you there!
International Day of the Girl (IDG), which falls on October 11 each year, gives us an opportunity to highlight the unique challenges facing girls across the world. A chance to pause and consider all of the implications of being a girl in this day and age, both from an individual perspective and as a collective.
Last Friday night, GWP chose to mark this important day by teaming up with One Girl and screening ‘I Am A Girl‘, an incredible documentary that gives us a unique insight into what it’s like to be a girl in the 21st century. The film takes you on a journey through the lives of the six girls and the diverse cultures they live in.
Confronting. Inspiring. Moving. Thought-provoking. At times, depressing.
These are some words that come to mind when I reflect on those 88 minutes. The film made me feel uncomfortable, it made me laugh, it made me cry, but most of all it made me think. For once, girls took centre stage, telling us about their lives, in their words, and it was incredibly powerful. I liked that the film left me with more questions than answers because it truly made me consider what it is like to be a girl growing up right now and the challenges they might be faced with depending on their postcode. Each girl taught us about herself and about her world and each of them gave us insights into key issues facing girls today.
Manu, the 19-year-old girl from Papua New Guinea, giving birth on her own, was incredibly confronting. I found myself thinking of all the modern trappings of hospitals and birthing suites here in Melbourne and how far away that is from her experience, where she watched other women giving birth on the floor and had to wait eight hours before the doctor came back to check on her. There was no glossing over it and nor should there be. The reality is that for girls aged 15-19 the greatest cause of death is complications from pregnancy and childbirth in middle and low income countries.
We meet Breani who lives in the projects in New York City who, like many young girls, dreams of becoming a pop star and is busy posing for selfies. But her story is far more than that. She grew up in a single parent household and finds herself in a toxic and unhealthy relationship. I was reminded that 1 in 3 women over the age of 15 will experience violence from an intimate partner.
Habiba is a 17-year-old girl from Cameroon who we see getting prepared for her wedding to a 39-year-old man. Whilst we witness her anticipation and excitement at her upcoming nuptials, we also see a kind of marriage induction that conforms strictly to traditional gender roles and we witness the end of her childhood. Although she doesn’t characterise it as a forced or arranged marriage, it is confronting to watch a young girl experience her first kiss on her wedding day to a man she hardly knows. Child marriage, defined as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18, is still all too prevalent; 700 million women in the world have been married as children and this often leads to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation.
Compared to the other girls featured in the film, 17-year-old Australian girl Katie knows that she’s incredibly lucky and has ‘everything she needs and almost everything she wants.’ That said, her life has challenges of its own and she is struggling under the weight of expectation and pressure to perform in her final exams. Her battle with anxiety and depression becomes a matter of life or death for her at one stage, and we cannot ignore the fact that approximately 67% of young people aged 16 to 24 in Australia will experience depression in any given year. Incidentally, our screening actually took place on Mental Health Day in Australia.
Aziza had me fist-pumping and excited, not only because she was getting her rightful access to education but because she was challenging stereotypes of Muslim women, and particularly Afghan women, that we all too often see portrayed in Western media. As she tells us, much of her strength is sourced from the long line of intelligent, activist women in Afghanistan, and Malalai Joya and the Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women (RAWA) spring to mind. Aziza was ambitious, well supported and studious, and we hope she does manage to become the country’s first female president! But her story was not without tragedy - her father was killed by the Taliban and, as we know, girls in this part of the world continue to risk death to get an education with girls’ schools regularly bombed and acid attacks on female students all too common. There are still over 60 million girls in this world who aren’t in school.
I’ve left Kimsey until last for a number of reasons. Am I right in thinking that those of you who saw the film are still thinking about her? Her story was, in many ways, the most confronting and I know I’m not alone in feeling a little helpless or hopeless hearing her talk about her life of sexual slavery, providing for her mother and younger sister as well as her daughter. Having sold her virginity to pay for food aged 12, having her first child at 14, her second child taken away from her, and being in an abusive relationship with a man who seemed more concerned about his SIM card than anything else she has seen more heartache than you’d wish on your worst enemy, and she is only 16. Her experience of forced prostitution, rape, domestic violence and providing financial assistance are a reality for far too many girls and women in this world. Just one person experiencing that is too much.
