G l o b a l Iss u e s T h r o u g h t h e E y e s o f Wo m e n
ORACLE “Prophecy states that women will walk with the power.” Flordemayo, Central American
ISSUE 3 Winter | Spring 09 $6.95 / $7.95 Canada
The Future of Microfinance 10 Ways to Give to Women and Girls Women Rewiring Global Media Afghanistan Exposed
MISSIONmarket, gifts of compassion
celebrate women, our most precious resource
photo, drew jarrett
educate our greatest resource
stop raping our greatest resource power to women and girls in the DRC eve ensler, v-day
angelique kidjo, batonga foundation
nurture our greatest resource
wangari maathai, the green belt movement
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FOUNDER’S Pulse | 3
© Charles Waugh
n the summer of 2002, I had a pivotal dream: In it, I am standing in the center of a circle of women. Together they are a spectrum of colorful clothing: woolen robes; head wraps; animal skins; fat, beaded belts. I hear the soft rustle of fabric as the women lean in and whisper, “Yes. Go. Go!” When I wake, a realization washes over me: I have just received a powerful message of support. It couldn’t have come at a more momentous time in my life.... Ever since returning to the US from reporting in Burma and the Amazon years earlier, I longed to start a magazine that would broadcast the voices of the women leaders and refugees I had met. Their voices endlessly pulsed in my mind. But I was terrified—my own voice somehow caught in my throat. In the wake of my dream, I made an instant decision that World Pulse was meant to be, and I could not turn back. I had heard the prophecy of the strength of womankind connected. Shortly after, World Pulse was born. With a small, brave team, we found a way to publish three editions and received an overwhelming response from women and men across the globe. Yet, as I looked out at the changing face of media, I felt uneasy. The print magazine was not enough. Our pages could not contain the hundreds of stories from small, remote projects that were flooding in via email, and, despite enormous distribution efforts, we could not reach into the most distant lands. But most importantly, we had no way to enable unheard women to speak for themselves, or to each other. In 2006, we made the difficult decision to pause the print magazine to focus on creating PulseWire, an interactive website where women—even those just coming online in rural and remote areas—can tell their own stories, in their own words.
“I heard the prophecy of the strength of womankind connected.” With the launch of PulseWire, World Pulse is evolving into a hub of women’s empowerment, connection, and transformation. Now, these stories will also gain added visibility in print. As you read this issue, you’ll see that many stories have been sourced from the voices of our community members, and others link back to the site so that you can dialogue directly with featured leaders. These leaders, surfacing from all walks of life, are our compass for how World Pulse will continually evolve to serve women. These voices—your voices—have become our Oracle. Indian author Arundhati Roy’s quote is now famous, and it remains one of my favorites: “A new world is not only possible, she is already on her way,” she says. “On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.” Yet, these days I hear so much more than breathing. Late at night, I can sense a crackling of the wires, raw voices arching and sparking across the earth. Turn the page; open your throat, and free your voice; extend your arms, and tap into the pulse of a new world.
Home and spirit
19 Business Alchemy True stories from women entrepreneurs
22 Cradle Parenting for a new world
24 Grandmother Wisdom
Teachings from our elders
54 Global Gatherings
Best in books, music, and film
6 Places Every Woman Should Go “Spend a day or two gliding along the waters dotted with African reeds, vanilla, betel nut, and rural villages.” By Stephanie Elizondo Griest
Top international events
Products supporting women worldwide
Through His Eyes
80 Your World
Elemental actions for global balance
Not Alone Anymore “Violence against women is still viewed as a women’s issue, a family matter.” By Ramya Ramanathan
27 © UNEP | Peter Arnold, Inc.
Bathing the Soul “Spiritual baths are extremely beneficial—nearly miraculous.” By Rosita Arvigo
16 © Robert Leon | robertleon.com
10 © John Leung
Micro Goes Mega: The Future of Microfinance “Women need more than credit. Microfinance is part of the answer, but it’s not a panacea.”
10 Ways to Give to Women and Girls
29 “We are witnessing the fall of the old media order—and the noisy, thrilling creation of something new.” By Allena Butal
56 © Kelly Flamos
40 © Defense Committee for Malalai Joya
29 © Maciej Dakowicz
44 © Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak | nygus.info
32 © Yan Seiler | yanseiler.com
Women Rewiring Global Media
“There has never been a riper moment to activate a quantum leap in funding for women and girls.” By Malaika Durban
Afghanistan Exposed “I move from home to home every night and live under the constant threat of death.” By Malalai Joya
Coffee Groundswell “Women growers are using their extra income to invest in their homes and communities.” By Whitney Joiner
Jensine Larsen Editorial Managing Editor | Corine Milano Editorial Direction | Leslie Heilbrunn Global Editor | Ramya Ramanathan Guest Editors | Tracey Samuelson, Anna Sussman Copy Editor | Jill Kelly Design | Cary Design Group
The Soul of World Pulse
Programs Chief Operating Officer | Jennifer Ruwart Pu blisher and Communications Director | Ila Asplund Technology Director | Ankur Naik Strategy and Partnerships Advisor | Cynthia Casas Global Outreach Director | Jenny Drezin Africa Outreach Specialist | Leah Okeyo Executive Coordinator | Elsie McIver Accountant | Kim Hegdahl Online Community Manager | Lisa Hinton
Let us be a loudspeaker for women of the world. Let us call forth voice where before there was silence. Let us stand back while they speak up, for their words are so beautiful they need no adornment.
Volunteers Photography Interns | Ula Kuras, Vanessa Avery Marketplace Intern | McKenzie Coffee Arts Intern | Caitlin O’Brien-Carelli Research | Alyson Wise Connect with the World Pulse team on PulseWire! Editorial Guide Council Mariane Pearl, Lisa Ling, Hafsat Abiola, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mahnaz Afkhami, Winona LaDuke, Riane Eisler, 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, Zainab Salbi, Paul Hawken, Loung Ung, Ritu Sharma
inspiring new possibilities World Pulse (ISSN # 15496678) is published by World Pulse Voices, a US-based nonprofit. While we look to include articles consistent with our mission, the opinions expressed in the articles published in World Pulse Magazine are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of World Pulse management and staff. World Pulse welcomes comments and suggestions as well as information about errors that call for correction. Reproduction in any manner, in whole or in part, is prohibited without permission. All rights reserved throughout the world. Send editorial comments and queries to: email@example.com or 4223A NE Fremont St., Portland, OR 97213. Submission guidelines at worldpulse.com. Find us on newsstands at Borders, Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores across the US and Canada. To purchase additional copies of this issue, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscriptions will become available in 2009. For more information, go to worldpulse.com. Find out how to advertise with us at worldpulse.com. Cover Photo: Our cover photo was taken by Lindsay Stark, who happened upon this young woman in a Hindu temple in Sri Lanka. Please share this issue. World Pulse is printed on recycled paper.
Let us be their platform, their forum, their safe haven, their sanctuary, an amplifier no one can ignore. Let us create a world where women are not only free, but empowered so greatly as to be unstoppable. A world where each woman can transform her life and the lives of those around her, simply by raising her voice. One voice at a time, millions of voices strong. Until the sound is so deafening, the whole world will hear their music. It’s not just a dream, it’s a revolution that has already begun. This is the pulse that transforms the world.
This is World Pulse. World Pulse Magazine is published by World Pulse, a media enterprise covering global issues through the eyes of women. We are dedicated to listening to and broadcasting the unheard voices and innovative solutions of women worldwide. From web to print, we’ve created a forum where women and their communities can connect across oceans, continents, and cultural barriers to create a new world. Visit our website at worldpulse.com to download our vision book, read additional articles, and connect directly with many of the featured leaders in this edition through PulseWire.
© Mark Edwards | Peter Arnold, Inc.
Founder & Creative Director
LETTERs | 7
Voices from the Ground: The World Pulse Community Speaks!
When we launched PulseWire, our interactive community and newswire, we never imagined we would feel so connected and inspired. We now have members from over 60 countries posting about their lives and experiences! Hear what our community has to say, and find out how you can join the movement on PulseWire too.
Come Join Us
Connecting to Change Lives
I was so happy to come across this site! I can express myself to other people now. Come in contact with me so that we can share ideas on different issues, especially about widows and children. I have spent most of my time on the Internet looking for such kinds of sites. I know I will learn as I continue to use PulseWire.
I am very grateful to be back on PulseWire to share some good news with you! In January, I won the PulseWire Bold Ideas Contest and I received three free coaching sessions from an expert named Carol. Little did I know that these coaching sessions would be the beginning of something big! First Step Initiative received $10,000 from Carol’s organization, Rebellious Dreamers, to support women entrepreneurs in the DR Congo! Now, we are making strides toward our goal of reaching 11,000 women in the next five years. I am very grateful to PulseWire for opening up this opportunity. Your support makes it possible for countless women in the DR Congo to transform their lives.
Loran Widow and Children Activist | Uganda
I found PulseWire on the Internet, and for me it is important to be in touch with women from other realities. We share the same planet, which is our common home, so I would like to meet people from different countries.
Executive Director, First Step Initiative | Democratic Republic
Photographer and Storyteller | El Alto, Bolivia
of the Congo
I was born and raised in Uganda and I love PulseWire and the concept of giving women, especially in developing countries, a voice. Please join me on PulseWire to give girls of Matale, Uganda an even louder voice to get their stories, dreams, and aspirations heard.
I’m from Kenya in grade 7. Kenya is now better since the violence, and I am very happy about it. I thought I would also be displaced like the families I saw, but I was protected. I had my story featured in World Pulse’s Kenya emagazine, and I like writing stories and I believe one day we will meet each other through this writing. I am happy I’ve got some more pen-friends from being featured in World Pulse. I still want some more pen-friends, please write me a comment on PulseWire! I want to work hard so that I can help all girls to have a great future. I will help them up to the last minute! I also have a project for orphans, which if anyone wishes to help they can contact me. GIRLS, LET’S FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHTS!!!
Thomas Lwebuga Zoom Uganda, zoomuganda.org | Uganda
Sharing Solutions © Carlos Chinchay
I design and implement programs for clean water, sanitation, and health education with the people in Huacaria, Peru. It’s the most challenging work I have ever done, and truly the most grace-filled. Sharing my story on PulseWire raises awareness about health programming for indigenous rainforest tribes. Whatever background one comes from, when you BELIEVE, you can realize your dreams. Nancy Santullo House of Children | Peru
Our organization strives to improve the lives of women. I would like to hear what other organizations from all over the world are doing. It is always interesting to work with women at the grassroots level, and share experiences, too. I am looking for ideas on how to get capital to start businesses for the very humble women in my society, most of whom are HIV-positive and do not have security to get loans. If anyone out there has ideas, please let us share them! Venancia Odero Teacher and HIV/AIDS Activist | Kenya
Leila Ludie okeyo 13-year-old leader | Kenya
Raise your voice! To connect with these women and men, and many more, join PulseWire! Our editors are active on the site listening to your stories. Selected fresh and powerful stories will be featured in our magazine—the next one could be yours!
Throughout this edition, you’ll see this icon, which means you can connect directly with these leaders on PulseWire by visiting worldpulse.com!
8 | Pulsepoint
Vital signs of women’s rising global leadership
State of the World’s Mothers Report Here’s what countries are doing the best—and the worst—when it comes to providing children and their mothers basic health care. 2008 Mothers’ Index Rankings TOP 10: Best
places to be a mother
Worst places to be a mother
Rwanda: First in world with female majority in parliament Women now hold 44 of 80 seats of the parliament in Rwanda, making it the first country in the world where men are outnumbered, at 56%. Sweden comes next with 47% of parliamentary seats occupied by women. As one of its first acts, the Rwandan parliament voted in the first-ever woman speaker, Ms. Mukantabana Rose. Rose, who is from a small opposition party, won against a male candidate 70 to 10. Women cheered and chanted after the vote.
US: Women Set to Advance
With the Obama-Biden presidential victory, US women anticipate a brighter future. Both Obama and Biden are advocates for women’s rights and have pledged to end wage discrimination, protect reproductive rights, and support measures ending violence against women. While 2008 has been an historic year for women candidates at the highest levels, the number of women running for Congress and state legislature was below past averages. Many of those who did run, however, succeeded, achieving a record number of women in the 111th Congress—17 in the Senate and 74 in the House. Still, with 17% of seats filled by women, the US remains 71st in the world in women’s leadership.
(Save the Children, 2008)
The US ranks 27th primarily due to extremely high maternal mortality rates among women of color.
Did you know? Women are outnumbered 2 to 1 in political parties worldwide, and less than 1 in 5 parliamentarians is a woman. But…
Half of the 22 countries that have reached 30% of women in parliament come from developing regions.
Gender-focused aid has nearly tripled (in absolute terms) from $2.5 billion in 2002 to $7.2 billion in 2006.
In Costa Rica, women hold 43.9% of leadership positions in political parties.
New Zealand and Canada have the highest proportion of aid that is earmarked for gender equality as a principle objective: 11%.
Honduras and Croatia have more than 40% female judges on the Supreme Courts.
Source: UNIFEM Progress of the World’s Women Report
© Yannis Kontos | Polaris
© Benjamin Lemaire
In a dramatic rescue, Colombia’s former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was finally freed after being held captive for nearly seven years by Colombia’s leftist rebels, the Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Often chained for months at a time during her captivity, Betancourt spent her time drafting a 190-point plan for improving her country—from housing programs to ending the civil war. Since her release in July 2008, there has been speculation that she will run for president again. Opinion polls of Colombians taken after her rescue showed an approval rating ranging from 71% to 83%. However, Betancourt has indicated that she has no interest in politics at the moment, preferring to spend her energies with her now-grown children, recuperating, and becoming a vocal advocate for the world’s detained.
removes barricades from Suu Kyi Home
Burma’s military dictatorship has inexplicably relaxed security around the home of 63-year-old democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nobel Peace Laureate has spent 13 of the past 19 years under house arrest. Barricades have been removed from her home, and Suu Kyi has been granted her request to receive international magazines. However, she is still not allowed to leave her home, and press is banned from visiting her. Meanwhile, things continue to worsen for Burmese civilians. The international community condemned the junta for gunning down monks in 2007 and for the horrific neglect of Cyclone Nargis survivors in 2008. Suu Kyi won elections in Burma in 1990, but the military regime did not recognize the outcome and detained her indefinitely.
WATCH IT: The Girl Effect
This energetic and inspiring viral video is creating major buzz and is a harbinger of the Girl Revolution! Watch to find out why girls are the unexpected answer to solving global poverty. Producers, The Nike Foundation and NoVo Foundation, have partnered with girl champions to make a combined $100-million investment in the Girl Effect initiative, which works to help adolescent girls in developing countries bring social and economic change to their families, communities, and countries.
See the video at girleffect.org. Turkey: Woman featured on currency Turkey’s new currency will feature a woman’s face for the first time in history, that of Fatma Aliye, the country’s first female novelist and founder of the first women’s association. Although Aliye is a little-known historical figure, feminists hail the banknote as an important reminder that the struggle for women’s rights is not new in Turkey.
10 | SOAK
Since ancient times, people have used ritual baths to bring themselves emotional and spiritual balance. Renowned Mayan healer Rosita Arvigo shows how you can incorporate this tradition into your own life.
itual bathing is a vital part of many cultures because it is a source of renewal and a direct route to the divine presence. In India, people worship the Ganges River as the physical embodiment of the goddess, Ganga, the divine feminine principle. Bathing in the Ganges is a means of not only dissolving negative karma but also ensuring a clear passage to heaven.
