Press Releases

Stories of our Sisters 2010

Posted on: Monday, April 26, 2010

Keywords: Haiti, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Colombia, Palestine, Iraq, Sudan

Stories of our Sisters 2010

This month, MADRE published Stories of our Sisters 2010, our Spring/Summer Newsletter. Below you can read the stories from our sisters. To read the newsletter as a whole, check out the newsletter online. If you would like us to send you a print copy, please call us at 212-627-0444.

This year, with your support, we’ve recommitted ourselves to building the world we all want to live in. By being a part of MADRE, you become an unstoppable force for women’s human rights. None of us can do it alone, but working together, we can:

•    Save lives
•    Build lasting solutions to violence and poverty and
•    Join the world’s bravest women in working to make human rights a reality for everyone.

Haiti: Emergency Relief for Earthquake Survivors

MADRE-supported midwives are providing critical health care to pregnant women who survived the earthquake in Haiti. (c) Flavia CherryOur partners at the International Feminist Solidarity Camp told us the story of Cri sta, a young mother in Port-au-Prince: “One day, we received a telephone call. ‘We don’t know what to do,’ our contact, Martin, told us. ‘A young woman has just given birth on the sidewalk in the middle of town. She cannot move because she has a broken leg and hipbone from the earthquake. She has a cast over half her body.’ Our health teams sprung into action to help Crista and her baby, Carlitos. We pulled together an emergency package of food, water, diapers, baby clothing, a lantern, a sleeping bag and plastic sheets to create a shelter until we could find a tent. It touched our hearts to see the new mother smile at us, even through her excruciating pain. Eventually, we were able to get Crista to a clinic where she underwent surgery on her hip. ‘It was incredible—with so much death around me, I brought life into this world,’ Crista told us, smiling. ‘I thought there was no one to help me, but then you came.’”

Thousands of women and their families are living in makeshift shelters, vulnerable to both sexual predators and torrential rains. (c) Flavia CherryCrista is one of the many women that your contributions have enabled us to help. In the critical days following the earthquake, MADRE worked with Partners in Health to support Zanmi Lasante and provide emergency medical care. MADRE also partnered with women’s rights groups to distribute tents, medicine, clothing, hygiene products and baby formula for orphans. And MADRE has supported multiple delegations of Creole-speaking midwives who are providing critical reproductive health care to women in Haiti and training midwives to deliver ongoing care.

 Nicaragua: Harvesting Hope

Harvesting Hope organizes local markets where women farmers sell their produce. (c) Britt Wiley“We are Indigenous People, so the forest has always been our source of food,” said Patricia, who lives in a remote region along Nicaragua’s Coco River. “When our land was taken from us, we became 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.” Patricia was one of the first to sign up for MADRE’s Harvesting Hope organic farming and livestock management trainings. After the training, which was offered through MADRE’s partner, Wangki Tangni, Patricia received chickens and learned how to care for them.

Through Harvesting Hope, MADRE and Wangki Tangni have trained thousands of women in small-scale organic farming and livestock-management. We provide seeds, ongoing training and farm animals.

MADRE and Wangki Tangni recently provided organic watermelon, cabbage, squash, tomato and cucumber seeds for 125 small organic farms and coordinated four farmers’ markets. “I now have a small business selling eggs,” said Patricia. “My children are eating everyday and my daughter is laughing again. It is the best sound in the world.”

Afghanistan: The Afghan Women’s Survival Fund

Project Update_Stories of our Sisters_Afghanistan.jpg“I feared for my own life and wanted to protect my three children but I knew that I could not stay silent,” said Naseema, who bravely reported her husband to the police after she saw him kill a woman in broad daylight. Her husband was arrested, but used his criminal connections to track Naseema down. “I was at a women’s shelter with my children but we had to leave because he kept making threatening phone calls to me,” said Naseema. “And he didn’t stop there—he had my sister shot. When he was released from prison, I moved to another shelter, but he found me.”

Working with Women for Afghan Women in Kabul, MADRE was able to activate our
Afghan Women’s Survival Fund for Naseema. The Fund provides shelter, secret transport and other life-saving necessities to Afghan women who are threatened for trying to exercise their most basic human rights. Most recently, the Fund helped to provide housing, transportation and passport fees for Naseema and her children. Thanks to MADRE member support, the family has now been safely relocated in Pakistan.

Guatemala: Farming for the Future

Women who take part in MADRE’s Farming for the Future project work together to combat hunger and poverty and defend their human rights. (c) Muixil“Everything changed when the soldiers arrived,” said Rosa, an Indigenous Ixil woman living in the Quiché region of Guatemala. “They burned our homes and killed many of my friends and neighbors.” It was 1982, the height of the Guatemalan civil war. Although Rosa fled with her family to the mountains, they were eventually captured by armed forces. “When I was imprisoned, I will never forget the sight of soldiers raping the young women,” recalled Rosa. After six months, Rosa and her family were released. However, they remained displaced from their home and faced extreme poverty and hunger. Then Rosa joined MADRE’s Farming for the Future program, which is run in partnership with our sister organization, Muixil. Farming for the Future empowers women by supporting the establishment of small-scale, sustainable chicken and pig farms. The communally owned farms generate food security and income for families who would otherwise go hungry. “I am grateful to MADRE and Muixil for helping us rebuild our communities after years of war,” said Rosa. “My family is eating better because we have eggs and meat. I am learning about human rights and teaching other women in my community to recognize their rights as Indigenous women.” With MADRE’s support, 135 women have received chickens. MADRE and Muixil hope to expand the Farming for the Future program to 350 women this year, supporting a total of 2,450 people.

