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How Do YOU Build Resilience through Your Giving? Lessons from 2014

Another year is fast drawing to a close! Now is a crucial opportunity to invest your giving in an effective, impactful way, so the change-makers you support can start the New Year strong.

But with all of the worthy options out there, how do you decide where to give? And how can you make sure that your gift makes the most impact for those in need? These are important questions to ask. But the answers aren’t always clear.

We’ve addressed this before, when we talked about the Three Steps to Build Resilience through Your Giving. When you’re choosing an organization for your donation, this is our advice:

  • Step #1: Make sure that those at the heart of the issue were consulted from beginning to end and that the organization provides services in a way that strengthens communities.
  • Step #2: Make sure that the organization relies on the voices of women and other marginalized members of the community.
  • Step #3: Make sure that the organization meets immediate needs and helps create long-term positive change.

What do you think of these steps? How do you decide where your giving will make the most impact? Share your thoughts below!

In 2014, we saw over and over again the wisdom of prioritizing grassroots women’s leadership. Bad news may grab headlines, but behind the scenes and in local communities, grassroots women activists are hard at work creating powerful, lasting solutions.

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When extremist ISIS militants swept into Iraq, our support to a local women’s organization meant that they could provide emergency escape, shelter and humanitarian aid to hundreds of women. They were there right away, even in places that large aid agencies could not go.

Frequent and persistent drought has tested the resilience of Indigenous women in Kenya—but by supporting the leadership of grassroots women, we can help make sure that they can face down this danger. They are innovating climate adaptation strategies like water harvesting to capture scarce rain and tree nurseries to provide natural cover for water supplies.

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And just this month, a typhoon struck in the Philippines. You may remember last year, when Typhoon Haiyan decimated entire communities. The news was filled with pictures of the devastation and updates on the rising death toll. And since last year, local women’s groups have been hard at work to rebuild more resilient communities. They made sure they would be prepared for when the next storm hits. And they put pressure on policymakers to respond quickly and effectively to disaster. When the most recent typhoon made landfall, communities were in a much stronger position to respond—and people survived.

Climate change is guaranteed to bring more fierce storms. And war will continue to devastate communities around the globe. But these examples teach us something urgent — we must support grassroots women’s organizations with solutions proven to work.

They are experts in the local and unique needs of their communities.

They are critical first-responders to identify and meet the needs of the most marginalized in their communities.

And they will stand by their communities for the long haul, chipping away at barriers like poverty, violence and discrimination that stand in the way of community resilience.

The answer to the question in the title is simple: when you stand with grassroots women leaders through your giving, you help build the resilience that allows them to save lives and create stronger communities. The events of this year repeatedly revealed that reality. And 2015 will give us even more opportunities to stand together with women to meet urgent needs and create lasting change.

To learn more about how MADRE and our grassroots partners build resilience, click here.

myMADRE Link Roundup: 4.11.14

What we’ve written, read, listened to, remembered, watched and been inspired by this week.

As the world remembers the more than one million lives that were lost and devastated by the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, conflict continues in Syria, Sudan, Israel and Palestine.

Thank You, Sunila

On September 9, the world lost a powerful advocate for human rights: Sunila Abeysekera.

We’re filled with sadness at Sunila’s passing and with immense gratitude for all of her work and devotion to human rights. We learned so much from her through the years, through her advocacy at the international level for peace and justice and her organizing to bring real change to communities on the ground.

With her passing, our movements have lost so much. But her legacy will be lasting. Thank you, Sunila.

My Piece of Peace

Learning by doing is an age old phrase, one that never seems to lose its relevance. Being thrown into the mix is an unparalleled method of teaching, rivaling the innovative educational technologies that attempt to challenge it each year.

Stella at MADRE
Stella at MADRE

I experienced a prime example of this tried-and-true philosophy during my time as a development intern at MADRE. I was thrilled that any organization would accept a high school junior to intern for them, and honored to be part of such an admirable, respected institution. In preparation, I read through MADRE’s inspiring program descriptions and educated myself about the organization, but really had no idea what to expect walking in on my first day.