“Spiritual baths are extremely beneficial—nearly miraculous—for relieving the effects of traumatic experiences.” Native Americans have always had the sweat lodge for spiritual and emotional renewal, and Jews perform the mikvah of full immersion for spiritual renewal and readiness for other religious rituals, such as marriage and conversion. Our Mayan spiritual baths are lustrations performed when a person has been through a loss that leaves her grieving. This grief can result from something concrete, like a rape, a mugging, the death of a loved one, or the destruction of a home as a result of a fire. Or it may come out of an experience that leaves you emotionally raw, feeling fear, or dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Spiritual baths are extremely beneficial—nearly miraculous—for relieving the effects of traumatic experiences and for helping you through transitions, such as before a marriage or after an especially intense altercation.
Follow these steps for a bath of your own:
“As activists, we must not stay in the suffering. We must take baths in flower petals.”
RIGOBERTA MENCHÚ TUM, Indigenous Mayan leader, 2007 Guatemalan presidential candidate, and Nobel Peace Laureate
1 Prepare. Pour water in a large bucket and decide which of your favorite plants you’d like to use (for a few of Rosita’s favorites, see inset).
Rosita Arvigo, DN, is a naprapathic physician, herbalist, international lecturer, author, and teacher of Mayan medicine, and the author of Spiritual Bathing: Healing Rituals from around the World, Celestial Arts Press, 2003. For more about Rosita and her healing techniques, visit arvigomassage.com.
soul BathRecipes: A few of Rosita’s favorite formulas for spiritual cleansing and balancing are: 1. Basil, marigold, and rue, which she calls the Three Sisters of Mercy 2. Lavender and red or white roses 3. Oregano, thyme, and rosemary
© John Leung
4. Comfrey, plantain, and burdock
Collect your plants while continually repeating a prayer of thanksgiving, such as, “I give thanks to the spirit of this plant.” If you collect the plants from the garden, keep praying as you place them in the bucket and squeeze and mash them together with your hands until all their parts are in tiny bits. You can bathe immediately or allow the mashed-up plants to steep in the sunlight for one to five hours, which will add an extra charge and warmth to the mixture.
Pour the water over your body, repeating a prayer with love and faith to a personal deity—no matter who that deity may be—to imbue the water with divine love and pure white light. The water will absorb and magnify human emotions so it is important not to think about the emotional problem for which you are bathing as you prepare your bath. A spiritual bath like this will refresh your aura and wash away the effects of negativity.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, whether from a death or a break-up, cleanse with a bath of red and white roses.
Note: To enjoy the benefits all year round, collect fresh flowers at the end of summer and store them away for use during colder months. Simply pour hot water over the dried flowers and follow the same steps you would for fresh plants. ●
12 | CASA
A Place of
© Saskia Van Oers
© Jeff Krueger
Far from being a selfcentered pursuit, Susanka believes conscious home design and decoration can actually contribute to a better world.
Bestselling author Sarah Susanka shares how to create a space that mirrors your inner self and, in doing so, helps to balance our world. BY Leslie Heilbrunn
ome starts inside us,” explains Sarah Susanka, an architect and the author of The Not So Big House series and The Not So Big Life. For Susanka, decorating a home isn’t about replicating the hottest trends in furniture; it’s about checking in with yourself to develop an understanding of what you need to bring into your environment in order to feel comfortable, at ease, and vibrant all at the same time. Since her first book came out a decade ago, large numbers of readers have embraced her ideas about home design. The message that we have become disconnected from what makes house into home resonates with them. “We’ve lost track of the fact that home is something much more than shelter,” she explains. “The more we have, the more we tend to build bigger and bigger homes for ourselves, and the more it becomes about enclosing and protecting our stuff than about a place of wellbeing. We’ve lost touch with the awareness that the actual place is sacred and reflects us back to ourselves.” Far from being a self-centered pursuit, Susanka believes conscious home design and decoration can actually contribute to a better world: “When we bring our homes into balance with our true nature, this alignment ripples outward and the whole planet shifts.”
Create a place of your own by following these guidelines: Trust your instincts. Sarah says: “It doesn’t matter what the neighbors are going to think—if you like hot pink, go for it! Be courageous. We’ve gotten so intimidated by the idea that somebody else isn’t going to like something that we don’t dare to really make our place ours.” The only way your house is going to truly express who you are is if you pour your heart and soul into it and listen to your gut as you think about the colors, textures, and furniture you want, and where you want to place it. If something resonates with you, chances are those who love you will appreciate it too.
Display objects that have significance for you. Sarah says: “Keep objects that have meaning to you in your home. Objects from your past, and things that continue to hold meaning for you can connect you to all of life. Broadly speaking, this is a characteristic of the feminine, which is about nurture, and inherent meaningfulness and interconnectedness, rather than about quantities and specifics. These treasures give our surroundings depth and consequently make a space feel like home.” A perfect example of how she has put this into practice is (continued on page 14)
Over a million dollars of Tufenkian’s annual profits go to funding its Nepalese Worker Welfare Program and the Tufenkian Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1999. Tufenkian’s Worker Welfare Program far exceeds international standards: the company provides employees with food, housing, a medical complex, eye and dental clinics, clean drinking water, and school programs for their children. Before “no child labor” and “green” were buzzwords, Tufenkian refused to employ anyone under the age of 18, used traditional and earth-friendly production processes, and paid its workers competitive wages. The Tufenkian Foundation works to improve the quality of practical, spiritual, creative, and cultural life in Nepal and Armenia through an aggressive slate of strategic projects. To learn more about Tufenkian’s products and initiatives, please visit www.tufenkian.com. Chicago
Tufenkian Portland Showroom 515 NW 10th Ave. Portland, OR 97209 | 800.753.7847
© Jeff Krueger | Taunton Press
14 | CASA
appeared on the cover of National Geographic hanging on my wall, from about 1981. Her eyes are riveting; they make you feel like she’s seeing something you want to see too... To me she symbolizes alertness and the ability to see in dimensions beyond those we already know. In many ways, a lot of what I find fascinating are things that point to something I can’t quite touch yet.” Even if it is mysterious to you at the time, pay attention to what compels and inspires you—whether it’s a piece of paper from a magazine or photo of a country you’d like to visit one day—and give yourself permission to let it take center stage. Having these inspirations around, according to Susanka, is key to our continual spiritual growth. What you focus on, you draw toward you, so these symbols provide a subtle seeding of our future engagements.
Make continual changes.
“Select things for your home that symbolize your aspirations and draw you forward.” Sarah Susanka
her mantelpiece, which is a piece of solid cherry that a friend and furniture maker found, polished, and finished for her. “It’s at the very heart of my home, and reminds me of the care with which this man crafted every piece of wood he put his talents to. It is so smooth that just running my hand over it is a glorious experience. It is like touching that whole relationship, the whole friendship, as well as the beauty of his art.”
Sarah says: “I check in with myself from time to time to see if my space is reflecting my current state and current fascinations. I never know when it is going to happen, but every few months I’ll walk into my office and begin moving things around spontaneously, almost as though I were cleaning up the space. But this is more of a tuning up than a cleaning up.” At such times, Susanka rearranges her space—perhaps moving the location of her desk and chair to improve her view of the outdoors and get more natural light, or moving some of the objects on display from one spot to another—to get a new perspective on the available space and to ensure that it reflects her current interests. These little shifts, she insists, can completely change your orientation to what you are doing each day. It brings everything to life by reflecting you back to yourself. ●
Awaken your five senses. Sarah says: “The first time I got an indoor fountain back in the mid-1980s, people thought I was crazy. There is a famous Scandinavian furniture shop I used to visit that had a large fountain in the middle of their exhibit space. I would go to the store sometimes just because I liked listening to the water. The sound calmed me and put me in touch with the inner stillness that is the source of my true creativity.” Use what your body responds to, whether that be smell, sound, or touch, and notice how it brings you to an increased awareness. For example, one of Susanka’s clients is highly tactile and uses different fabrics throughout her house. She placed a tatami mat on the floor in one room and a very soft lamb’s wool rug in the bedroom to give her constant pleasure as she walked through her house barefoot.
Choose symbols that help you grow. Sarah says: “Select things that symbolize your aspirations and draw you forward. I have a picture of an Afghani girl who
For more from Sarah Susanka: Read her bestselling books: The Not So Big House Taunton Press
The Not So Big Life Taunton Press
Visit her website at susanka.com. Learn more about her foundation, Maitrhea, a nonprofit dedicated to the reestablishment of sufficiency, beauty, and balance in our communities through the making of sacred space. Go to maitrhea.com.
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16 | TRAVEL
Lago Atitlán Deep in the Guatemalan highlands is a mystical village: San Marcos La Laguna. The surrounding area is believed to emanate a heightened vortex of energy with its three active volcanoes, wild orchids, ancient Mayan communities, and Lago Atitlán, a collapsed volcanic cone filled with water 1,000 feet deep. “There is a lot of camaraderie among the travelers, as though we are all sharing a great secret,” says visitor Irene Carranza. “We gather here to appreciate the tranquility of the lake, and to focus on our own nurturing.”
© Robert Leon | robertleon.com
A Place of Mysticism and Tranquility
places Every Woman Should Go
Acclaimed travel writer Stephanie Elizondo Griest
shares her top six mustsee destinations.
y earliest ambition was to be a wanderer, a traveler, a nomad: the kind of woman who buys her jewelry from its country of origin instead of from a booth at the mall. I hit the road at age 21 (first stop: Russia) and am still roaming around, more than a decade and 30 countries later. Every place has been glorious in its own special way, but now and then, I stumble upon somewhere sacred. It usually takes a moment to recover, and when I do, I scan the room (or wilderness) for a pair of eyes to share it with. No matter where I am—downtown Manhattan or the Mongolian steppe—it is inevitably in the eyes of another woman that I find a similar spark or sense of wonderment. Afterward, I can only describe the place as one where “every woman should go.” Here are just a few of my favorites:
A place of inspiration Only since 1974 have travelers been granted passage into the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” tucked deep in the Himalayas. Before then, Bhutan was the epitome of isolation: a hermetic kingdom with no roads, airport, television, or telephones, reachable solely by a month-long mountain trek from India. Now, Bhutan is the destination for the intrepid traveler. The landscapes of Bhutan are a knock-out: rivers saturated with rainbow trout, terraced rice fields, dense forests, cloud-kissing mountains. Keep in mind, though, that it is forbidden to swim in lakes or climb mountains, out of respect for the deities residing within. Most temples and monasteries can only be reached by foot, and it is always worth the effort. A favorite is Taktshang Goemba, or Tiger’s Nest, a monastery perched on a rocky cliff with a 4,000-foot drop into the valley below. Then hike through some rice paddies to the ancient temple Chimi Lakhang, said to be highly auspicious for women wishing to conceive. Ask for a blessing if you’re contemplating motherhood. Ninety percent of Bhutan’s population are subsistence farmers who live as they have for generations, and the king keeps careful tabs on their “Gross National Happiness.” Medical care is free in Bhutan—even for tourists—but they might not have the medicine you need, so bring a full first-aid kit.
© Tom Cockrem
18 | TRAVEL
A place of struggle and renewal
A place of womanly affirmation
Although parts of Colombia have been plagued by guerrillas and narco-traffickers, the seaport city of Cartagena is considered a safe haven. This modern city is a monument to Spanish colonial architecture, with narrow streets that wind through plazas, monasteries, and palaces. The houses—painted vivid reds, greens, and blues—are draped with bougainvillea and hanging potted plants. Guitarists serenade diners at the outdoor cafes in the Parque de San Diego, while Plaza Santo Domingo hosts art exhibitions. Cartagena’s fruit juices and smoothies are the tastiest in the Caribbean. Street stalls blend passion fruit, guanabana, citrusy lulo, and fleshy zapote with milk or yogurt and heaps of cane sugar. Look for arepa vendors too: These cornmeal pockets can be stuffed with your choice of cheese and egg or chicken, and are hot, cheap, and delicious. Hit
Despite the history of Fidel Castro’s ruthless policies, smiles are vibrant in Cuba, gaits are fluid, movements are rhythmic. There is a sensuality that transcends physical appearance. It is an attitude, it is infectious, and it is most viscerally experienced in a rumba club. In clubs throughout the island, you’ll find musicians pounding away on bata, bongo, and conga drums while revelers undulate on the dance floor. On Monday nights, drop by Dulce Maria Baralt between O’Reilly and Callejon del Chorro in Habana Vieja. During her “Sweet Maria’s” gatherings, a band plays old rumba songs as the crowd passes around communal bottles of rum and beer. Another group to catch is Las Mulatas del Caribe, an all-female band that performs on Calle Obispo #213A. Be sure to head over to Cementerio Colon to visit “La Milagrosa,” or the Miracle Lady. According to legend, a young woman named Amelia Goyri de Hoz died in childbirth in 1901 and was buried with her baby snug at her feet. When keepers opened her tomb a few years later, however, they found Amelia cradling her daughter in her arms. Locals have called her the Miracle Lady ever since and consider her a protector of pregnant women. If you knock three times on her tombstone and make a wish, she’ll grant it—as long as you don’t turn your back on her as you leave. Hundreds of grateful pilgrims have left small plaques and tablets around her gravesite, thanking her for their milagros.
“Leap into the crater: It’s like swimming in cocoa.” the restaurants for some Afro-Caribbean/Latin specialties, like seafood poached in sancocho with a side of fried yucca. Take a day trip by bus from Mercado Bazurto to Cienaga del Totumo, which looks like a volcano but spews mud instead of lava. Climb the stairs to the top and leap into the crater: It’s like swimming in cocoa. Rinse off in the lagoon; dry in the sun; then do it all over. Or, head from Cartagena to the Rosario Islands, a short two-hour boat trip. These small coral islands are peaceful, and children will adore the open-sea Oceanario, where dancing dolphins steal the spotlight.
RESOURCECENTER Three Sisters Adventure Trekking | Nepal 3sistersadventure.com Three Sisters Adventure Trekking provides affordable trekking and adventure trips for all levels, as well as lodging in Pokhara (200 km west of Katmandu). The company uses its programs to provide training and job opportunities to local Nepalese women living in poverty.
Travel with these women-led companies Adventure Women | USA adventurewomen.com Celebrating its 27th year in operation in 2009, Adventure Women plans trips for women between the ages of 35 and 65. With their special “humanitours”—including one to Bhutan—you can explore while giving back to the community.
TRAVEL | 19
A place for adventure
A ‘just go there’ place
Once known as Mosi-O-Tunya (Smoke That Thunders), Victoria Falls boasts mists visible from 40 miles away and is an adventure-seeker’s dream. Spanning a mile, the waters of the Zambezi River cascade 400 feet into a gorge and
Coconuts, jackfruit, mangos, and bananas grow wild in Kerala, India—an old matriarchal society and home to feisty communist leaders like Mary Roy and her activist daughter Arundhati (author of The God of Small Things). Its coast is lined with beaches, but only Westerners spend much time there. Indians and travelers-in-the-know head to the backwaters, a network of channels linking three major rivers, 44 smaller rivers, and countless tributaries and lagoons. Here you can rent an old kettuvallam, or houseboat, constructed entirely of planks of jackwood tied with coconut rope. Once used to transport rice and spices, kettuvallam now feature bedrooms, modern bathrooms, and well-stocked kitchens that churn out fresh seafood and coconut curries. Spend a day or two gliding along the soothing waters dotted with African reeds. Vanilla, betel nut, cocoa groves, rice paddies, tea plantations, and rural villages will slowly pass by as flocks of herons, kingfishers, and brahminy kites fly overhead. Ask your kettuvallam captain to dock at the Matha Amritanandamayi Mission in Amritapuri. At this ashram’s helm sits Amma, a guru known as the “Hugging Mother,” known for her unconditional love. She is said to have physically embraced more than 24 million people in the last 30 years. ●
“Victoria Falls is the most spectacular waterfall on the planet.” then streak the sky with rainbows as spray leaps 1,000 feet back up into the air. You’ll find no shortage of ways to charge your adrenaline at the falls: There’s bungee-jumping from the century-old bridge spanning the Zambezi River, boogie boarding, tandem parachuting, gorge swinging, paragliding, canoeing, kayaking, and even white river rafting through passages with daunting names like “Ghostrider.” If you have an extra $50 to burn, sign up for the 15-minute airplane ride over the falls to get a spectacular bird’s eye view. Two-thirds of Victoria Falls are in Zambia, the rest, in Zimbabwe, which is said to have the best views. Still, many avoid spending money here so as not to support the government of President Robert Mugabe, whose abhorrent policies and negligence have led to the shocking drop in life expectancy among Zimbabwean women to the lowest in the world. Instead, experience the falls from Zambia.