So what do we do about it?
Education and empowerment for women and girls to tackle the systemic discrimination and violence they face and removing barriers to realising their full human rights is the closest thing to a silver bullet solution that we have, to borrow the phrase from our Keynote Speaker Claire Poyser.
Watching this film and Kimsey’s story, in particular, had me thinking about our work with Stung Treng Women’s Development Centre (SWDC) in Cambodia and my trip there earlier this year. I’ve seen first hand how our partner organisation’s programs support the most disadvantaged women in one of Cambodia’s most rural provinces to access the education, vocational skills and economic empowerment that they need to break the cycle of poverty. Through these programs, which GWP supports, these women are provided with an opportunity to gain meaningful employment, have their children educated for free, and to gain control over their lives. You can find out more about our programs in Cambodia here, and read about my time there here.
And if you’d like to make a donation, we would be incredibly appreciative. Each little bit counts.
You can click here to donate.
If you missed the film on Friday but would like to see it, you might consider hosting a screening of it yourself to raise money for GWP. All the information on how to do that is on the I Am A Girl website and please get in touch with us if this is something you’d like to pursue. It truly is a remarkable film and you are guaranteed to want to talk about it for days.
AND if you are looking for something to do right now to raise awareness about girls education, in particular, then we want you all to get behind One Girl’s fabulous Do It In A Dress campaign. You go about your daily activities in a school dress, so a girl in Sierra Leone can wear one too. It’s that simple. One Girl, like us, are a Melbourne-based organisation that is committed to making this world a better place for girls and women by increasing access to education and thereby empowering girls to change their worlds. We’d like to thank them for partnering with us for IDG!
On behalf of GWP and One Girl, I’d like to also thank all of the wonderful people who came along to support the event, our Keynote Speaker Claire Poyser as well as the many ethical and fairtrade businesses who jumped on board and donated beautiful gifts to help us raise some extra funds for our programs that empower and educate girls and women. A very big thank you to our friends at Ruby Olive Jewellery, Sorella Organics, Words with Heart, A Little Coy, Karma Cola, Home Grown Gifts, Lifestyle Portraits, Simone Perele, Peppermint Magazine and One Colour for their generous donations.
Now you’ve heard what I thought of the film, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please share your comments below or get involved in the conversation on our Facebook page.
One thing I’ve realised in the seven weeks since I moved to Kathmandu, Nepal, is that you can get a lot done in a short space of time if you’ve got the right people on the job. Luckily for GWP, our partner organisation, the Women’s Foundation Nepal (WFN), is a serious, serious powerhouse filled with passionate, formidably capable staff. We are definitely in good hands.
As many of you already know, after a time struggling to juggle a couple of jobs in Melbourne, I decided in August to move to Nepal to give myself the opportunity to spend a full working week doing what I love – working with GWP and our partners. I’ve been amazed at how rich and productive the experience has been so far, on both professional and personal levels.
On a personal level, I feel as if I’m in the right place doing the right thing, which can often be easier said than done for a ‘development worker’. I’ve found a little sanctuary to live in and have met so many like-minded people – Nepali and expats alike – who I can bounce ideas off, who challenge me and teach me. There’s something magic in the air here and I feel quite at home.
On a professional level, GWP and WFN’s partnership is strong and getting stronger, my Nepali colleagues astound me daily with their smarts and enthusiasm, and there have been some fantastic developments with regard to our Light the Spark electrical training program for women.
Needless to say, I’m excited to be able to share with you just a few tastes of my experience and our work, here on the GWP blog.
