Purchased a FORA.tv video on another website? Login here with the temporary account credentials included in your receipt.
Sign up today to receive our weekly newsletter and special announcements.
Today we're going to hear about what some women have done with their lives here and around the world, I have colleagues and friends from the International Museum of Women and Courtney from the World Affairs Council has helped put this together, and Stacy's bookstore is here to make it possible for you to actually have a copy of this amazingly beautiful book. So, Karen? Thank you very much. Good afternoon, everyone. I want to thank the World Affairs Council for having us here today, and also the International Museum of Women, it's really an honor and privilege to be here. And also to be with our country directors who you're going to hear a lot more about in just a couple of minutes. For those of you who don't know much about Women for Women International, we were founded in 1993 to work with women survivors of war and conflict zones around the world. We're working in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Sudan, Iraq, Colombia, Nigeria, all the fun places where there's lots of war and conflict going on. And we're really committed to working with the most socially excluded women in those populations because they're not being served by other organizations and they have been disproportionately affected by war and conflict. And we're really motivated to moving them from being victims of war to survivors and ultimately to active citizens. And we do that through an integrated approach, it's a one-to-one sponsorship program, some of you may be actually sponsors of women in our program. Any sponsors out there? Yay, great. It's a one-to-one sponsor where you're matched with a woman in one of these countries and over the course of the year they correspond through letters, they get direct aid and emotional support through their sponsors and during that year the women also have access to rights awareness and leadership training, vocational skills training in areas where there are economic opportunities in her country, and then finally income generation support, to really help the women get back on their feet and support their families and contribute to their communities and ultimately to their societies, and what we like to say at Women for Women is that stronger women really do build stronger nations, and that is really our motivation ultimately, and the goals for a lot of the programs here. So it's an honor to be here with the women our country directors. This is our west coast tour, and half of the other country directors are doing the east coast tour. We think we got the better end of the deal, we have much better weather on this side. So it's been great. And we've been speaking to a lot of different groups on the west coast, very supportive groups, and one of the reasons we brought our country directors in this particular time is because we are this year's recipient of the Conrad Hilton prize...the largest humanitarian prize...and that ceremony will be in New York next Monday. So we're really honored to have received that award. Yay. So I'd like to just introduce Ngozi Eze, who is our country director from Nigeria, she'll tell you a little bit about our work there, and we'll go right on to Seida Saric, who is our country director from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and finally with Christine Karumba, who is our country director from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They'll say a few words about what we're doing in those countries and then open it up for questions. So thank you. Good afternoon, everybody. And to our beautiful sponsors and our potential sponsors, I'm really really happy to be here amongst you. I'll start by telling us a little bit about my country. Some of us already know about Nigeria, we've been in the news for some time. In 1960, Nigeria got its independence from the British, but for over 35 years now we've been under the, you know, military rule, it's been quite a traumatic experience because we do not have infrastructural facilities. Here I'm representing the voice of the voiceless, the voice of the women we walk within the grass roots, because Nigeria ladies have really come a long way. We have women holding sensitive positions, we have Minister for Education is a women, the Minister of Finance is a woman, the Director for Stock Exchange is a woman, so we are pleased that the women are really taking some stands. But like I said, I'm representing the voice of the voiceless, the women in the grass roots, the women who are illiterates, who face harmful traditional practices, who go through widowhoods, you know, customary widowhood practices that really destabilizes them, defaces them, humiliates them, these are the type of women Women for Women works for in the grass roots. Because we do believe that we cannot have sustainable development if the grass root is not taken into consideration. So we work with these women, we provide them rights awareness training, also for vocational skill, we try to move them from poverty and crisis to become independent. We do not only work with these women in that fashion. We encourage them to form cooperatives. We are women pool their monies together and they register with their local government, women end up making money for the local government, because they have to pay something, and then we encourage them to open bank accounts. So we have groups of women now forming cooperatives, that's only two businesses and cooperatives, because we feel that if they stand on their feet they'll be able to look after their families and their communities and will have viable societies. We also work with men because we figure that working with men, men are our partners, our brothers, our uncles, our sons, that if we leave them out of the loop, we'll not make much progress. So we have training, leadership training, for men that deal with issues of domestic violence, which is most of the time not spoken about, family planning, cabinet rebuilding and participation, educating the girl child, you know several issues that will make us work together and move ahead. In Jos, we have our offices in Jos, and in Enugu states, we work in about 21 communities, and in Jos, if you've been reading the news, we've had a series of clashes, political, ethnic, from 2000 up to last year. And one of the things we did in the program was to put them together, like the people from the Muslim side and women from the Christian side, we started joint training classes, because we want to be peace-makers, peace builders, and you will notice that women are the peace builders in their communities. Most of the time, the wars are started by the men, and the women end up rebuilding and picking up the pieces. Most of the time