NGOabroad | Global | ngoabroad.com A unique service that matches your skills to the needs of communities, NGOabroad allows you to travel while volunteering your time and talents to communities in need.
Adventure Diva Tours | Global adventuredivas.com/tours Diva Tours follows in the steps of the award-winning Adventure Diva documentary series. They offer varied degrees of physical challenge and include visits with our sisters abroad who are creating change in their communities and the world.
Stephanie Elizondo Griest has mingled with the Russian Mafiya, polished Chinese propaganda, and belly danced with Cuban rumba queens. She is the author of Mexican Enough: My Life between the Borderlines; Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana; and 100 Places Every Woman Should Go, from which this article is excerpted. Visit her website at aroundthebloc.com.
Canyon Calling | New Zealand canyoncalling.com Canyon Calling’s international adventure vacations for women are meticulously researched and well-led. They specialize in challenging yet attainable activities and the fun, enrichment, and support of women in the outdoors.
Olivia | USA | olivia.com A leader in lesbian travel, Olivia offers one-of-a-kind experiences for women on cruise, resort, ecotour, and hip-urban vacations from Mexico to Tahiti.
20 | BUSINESS ALCHEMY
Best Buy’s Julie Gilbert stares down skepticism to put women at the forefront of the world’s largest consumer electronics company. BY Allena Butal
The WOLF Vision It was a similar late night, a year prior, that Gilbert, who was a senior executive, had the vision for Best Buy’s Women’s Leadership Forum, or WOLF, of which she is founder. “I had visited a store in California, where many of the women employees stopped to hug me, and one employee told me that she was inspired to see a woman executive, knowing that one day it could be her,” she explains. “But then, later that same day, I had the wind knocked out of me. A male colleague told me that, while I was respected for my achievements in the company, there were some women who hated me for my success—and these were women executives, whom I didn’t even know, who were senior to me.” As Gilbert sat in her hotel thinking about the paradoxical messages she had received that day, she suddenly and
a movement among female employees that is committed to being a support network for women in the company and for Best Buy’s female customers. The response was staggering, and Gilbert found herself building the curriculum for the leadership program during offhours, often in the middle of the night. Within six months, she had three WOLF packs committed to innovating Best Buy’s business practices, building diversity networks, and supporting each other as women.
Meeting Resistance But the success of WOLF was not without resistance. “The minute I started trying to reinvent Best Buy to serve women, there were no limits on what people were willing to do to try to take me down,” Gilbert says. “I went from being very credible in the business to being accused of having poor values,
© Star Tribune
wo years ago, in the middle of the night, 37-year-old Julie Gilbert was wide-awake, watching her apartment door. Earlier that day someone had keyed her car in the massive parking lot of the Best Buy corporate headquarters, raking deep gauges from the hood to the trunk. The marks were especially deep on the driver’s side. Julie Gilbert, founder of Best Buy’s Women’s Leadership Forum Gilbert was furious and a little afraid— (WOLF), is putting women at the center of the company—from products she suspected that this was a deliberate to advertising to design. And, she’s seeing staggering results: In the past message from someone unhappy with her two years, women have increased Best Buy’s revenue by $3 billion. work building women’s leadership in the company. Unsure how to handle the situation, she inexplicably had a vivid memory of climbing trees as a child immediately headed back to her apartment so she could blow growing up in South Dakota. “In those branches, under the off steam rollerblading. She dropped her keys with the doorglow of the moonlight, I would look out at the horizon, and man on her way out, only to discover upon her return that one by one I would hear the howl of wolves calling each other. someone had stolen her office, car, and apartment keys and As I listened, I felt that each was saying, ‘I’m out here too,’” she left the remainder of her key ring in her apartment mailbox. recalls. “The calls of the wolves were like the lone voices of “I sat in my apartment all night with my eyes on that door women in business. And I knew that if all of these voices could knowing that at any moment, someone could enter and be linked, we could accomplish anything.” attack me,” she remembers. “I asked myself, ‘Why am I doing Immediately, she grabbed her computer and mapped out this work for women? What am I willing to risk—getting fired? a plan for what has become a new model for business both my personal safety?’ When my answer—‘I’m in this no matter in the US and internationally. The very next day she brought what’—came, I realized I was willing to risk just about anything a group of 30 Best Buy women employees together—the to help women and dramatically grow and reinvent a business.” first WOLF pack, as she calls them—to discuss her vision for
© Robert leon
“We are taking every piece of this 40-year-old company called Best Buy and putting it in the hands of women, having them ask, ‘How would we have designed this for ourselves?’” Anticipating the struggles to come if she stayed on with the company to lead WOLF, Gilbert gave him three requirements: “First, it had to be a full-time position—this couldn’t be a side project,” she insisted. “Then, the position had to report at a very high level. I knew by then that the leader of this initiative was going to take so many bullets, she would need to be protected in the early days. And finally, since career and reputation was at risk, if I needed to leave, I needed the freedom to take what I had created. Best Buy couldn’t have ownership.” To Gilbert’s surprise, Anderson accepted her conditions, and WOLF’s principles officially became part of Best Buy’s business identity.
“In simple terms, we are taking every piece of this 40-yearold company called Best Buy and putting it in the hands of women,” Gilbert says. “And all the while, we, as women, are building a network with each other to enable skills transfer, to enable relationships, and to enable a group that you can lean into when it gets tough. When you lean back with WOLF, you don’t have to worry because they are right there to push you back into the game.” ●
RESOURCECENTER Resources for Women Innovating Business
Business Results Today, more than 30,000 Best Buy employees have engaged in WOLF packs, including more than 3,000 women from the community in search of business training and networking opportunities. Gilbert says that the company’s ultimate goal is to have women make up 51% of its total employees—and she’s making great strides towards reaching it. Since the inception of WOLF, Best Buy has increased the number of women in its ranks by more than 280% and, in the past two years, the company has lowered the turnover of its female employees by 5%, which has saved Best Buy over $3 million each year—a figure that is nearly double the cost of running WOLF programs. Moreover, in the past two years, female employees have increased the revenue they’ve earned for the company by $3 billion. “One of the big changes in Best Buy’s culture is that we’ve been getting more women in meetings,” says Gilbert. “If their voice is not in the room at the highest level, there is absolutely no way we can make change happen or get insights that are unique as to how you attract the female consumer.” This thinking extends to every facet of the company: New products, new vendors, recruitment, advertising, and trainings have all been adjusted to cater specifically to female employees and customers. Even the company’s store design has been influenced. “In Colorado, we have our first store that has been completely
To find out more about WOLF, visit wolfinspires.com.
Ashoka | A global network of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs ashoka.org Connect
with Ashoka members on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
Skoll Foundation | A fund to empower social entrepreneurs | skollfoundation.org FLOW | Featuring an Empowering Women Entrepreneurs program (EWE) flowidealism.org Young Women Social Entrepreneurs A community propelling women’s visions ywse.org Institute for Women’s Leadership Leadership training and coaching for breakthrough results womensleadership.com
Courtesy of Best Buy
of pitting people against each other, and of not partnering. designed in partnership with female consumers in the local I was disinvited from meetings and holiday parties.” community,” Gilbert explains. The store is equipped with a When her work with WOLF began to affect her pay, Gilbert mothers’ room with a rocking chair, a place to change went straight to the company’s CEO, Brad Anderson, and rebabies’ diapers, and a child-size sink for washing hands. signed. Then, three days before her final day at the company, There are training rooms for demonstrating how to use Anderson came to her and said, “Julie, we need to continue different products, and sales staff are trained specifically this work. What needs to be in place for this to be successful?” on how to engage women.
22 | CRADLE
A treasure trove of ideas for opening your child’s eyes to the world. BY Joellen Raderstorf
sk a class of fourth graders to check the labels in each other’s t-shirts, and you’ll find at least 15 different countries listed after “Made in...” Our world’s children are inextricably linked: They breathe the same air, listen to the same music, sleep under the same stars, and wear t-shirts from each other’s countries. I was not raised in a family of world travellers, so my global experience as a child was limited to a trip with my high school a capella choir to the UK. My three cherished sons have had the opposite experience; they’ve traveled literally around the world, meeting people of all faiths, cultures, and economic circumstances. I am a mother committed to raising global citizens.
“Let children choose their causes for themselves.” Over the years, I have accumulated a raising-globalcitizens treasure trove: books to read, games to play, and school activities to bring to the classroom. I’ve also discovered some golden rules to raising a global citizen:
Teach by example:
Learn from your children:
Expose children to many forms of action, but let them
© Joellen Raderstorf
If you are engaged in making the world a better place, your child will be too.
They understand acceptance and diversity better than we ever will.
choose their causes for themselves.
A Few Items from My Trove: Start with reading. Children’s books hold life’s most precious secrets. Find books with the most beautiful messages, ones that highlight different cultures, faiths, and lives. Expose your children to stories with powerful environmental messages and characters who undergo transformation from greedy antagonist to compassionate protagonist. As a brand new mama, I spent most of a
Joellen’s son, Quin, roughhouses with the children of the the Pastoral Centre Preschool in Kliptown, Johannesburg, South Africa. 2,500-mile road trip in the back seat reading Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema. I can still recite the rhythmic verses and see Ki-pat standing on one leg, like a big stork. It made me yearn to visit Africa, and I imagined the same hunger instilled in my sweet, gurgling son.
Bring lessons into everyday activities. Integrating global awareness into everyday events makes it a natural part of life from the get-go. Watch movies that depict life in faraway lands. Host a lemonade stand to buy mosquito nets for children in malaria-prone countries. Start a giving-circle tradition, allowing each member
of the family to gift money to nonprofits. Help your child identify what they are passionate about by really listening. I recognized my middle son’s passion for animal rights when he said, “Mom, we are all animals—humans are no better than any other animal.”
Role play. When we put ourselves in the shoes of others, our eyes begin to open. At my son’s school I organized an event called “The World Sits Down to Lunch.” Each child was randomly given a ticket determining how much lunch they would receive. The number of tickets in each group reflected food availability throughout the world. That meant that the majority of children were sent to the “Not Enough Area,” with no table, used yogurt containers for bowls, a pot of rice, and a large pan for collecting water. The “Just Enough” group were shown to a crowded table with rice, beans, one very small cookie per person and a Dixie cup of juice. And the “More Than Enough” children—only 8 of the 54 students—were served by high school students gesturing to a beautifully set table, urging, “Help yourself to all the burrito fixings and dessert you would like.” The classroom transformed into a microcosm of our world: scarcity, war, stereotyping, begging, and plenty of emotion. But the children got it. In the following weeks, they shared this experience over and over again. I witnessed the beginnings of an authentic sense of global family. Experience the world first hand. Step one: Place a large map on a prominent wall in your house. Now ponder adventures your family might have and track where you’ve already been. Start a travel fund and
RESOURCECENTER Books: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein A Life Like Mine by UNICEF
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema
The Milestones Project: Celebrating Childhood Around the World by Richard and Michele Steckel
“The majority of children were sent to the ‘not enough area,’ with no table, used yogurt containers for bowls, and a pot of rice.” check out travel books from the library. The options are vast— from a one-week service trip to a round-the-world adventure. With our sons aged 12, 10, and 7—each carrying his own backpack—we embarked on the learning experience of a lifetime, visiting 14 different countries over 6 months (and sleeping in 64 different beds). Six weeks into our trip, we found ourselves running from a tsunami. Travel as close to the ground as your appetite allows. My children preferred the temples of Angkor in Cambodia to the museums in Italy. Our time spent in orphanages in South Africa and befriending working children in Cambodia left a lasting global imprint. Whatever you do, acting as members of one global family will transform your children’s lives—and yours. ●
Joellen Raderstorf is a mother of three cherished sons and the co-founder and director of Mothers Acting Up, a grassroots effort to inspire and mobilize mothers to advocate for the world’s children. Find out more at mothersactingup.org. Connect with Joellen on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
Tools for Parents
Games: Games for Change highlights digital games for social change. gamesforchange.org
Curriculum: Oxfam’s curriculum for Global Citizenship and more. oxfam.org.uk/education/gc
Philanthropy: YouthGive is building a community of giving, created and guided by young people. youthgive.org
Travel: Globe Aware offers volunteer vacations for families. globeaware.org
A GREAT GIFT: A calendar guide for advocating on behalf of the world’s children The Moment is an engagement calendar with weekly actions and portraits of those who inspire—from the mom next door to Isabel Allende, Mukhtar Mai, Paul Hawken and Julie Chavez Rodriguez. Visit Mothers Acting up at mothersactingup.org to find out how to purchase your own copy.
GRANDMOTHER WISDOM | 24
T he P ower
“When the Grandmothers from the four directions speak, a new time is coming.”
All images © Marisol Villanueve
Prophecy foretold by many indigenous traditions
13 indigenous grandmothers gather to fulfill an ancient prophecy for the world. By Carol Schaefer
Rita Blumenstein’s grandmother foretold that one day Rita would be a part of a sacred grandmother council.
hen she was 9 years old, Rita Blumenstein, a native Yupik from Alaska, began to see visions and prophecies. It was then that her greatgrandmother took her aside and gave her 13 stones and 13 eagle feathers. She told her that she would one day pass them out at a Grandmother’s Council. Over half a century later—in 2004—true to her great-grandmother’s vision, Rita found herself in a circle of 13 grandmothers from five continents who had gathered in rural New York. Many of the grandmothers were living legends among their people—wise women, curanderas, shamans, and healers of their tribes. Like Rita, each one, in different ways, had been foretold of their participation in a sacred grandmother council that would fulfill a prophecy for the world. Rita had tears in her eyes when she greeted her fellow grandmothers for the first time and gave each one the special stone and eagle plume that had been given to her by her great-grandmother for this very occasion. “Thirteen stones in honor of the 13 Grandmothers, the 13 planets in our universe, and the 13 full moons of the year,” she said. “We’re late, but we’re here!”
