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Stories of our Sisters

Posted on: Monday, July 13, 2009

Keywords: Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Kenya, Nicaragua, Peru, Sudan, Peace Building, Women's Health, Combating Violence Against Women


Iraq: Art Action for Peace - c. OWFIIraq: Art Action for Peace

“The US gave us a government that plunged us into civil war,” Yanar Mohammed says. “But in Baghdad, there were brave Sunni and Shiite youngsters who refused to hate each other.”

“With MADRE’s help, we offered them the space to keep their dreams of peace alive—to say no to extremism and to US occupation. Now they are joining together, using music and spoken-word poetry to call for women’s rights and peace. At our first public gathering, 100 people risked their lives to come together like this. Now we get crowds of 2,000—young women and men who yearn for peace and won’t be silenced.”

Afghanistan: The Afghan Women's Survival FundAfghanistan: The Afghan Women’s Survival Fund

Zarghuna Kakar, a member of the city government in Kandahar, was with her family in a market when they were attacked by ultra-conservatives who don’t want women to play any role in public life. Zarghuna’s husband was killed and she has since been forced into hiding. MADRE created the Afghan Women’s Survival Fund to enable women whose lives are threatened to flee to safety and continue their work for women’s rights. The Fund supports an underground network of women dedicated to providing escape routes, shelter and secret transport to women who have been targeted because they dare to exercise their basic human rights. MADRE works to end the US occupation of Afghanistan. Ultimately, it is Afghan women, not the US military, who will win women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Nicaragua: Harvesting Hope - c. Wangki TangniNicaragua: Harvesting Hope

“We are Indigenous People,” says Patricia Zararias of Nicaragua, “and the forest has always been our source of food. When the government suddenly told us this was private property, we began to go hungry. My eight-year-old daughter stopped laughing. We did a survey with doctors and found that we had a 75 percent malnutrition rate in my community. We had to find a solution and with MADRE we did."

Harvesting Hope has trained thousands of women in sustainable small-scale organic farming and livestockmanagement, providing seeds, ongoing training and farm animals. A seed bank enables women to cultivate, save and exchange seeds. "Now we have food, we have farms, we have hope.”

Kenya: Banishing Violence Against Women - c. Elizabeth RappaportKenya: Banishing Violence Against Women

Rebecca Lolosoli founded Umoja Village as a refuge for women fleeing sexual and domestic violence. Today, Umoja is a beacon to women for miles around. Girls in the village are not coerced into circumcision or early marriage and they go to school alongside their brothers.

Rebecca’s daughter, Sylvia, is the first woman in the community to attend a university. “Most people would say that we are poor,” Rebecca says with a smile. “But we feel like queens because we have won our freedom. We tell the world: Umoja is a violence-against-women-free zone.”

Sudan: Women Farmers Unite - c. ZenabSudan: Women Farmers Unite

Fatima Ahmed is optimistic. “Before, women had no hope, no access to seeds or the tools to grow food for our families. Climate change was on us and the crops failed. Our children were dying. Now we have big hope because we are growing food for ourselves and our neighbors.” Although women grow most of the food crops in Sudan, farm programs traditionally excluded them. MADRE’s local partner launched the first ever women farmers’ union in the country. MADRE provides seeds, tools and technical assistance, and the results are powerful. With a union that has grown to 2,000 members, Fatima says, “we are farming for everyone. We are even growing food to deliver to Darfur.”

Colombia: Protecting Children of War - c. MADREColombia: Protecting Children of War

Marta, kidnapped and forced to fight as a child soldier at age 11, was eventually released into the streets of Bogota. She could barely read and was haunted by her exposure to multiple killings.

Marta found MADRE’s partner, Taller de Vida, and today she helps hundreds of other young people at the learning center heal from the wounds of war and create their own alternatives to lives of violence. “They are giving me una
nueva vida (a new life).”

Peru: Wisdom of our Elders - c. MADREPeru: Wisdom of Our Elders

Lidia, a Quechua elder from Ayacucho says, “Before I found the women’s center, I was cold, hungry and alone. I lost my husband and son in the war and I had nobody.” Through its local partner, MADRE provides the means for families to open their arms and homes to elderly Indigenous women left homeless by two decades of bloody conflict. “The women here found me a new adoptive family. I spend my time with the young ones, who have made me smile again.”

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