When I arrived in Nepal, I was immediately greeted with the most incredible generosity and warmth by my WFN colleagues. They welcomed me into their family and have been a constant and genuine source of friendship. There’s such a sense of love, peace and good humour (quite ‘Australian’ actually – dry and witty) that pervades the organisation and it’s not uncommon for a room full of people to be rolling around belly laughing for some reason or another. The development of my relationships with my colleagues at WFN have been really natural and personal, which has made our work and the development of our partnership light and rewarding.
In particular Renu, WFN’s President, is a force to be reckoned with. She works tirelessly for the organisation, travelling and liaising with donors, developing and managing a large number of projects and still managing to find time to hang out with the kids who come to dinner every night. She’s also very much on the front line, having been arrested a number of times for protesting uninvestigated cases of rape and violence against women. If nothing else this should give you a sense of her commitment and passion! She also likes to rescue street dogs and cats – lots of them – and has one of the warmest and fiercest hearts I’ve ever encountered. I feel genuinely lucky to be working alongside her and for us to have the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience with each other.
WFN runs a number of really, really well thought-out and managed programs. The organisation primarily operates: a number of shelters for survivors of domestic violence through which women are provided with education and livelihood opportunities; a daycare centre which allows women with children to attend training and work; an organic farm; a weaving cooperative; a school that explicitly utilises non-violent disciplinary methods and aims to provide children from all walks of life with a warm, nurturing and egalitarian place to learn (this is radical in Nepal as corporal punishment in school is endemic); and micro-credit, savings circles and training programs in various rural areas.
I have been particularly impressed to learn more about the micro-credit and savings circle programs that operate from WFN’s twelve district offices across Nepal. These programs have been set up so well, in a way that mitigates risk and provides genuine education and income-generation opportunities for women. The programs also clearly empower women far beyond simply increasing their access to funds. In many instances, women’s involvement in savings circles has allowed them to work together to challenge manifestations of gender inequality, for example, visiting households en masse to confront husbands or partners who commit acts of violence against one of their members. In one particular village of primarily Muslim men and women, there has been a significant shift in community attitudes and behaviours towards women as a result of their involvement in micro-credit, which has meant that women are now able to work in and embrace public spaces.
With regard to our Light the Spark electrical training program for women, there have been some amazing developments. I have been working very closely with Renu to evaluate the training phase of the program and develop the economic empowerment component. In line with the best program model we see fit, we are well underway to develop a comprehensive project plan for a small social enterprise that will employ our graduates, provide them with continuous professional mentorship and psychosocial support, and build relationships with community and business to secure work for our employees. Watch this space!
In addition to program monitoring, evaluation and development, much of what I’ve been doing over here has been networking with interested parties across Nepal – including the Kathmandu Alternative Power and Energy Group and the engineering department at Kathmandu University – to explore mutual interests and opportunities. We have been delighted that there has been a great deal of interest and excitement about what we are doing, and we’re well on our way to building a community of interested stakeholders.
Most importantly to me though, is the reaction we’ve had from our program participants. The thirteen Light the Spark graduates have been delighted to share with me the ‘lightbulb’ moments they experienced during our six-week basic training program, and are as infectiously enthusiastic as ever about working in the field of electrical engineering. I was humbled to witness the collective sense of empowerment amongst the women, resulting from their participation in the program, particularly with regard to positive changes in their own perceptions around women’s limitations and capabilities.
It’s hard to convey in writing how rewarding, productive, amazing, inspiring and empowering an experience this has been. So I will simply say that I am convinced we are on the right track. Thanks for your ever-present love and support for me, GWP and our project partners, as we continue this journey. I genuinely feel it, as does the whole team, and it keeps us going.
And on an entirely different subject, we have a really exciting event coming up in just one week. GWP is partnering with the fabulous One Girl to bring you a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary ‘I am a Girl’ in celebration of International Day of the Girl. The film, which explores what it means to be a girl in the 21st century and spotlights the lives of girls around the world, will screen at 6.30pm at Cinema Nova next Friday the 10th of October. We have received sponsorship from some incredible ethical businesses, and there will be an amazing raffle and gifts for everyone! Check out the flyer below, recruit your friends, and buy your tickets here.