26 | Grandmother Wisdom
“Prophecy is traditionally revealed and confirmed over time, in bits and pieces and through many different people.” The return of the Grandmothers has been foretold for hundreds of years by many indigenous traditions. Although each grandmother knew deep within that she was meant to participate, it wasn’t until Rita handed out the feathers and stones at their historic first gathering that the Grandmothers realized there was a specific number in the prophecy. Each grandmother had been contacted by Jyoti, an American woman who herself had a series of visions, including one in which she saw a circle of grandmothers from different parts of the world. Unaware of the Grandmother Prophecy, she felt that she was being called to give these women a voice. Overwhelmed by the scale of the vision and with a sense of urgency, Jyoti prayed for direction. How was she to find the Grandmothers? And how would she know if she had the right ones? Then, the answer came: “At the seed of all things are relations. Start there and everything else will grow.” Jyoti turned to contacts she had gathered through years of visiting and learning from indigenous people around the globe. She sent out letters of inquiry to 16 women elders describing her vision and asking for their presence on the council. Although she had no idea how many there were to be, 13 accepted. Since their first gathering, the grandmothers have become a living fulfillment of the prophecy and, as they say, “a prayer in action.” According to them, prophecy is traditionally revealed and confirmed over time, in bits and pieces and through many different people, with each revelation deepening its meaning. Each grandmother took her seat in the council for the first time in 2004, and the group met in private for three days. They felt that they were hundreds of years late according to the prophecy, and that the end of the world as we know it is near. Collectively, they knew the Grandmothers from the Spirit World were calling them to action. They knew that now they must reveal their most secret and sacred ways to the very people who have been their oppressors. They also shared the belief that the world is being prepared for the
spirit of the feminine and that this energy must awaken in men as well as women. According to Grandmother Flordemayo of Central America, “Prophecy states that it will be the women who walk with the power. We have an incredible journey and responsibility as women. All of our life we are caretakers, walking with the Mother. For women to have the freedom in the heart to be able to express ourselves spiritually is very, very important. We must learn to stay balanced in the moment and give each moment 100% of our prayer.” During their private council, the Grandmothers decided they would visit one of each of their homelands every six months. Over the past two years, they have raised funds to travel to the Black Hills; Oaxaca, Mexico; the Brazilian Amazon; and New Mexico; and they visited the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. Most recently, on a global day of Prayer for the Waters of the Earth, they traveled to Spain to spread their prayers through the waters of the Mediterranean to the shores of the River Jordan. They also fulfilled a long-held intention to lay down prayers at the Vatican and delivered a letter to the Pope to request the revocation of edicts that have resulted in the decimation of indigenous people and cultures worldwide for over 500 years. Said Grandmother Mona Polacca to the public that had gathered to hear them speak in Rome, “This is an historic occasion. Five hundred years ago the ancestors from Spain and Italy came to our lands and planted their flags. Just a few weeks ago, we came to the Vatican. But we did not plant our flags; we planted our prayers. We are here to open the way so that someday our grandchildren might come here and meet with your grandchildren in a peaceful way.” ●
Excerpted in part from Grandmothers Counsel the World: Women Elders Offer Their Vision for Our Planet.
Read more prophecies from the grandmothers in their book, Grandmothers Counsel the World. Visit the Grandmothers’s site. Read their Statement of Alliance, find out about upcoming events, and contribute to their work at grandmotherscouncil.com.
THROUGH HIS EYES | 27
Not Alone Anymore Across India, Satish Singh inspires men to break with brutal traditions and stand behind the women in their lives and villages. by Ramya Ramanthan
“We started meeting survivors and saying, ‘You are not alone; we will stand by you.’” campaigns, debates, poster competitions, and film shows, and all pledge against acts of violence and rape. Tapping into media is a key strategy—they often train journalists from rural media outlets in order to reach new populations. At the core of the movement is the idea of self-change. “Initially, we find that this work naturally appeals to men because they tend to view themselves as protectors,” says Satish. “However, this is based on a dominant belief of helplessness in women, so we go further, asking men to reflect on their relationships at the workplace and in their homes. “In many ways I continue to pay the price for this work, and I feel discouraged often. Many local organizations do not welcome my teachings—violence against women is still viewed as a women’s issue, a family matter. In the beginning, even some feminist groups challenged us, asking, ‘Why should we use our limited resources on educating men and not women?’” But ultimately it was working alongside women’s groups and feminist friends that changed Satish’s life and opened his eyes. “All these friends have helped me reveal my inner humanness, which has remained hidden until now.” he says, “They showed me how to share my problems and open up.” And the achievements of Satish’s network are quickly breaking ground. “Now, in Uttar Pradesh, violence against women is a recognized issue—the media is talking about it, the government is referring cases to us. But the biggest success is that women have started feeling that they are not alone. I believe that no man is born violent. Men can change, but they need much support.” ●
Connect with Satish on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
© UNEP | Peter Arnold Inc.
atish Singh’s home state, the northernmost Uttar Pradesh, is renowned as one of the poorest and most male-dominated states in all of India. More populated than all but five countries in the world, with more than 190 million people, it is a vast land where the physical and verbal abuse of women rarely raises eyebrows. Now, it is the heart of Satish Singh’s gentle revolution to change the way men think about violence against women. “The dowry killings are increasing in my own village,” he explains. “There have been over five dowry deaths, and they are not seen as violence. Even my own cousin burned his wife, or perhaps she committed suicide due to the domestic violence, I do not know. The whole village kept quiet.” Outraged, Satish mobilized men in his village to demand justice. Since then he has ignited a growing movement that motivates men to protest against violence and to support survivors, often through direct intervention with authorities. Its members also hope to become role models for boys and other men. Today Satish’s network, Men’s Action for Stopping Violence against Women, has over 100 village organizations that have reached out to tens of thousands of youth and men. These organizations form violence prevention watch groups that intervene in cases of violence within the village. They also work with doctors, police, lawyers, judges, and the media, as well as local schools and colleges, to ensure that these villages are violence-free zones. The network tackles hundreds of acts of violence each year and has been asked by the government to expand from 40 districts to all 75 across the state. “Once we started meeting survivors and saying, ‘You are not alone; we will stand by you,’” Satish says, “we found that they can better fight their cases and solve them.” They have had many successes. In one case a woman was burned for dowry, and the perpetrator made it appear to be a suicide. A delegation of men from three neighboring districts repeatedly met with authorities to ensure that charges were pressed and the guilty arrested. In another instance, a citizens’ group helped a woman register her case with authorities after her father-in-law pushed her off a roof following her refusal of his sexual advances. Her injuries necessitated the amputation of both legs and an extended hospital stay. The men’s group arranged for her medical care, including prosthetics to help her regain her confidence. There is seemingly no end to the network’s creative strategies. Boys and men raise their voices through
28 | ABUNDANCE
Revolutionary Philanthropy Kathy LeMay thought the only way she could make an impact was by donating lots of money to the causes she cared about. But her work as a trusted advisor in the fundraising world has shown her that the most powerful form of philanthropy is available to each and every one of us.
y mother spent her life teaching me about making a difference. We went without when I was young— there were times spent in food banks, times we used food stamps. Still, my mother would say, “There is always someone who is worse off. Our job is to help.” As I got older, I began to read about people who made large gifts to hospitals, museums, and libraries. They seemed to live grand lives in huge, sprawling estates (with wineries!), and I envied them because they could give to help build a better world. Growing up working class in a small mill town, I was sure that in order to make change, you had to have money—and lots of it. Lying on my twin-sized mattress, wrapped in my Kmart quilt, I could see the headlines that my future funding would bring: “Animals Freed from Zoos” and “Women Elected As Political and Business Leaders at Record Numbers!” I decided that I would make heaps of money so I could give it away. Here’s what foiled me: I didn’t want any of the jobs that would actually make me a philanthropist-sized income. Even when I began writing checks to support causes, I still didn’t identify as a donor. To me, writing $25, $50, and even $100 checks wasn’t enough to say “I am a philanthropist.” Philanthropy meant big money. It wasn’t until I turned 31—after 17 years of activism from Maine to Yugoslavia—that I stepped in front of a crowd of 400 at a philanthropy conference and, with my body shaking, named myself a philanthropist. The minute I said it two women jumped from their chairs and cheered. And after my speech, six different women approached me and “came out” as blue-collar kids who were now in the field of philanthropy, trying to find their way. One woman said, “That speech was the permission I needed to make philanthropy my own.” Philanthropy is not about walking the road someone else has paved. If starting today the 1,000 wealthiest people in the world gave away all their money, they still couldn’t create a world that is just. They may provide the capital to get things started, but it is our collective talents, money, and passion that will hold and sustain this possibility long after their money has been spent. To state that philanthropy is for the affluent implies that only the most financially accomplished can create community. If you give to your capacity or yearn to figure out how to give to your capacity, you are a philanthropist. Agendas can be set in motion by a handful of influential
people or by thousands of influential people. Every great movement has had visible leaders and funders, but it was the millions who supported the cause that made it effective. Labor rights, civil rights, anti-apartheid: None of those took place in a vacuum. People just like you and me sustained these efforts by organizing, letter-writing, boycotting, and caring for those affected by adverse policies. That is philanthropy in action.
“If starting today the 1,000 wealthiest people in the world gave away all their money, they still couldn’t create a world that is just.” The most powerful form of philanthropy shows up as giving at your capacity and then, if you can, stretching a bit. In Mexico City I met a woman who made five pesos a day sweeping streets. She donated one of every five pesos to an orphanage. “They have less than me,” she said. Would anyone say this woman is less a philanthropist because her gift to the orphanage wasn’t one million pesos? She is the very best of philanthropy: inclusive, grassroots, and led by service to the greater good. ● Kathy LeMay is a generosity advisor and the founder of Raising Change. Her book The World I Want Begins with Me: Your 7-Step Guide to Making a Difference Today is scheduled for release next year.
RESOURCECENTER Visit Raising Change to learn more and experience Kathy’s inspirational podcasts at raisingchange.com. with Kathy on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
HOW TO GIVE | 29
TO GIVE to Women AND Girls
“This is the first time in history that women are funding women in a major way.”
© Maciej Dakowicz
Helen LaKelly Hunt
There are many ways to donate to the cause. But exactly how can you use your checkbook as a transformative tool for women worldwide? By Malaika Durban
t’s a tragic paradox. Experts agree that the most effective way to solve global problems is to invest in women, but social initiatives that focus on women actually receive less than 7% of all philanthropic funding worldwide. Fortunately, we are beginning to see the potential to turn this around, and women funders are leading the way. In the US, for example, women have been steadily increasing their assets over the last 30 years, and
they are giving more than ever before. In 2005, their giving surpassed men’s by $5 billion. As their control over the nation’s wealth continues to grow—it’s expected to be 60% by 2010—their giving clout is set to increase too. And, with Internet technology enabling person-to-person giving at a lightning pace, citizen philanthropy is soaring. Taken together, there has never been a riper moment to activate a quantum leap in funding for women and girls.
30 | HOW TO GIVE Here’s how you can do your part to unleash a flood of funding to the women’s movement:
Align your checkbook to your inner compass
Check your attitude
Take out a blank piece of paper and imagine that you are president of the largest foundation in the world charged with giving to women’s empowerment. Freewrite for 15 minutes and get in touch with the kinds of solutions you would happily invest in if no one were looking over your shoulder. Is it the direct, personal giving that lights you up—changing the life of one female entrepreneur with a grant or microloan that will enable her to become financially independent? Or are you a macro-thinker—wanting to fund systemic change and enable lots of people to make a difference through a large campaign? Perhaps you are drawn to a combination of strategies and would like to have a diverse funding “portfolio.” Wherever you fall, it’s perfect. The world needs it all, women need it all, but as one person you can’t give it all. If each and every one of us intentionally syncs our giving with our inner-knowing, we’ll be more likely to collectively create big change.
Approach gift-giving with an open, flexible, and celebratory attitude. Listening to, dialoguing with, and trusting women’s groups that are on the ground doing the work can help us achieve new heights of collective power. As we usher in a new era of transformational giving, it means shifting away from a traditional top-down mindset. Open yourself to the thrill of new learnings and true partnership, and appreciate all the benefits you will receive from standing shoulder to shoulder with others to achieve a shared goal.
Get to the grassroots
The majority of women’s groups worldwide are so small they are often not even on most funders’ radars. It is these groups, often working with scarce resources in challenging and threatening political climates, that are conducting some of the most effective social change of our time. According to a recent landmark report by the Association for Women in Development (AWID), which surveyed nearly 1,000 women’s organizations in over 94 countries, twothirds are extremely small, with annual operating budgets that are less than $50,000. This size can become a catch-22 for grassroots groups because funding agencies typically won’t give them large grants, rationalizing that small groups can’t absorb it with their limited capacity and infrastructure. Yet, with limited capacity and unstable funding, women’s groups find it a struggle to plan well for the future, and without developed infrastructure and communications, it is difficult to access donors. Reaching these groups may not be so simple, but it is critical that we do so. (See ResourceCenter on page 31 for how!)
Consider giving to a start-up with a great idea for social change. It’s true organizations like this don’t have much of
a track record, but if it’s innovative and visionary—and has a strong plan—you will have more of a chance to make a big impact since you are getting in on the ground level. You will be able to take part in a fascinating journey as the idea takes root.
Aggregate your giving power
Go beyond the stats
If you thrive on personal connection, consider developing a direct relationship through your giving. Whether you give to an individual in your own backyard or foster an online connection with a group across the globe, it’s entirely possible to bypass the middleman. The payoff can be intimate connection and friendships. You might even experience the fulfillment of being a part of a school, media project, or healthcare clinic from start to finish. This type of giving often requires a greater time investment to get to know the program and do your own due diligence, but the time you invest depends on your own personal threshold. Stephanie Clohesy, philanthropy consultant, says, “If something tugs your heartstrings and it looks good, it’s low risk to you, and you can afford to do it, save yourself the time and effort and send the check.” However, she recommends, if you are giving a large amount of money, and hitting a higher personal riskfactor, then you should verify the group is legitimate through some trusted source, either a colleague who has first-hand experience with the group, an affiliated NGO, or—if it is US-based—by going to Guidestar, a database of nonprofit organizations. All organizations that make over $25,000 a year have to file a 990 tax form, which is listed on Guidestar, and there you can at least look at the basics.
Join or start a giving circle with friends and colleagues—it will give you the pleasure and comaraderie of joining up with other women in your local community to make a big impact. Learning and leveraging are cornerstones of collaborative group giving. Whether you meet once a month or once a year, have 3 or 300 members, most circles provide a space for self-education and discussion, as well as flexible and fast collective giving. The giving circle phenomenon is rapidly expanding in the US, doubling in number from 2004 to 2006, with now over 400 circles in nearly every state in the country, according to a recent study by the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. In the past four years, giving circles have given nearly $100 million to charity. Women are fueling this explosion with our special hunger for social networking and community building. If you decide to start a giving circle on your own, find a partner organization or foundation with which you can create a special fund to deposit monies that are designated for your group.
Get a real understanding of where an organization is in its life cycle and ask questions to make sure its spending priorities match its stated goals. Don’t simply evaluate the percentage of its funds that goes toward programs versus administrative and fundraising expenditures. While it is generally accepted that an organization’s administrative and fundraising costs should not exceed 25% of its total budget over a five-year
World Pulse Recommends: Giving to Women’s Funds period, there is no hard and fast rule. Many worthy groups— in particular young organizations or mature organizations that are expanding their work—may have higher than average ratios because of their momentary growth. Additionally, if you only want your funding to go to programs and not to
“The majority of women’s groups worldwide are so small they are often not on most funders’ radars.” salaries or rent, think twice: You may be doing a disservice to the organization’s ability to be flexible and carry out its work. AWID’s study found that most of the funding accessed by women’s rights organizations is for “projects and not core-funding, which means that in many instances organizations are not able to set their own priorities.”
Make any pledge—no matter how large or small—for a few years in a row to help the organization’s operation gain stability. Inconsistent, unstable funding is one of the most stressful obstacles that women’s groups face from year to year, according to AWID’s report. Many groups spend so much energy to re-raise funding each year that they operate in survival-mode, and it undermines their own strategic planning, expansion, and effectiveness. Even groups with sustainable revenue plans often take 3-5 years until they can break even. A multi-year pledge is an unparalleled (a.k.a. superstar) statement of your commitment for the long haul and can be an enormous boost, especially to small organizations.
Read the fine print
Look at the details of what you are giving to before you actually donate any money. Some large corporations and NGOs are doing what is called ‘Pink-washing’—jumping on the bandwagon of women’s empowerment with flashy ads and rhetoric but failing to put the funds raised into womenspecific or women-led programming. Visit the organization’s website or ask questions to make sure that the bulk of your contribution or purchase is truly supporting a program that focuses on women’s or girls’ empowerment.