the policies are made on the governmental level at the center, but it doesn't really filter down to the grass roots, so we have a situation where things are happening at the top, but it's not filtering down to the grass roots. So we encourage these women also to advocate for themselves, to bring their voices to the table, because that way also they will be able to be partners in progress of the society. Well, I don't want to take up so much of our time, but I'd like us to reflect on the scene of Dr. Steven Covey, who said, "We are here to live, to learn, to love, and to leave a legacy." And our sponsors have been helping us to leave legacies in our communities by making a woman to have jobs, by sending their children to school, by making them to have vocational skill training, so I'll be encouraging our potential sponsors also to join us in this community, to make the world a better place. Thank you for listening. I really have to say that I'm really honored, today, to be with you, and a big-- Is it better now? Okay. I will repeat. It's absolutely an honor for me today to be with you and having opportunity to bring you ways of the women from Bosnia and Herzegovina. I'm sure that many if you know that Bosnia faced with terrible war, which happened from 1992 till end of 1995, and it was really a war which completely destroyed everything in our country. 1.5 million people were forced to leave their houses out of 3.5 million, which is the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was more than 200,000 people were killed during the war, and 20,000 women were raped, systematically raped, during the war. Some of them were staying for year or two years really in raping camps, just being and using as a weapon, really, in this conflict. And Bosnia and Herzegovina has for the first time in history recognized rape because of the conflict and because of happenings in Bosnia is recognized as a weapon, which was strategically used in one conflict. Having all destroyed of our society, just after the war we all were so happy that war is stopped, that finally conflict is over, and we really hoped that our society would be rebuilt. However, today, eleven years after war is stopped and conflict is over, we, in terms of building our society, is far away of the society which we envisioned eleven years ago. What is happening? It's happening that immediately after the war, we had the loss of humanitarian aid, we had the loss of assistance from the international community, and unfortunately in the meantime many places are open as a conflict and international community actually went there, because it was immediate support. And today there is no international organizations like UN, or others, and economy doesn't exist. Development of Bosnia and Herzegovina in terms of economy is almost on zero. Doesn't exist. Women that we are working with are socially excluded women, and socially excluded women, even if there is anything in terms of development in Bosnia and Herzegovina, are completely excluded from any happenings of that. I mean, we are really going besides of this destroyment which happened during the war, and devastation which happened, we are also going through the phase of the transition from the socialism which we had before the war, through the private ownership of capitalism, which is happening. And it's double-burden on our shoulders. And I have to say that women really are those who are paying the highest price of all of this. They have lost their jobs. They are now those who really do not get any any kind of job, even if they are available, in all places before, it was the system we had like a factory which was working and the majority of people would work there, and that was economy. It's now destroyed. During the war it's totally destroyed. Burned, destroyed, doesn't exist anymore. And people are on their own. Especially women. And when our founder in 1993 started this organization, it was really to help women from Bosnia and Herzegovina to start to rebuild their lives and to envision a better future for themselves, and for their children. How we are doing that. When we have sponsors we are matching our women with sponsors, and they are starting to participate in the program and starting their journey to become active citizen in the communities where they are doing. We are working with a group of twenty. Average twenty. Where they are building through their solidarities and helping each other as well. And we are teaching them about human rights, and how they can exercise and protect their rights in the communities where they live. Besides that, we are teaching women different skills which help them in terms of job creation, and which also increase their opportunities in job markets. And just even step further, what we are providing in Bosnia and Herzegovina is that we, from 1997, started microcredit program, and that is we also work in solidarity groups, where we are also helping women that they can more easily participate in microcredit, where they are taking financial support, starting small and generating projects and that's how they are rebuilding their lives. Till today, we had more than 20,000 women who are helped through our programs, right now, today, we have 3,200 women who are sponsored currently and that is for 12 months, and we have also 6,500 women who are currently having loans from our organization. Just one story to share with you, just a little bit more color to this speech. We, seven years ago, when we started our program with microcredit just at the beginning we had the woman who came to us and said, "I need your help. I really need you to help me, everything what I had was destroyed." Her house was destroyed, she was returned because in meantime, during the war she had to leave, so she returned to nothing. She had nothing. Burnt house. She came and she participated in the program, she took a loan, and she bought first a cow. After that she took another loan, when she returned first one, she bought chicken. And recently when I visited her she had this chicken farm with 3,000 chickens in it. She is employing her husband, she is employing her son, her daughter, whole family's under that business, and not only that, she's actually expanding their business, they are having business with cows as well, building barn for cows, buying more cows. And not only that, she's actually helping whole community. First she's fantastic example for them, as well as she's employing other women who are from her community, giving them opportunity to earn money to support their families. We really have so many stories, but I choose this one because I think it's something that really reflects what women going through the program are actually getting through it. And I would stop here, I talk so much, sorry! Thank you. The Republic of Congo has been through a war which