And make sure you stay tuned for more news in the coming weeks and months regarding the program and our work with WFN in Nepal. There are frequent updates on Twitter and Facebook so if you haven’t done so already, visit our pages, follow us and start a discussion with us!
In love and gratitude,
We are thrilled to be partnering with One Girl to celebrate International Day of the Girl this year. For the special occasion we will be screening the critically acclaimed documentary ‘I Am A Girl.’
‘I Am A Girl is an inspirational feature length documentary by Australian Director Rebecca Barry that gives us an insight into the reality of what it means to be a girl in the 21st century. The film, released in 2013, takes us on a journey through a pastiche of diverse cultures and societies from Cambodia to Cameroon, PNG to Afghanistan and the U.S. to our own backyard, Australia.Hurry now to grab tickets so you don’t miss out! Click here for tickets.
At the start of this year I was lucky enough to visit our partner organisation, the Stung Treng Women’s Development Centre (SWDC) in Cambodia, and to have a holiday along the way to re-charge the batteries. Arriving on New Year’s Eve so as to start 2014 afresh, I spent my first three weeks in Cambodia taking in the sights, perusing marketplaces, reading a few books by the beach and, yes, sipping the odd Cosmopolitan. But it wasn’t long before I started to feel re-energised. I was itching to ‘roll up my sleeves’ (metaphorical of course because it was a zillion degrees in Cambodia) and to spend some time visiting and working with SWDC. In this blog, I’ll tell you about my trip and what I learned about SWDC and their holistic programs as well as some pics of my adventures.
SWDC was founded in 2001 with the purpose of breaking the cycle of poverty and improve living standards of local Cambodians by offering programs in literacy and health education, vocational training and employment. For those of you who aren’t familiar with their work, they run a variety of holistic and supportive programs to women from across Stung Treng Province, one of Cambodia’s most impoverished areas in the north east of the country on the Laos border.
Their programs for women include traditional weaving and sewing training, sericulture farming (cultivating silk), literacy and health education as well as training in retail management or administration for the trading arm of SWDC, Mekong Blue (MKB), where all of the beautiful garments the women produce are sold. The women supported by SWDC produce some of the highest quality silk products in Cambodia and are UNESCO award-winning. All pieces are hand-woven and the skilled weavers are amongst the highest paid in the country.
Despite past conflicts and the impact of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia has a long tradition of weaving silk clothes and other accessories with skills passed from generation to generation, primarily from mother to daughter. As such, the work that these women do not only allows for preservation but cultivation of the hundred-year old tradition of silk-weaving.
SWDC also runs a Child Development Centre and kindergarten on-site as well as providing 100 scholarships for children to attend local primary and secondary schools. They also provide free health care for the women and their families through the Medical Clinic on site. As you know, we are committed to ensuring ‘equality’ in communities, and sometimes this means directly supporting men too. At SWDC men are often employed in the construction, design, building and carpentry of new buildings and facilities.
The women supported by SWDC are aged between 18 and 40 and are from local villages in Stung Treng Province many of which lack basic sanitation and hygiene. By targeting the most disadvantaged women in the local communities, SWDC is able to have a big impact on the trajectory of these women’s lives, and their children’s, with the Centre providing clean water, electricity, free health care, education and skills training.
When I said that SWDC offers holistic programs, I meant it. It is clear that a lot of planning has gone into making sure that the women can get the most out of their skills training by providing programs for their children and families and effectively benefitting the whole community. For more information on these programs, I encourage you to visit their website.
On Day One, I met one half of SWDC, Director Chantha Nguon, in the nation’s capital Phnom Penh. I spent my first day being shown magnificent silk products at the MKB showroom and discussing with Chantha the founding history of SWDC and her background. Chantha spends most of her energy running MKB, splitting her time between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Stung Treng and international trade fairs to ensure that they have the financial security to continue to provide programs and vital services to women and their children. Having spent a decade of her life in a refugee camp and experienced many of life’s ups and downs, Chantha projects a warmth and empathy that connected her to the plight of women no matter their struggle or background. I enjoyed every minute I spent with her.