Be a bridge
Act as an intermediary to help a group access more resources. AWID found that many small international women’s groups have trouble tapping into funding that might be available to them because they are isolated and lack infrastructure, technical know-how, and language skills to access it. Find out if you can be of assistance in other creative ways such as helping to research or proofread funding proposals, to develop marketing and communications materials, to build a website, or to hold your own fundraiser to spread the word. ●
Across six continents, foundations are emerging that invest in women-led solutions in their communities and nations. The beauty of giving to a women’s fund is that your contribution will be dispersed by those who are uniquely qualified to identify and solve problems in a local context. With over 125 foundations worldwide, women’s funds are highly effective at getting money to women at the grassroots. These growing funds have banded together to form the Women’s Funding Network, now collectively investing $50 million a year in women and girls. Some notable places to give include the Global Fund for Women, the Appalachian Women’s Fund, the African Women’s Development Fund, and the Mongolian Women’s Fund; however, there are many more. In addition, you can give to the Urgent Action Fund, which specializes in providing rapid response grant-making to women human rights defenders and organizations that are under imminent attack.
Women Moving Millions Surprisingly, wealthy women give at a lower percentage than middle-income women and families. That may be changing with a new effort to mobilize women to give gifts of $1 million or more to women’s funds. Helen LaKelly Hunt, co-founder of the new initiative Women Moving Millions, says the idea came to her after she learned it was mostly men who funded the suffrage movement. “We sat on the sidelines of suffrage. Yet, women everywhere need us,” she says. “I knew we had to get strategic.” LaKelly Hunt and her sister have joined with over 57 donors in seven countries to give more than $110 million to women’s funds. The group is on track to raise $150 million by April 2009, an amount that will send the total given to women’s funds in the last 20 years crashing through the $1 billion mark. “This is the first time in history that women are funding women in a major way,” says LaKelly Hunt. “It is a new pulse of women who are giving big and bold, who have never given a million-dollar gift before.” But this movement isn’t an exclusive one. LaKelly Hunt is hoping that this turning tide will stimulate more women’s giving across all levels.
RESOURCECENTER For more great places to channel money to the grassroots, see this article online at worldpulse.com/magazine. To find a local women’s fund in your neighborhood (or half a world away) and to learn more about giving circles, visit the Women’s Funding Network at wfnet.org. Check out Women Moving Millions at womenmovingmillions.org. Read AWID’s FundHer Report at awid.org.
32 | MICROFINANCE
MEGA The Future of Microfinance
“We have a lot of work ahead of us before we have reached all of the world’s poor with financial services.”
© Joerg Boethling | Peter Arnold Inc.
Susy Cheston | Opportunity International
It’s the hot topic at dinner tables and global summits alike, but is microfinance the panacea for ending poverty and boosting women’s empowerment that it is made out to be?
y all accounts, the microfinance phenomenon is a dazzling success. Since it began over 20 years ago, the industry has become one of the most talked-about methods of empowerment for the world’s poor, particularly women. The concept of providing sustainable financial services—often in the form of small loans— has taken off, and women are proving that they are the best investment with the highest repayment rates. Today, microfinance serves over 133 million clients and women account for nearly 83%. Yet demand continues to outstrip supply with still over one billion potential customers. But is simply putting more $100 loans in the hands of a larger pool of women enough? Our experts aren’t so sure. Read on to learn more about the proven promise of microfinance—as well as the possible pitfalls they see emerging in this growing field.
34 | MICROFINANCE
Six Microfinance Experts Speak Mary Ellen Iskenderian
Lynne Randolph Patterson
President and CEO, Women’s World Banking | USA
Co-Founder, Pro Mujer | Bolivia
Co-Founder, KivA | USA
Executive Director, Swayam Shikshan Prayog | India
Founder, Kashf Foundation | Pakistan
Susy Cheston senior vice president, Opportunity International | USA
It’s More Than Micro MEI: The issue of women is so closely tied to poverty alleviation—you can’t talk about one without talking about the other. When you give a woman access to basic financial services, you give her the keys to her economic independence. But the benefits of promoting women’s economic empowerment through microfinance go beyond increasing a woman’s self-esteem. Because women invest back into improving the immediate wellbeing of their families at higher rates than men—at 89 cents on the dollar versus 60 cents, respectively—developing women as leaders has tangible social and economic benefits that are critical for long-term poverty alleviation. But, it’s true, there is no single cure-all to end global poverty. LRP: Women need more than credit. Microfinance is part of the answer, but it’s not a panacea. Women need business training to run profitable businesses; they need access to health services to maintain their health and the health of their families. PG: Yes, microfinance is by itself not an answer to all the problems that poor people face. For example, microfinance can lead to a debt spiral if loans aren’t revenue-generating. I have seen that when microfinance goes beyond loans to mobilize and network women, it has led to increased access to resources and women’s empowerment. JF: I don’t think there’s a single, foolproof, silver bullet solution that is the “answer” to the problems of poverty. But I think microfinance comes as close
to this as anything I’ve ever seen. The hope and dignity microfinance provides women is as important, in my opinion, if not more important than the financial resources.
“The absolute number of women being served by microfinance is increasing, but the percentage of women being served relative to men has actually decreased.” Mary ellen iskenderian | women’s world banking
The Worrisome Impact of Commercialization MEI: To me, the trend that is most shaping the industry today is undoubtedly commercialization, where previously nonprofit microfinance institutions (MFIs) transform into regulated for-profit institutions. While for-profit microfinance holds great promise for expanding microfinance to more than one billion of the world’s poor who have yet to benefit, we must take great pains to ensure that women do not get left behind. At Womens World Banking (WWB), we have seen a troubling trend. We conducted a study that looked at approximately 50 MFIs, half of which were nonprofit and half of which were in the process of commercial formalization, and found that as MFIs formalize, the absolute number of women being served by microfinance (continued on page 36)
1 2 3
Women lead the microfinance industry from top to bottom. Reality Check: Despite the fact that 70% to 90% of microfinance clients are women, females make up only 30% to 40% of the senior management and governance positions at the banks and organizations that disperse these kinds of loans, according to a study conducted by Women Advancing Microfinance International in late 2005. In some cases the number of women in high-level leadership positions is declining, according to Women’s World Banking, which saw a 15% drop in women in senior management in their network between 2003 to 2007.
Microfinance is the best way to empower all poor women. Reality Check: Microfinance is not for everybody. It is not effective when individuals are under too much stress from living in the midst of extreme crisis or conflict, when they are under repressive regimes where corruption and inflation is rampant, or when they suffer from mental or physical health issues that prevent them from working. Microfinance is most successful when it is coupled with proper support services, such as health insurance and financial literacy training—and without those kinds of assistance, inexperienced borrowers can end up in a “poverty trap.” They become stuck in a cycle of debt because they take out very high interest loans and then something unexpectedly comes up—a health emergency, a funeral—that only puts them further into debt.
Women who become more economically autonomous face more domestic abuse from angry and controlling spouses. Reality Check: Although there have been several documented cases of women experiencing increased violence in their homes after receiving a loan, more often the opposite is true. The bulk of evidence suggests that women’s participation in microfinance leads to an overall decrease in domestic violence in their household as the strains of poverty are lifted. Participation in microfinance programs can also give women the means to escape from abusive relationships or reduce abuse in their relationships. Working Women’s Forum found that 40.9% of its members who had experienced domestic violence were able to put an end to the abuse themselves after receiving a microloan, while 28.7% were able to call upon other women to help them end the violence through group action.
Microfinance reaches the poorest of the poor. Reality Check: Microfinance is only reaching the poorest of the economically active poor. The industry is still struggling to figure out how to reach those who have even less. Estimates suggest that only 8% to 14% of the market demand for loans is being met. That means that of the proposed 400 to 600 million people who could use microcredit, only about 60 to 90 million have even remote access to it. The market is far from being adequately supplied, but the good news is that this sector is experiencing exponential growth.
With a microloan, women can easily continue to grow their enterprises into small and medium-sized businesses. Reality Check: Significant barriers still exist that prevent women from creating potentially bigger, more profitable enterprises. Microloans typically have a low financial return, which can result in a “glass ceiling.” Due to lack of collateral or cultural constraints, women are often not eligible for larger, more flexible financing—and when they do receive it, the loans are often smaller than those men get. In addition, lack of access to skills development and training can hinder their confidence to expand their businesses. This is particularly unfortunate because small to medium-sized businesses can be enormous engines for the growth of local and regional economies. They also create jobs for other women who may not have a desire to become entrepreneurs themselves.
© Sean Sprague | Peter Arnold Inc.
© Yan Seiler | yanseiler.com
“Male and female financial needs differ, so we should be willing to take the risk to evolve different sets of products. All banks do it, why shouldn’t we?” ROSHANEH ZAFAR | Kashf Foundation
Jamii Bora: A Microfinance People’s Movement It is a reluctantly accepted fact that microfinance cannot reach the poorest of the poor communities, and yet, Ingrid Munro, founder of Kenya’s Jamii Bora Trust, is running one of the most successful and fastest-growing microfinance The “Jamii Bora Dance” organizations in the world, in some of the poorest slums of Kenya. Established in 1999 when a group of slum dwellers asked Ingrid, then head of the African Housing Fund, for help, Jamii Bora began with just 50 borrowers; today, there are more than 170,000 members benefiting from the initiative. And it is the members themselves who are responsible for this unprecedented growth. And, as more and more borrowers take on leadership roles, Jamii Bora’s reach is ever-expanding. More than an MFI, Jamii Bora provides life and health insurance, including services for HIV-positive clients. They also provide alcohol rehabilitation and transitional programs to help beggars off the streets. And now, Jamii Bora is one of the first MFI programs to begin developing a whole town, called Kaputei, of low-cost, safe, and eco-friendly housing exclusively for their clients. “We are a movement, a people’s movement, more than we are an institution. But we are still microfinance,” says Munro. And how has she managed to provide successful microloans to a notoriously hard-to-reach population? According to Munro, “It’s a matter of being there all the time, and understanding.” To learn more about Ingrid Munro and Jamii Bora, visit jamiibora.org.
is increasing (because more people are being served overall), but the percentage of women being served relative to men has actually decreased in those studied from 78% to 63%. RZ: Also, as we move towards more for-profitoriented organizations, I strongly believe that consumer protection and transparency are very important aspects to ensure that abusive and exploitative practices are curtailed in the industry. JF: I believe that tapping new sources of capital for use in microfinance, such as 0%-interest loans aggregated from many individual online lenders is a very exciting trend. As knowledge about microfinance continues to spread worldwide, more and more individuals care about it and want to get involved. At Kiva, we are working hard to partner with more MFIs so they can offer loans to millions more people who still don’t have one.
The Promise of Technology RZ: Right now, we are seeing greater reliance on technology, which can definitely bring down the costs of operations, especially of collecting micro-deposits. SC: Yes! Technology will help us bring our costs down, but it will also help us to reach new customers and charge lower interest rates. By using point-of-sale devices, smart cards, mobile bank branches, cell-phone banking, and the like, we can reach people who are hard to reach otherwise. For example, a domestic servant in Malawi was laid off from her job and
“I see poor households as a cradle of entrepreneurship; they certainly think and act like the Rockefellers of the world. We need to learn from them.”
© Paula Lerner
Roshaneh zafar | kashf foundation
placed her severance pay in the Opportunity bank of Malawi. When her husband died and his family tried to seize their assets, her savings were protected because her savings smart card had her fingerprints encoded on it.
The Important Role of Women MEI: Above all, I believe cultivating women leaders at all levels of the industry—from loan officers to board executives—is more crucial than ever. Women continue to be excluded from formal financial systems. In addition, due to the high rates of growth that the microfinance sector is experiencing, a new publication produced by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor came out this year that stated that the quality of management is the greatest risk facing the microfinance industry, and more high-quality leaders are needed. What’s more—according to a 2007 report, a microfinance institution’s overall financial performance is improved when the CEO is a woman. It’s because the outreach to women clients increases, and they make powerful role models for the women clients they serve. When MFIs have talented female loan officers who are able to go to women’s houses and meet with them, it really makes a difference in conservative societies where women’s mobility outside the home is limited. WWB has developed a women’s leadership program that promotes women as leaders in the field of microfinance. The program includes mentoring by corporate women executives, exchanges, and an “ecommunity” to provide virtual support. We have also designed an Organizational Gender Assessment methodology to diagnose obstacles, challenges, and opportunities that women staff often encounter. (continued on page 39)
“I need this support from WOW more than capital, so my business can succeed.” WOW Client
WOW tackles the “missing middle” for women In many countries, a serious gap exists for women entrepreneurs who are beyond microfinance yet don’t qualify for traditional capital financing. In 2006, WOW, which means “yes” in Wolof, was born to fill this need. WOW invests in women-owned potential businesses in West Africa, providing them with the coveted and rare investment capital for starting and expanding small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Created when a group of 300 Senegalese women requested help for launching their businesses from a visiting group of 14 global businesswomen, WOW invests $20,000 to $100,000 per company and provides holistic day-to-day support to business owners. So far, WOW has piloted eight SMEs in urban Dakar and rural towns in Senegal, and it has the potential to serve hundreds of SMEs throughout West Africa.
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MICROFINANCE | 39
© Kathrin Doepner | Peter Arnold Inc.
“Experience over a decade has shown that women value the group or collective for social and emotional support more than for the loans.” Prema gopalan | Swayam Shikshan Prayog
“A microfinance institution’s overall financial performance is improved when the CEO is a woman.”
RESOURCECENTER Transforming Lives $40 at
Mary ellen iskenderian | women’s world banking
a Time | by Dana Whitaker
Creating a World Without
SC: Yes—I’m most interested in mainstreaming women in leadership into microfinance organizations. We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it. What personally excites me the most is seeing how microfinance unlocks women’s power to serve as agents of change in their own communities. I have seen women in Opportunity’s trust groups organize to bring clean water and electricity to their communities, plant trees, fight gang violence, and take care of the homeless. These are poor women by financial standards, but rich in so many other ways.
The Way Forward SC: Though many people seem to think the work on microfinance is complete, we have a lot of work ahead of us before we have reached all of the world’s poor with financial services. The exciting news is that as soon as a microfinance bank for the poor becomes financially sustainable, there is almost limitless investment capital available for that bank.
Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Muhammad Yunus
Visit The Microcredit Summit Campaign’s council database to locate microfinance organizations around the world microcreditsummit.org.