The development office, as I soon found out, is the funding branch of the NGO structure.  It oversees foundation prospecting, grant writing and, on good days, grant acceptances and documentation. Every activity and new idea our partners and friends envision is shaped, contextualized and presented by the development department, where dedicated hours of poring over files and foundation directories help make MADRE’s and other NGO’s wonderful programs a reality. This realization made every prospect, grant application and foundation file I worked on feel like a direct link to the courageous, admirable women MADRE partners with worldwide.

Even on a small scale, I felt the unique gratification of doing my part to further the progression of women’s human rights today and for the future. On my last day at the development intern desk, reflecting on my time at MADRE this summer and looking toward my final year of high school and the opportunities that lay ahead, I take with me an experience that has taught me the importance of each microscopic brush stroke in the world’s infinitely expanding mural of change.

Sharing Statement of Mexican WHR Defender Silvia Perez Yescas

For 30 years, MADRE has supported Indigenous women from different regions at the forefront of wars, discrimination, and extreme poverty, working hand-in-hand with women and families to bring solutions to their communities. MADRE provides strategic support for Indigenous women activists to be present and visible to international governing bodies, helping to bring their demands to the international arena. 

For this year’s 12th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, MADRE, in partnership with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – NYC Office had the privilege of facilitating the participation of our sisters from Latin America and Africa. 

I wanted to take this opportunity to share a statement of courage and resilience that I heard from Silvia Perez Yescas, an Indigenous leader and a woman human rights defender from Oaxaca, Mexico, a place where the lives of women human rights defenders are at a high risk. She was in New York to deliver this statement at the official session of the Forum and had the chance to meet with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya.  
Silvia Perez Yescas and Dali Angel from Oaxaca Mexico with James Anaya, special rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.
Silvia Perez Yescas and Dali Angel from Oaxaca Mexico with James Anaya, special rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.

We at MADRE are proud of this continuing work to bring the voices of Indigenous women forward to influence key decision-making bodies. 

Nicaragua: Indigenous People and Democratic Process

Our partners Rose Cunningham and Liduvina Gill of Wangki Tangni and Mirna Cunningham of CADPI discuss living well, women’s political participation, violence against women, and intercultural exchange in this video produced in partnership with UNDP:

A Gathering of Indigenous Women

Last week our partners at FIMI, with the support of MADRE and our friends at Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung here in New York, gathered for a final event together at this year’s United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The event combined a series of individual speakers, panelists, songs, and demonstrations of hope and faith for the future our partners are building in the countries and around the world.

MADRE partner Rose Cunningham with two friends from FIMI's School of Global Leadership.
MADRE partner Rose Cunningham of Wangki Tangni in Nicaragua with Silvia Perez from Mexico and Maria Eugenia Choque from Bolivia.

The women in the room used the opportunity to share advice and tell stories, highlighting what they saw as the most important and critical ways to advance the movement for the rights of Indigenous

FIMI members attend a last UNPFII event together.
FIMI members attend a last UNPFII event together.

women and Peoples around the world. Many of them spoke about education, access, and resources, as the many ways those issues are interrelated. Several of the women recounted feeling alone in mainstream schools and struggling to finish their degrees, but spoke of how powerful it was to have the knowledge they acquired, and how much their sisters in the room had helped them to feel a sense of belonging they had often lacked. Almost every speaker emphasized the need for Indigenous women to pursue formal education and enact change from within existing systems in their home countries.

After several of the participants spoke, the women gathered before a home-made altar signifying their hopes for peace and their powerful women ancestors.

pf altar

The women performed a piece dedicated to acknowledging their generational differences and honoring the wisdom of the older women and the energy and hope of the younger women in the room.

pf generations

Music was omnipresent at the event; women sang during their presentations, before panels and speakers, and during the breaks, sharing their culture and their stories with another. The ended the day, and the week at the UN, by singing together.

Our Partners at UNPFII!