Next it was time for me to make the arduous journey to the province of Stung Treng, approximately 12 very bumpy hours by bus from Phnom Penh. After being stranded on the side of the highway by the bus kilometres out of town, all my luggage in tow plus packages from the Phnom Penh showroom and with the sun rapidly disappearing, (looooooong story), I eventually met SWDC’s other half; Dara Kim Chan.
Chan spends the majority of his time in Stung Treng overseeing the running of SWDC’s programs and thinking creatively about how the organisation can diversify its funding sources and attract more tourists to the Centre. Chan was generous in sharing much of the wisdom he has gathered from many years in the non-profit sector working with organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières. He answered all of my (many) questions with detailed responses and gave me a comprehensive tour of all of the facilities at SWDC. I also attended a workshop run by Chan and the manager of SWDC’s Child Development Centre, Vannak, at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs about how to start and run a non-profit organisation, which was a real thrill despite the whole presentation being in Khmer.
One of the highlights of my time in Stung Treng, was speaking to three women supported by SWDC. I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge their kindness and openness in answering my questions. My interview with 32 year old Chhumrany (pictured) touched me deeply. She cares for her two boys as well as a young girl she cares for who had been abandoned at birth in a nearby hospital without the support of her husband who took off six years prior and has never been heard from since. She has been a silk spinner at SWDC for five months after hearing a radio announcement about the Centre. Her eldest son attends Grade 5 in the public school as part of CDC’s sponsorship program and her youngest son is in SWDC’s kindergarten and will be attending primary school next year. The young girl in her care, whom she called ‘her niece,’ is also enrolled in SWDC’s kindergarten. Chhumrany is mostly illiterate having left school in Grade 3 and told me that because of the education provided to her by SWDC she knows more about ‘how to live and save’ and thinks it is important for women to have business opportunities. Chhumrany’s story is not unlike many of the women enrolled in SWDC’s weaving training program. Many of them attend the program to gain skills that will help provide financial security for their families and an education for their children.
Chan acknowledged that a lot of cultural changes still needed to occur in Cambodia to achieve gender equality. He said that despite laws protecting the rights of women, culture often dictates pre-determined roles for women and that they often receive little guidance as young girls. Chan is extremely passionate about the education of girls. He says that often girls are not encouraged to try hard at school because they know they will not need a formal education to perform caring and domestic duties in adulthood. He believes that achieving gender equality is impossible if you just work with adults, as “children are the future, particularly girls” he said.
I, like all of my GWP teammates, am passionate about educating girls and breaking seemingly inevitable cycles of poverty and illiteracy through increased access to education and other opportunities. However, we are adamant that it’s important that women don’t get overlooked. One of our main focuses at GWP is promoting lifelong learning opportunities for adult women and this is why our partnership with an organisation like SWDC is so important. They get it. They offer a holistic model of education and skills training to the women enrolled in their programs but they also identify that children need to have a secure and bright future in order for change to occur in a sustainable way.
I’d like to thank Chantha, Chan and all of their staff for welcoming me with such enthusiasm and generosity – and gifting me one of their beautiful scarves. I was really impressed by Chan and Chantha’s vision and commitment to preserving a traditional Cambodian art form (silk weaving) and channelling its profits into a holistic educational and vocational organisation for some of this country’s most disadvantaged women and children.
My experience of the grassroots work of SWDC in Cambodia was truly invaluable to GWP. It’s led to us developing the strategic priorities of the partnership, which will ensure we support the important work that SWDC is doing in the most effective way possible.
You can see plenty of photos from my time at SWDC and Mekong Blue here on our Facebook page.
As you know, our fabulous Director Briony has now packed up to work alongside our other international partner, the Women’s Foundation of Nepal (WFN), and you’ll be hearing from her about her experiences and our Light The Spark pilot soon.
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