Learn More about our Panelists’ Organizations Kiva | kiva.org Kashf Foundation | kashf.org Opportunity International | opportunity.org
LRP: Now, we need to think outside the box, question our assumptions, take another look at our clients, and try to develop products that are both convenient and suited to their needs. We are finding out how to be more flexible, and efficient, and find creative solutions. ●
Pro Mujer | promujer.org Swayam Shikshan Prayog | sspindia.org Women’s World Banking | swwb.org
40 | FRONTLINE JOURNAL
oday, I’m not sure of my life, I’m not sure of tomorrow, and when I go outside my house, I don’t know if I will make it back. But I have vowed to speak out and tell the truth of what is happening in my country. Seven years ago, the US bombed Afghanistan under the pretenses of “bringing democracy” and “liberating Afghan women.” Within weeks, the Taliban was removed and we Afghans had hope that we’d be able to create a promising and free society. Then, only weeks later, the US government betrayed us by relying on the criminal warlords of the Northern Alliance to aid them in their fight against the Taliban and to help run the country. And now, there are ongoing negotiations to have the Taliban, which has regained its foothold in my country, officially share power with Hamid Karzai’s puppet government. US/NATO forces have killed more Afghan civilians than terrorists—without any repercussions. The US and its allies are here for their own interests and the fate of Afghanistan’s people has no price to them. The Taliban, along with warlords and drug smugglers (including Burhanuddin Rabbani, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf, Qasim Fahim, Younis Qanooni, Ismail Khan, Gulabzoi, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Rashid Dostum, Karim Khalili, General Daud, Hazrat Ali, and Ata Mohammad) who make up Afghanistan’s ruling class, are in reality the sworn enemies of true democratic values. I have been a vocal critic of the warlords who have taken over Mr. Karzai’s government. Though I was elected to Parliament in 2005, I was illegally suspended two years later for criticizing the very criminals I served with. In an effort to silence me, the Parliament has banned me from media interviews, taken my diplomatic passport, and forbidden me from traveling outside Afghanistan. Although I hate guns, I have to live under the protection of armed guards whenever I go outside and I have been forced to hide my identity and wear a burqa in public. Having already survived four assassination attempts, I move from home to home every night and live under the constant threat of death. Even so, I vow to speak out about the truth here in Afghanistan; it is the best possible way for me to care for my suffering people. Over 85% of Afghans are living below the poverty line and don’t have enough to eat. While the US military spends $65,000 a minute in Afghanistan for its operations, up to 18 million people (out of a population of only 26 million) live on less than $2 US a day, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Many women in Afghanistan find all doors closed to them. Gang rape of women—some as young as 4 years old—has
Even with the assassination threats she faces, Malalai Joya, often called “the bravest woman in Afghanistan,” speaks out—naming warlords and telling the international community what it must do now.
reached record levels. But rapists, most of whom are powerful warlords, enjoy immunity—or are pardoned by Mr. Karzai himself. According to UNIFEM, 65% of the 50,000 widows in Kabul see suicide as the only answer to their miseries and desolation. Self-immolation among Afghan women—a practice where women douse themselves in gasoline and set themselves ablaze—has never been so high in our history: In the first six months of 2008, there were 47 cases recorded at just one hospital in the Herat province in Western Afghanistan.
“There are many more secret heroines in Afghanistan.” But I do not want to choose the path of suicide. Being killed by the enemy is much better than committing suicide. I am young and I value my life; I don’t want to be killed. I don’t fear death; I fear political silence against injustices. I fear becoming neutral to the fate of my people the way many Afghan intellectuals who preferred money and high posts under the Karzai regime have done. I know my enemies are very powerful: They have guns, money, foreign support, and links to armed groups. But what I have is the powerful support of my people, which gives me courage, determination, and hope for a bright future. My enemies have little true footing among the people of Afghanistan and that is their biggest weakness. The day they are disarmed, the people who have been victims of their brutal actions for decades will find justice. To help the people of Afghanistan there are several things we must do. We must end the drama of the “War on Terror,” which is a war on poor and innocent people. As soon as possible, the US/NATO troops must vacate our country. We want liberation, not occupation. With the withdrawal of occupation forces, we will only have to face one enemy instead of two. The warlords and their accomplices must be disarmed and brought to justice in an international criminal court. The international community must stop giving money to the mafia government. It is a heartwrenching fact that over $15 billion of aid has been given to Afghanistan in the past seven years, but with the vast majority grabbed by warlords, NGOs, officials, and donors themselves, only a tiny portion of it is reaching the
© Defense Committee for Malalai Joya
“I don’t fear death; I fear political silence against injustices.” Malalai Joya
people. Afghanistan could have been rebuilt two times with this amount! There are many more secret heroines in Afghanistan, both working in the underground and openly risking their lives. These women need our backing. They need the support of the peace- and democracy-loving people of the world, who can join hands with the voiceless people of Afghanistan. Education must also be supported directly. If Afghan people have education, they can stand up for themselves, and the Taliban and Northern Alliance will not have much chance to mislead them. We know no foreign power can bring peace and democracy, and that these values can only be achieved through our own power. That is the key to solving the crisis in Afghanistan. I am heartened by recent signs of protest from ordinary Afghans against the current regime. The power of the people is like the power of God, and this power will only get stronger day by day. ●
Malalai Joya is a former Afghan parliament member and the current director of the Organization for Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities. She is the recipient of numerous international awards, including the Anna Politkovskaya Courage Award, in honor of the renowned Russian journalist who was assassinated in 2006.
Malalai Joya demands an end to the “War on Terror” and a withdrawal of US troops, who she says have killed more innocent civilians than terrorists in the last seven years.
RESOURCECENTER Contribute to Malalai Joya’s security and her education and health care programs at malalaijoya.com. Send Malalai Joya and her organization words of support and encouragement on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
Get a Closer Look Watch Enemies of Happiness, a movie about Joya’s historic 2005 election to the Afghan parliament.
ÂŠ 2005 Susan Heinsch
Samburu Song “This photo has its own destiny,” says photographer Susan Heinsch, who took this picture at sunrise as the women of this Samburu village streamed out singing. The Samburu peoples are semi-nomadic pastoralists who live in the Rift Valley province of Northern Kenya. In 1990, fifteen Samburu women, rejected by their husbands and forced from their homes following rape, founded a woman-run village called Umoja as a safe community for survivors. The village has declared itself a violence-against-women free zone. You can support Samburu women’s projects as well as the women of Umoja village by visiting worldpulse.com/action. Read about Umoja at Umojawomen.org.
GLOBAL MEDIA The earth’s airwaves are increasingly picking up a new frequency: a surge of women’s voices from some of the most remote and previously unheard regions. Whether it’s radio programs designed to end honor crimes, telenovelas that boost women’s confidence, or cell-phone texting to report violent attacks, women are becoming the creators and disseminators of a new kind of news.
© Maciej Dakowicz
By Allena Butal
© Rodney Rascona
molayo Samuel was buffeted by a cool breeze when she finally reached the top of the Internet communications tower in her district. “I am on top of the world!” thrilled Omolayo, who had overcome her fear of heights to become the first known woman in Nigeria to make such a climb. Looking out over her country, home to the fastest-growing Internet communications technology (ICT) market in Africa, she proclaimed, “I hope my climb will spread a message of courage for women to consider ICT for their careers.” Omolayo was celebrating the tower’s arrival as part of her work with the award-winning Rural Community Networking program, which brings wireless technology and computer training to villages across northern Nigeria, with a special emphasis on training women.
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have an equal voice in media. According to the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), only 10% of all 2005 reported stories worldwide have women as the central focus. Globally, 86% of all people featured in news stories as spokespeople are men. Men also make up 83% of all “experts” consulted on issues of import and consequence. The GMMP also cited that in the past 10 years, “very little has changed in the way in which the world’s news media represent women and men.” The Internet holds great promise as a transformative space for women to become the narrators of their own stories. Studies show that across the board women are using the Internet in nearly equal numbers as men, representing 42% of users globally. And that gap is narrowing in countries such as Brazil, where women represent 47% of users, Thailand at 49%, and Canada at 51%.
“Only 10% of all reported stories worldwide have women as the central focus.” Global media monitoring project
“We are witnessing the fall of the old media order—and the noisy, thrilling, creation of something new. This phenomenon is most profoundly real for women around the globe whose urgent voices and views might never have made the front page or six o’clock news.” Diana Wells | Ashoka
Access to the Internet, however, remains a distant thought for women in many parts of the world. With the high cost of equipment and Internet connection, language barriers, and cultural attitudes, women face a triple-digital divide. Access to computers can be as low as 4% in some regions like Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, many are holding the mobile phone as the ultimate bridge to establish empowering connectivity for women. In these same areas, access to a mobile phone can be as high as 90%. Hopes are high that cell phones will provide a breakthrough lifeline for women in terms of economic empowerment, access to health-related information, networking opportunities, and getting their messages out to a global audience. Access is spreading, as national governments from Rwanda to Brazil recognize the importance of a wired citizenry for development. Omolayo Samuel, standing atop her tower in Nigeria that afternoon, can only have seen a future that is forwarding fast. ●
Connect with Omolayo Samuel on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
© Mark Edwards | Peter Arnold Inc.
Across Africa, and throughout the developing world and in rural zones in the Global North, telecommunications are rapidly “leapfrogging” into the future. By bypassing costly landlines and moving straight to wireless and cellular networks, this phenomenon is quickening the pace of women’s access to communications technology and rewiring their ability to instantaneously transmit their voices to a local and global audience. Women media entrepreneurs are seizing these mediums and blending new media like blogging, webcasting, and podcasting, with traditional forms of media, like radio, newspapers, magazines, and television. They are creating content that is opening minds and changing laws and lives. And because many programs provide digital literacy and media training, these effects are multiplying. This evolving feminine face of media is significant because there is nowhere in the world where women
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Transmitting Change As access to technology increases, innovative women-led projects are springing up across the globe. Here are a few of the many that we admire.
Blazing connection Costa Rica’s FIRE (Feminist International Radio Endeavor)
“One of our primary goals is to walk hand in hand with women around the world and continue amplifying their voices.” “Women are still left outside of media ownership, but the Internet has made it possible for us to make connections and alliances with other women and media organizations around the world,” says Andrea Alvarado, journalist, producer, and audio technician with FIRE. “One of our primary goals is to walk hand in hand with women around the world and continue amplifying their voices.” FIRE broadcasts in Spanish and English and features a collage of media, including 24-hour multimedia webcasts and training
IRE first transmitted its signal worldwide via shortwave radio in 1991. In 1998, they became the first global project using Internet technology that was both managed and produced by women of the Global South. Today, FIRE uses its technical savvy to cover the most important issues for women via radio and live webcasting.
programs to help women create their own web pages. They also offer free Internet hosting for women’s groups, and they are known for their women-to-women action campaigns. One such campaign, “Women’s Voices of Resistance,” showcased women’s perspectives in reaction to military aggression in Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel. For each call or email from listeners, FIRE made a $5 contribution to women’s organizations living in the conflict zones, resulting in thousands of dollars donated. To learn more about FIRE, visit radiofeminista.net. Connect with FIRE on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
BROADCASTING A PAN-AFRICAN Women’s MOVEMENT South Africa’s Pambazuka News © Matthew Palmer
“Pambazuka has become the source of authentic voices of Africa’s social analysts and activists.” Top 10 sites changing the world, politics online
ambazuka News is an influential, open-access, pan-African email newsletter with English, French, and Portuguese editions. Boasting a weekly readership of 500,000, the media group was born out of dialogue with 120 social justice groups more than eight years ago. “They defined the need for us,” says Firoze Manji, Editorial Director. “Access to the web is problematic because bandwidth is bad, but email is easy, so we are an email-based newsletter.” Lately, they are much more than that. Pambazuka, and Fahamu, the organization behind it, are now using a multitude of media to get marginalized Africans—particularly women— debating, collaborating, and driving policy change. Most recently, they have branched out into participatory radio
training, working with rural women to produce radio and podcast programs about women’s rights. “We are tapping into the growing strength of the women’s movement,” says Manji. “Our long-term goal is to use new and conventional media to hold elected officials and governments accountable.” They also have started UmNyango, meaning “doorway,” a mobile phone project that trains women to use texting in their native language to anonymously report on violence and violations of their right to land without fear of reprisal. “It is a bridge for women to protect themselves,” says Anil Naidoo, team leader of the project, which has just begun its pilot. Find out about all of Pambazuka’s projects at pambazuka.org. Connect with Firoze Manji on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
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umaira Habib was 19 when she became a founding member of Radio Sahar, one of Afghanistan’s most popular women’s community radio stations. Sahar means “dawn” in Dari, the most common language in Afghanistan. Humaira barely knew what a radio was in the years before she founded the project. At that time she was working as a teacher in an underground school before the fall of the Taliban in 2002. Although Herat, Humaira’s city, now has 11 other radio stations, today Radio Sahar consistently outperforms other larger broadcasters and employs 15 staff, 11 of whom are women. Initially broadcasting two hours a day. Radio Sahar now broadcasts 11 hours a day, produces 40 programs a week, and reaches an estimated audience of 700,000. Programming includes call-in shows and topics related to women’s rights and the advancement of a progressive Afghanistan. And though the station has experienced threats by local authorities, and Humaira herself has seen the murder of female colleagues who dared to become journalists, Radio Sahar remains a strong force for women’s empowerment in Afghanistan.
“The station is a symbol to all women that they can do the things they weren’t allowed to do before.” Humaira Habib
Connect with Humaira Habib on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
© Katherine Kiviat | Women of Courage: Intimate Stories from Afghanistan
DAWN OF NEW IDEAS: Afghanistan’s Radio Sahar
WOMEN’S VOICES ALTER NATIONAL AGENDA: Turkey’s Flying Broom
ou can almost envision broomsticks crisscrossing the sky, flying from city to city, when you hear about the work of the extensive and far-reaching media network Flying Broom, which has managed to link local women’s groups across over 80 cities. Founded by unrelenting women’s “fighter” Halime Güner, Flying Broom has been instrumental in mobilizing women to pass new laws in Turkey. Using radio programs and information
“Communication carries joint action within itself.”
The Flying Broom women’s media network produced a campaign to feature the stories of “baby brides,” young girls in early and forced marriages.
campaigns, they successfully lobbied for a revolutionary new penal code against honor killings and virginity control. And, they have now formed a local women reporters’ network in over 12 cities, where women submit news from their regions each week to bring their priorities to the national agenda. But it is Flying Broom’s annual film festival that is far and away its most popular event, bringing inspiring and important films by and about women to the capital city of Ankara. The newest, called Baby Brides, tackles early and forced marriages. To learn more about the film and Flying Broom, visit en.ucansupurge.org. Connect with Flying Broom on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
IN THE HALLS OF POWER: Bangladesh’s Vanishing Rites
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a disappearing culture through digital diaries and photostories. Now, Ina has expanded her vision to indigenous peoples from Uganda to Sarawak. And she is taking these media products a step further—following production, Vanishing Rites delivers the media clips directly to the UN and to e-Parliament, a digital forum for Parliamentarians across the globe.
“Grassroots activism and voices are now left to change the world. We can only achieve this through communication and mass understanding of the issues we face.”
© Ina Hume
ocally produced from start to finish, there is a raw and deeply personal power to the short multimedia clips that Vanishing Rites helps indigenous communities produce. “The stories we are drawn to as women are more personal and more subtle,” says the organization’s founder, Ina Hume. Daughter of a Jumma princess, Ina returned to the homeland of her mother, the Chittagong tracts of Bangladesh, to raise awareness about
Vanishing Rites is on a mission to gather as many stories as possible to contribute to the ambitious Our Stories project, which aims to gather over five million stories by 2012. Says Hume, “The vast majority of people in developing countries remain on the wrong side of the digital divide. Our challenge is to connect people by developing strategies to suit each local situation.” For more information about Vanishing Rites, visit vanishingrites.com. Connect with Ina Hume on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
VOICE OF DIGNITY INSPIRES A NATION: Nepal’s Asmita
he award-winning organization Asmita has become a beacon for women’s hopes and dreams in Nepal. Asmita, meaning “dignity” and “identity,” first began as a print magazine for women two decades ago when no such publication existed in Nepal. Today, the magazine remains
Manju thapa, executive editor
the backbone of the organization, which also produces media campaigns for women’s rights, documentaries, TV, and radio programs, as well as posters and other educational literature. It also serves as a watchdog for mainstream media. Asmita’s powerful message has penetrated the popular consciousness of the country. “We have had many visible and invisible rewards, having catapulted gender issues to the forefront of public debate in parliamentary discussions, government policies, and common people’s conversations,” says Manju Thapa with pride. According to Thapa, due to Asmita’s campaigns, mainstream Nepalese media has stopped publishing the photographs and identity of women survivors of violence, and regularly gives page space to matters of equal property rights, abortion rights, and ending violence against women. “The condition of Nepalese
“Many people have given the name ‘Asmita’ to their daughters because they have been so impressed with our work.”