Colombia: Protecting Children of War

Miguel Macias (far right), a MADRE member and media producer, encouraged former child soldiers to chronicle their stories through writing and producing their own videos. (c) Maya BogdanowIn Colombia, children are forced to become soldiers. “We never experienced a
childhood,” said Marta, who was kidnapped and trained to fight for a paramilitary group
when she was 11. “We exchanged our dolls for rifles, our games for combat.” Marta was
eventually released onto the streets of Bogotá but she could barely read and was haunted
by the killings she had been forced to commit.

Marta found MADRE’s partner organization, Taller de Vida. Today she helps other
young people heal from the wounds of war and build real alternatives to lives of violence.
“Taller de Vida gave me una nueva vida (a new life),” said Marta. The organization
provides trauma counseling and art and play therapy to former child soldiers and
children who are at high-risk of being recruited by armed groups. MADRE member
and youth media producer Miguel Macias recently conducted a series of multimedia
workshops at Taller de Vida. Miguel gave former child soldiers like Marta the tools
and skills to tell their stories. Please visit
colombia-child-soldiers/ to see video highlights of their work.


Palestine: Clean Water for Gaza

For Maryam, finding clean water for her family is a daily challenge. (c) ZakherLike many Palestinian women living in the Gaza Strip, 40-year-old Maryam struggles to provide safe drinking water for her family. Israel has restricted the movement of people and goods into Gaza since 2007, resulting in a severe shortage of clean water. Gaza’s water supply is contaminated by salt and toxic nitrate. Broken water pipes allow raw sewage to leak into the groundwater supply. “Since the blockade began, my house only has water once a week,” said Maryam, who has 11 children.
Project Update_Stories of our Sisters_Palestine2.jpg
“The rest of the time, we have to buy water at four times the cost of water from the municipality.” Maryam purchases water from desalination stations in Gaza City and stores the water in plastic containers, which cover nearly every corner of her house, including her bedroom. “I only use the water for drinking and cooking,” said Maryam. “I need more water for washing and other household chores, but it is too expensive. My husband Talal works as a cleaner collecting garbage with his horse. But after rent, water and food for the horse, we have very little money left.”

With clean water scarce, families must collect and store water when they can afford to buy it. (c) ZakherMADRE is working with the Zakher Association to ensure that Maryam and her family will have reliable, affordable and clean water. The Zakher Association, founded and run by women in Gaza, works in Gaza’s most impoverished communities to alleviate suffering and strengthen the role of women in addressing the medical, economic and social crises that Palestinians face. With MADRE support, the Zakher Association is installing 25 water filters in Gaza City to provide clean drinking water to nearly 52,500 people. Smaller water filters will also be installed in several primary schools, and provide 1,500 children with clean water.

 Iraq: An Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women

Yanar Mohammed (left) has worked with MADRE to build an Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women. The program offers women who are threatened with “honor killing” the resources to escape danger and begin to build a new life. (c) Daniel SmithWhen Sabeen was 16 years old, she was raped by an Iraqi army officer. “I had been trying to bargain with him for the freedom of my two brothers who were his prisoners,” Sabeen recalled. After the rape, Sabeen knew that she could never go home again. She would surely face “honor killing” by relatives seeking to expunge the shame of her rape. So Sabeen took a bus to Baghdad. What little money she had soon ran out and she turned to prostitution to survive. Sabeen eventually made her way to one of Iraq’s only women’s shelters, co-founded by MADRE and our partner, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). Sabeen learned about MADRE’s Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women, a special program to help women like her escape “honor killings” and build a new life for themselves. “I resolved that no one should have to suffer what I had suffered,” said Sabeen. “So I worked with the OWFI women and they showed me how to be strong and how to defend my rights.” Sabeen is now a key OWFI activist, working to empower other women who have faced violence, including those who are incarcerated, widowed, displaced or battered.

This year, MADRE will help Sabeen and the women of OWFI reach out to even more women through Al Mousawat (“Equality”) Radio, founded by OWFI just last year. MADRE will work with OWFI to create programming focused on women’s everyday struggles against sexual violence and discrimination.

Sudan: Women Farmers Unite

(c) ZenabHadija is a 47-year-old farmer. Like many women in Sudan, she grows most of the food that her family eats. Yet, the Ministry of Agriculture refused to recognize Hadija as a farmer and has excluded her from government programs that benefit male farmers.

That is, until MADRE and our partner in Sudan, Zenab for Women in Development, launched the first-ever Women Farmers’ Union in the country. MADRE and Zenab provide seeds, tools and training in organic farming and human rights. The results are powerful. Hadija and the other women farmers are increasing their yields and demanding their rights—as farmers and as women.

“Without the Women Farmers’ Union, I would never have earned enough to afford school fees for my children,” said Hadija. “I am so proud because this year, I was able to send my youngest daughter to college with the income from my crops.”

One group of women farmers have pooled their extra income to fund literacy training in their village, where 95 percent of the people cannot read. In another village, the women are using their earnings to bring electricity to the community. “Before, women had no hope, no access to seeds or the tools to grow food for themselves and their families,” said Hadija. “Now we are feeding our families and making things better for our communities.”

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