We’re so excited to have some of our wonderful partners here in town for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues! Here’s some of what they’ve been up to:

Tarcila Rivera (CHIRAPAQ), Lucy Mulenkei (IIN) and Mirna Cunningham (CADPI)

One of the best things about the Permanent Forum is having the opportunity to see partners from around the world all in one place! It also allows our sisters to exchange advice and stories, and offer one another support. Here, Tarcila Rivera of CHIRAPAQ in Peru, Lucy Mulenkei of IIN in Kenya, and Mirna Cunningham of CADPI in Nicaragua, also a member of the Permanent Forum, attend an event.

Lucy at the working group on sustainable development goals.

Lucy attended a session where a Cape Verde speaker spoke out: “Africa should be given priority in post 2015 development agenda. Agriculture is at the heart of poverty eradication in Africa.”

Otilia Lux de Coti at the MADRE/RLS panel.

On Monday, MADRE and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – New York Office hosted Indigenous women from around the world who discussed and shared strategies for combatting violence against women. Read more about our work with RLS here.

Follow @MADRESpeaks for more updates on UNPFII !

You Don’t Have To Be A Mother To Be A MADRE

My beloved coworkers have a saying: “You don’t have to be a mother to be a MADRE.” They’ll say it lightning-quick, in tones that range from reassuring to affirming to just plain old firm. And certainly we practice what we preach; most of us are not mothers – but we are MADREs.

I’ve been a big sister, a fairy godmother, a cousin, a daughter, a coworker, a friend, a best friend, a partner, a Wife, a Boston Wife, a Job, a teacher, a partner-in-crime and more, but I’ve never been a mother. In the most expansive set of the word, I’ve never mothered a single living creature. I can’t keep a plant alive, I’ve never been pregnant, I refuse to be independently responsible for the well-being of a pet, and my fondness for leather jackets and bacon says I’m not much of an Earth Mother, either. But I’m a MADRE.

If the coworkers, sisters, partners, interns and volunteers who make up our world are what I can measure a MADRE by, here’s what you need in your toolkit if you want to carry the mantle. You’ll need strength and compassion. You’ll need a big, loud voice and a willingness to use it when necessary. You’ll need patience: with systems, with other human beings, with the incredibly, devastatingly slow pace of progress. You’ll need endless reserves of determination and devotion to the overwhelming cause of making the world a better place for everyone who occupies it. You’ll need to believe in collective action and understand that the world is structured to advantage some and disadvantage others, and at the end of the day, you’ll need to believe unflinchingly that this ultimately disadvantages us all. Most of all, you’ll need hope. You’ll need hope when everything else in your toolkit fails, because you’re human, and building things is hard.

And in return for having these things and hanging on tight when it’s hard, which is almost every day, we all get each other. Like a mother, a MADRE is never alone – but unlike a mother, you can enjoy an uninterrupted night of sleep. Happy Mother’s Day, moms. May your breakfast in bed not begin at 6am.

Surge of Violence in Haweeja

The small town of Haweeja, where we work with our partners at the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), has become one of the sites of increased violence across the northern part of the country as largely Shiite government militias engage with Sunni gunmen in a sectarian conflict.

According to the New York Times:

The deadliest battles occurred near Hawija and Sulaiman Pek, northern towns near Kirkuk, and battles were still raging in the early evening. In Hawija, the army shut off electricity, and troops shouted through loudspeakers, urging civilians to evacuate, witnesses said. Government helicopters also fired at Sunni gunmen on the ground in Sulaiman Pek.

This is not the first time this small town has felt the impact of the legacy of violence left by the US invasion and ten year occupation. In 2011, OWFI discovered that children in Haweeja were suffering from unprecedented rates of birth defects, and disproportionately high rates of cancer were impacting the entire population. These health problems are potentially linked to a US base one mile away, where chemical munitions were regularly detonated and dumped. Since then, OWFI and MADRE have been working to bring adequate medical care to those in need and draw international attention to hold those who are responsible accountable for their actions. We have reached out to our partners there and will provide updates as the situation evolves.

For ongoing updates about the situation in Haweeja, join the Haweeja Action Team and support the community as a member.