ASMITA members monitor national newspapers as part of a campaign to hold media accountable. women is a major source of our inspiration and gives us high energy for our struggle,” she says. “Now that we have the support of a conscious mass of people, we feel a greater responsibility to carry on.” Their coverage continues to bring news of the women’s movement around the world into Nepalese homes, and it also touches on hard-hitting national issues. “Our goal is to substantially contribute to the restructuring of the state and bring about inclusive democracy,” says Thapa. Learn more about Asmita’s ground-breaking work at asmita.org. Connect with Manju Thapa on PulseWire at worldpulse.com.
M e ss e n g e r s
Conduit for a Continent
© Gregor Rohrig
Kenya’s Ory Okolloh: Blogger and New Media Visionary Mobilizes Voices of Africa
ry Okolloh is turning heads in cyberspace. A young Kenyan lawyer and activist, whose family struggled to send her to school and whose father died of AIDS, she is bent on communicating that Africa is no sob story. Okolloh is devoting her life to letting the
Mexico’s Lydia Cacho Ribeiro Putting Her Life on the Line “If in Mexico you go to jail for telling the truth, then you get out and keep telling it until things change.” Mexican journalist and social activist Lydia Cacho is no stranger to death threats for her work reporting on domestic violence, organized crime, and sex abuse. In April 2008, the Mexican government detained and tortured her for exposing trafficking and pornography rings in print. But despite the danger she faces every day, she remains a vigilant reporter and advocate for women’s rights. PHOTO: © APC
world know—through her blogs and “labor of love” digital projects—that the continent is loaded with the power of the people and their solutions. Today she is on the forefront of a wave of young Africans who are using the power of blogging, cell-phone texting, and web-enabled democracy to push their countries forward and help Africans to truly connect. When Kenya erupted in violence in early 2008 after the presidential elections and the government clamped down with media bans, Okolloh had a vision. With the help of websavvy friends, she created Ushahidi, a web-based map where Kenyans can report real-time acts of violence (and acts of peace) from their cell phones. Ushahidi, which means ‘’testimony’’ in Swahili, has captured widespread support and is currently being released as a free application that anyone can customize to bring awareness to crises in their own regions, from rapes to looting, from the Congo to Chechnya. When the idea for Ushahidi struck, Okolloh already had her own personal and popular blog, Kenyan Pundit, as well as another site she runs, called Mzalendo, which monitors the
Afghanistan’s Farida Nekzad Founding Freedom in Afghanistan “I stay, continuing my job and duty: because of my future, because of my country, because of my women.” Farida Nekzad, deputy director of Pajhwok Afghan News, is a leading voice for freedom of the press in Afghanistan. Farida has watched as militia have murdered colleagues who were doing the very work she does daily, but she has vowed to continue to expose injustices in the name of advancing women’s rights in her country.
PHOTO: © International Women’s Media Foundation
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Journalists to Watch In lands where few dare to speak out, these are some of the relentless women journalists who refuse to be silenced.
performance of Kenya’s parliamentarians. Mzalendo enables Kenyans to talk directly to their officials, and helps ordinary people understand what the government is doing, so they can hold them accountable. Through Mzalendo, and now Ushahidi, Okolloh deeply believes that the people of Africa, once connected through digital projects like Mzalendo and Ushahidi, can break the cycle of exploitation by corrupt leaders. And, in doing so, she hopes that Africans will start exercising their right to hold officials accountable en masse. “Accountability stems from demand,” she insists. “It is important for us to keep an eye on the political class and to ensure that the promises they have made are delivered,” she continues.
US’s Emily Wax A Searing and Human Gaze “There is such a small group of us covering this. When we don’t go in, it means Americans don’t see what’s happening here… it’s a heavy responsibility.” Washington Post foreign correspondent Emily Wax fearlessly and tenderly covers complex humanitarian issues that often go unnoticed by other media outlets. Known specifically for her honest and unflinching on-the-ground coverage of the genocide in Sudan, Emily is one of few who have reported in-depth on what the UN calls the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. PHOTO: Courtesy of Emily Wax
“As Africans we need to start challenging our leaders. We need to start taking responsibility for our continent.”
The map on Ushahidi’s website allows anyone to submit crisis information via web or cell phone. Born out of the post-election violence in Kenya in early 2008, today, it’s being released as an open source crisis monitoring tool that can be used in any region of the world. Currently, it is being deployed in the war zones of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). “Otherwise we will find ourselves in the same scenario in a few years.” In a few years, there’s hope that the political landscape will be far more democratic and responsive to ordinary people in Kenya and elsewhere, thanks to visionaries like Okolloh. Although Okolloh once had an opportunity to have a six-figure salary because of her talent and law degree, she’s long since forsaken that. She’s in for the long haul: “Because my passion is here, because I want to do things that are fulfilling. Because I’m so needed here.” ● Visit ushahidi.com and drc.ushahidi.com to learn more.
Burma’s Aye Aye Win Not Backing Down “I’m letting the people inside the country, as well as outside, know what is happening. It is a great job—to at least tell the truth, so the world can see inside Burma.” For the better part of the last 20 years, Aye Aye Win has been one of the only Burmese women journalists covering what is perhaps the bloodiest chapter of Burma’s history. Reporting under the watchful eye of a military junta that abhors free press, Win risks her safety to bring news to her people and is credited with opening the door for other foreign media to report in her country. PHOTO: © International Women’s Media Foundation
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© Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak | nygus.info
More Women’s Media Projects Around the Globe
A Daily News Vitamin
Women’s eNews Each morning, Women’s eNews sends a women-focused story to the inboxes of 45,000 people across the globe. Published in both English and Arabic, Women’s eNews is an independent source for stories by and about women. womensenews.org A Global Network for Women Newsmakers
International Women’s Media Foundation Best known for their inspiring Courage in Journalism Awards, the IWMF honors some of the world’s bravest women journalists. The backbone of their work, however, is strengthening women’s role in news media by networking and training women media professionals. iwmf.org
A Syndicate with Its Ear to the Ground
Women’s Feature Service Based in New Delhi and staffed with an all-women team, WFS was one of the first sources to report on the Taliban in Afghanistan and the impact of AIDS on women. wfsnews.org A Source for Women Experts
SheSource.org SheSource gives news outlets easy access to knowledgeable women’s experts and brings their perspectives into public conversation. Top sources like CNN, Bloomberg, the New York Times, and NBC regularly tap SheSource for their coverage. SheSource.org
A Training Ground for Spokeswomen
Women’s Media Center WMC is an active web hub featuring women’s news and analysis. They also provide training to help women speak out through the media as confident, polished spokespeople. womensmediacenter.com
A New Perspective
The Women’s International Perspective With a comprehensive website that includes original and aggregated news content, the WIP is an intelligent source for women’s news around the world. thewip.net
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Join the World Pulse community newswire:
“When I enter PulseWire, I feel that I have entered a community. We know that we are not alone.” G. Romero | Rural Development Institute founding member of PulseWire
• TELL your unique story in an online journal. • OFFER what you have or ASK for what you need on the Resource Exchange bulletin board. • GROW your circle with group connections. RAISE YOUR VOICE! Selected fresh and powerful stories will be featured in our magazine—the next one could be yours!
The world is hungry for your innovative solutions, courage, and beauty. Bring them to World Pulse. Together we will bring them to the world.
Connect on PulseWire at worldpulse.com/pulsewire.
54 | GATHERINGS
Global Gatherings © Washington Nat’l Cathedral
This past year saw a record number of international gatherings for women. The following are just a few of the many that rocked our world.
“Our task is to keep building until we have raised enough platforms to support women high enough to transform the very horizons of the earth.” MADELEINE ALBRIGHT
A Joyful Noise
The Power of Movements
Women, Faith, and Development Breakthrough Summit | April 2008, Washington, DC
Association for Women in Development | November 2008, Cape Town, South Africa
Headliners: Madeleine Albright, Archbishop Desmond
Every three years, over 1,500 movers and shakers in the global women’s movement gather for a charged four days to network, collaborate, and strategize. There are galas, marketplaces, caucuses, dancing, and profound connections. This year brings a new and exciting component—a pre-session feminist technology exchange with over 100 grassroots women leaders who will share skills on using technology to tell stories and advance women’s rights worldwide. World Pulse founder Jensine Larsen and Africa outreach director Leah Auma Okeyo are in attendance to feel the pulse!
Tutu, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Dr. Muhammad Yunus For the first time, over 200 faith-based, development, and women’s rights groups came together to form a groundbreaking coalition to end poverty through the empowerment of women and girls. In a show of fervent solidarity, members of the coalition pledged $1.4 billion worth of new, concrete commitments to initiatives focused on women and girls. It was a spiritual and historic moment for all who attended. We can only imagine what the next Breakthrough Summit will bring in December 2009!
Read World Pulse’s live reports at: worldpulse.com/gatherings. Find out more at awid.org.
Find out more and watch clips from the conference at wfd-alliance.org. World Pulse’s inaugural tour: February 2009
Building a New World For Women The Women’s Conference: Architects of Change | October 2008, Long Beach, CA Headliners: Christiane Amanpour, Cherie Blair, Cerue Konah Garlo, Condoleezza Rice, Warren Buffett, Jennifer Lopez, Bono, Gloria Steinem You have to hand it to Maria Shriver. The First Lady of California pulled off this earnest star-studded “hurrah,” bringing together Liberian peace activists with the likes of Warren Buffett and over 14,000 women (and 1 million more via web) to celebrate women as agents of change. Shriver took over organizing the non-partisan and nonprofit event five years ago, tied it into her WeEmpower brand, and has since brought on big sponsors, big names, and a bigger spirit of solidarity and giving back. If ticket sales are any indication, plan to get in line early for next year—they sold out within three hours.
The next conference will be held in October 2009. Learn more at californiawomen.org.
The Heart of Cambodia World Pulse will embark on our first-ever international tour to Cambodia to meet leading women pioneering a new future for Cambodia. You’ll visit innovative women-led programs and experience the country’s lush sights and flavors. We will come away with an understanding of how we can partner with the brave women and children of Cambodia to make a lasting impact. Our Guide: Loung Ung, visionary author of First They Killed My Father and Lucky Child, anti-landmines activist, and survivor of the Cambodian killing fields. Email us at email@example.com to find out about our waiting list and other international trips.
RESOURCECENTER Find upcoming Global Gatherings to attend on WorldPulse.com.
ÂŠ Holly Wilmeth
ÂŠ Kelly Flamos
GROUNDSWELL For generations, women coffee workers have been treated like second-class citizens. Today, they are taking on leadership roles in every sector of the industry. It’s not only creating better coffee—it’s also dramatically improving growers’ lives. By Whitney Joiner
sabel Latorre left the mountains of northern Peru for a larger city when she was just a child, but each time she returned to visit her family, she was struck by the way the women in this coffee-growing region were treated. “At home, they are not part of the decisions…” she explains in Spanish, through a translator. “Men have machismo and are aggressive. Women are submissive and accept abuses because that’s what we saw our grandmothers, mothers, and aunts endure.”
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Years later, when Latorre became an organic coffee importer for the Vancouver, Washington-based Organic Products Trading Company (OPTCO), she returned to the northern Peru mountains and noticed the same gender dynamic in the fields: The women in the villages worked tirelessly on their husbands’ farms—while also tending to their homes and their children. And far too often, the men spent their paychecks before coming home, leaving the women little or nothing for their hard work. To Latorre, it was as if the women had no value. Latorre was vexed by the hard-working female coffee growers’ situation and wondered what she could do to improve their lives. Latorre noticed as she watched the farmers working that the women took more care than the men did as they harvested and processed the beans. She wondered, What if we separated the coffee the women grew and sold it as a standalone brand? The coffee was sure to be an excellent product, and perhaps it would give the women a measure of economic freedom. When Latorre presented her idea to Gay Smith, wife of OPTCO founder Garth Smith and the company’s chief financial officer, Smith jumped on board. In 2004, they launched Café Femenino with a group of 464 women growers from the cooperative in Peru. OPTCO charges two cents more per pound for these beans than for the other organic beans they sell—and mandates that the extra two cents goes back to
we’re really going to make history and the program wouldn’t work unless they grew excellent coffee. The growers took that to heart.” Today, Café Femenino has 5,000 women growers in eight countries that sell to 80 roasters—and the women growers are using the extra income to invest in their homes and communities. More importantly, it has changed women’s lives internally: “Café Femenino has given me the opportunity to show how important I am,” says Lily Leiva Alvitez, a grower. Rosaria Guevara Diaz, another grower, agrees: “Café Femenino values women,” she says. “I’ve learned that self-esteem gives us the right to speak.” “This change is noticeable in the women,” says Smith. “At our first meeting, they hung their heads. They weren’t used to talking. Now we have women who truly have confidence and grace. They help each other to pick coffee and watch the children; they have a place to come together and develop friendships. They value themselves now, and their husbands are saying they see their wives differently now that they are income-earners.” While Café Femenino has the most comprehensive program to support its female growers, it’s not the only coffee that’s brewing change for women. Sustainable Harvest, an importer based in Portland, Oregon, worked with women farmers of a Nicaraguan coop called Soppexca and Peet’s Coffee to develop another brand that charges a premium that
Coffee is an industry that is both massive—it’s the second largest traded commodity after oil—and historically male-dominated. the individual female growers. Roasters who buy the coffee, explains Smith, are “required to tell its story in their sales and marketing, and to involve women in the roasting, too. We wanted to create a string of women helping women.” She also requires roasters to donate a portion of the proceeds from the coffee’s sales to either a local domestic violence organization or to the Café Femenino Foundation, which offers the growers small grants to pay for school supplies, healthcare improvements, and secondary incomes like sewing and small-animal farming. “When I thought about the abuse these women [growers] suffered,” says Smith of the project’s inception, “I couldn’t think of anything more powerful to change their perception of themselves than to allow the work that they were doing to help other women.” In starting out, Smith was uncertain if the idea would be successful. “We didn’t know what the reception would be in the industry. When we first started, I told our growers that
goes right back to the growers: Las Hermanas (The Sisters). When the brand launched in 2004, it sold 250 bags to Peet’s; in 2007, it sold 1,000 bags to the coffee chain (one bag weighs anywhere from 130-150 pounds, at about 32 cups a pound). With the brand’s success, the health and status of Soppexca’s women growers has drastically improved. The coop has even partnered with an NGO to screen women in their community for cervical and uterine cancer, and offers credit for women to buy land. They’ve also pioneered a gender equality policy, offering training around family violence in schools and encouraging committees to keep an eye out for overt sexism among members. Café Femenino and Las Hermanas signal a groundswell in an industry that is both historically male-dominated and massive—it’s the second largest traded commodity after oil. Over the last generation, women are increasingly able to control property due to changes in inheritance laws in (continued on page 60)
© Café Femenino
© Sean Sprague | Peter Arnold Inc.
© Amit Gupta
© Holly Wilmeth
© Timothy Fadek © Hal Bergman
Women are raising the bar in all facets of the coffee industry, and female growers are consistently collaborating to produce higher quality coffee. “From the way it’s harvested and processed to selecting out bad beans, women take more time to care for it,” says Nicaraguan cooperative Soppexca’s manager Fatina Ismaeo. Coffee brands that value women are increasingly becoming bestsellers, which is good news for women-led cooperatives. Now, with increased economic power, domestic violence rates are dropping in coffee growing regions and women are re-investing in their communities.