around more than 4 million people died, and tens of thousands of women were raped, and this continued in the daily basis. Every day they are victims of atrocity and the situation of women has worsened because of the security context. The women in Congo have been through a lot of challenges. In the rural area, there are a lot of cultural barriers. I mean that, when a woman, when she's born, she's born a mother. She's called to be a mother. She doesn't have another choice than to be a mother, so she's raised in this and there are many families, they don't treasure her education because otherwise she will be married, it will not profit for the family. So many women are illiterate, and they get married earlier, when they are maybe ten years, twelve years, and you can imagine an illiterate woman, an ignorant woman, can only raise an ignorant generation. I will say that we have been far if I see the political reality in Congo now I will say that up to now we didn't have, we are struggling to have a good leadership. This is the big challenge in Congo. Congo is big, is very rich, but all you can see, the grass root people on the ground, they struggle to have even a meal for a day. Or in the big family, they have to eat now, and somebody can eat after, I don't know, one day they have to alternate. The UN and the transitional government has worked a lot, and now we have seen the country was divided into pieces, and we had a president, which is really in the history of the world, this is really something which is strange. We had 53 candidates for the presidential position. You can imagine that everybody want to be a president. But what was among the achievement we saw in terms of how the UN has invested a lot to have peace in Congo. It's clear we have too many challenges in terms of eradicate the impunity in Congo, particularly in gender-based violence, we have to promote human rights, and we have to promote peace in the country and have security in the country. We have seen, this year, for the first time in the Congo, we had a new constitution, which does no longer discriminate women. So the women and men they have no the same rights. But many challenges, because women, they didn't have access to education. So even if there are laws, there are papers which are available, still women cannot benefit from anything because they are not empowered, they can't feel the gut. They are called to play a role but they can't play a role because they are limited in their lives. What Women for Women is providing on the ground has helping me personally to be able to service my people, and this is how the organization has impacted in my personal life. Since I met a woman, she was a director of a school, she was self-sufficient before the war broke. She went through rapes for many times, and she was taken as a sexual slave for many months in the bush, as many women continue to be taken in the bush as sexual slave. Even now. And I don't know what will happen, because today in Congo we're supposed to have election. This woman came to me. She started a program in 2004. She came and said, "I want to give a speech to the governor of the province. I can't just sleep on what is happening on the women when it was the day of the International Woman's Day." She came and questioned the governor of the province. What will be the next generation? What is the future of Congo if the women are being raped before their children, before their mothers-in-law, before their fathers-in-law. Since then I saw myself that there is work to be done. And there is a call for me to bring this voice of the voiceless on the table. Because most of the time when you see the policies, when you see the program, and you see the life of the women of the grass roots, there is a huge gap. In the DRC Congo we have serviced so far over 8,000 women. These women, they are usually put in a group of 20 women from different areas and from different realities. They are rape survivors, they are women who have been affected in a certain way by war. We help these women to harvest peace where they can share their stories. Because in the context of Congo, we really don't have this peace. They went through many problems but they don't have, they have to suffer in silence because this is the way that they have been educated. You have to be a good mother, you have to see and not to talk. Because you have two eyes to see more, and you have one mouth just not to talk. In this context, we help women to rebuild their lives. To gain self-confidence. To have access to education. We provide to them literacy training so they may have at least an opportunity if they are running a small business, to to keep a small book, to make calculations. We provide them with rights awareness training, we have a manual we are using which has the topic, "Women and Economy," "Women and Politics," "Women and the Constitution," "Women and Family," "Women and Health," to make them aware of their rights so they may exercise their rights. There are many women in the context of Congo, they don't know their rights. There is a woman who has been married for many years, when the husband passed away, she didn't know that she had the right to inheritance. It's only after 20 years that she come to recover her property, and it was through the program. She went through with Women for Women, then she was, her eyes were open, she went through the courts, and they gave her back her property. So we are really seeing the changes in the lives of the women. And we provide to these women skills training so they may be self-employed or look for a job. And we have seen how women are changing their community. And what is amazing, when the wars are waged, it's done by men. Sometimes the women, they are not there. But when they have to fix things, women, they are fixing things. Even for men. They have to provide even food for the men, so I see how women have the heart for this world, and I see how women can change Congo. And as we are working with women with the grass roots in this transitional period for Congo, I really believe change is coming in Congo, and we will see strong women building Congo. Thank you. I'd really like to thank our country directors. At Women for Women we talk about our country directors really as the heroines of the organization, because they are on the front line every day working with women survivors of war and hearing the stories of these women, and absorbing the pain, and coming to work with a smile every day, and helpful advice, and they're so outstanding and you can really see why. And just to give you a little context, since 1993, Women for Women has worked with over 70,000 women survivors of war around the world and provided 28 million dollars in direct aid and microcredit loans. Through our program. So I'd like to take this opportunity to open it up for questions.