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Looking Towards the Future: A Note from Vivian Stromberg

Posted on: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Keywords: Activist, Nicaragua, Latin America, Human Rights Advocacy

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to you from Nicaragua, where I just had a long conversation with Mirna Cunningham, my dear friend and MADRE’s first-ever partner from 1983. We made plans for MADRE to send another shipment of medicines and school supplies to Indigenous women’s organizations in Nicaragua and Mirna told me how much it means to her that this partnership between MADRE and the women in her community is still going strong after all these years.

Our talk made me remember the very beginning of my friendship with Mirna, which was also the beginning of MADRE. In the summer of 1983, as a long-time peace and justice activist, I joined a group of US women invited by Mirna and other Nicaraguan women to see for ourselves the devastation caused by the US government’s undeclared war on their country.

We were deeply moved by what we saw and heard on that visit. Most of all, we were moved by the women of Nicaragua; women who wielded joy as a weapon against despair and knew the power of joining hands to create change. After the visit, we set out to build an organization that would respond to the needs of women and families threatened by US policy and give people in the US concrete ways to build alternatives to unjust policies. We were inspired by the Mothers’ Committees of Nicaragua — women whose children had been killed by the Contras or during the fight to overthrow the right-wing Somoza regime. And so we named the organization MADRE.

Our commitment ran deep, but we never dreamed when we founded MADRE that we were laying the foundation for an international women’s human rights organization that would last for decades and grow to encompass a network of women activists, advocates, educators and community leaders in more than a dozen countries. I had no idea then that being among MADRE’s founders would be one of my proudest accomplishments. In 1991, I became MADRE’s Executive Director. Since then, we’ve expanded our programs to the Middle East, Africa and Asia. We’ve advanced the fight for women’s human rights at the United Nations and we’ve produced educational material that’s helped shift the conversation about social justice and women’s rights—in the US and globally.

My recent talk with Mirna gave me a chance to reflect not only on my past work with MADRE, but also on my future. Over the years, I’ve played many roles at MADRE. Now, at age 69, I am ready to move from being MADRE’s Executive Director to being its Senior Advisor. I know that you share my commitment to this work, so I wanted to tell you myself about this transition. Although I will stay deeply involved with MADRE, this transition will give me the time I have longed for to be with my family and most especially, my grandchildren.

I’m pleased that we’ve begun this transition at a time when MADRE has both deep roots and vibrant branches in many communities around the world. MADRE’s vitality is truly a testimony to your commitment. We are fortunate to have a strong Board and a dedicated staff, but it’s your support that gives us the means to create and grow our programs on behalf of women around the world. Unlike most international organizations, 70 percent of our budget comes from members like you. Your support has enabled us to guarantee that our programs have continuity and depth and, of course, to see us through tough times. It’s your support and participation that makes MADRE such a strong international family.

As we begin the process of identifying and welcoming new leadership, I hope I can count on your continued support. Since I know you care deeply about MADRE’s work, I’d like to ask for your help in our search for a new Executive Director. Please share this message with qualified people you know, and help us circulate it online. And, as always, thank you for your support.

In peace and justice,

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