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coffee-growing regions. “Daughters are taking over from their fathers,” says Tracy Ging of Specialty Coffee Association of America. “Women were involved before, but they wouldn’t have had any management or legal rights. It’s only been during the last 15 or so years—this last generational shift—that we’ve seen women in ownership positions.” And as women have entered the industry in greater numbers across all sectors—including the buying, exporting, and roasting side—there’s increasing interest about women on the growing side. That interest—coupled with easier communication and more importers and roasters visiting the farms—has created new business partnerships and lasting relationships between women growers/ managers and women buyers/roasters.
“We wanted to create a string of women helping women.” A final major factor of the rise of women in the coffee business is the explosion of its specialty market (think Starbucks and your local coffeehouse, rather than the canned coffee cans available at the grocery store). As this market has grown from catering solely to coffee connoisseurs to marketing to everyone, consumers want to know where coffee comes from, who grew it, if it’s Fair Trade certified, and how workers are treated in the growing region. “Coffee is one of the few commodities where people are interested in the backstory,” says Jeanne Sinclair, owner of Big Bend Coffee Roasters, a small, organic-only roaster in Marfa, Texas. It’s a system that helps everyone. The customer is willing to spend more to be assured that her daily dose of caffeine is not only better-tasting but also grown under positive, fair conditions; the farmers are inspired to take better care of their coffee, knowing that it must be of a high enough quality to satisfy the customers paying that higher price. Café Femenino is a bestseller for Big Bend, says Sinclair, because “it’s a great coffee—and it has a great story.” As women continue to emerge as forces within the industry, initiatives like Café Feminino and Las Hermanas are likely just the beginning in this movement of women coming together to improve their own lives, as well as their families and their communities through coffee. While Smith doesn’t have specific plans to branch out into other products, she hopes the Café Femenino model will catch on for importers of other crops grown in these areas. “Café Femenino is using a commercial product to create an internal change—the transformation that occurs when you value a product made by women,” she says. “And that’s a concept that could be applied to other products: There could be a Banana Femenino or a Chocolate Femenino...” ●
Coffee’s LEADINGLADIES JUANA MAMAMI HUANCA GROWER | A member of the San Ignacio cooperative in Bolivia, Huanca began producing coffee at the age of 16. She is a first-generation producer with six hectares of hillside land in the Carraxo La Reserva region of the Caranavi province and is known for using coffee pulp instead of chemicals to fertilize her crop and for using natural barriers and soil protection instead of pesticides. In 2003, when she was just 23 years old, she won second place in Bolivia’s prestigious Cup of Excellence competition with beans that underwent her natural wash process.
LINDSEY BOLGER | BUYER After mastering how to make delicious coffee drinks as a barista in a small Olympia, Washington, coffee house during college in the late 1980s, Lindsey Bolger quickly moved on to buying the beans. Now, as the Director of Coffee for Vermont’s well-known Green Mountain Roasters, she’s one of the most prominent female buyers in the industry.
SUNALINI MENON | TASTER India’s first female coffee taster is still one of the only women in her field. “Sometimes I feel a little alone,” she says, “But after 30 years, the men have accepted me.” Nicknamed “Asia’s First Lady of Coffee,” Menon spends her days evaluating coffee, an art and a science much like wine: She tests different beans for aroma, texture, flavor, bitterness, and other factors. Besides holding the title of the Quality Omsbudsman of the Specialty Coffee Association of India, Menon is CEO of her own company, CoffeeLab, based in Bangalore, where she evaluates coffees from India and across the world, including the well-known Illy Café, and travels across India helping growers improve their beans.
RESOURCECENTER Have a Closer Look Watch Strong Coffee, the story of Café Femenino—the first coffee beans grown entirely by women farmers.
Visit Café Femenino online at cafefemenino.com.
Drying Coffee in the Dominican Republic
Pouring Coffee in Sidamo, Ethiopia
Collecting Coffee Cherries in Mexico
Roasting Coffee in Sumatra, Indonesia
100% Fair Trade & Organic minneapolis, mn peacecoffee.com
62 | ArtS
Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur Halima Bashir with Damien Lewis | Random House, 2008 | Sudan “I am telling you, what is happening is a true genocide. It is a war between Africans and Arabs, and it is a war against those carrying black skin,” she says.
© Random House
“This is not a conflict. It is a genocide, and we need everybody.” Halima Bashir’s words are measured, her responses deliberate. She is speaking of Darfur—her homeland and the site of an estimated 400,000 killings in the last six
years. In speaking out, she risks her life and the lives of her family. Hiding behind both a pseudonym and a thick veil, Bashir has vowed to reveal the magnitude of the atrocities she has witnessed in her new book Tears of the Desert. Bashir had an idyllic and peaceful childhood growing up in her remote Darfur village and went on to become her village’s first female doctor. Then in 2003, she found herself treating burn victims and girls who had been raped—some as young as 6, all victims of Janjaweed militia’s terror campaign against her people. Horrified by what she was seeing in her underfunded clinic, Bashir reported the atrocities to UN officials and became an immediate target of the Sudanese government. She was kidnapped, raped, and beaten, and she lived to tell the harrowing story of the Darfur genocide as she witnessed it. “Before the genocide began, my life in Darfur was a happy village life,” she recalls. “Today, I am a refugee: I miss my family; I miss my people; I miss my home. Now, I am speaking out to tell the world what is happening to people in Darfur.” And immediacy permeates her message. “This is not a conflict,” she explains. “It is a genocide, and we need everybody—the UN, the international community, everybody in the world—to come to our aid.”
Unaccustomed Earth Jhumpa Lahiri | Knopf, 2008 | USA/India With Unaccustomed Earth, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri presents a collection of eight short stories about the experiences of first- and second-generation Bengali immigrants living among the elite rungs in the US. Lahiri’s characters struggle with the dissonance of cultural adjustment in stories ranging from the tale of a Bengali woman’s love affair outside of her arranged marriage to the story of a college student devastated by his father’s hasty remarriage after the death of his mother. Unaccustomed Earth is a quick but emotional read, intensely relatable for any woman who has struggled for personal freedom amid cultural and family obligations.
BOOKS The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood Helene Cooper | Simon & Schuster, 2008 | Liberia Now the diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times, Helene Cooper came of age as part of the privileged, dominant class of Liberia. Cooper led an easy life behind the doors of a 22-room mansion until Liberia’s civil war changed everything. Cooper’s father was arrested during a coup, and her family was forced to flee the country without her adopted sister Eunice, an indigenous girl who had lived with the family since childhood. The House at Sugar Beach finds Cooper 20 years later, returning to Liberia in search of her lost sister. Join Cooper on her complicated homecoming, and bear witness to a daring meditation on Liberia’s tumultuous period of change.
The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine Somaly Mam | Spiegel & Grau, 2008 | Cambodia Admirers of Cambodian leader Somaly Mam will be thrilled by this much-anticipated memoir, which moves from her early life in the jungles of her homeland to her current global activism. Trafficked at the age of 12, Mam spent seven years as a victim of rape, torture, and forced prostitution until she escaped. The Road of Lost Innocence chronicles her courageous path toward becoming the world-renowned crusader against human trafficking that she is today. Her story will leave you ready to join her fight against the violent world of sexual slavery. And, just by buying the book, you will already have made an impact. A portion of its sales fund Mam’s foundation, which establishes rescue operations, shelters, and vocational training programs for survivors in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics Riane Eisler | Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007 | Global Riane Eisler’s latest work delivers a characteristically pointed and timely critique of Western standards for measuring wealth and well-being. With a gender-sensitive framework for her arguments, she identifies historically unpaid work—like caregiving—as a long overlooked source of social capital. Drawing from alternative definitions of wealth and health, and from a growing body of feminist economic literature, Eisler combines employment numbers and stock market reports with a thorough assessment of the time and energy individuals invest in caring for one another. Essential reading for progressive policymakers, social scientists, feminists, and students of the global economy alike.
Wild Mulberries Iman Humaydan Younes | Interlink Publishing Group, 2008 | Lebanon Originally composed in Arabic, Wild Mulberries is the story of Sarah, the adolescent daughter of a Lebanese sheikh in the 1930s. Although the area has seen financial hardship because of a sharp decline in the price of silk, Sarah’s father keeps a tight grip on the household and insists on raising silkworms. His rigid dedication to the traditional method of silk production angers members of the family. As a result, Sarah flees Lebanon and the pressures of her family’s conservatism in search of a mother she’s never known. Younes provides a textured, personal window into a country on the brink of change, and a village that is holding on to its traditions despite Western influence and economic hardships.
© Jerome Kerleau
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66 | ArtS
Rebel Woman Chiwoniso | Cumbancha, 2008 | Zimbabwe It’s midmorning and Chiwoniso is running late for a round of interviews to support her new album, Rebel Woman. She apologizes, explaining that she was rehearsing with her new band until 3 a.m. “It’s a beautiful band,” she says. She’ll say “beautiful” almost a dozen times in the next half hour, describing everything from her sister’s marriage to her friend’s poetry with the casual air of someone who truly does see beauty all around her.
“Music was around all the time; it became like breathing.” From the very beginning, there has been music in Chiwoniso’s life. Even during her home birth in Olympia, Washington, her © Bugs Steffen
father and uncles welcomed her with drumming. Her parents, both musicians, filled their house with artists, doctors, healers, thinkers, midwives, and fellow musicians. “People who were not only able to make music, but who understood what the music meant,” she recalls. It seemed only natural that Chiwoniso, too, would become a musician, playing the mbira (a traditional Zimba-
bwean instrument) and singing. “Because the music was around all the time, it became like breathing,” she says. “You start to hear the notes in your head and you don’t even think about it; it just comes out.” Throughout her childhood and adolescence, Chiwoniso moved with her family back and forth between the US and Zimbabwe, her parents’ homeland. She calls her time in Zimbabwe “profound” and she has spent the last 16 years living there, relocating to the US only this month. The move is partially due to an upcoming tour to support Rebel Woman, but it is also a temporary reprieve from Zimbabwe and its political upheaval. Living in Harare, Chiwoniso has experienced first hand the struggles, oppression, and violence that plague her country. “I reflect on what’s going on,” she says. “If I’m walking down the street and I hear passing conversation about people struggling, not having enough money, being frustrated with the direction the country’s taking. I’m passing a message on… It’s what I was meant to do.” And for Chiwoniso, whose music blends the sounds of many cultures and many times, this is a beautiful thing indeed.
Umalali Garifuna Women’s Project | Cumbancha, 2008 | Belize/Guatemala/ Honduras/Nicaragua Recorded in a hut on the coast of Belize and later remastered, this collection of traditional folk songs from Latin American coastal communities is a mix of African-inspired rhythms and melodic, husky voices. The Garifuna, descendants of shipwrecked African slaves and the local Carib and Arawak people, are famous for their unique style of Afro-Caribbean music, and Umalali is the result of a 10-year journey to record the historic contribution of women to Garifuna culture and art. What follows is a hip-shaking album with musical, as well as historical, currency.
MUSIC Songs Of An Other Savina Yannatou and Primavera en Salonico | ECM Records, 2008 | Greece Renowned Greek singer Savina Yannatou and Primavera en Salonico raise their talents and improvisational techniques to new heights in their third album, Songs of an Other. Starting with a selection of traditional songs from countries including Armenia, Serbia, Kazakhstan, and Greece, Primavera en Salonico creates lush melodies into which Yannatou layers a full range of vocal expression. The result is a fresh, authentic sound that carries forward each song’s historical essence.
Pop-Up Yelle | Caroline, 2007 | France Yelle—the Julie Budet-fronted pop group, known for its catchy compositions and bright, colorful attire—is sweeping across Europe. Frequently accompanied by tecktonik, the bizarre, hip-hop-influenced dance style that originated in the Parisian club scene, Yelle is just one of a new era of über-hip, politically active female-fronted groups from around the globe (à la M.I.A. and Santogold). “À Cause des Garçons,” Yelle’s biggest hit to date, is unforgettable, and Budet’s adorable style and energetic voice are an amusing take on bubblegum—sweet, rhythmic, fantastique.
Alive Sa Dingding | Wrasse Records, 2008 | China With the release of her newest album, Alive, Chinese-Mongolian singer, songwriter, and producer Sa Dingding emerges as an arresting voice in today’s China. Draped in multicolored flags, this outspoken singer croons in multiple languages, including Tibetan, Sanskrit, Mandarin, and a made-up language of her own. A testament to the diversity of this wide region, Dingding fuses traditional Chinese folk music with Western dance music and electronica, creating a uniquely spiritual and trance-inducing global sound.
All I Intended to Be Emmylou Harris | Nonesuch Records, 2008 | USA Recently inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Emmylou Harris has won 12 Grammy Awards for her extensive discography. Guest appearances by Vince Gill and Dolly Parton, coupled with the continual presence of steel pedal guitar, give All I Intended to Be a down-home feel, and Merle Haggard’s “Kern River” has never sounded better. With its sweet-vinegar vocals and slow acoustic guitar, this album will comfort longtime fans and curious new listeners alike.
Katan Katan | Twelvetones Records, 2007 | Hungary Hungarian rhythms get a modern makeover in duo Kata Horváti and Anikó Papp’s debut album, Katan. Blending Transylvanian-Moldavian-Hungarian folk into a seamless package, Katan is both an exploration of Eastern Europe’s rich history and a new twist on world music. With jazz sounds, electronic beats, and traditional instrumentation, this is a sultry album that is both nuanced and easily accessible.
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Pray the Devil Back to Hell Gini Reticker, Abigail Disney | 2008 | Liberia A woman’s voice calls out from the screen: “If I get killed, just remember I was fighting for peace.” So rings the pivotal message of the riveting new film Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which recently premiered to critical acclaim at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. This must-see documentary recounts the story of thousands of ordinary women who successfully banded together amidst the human wreckage of a decades-long civil
“If I get killed, just remember I was fighting for peace.” “The media too often portrays women in Africa as helpless victims,” says Leymah Gbowee, who is featured prominently in the film and who is a driving force behind her community’s grassroots activism. “This film has created an opportunity for me to showcase what African women
© Michael Angelo for Wonderland
war in Liberia to demand peace.
can and have been doing in conflict situations.” And what Gbowee herself has done is remarkable. Recognizing that “religion has a major role to play in ending violence in Africa,” Gbowee inspired Liberian women of Muslim and Christian faiths to summon their belief in prayer and dedicate themselves to the nonviolent protests that rocked a nation. Pray the Devil follows Gbowee as she leads her group, Liberian Mass Action for Peace, into a meeting with Liberia’s infamous dictator Charles Taylor. Its resolution reminds us that with courage, conviction, and a little bit of creativity, communities of women can effect large-scale breakthroughs in conflict zones. “The atrocities committed in Liberia before and during the war were devastating,” Gwobee explained. “I personally © Pewee Flomoku
believe that we as a people have not embarked on that journey to healing and reconciliation yet.” Pray the Devil Back to Hell may be one of the first steps in this journey. To request a screening in your area, visit praythedevilbacktohell.com.
Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine | TH!NKFilm, 2007 | Uganda Winner of the Sundance Film Festival 2007 Documentary Directing Award, War/Dance follows the journey of a group of Northern Ugandan students performing their way to the National Dance Competition in Kampala. Perhaps the most moving story is that of 14-year-old Dominic, a kidnapped child soldier who goes on to be selected as the greatest youth xylophone player in all of Uganda. Beautifully filmed and rife with poignant interviews, War/Dance proves once again the healing power of art in the face of immeasurable evil.
FILMS Julie Bridgham | Women Make Movies, 2008 | Nepal Filmed over the course of three years, The Sari Soldiers chronicles the lives of six Nepalese women following Nepal’s recent civil war. From the dedicated commander of a Maoist battalion to the student leader of the pro-democracy movement in Katmandu, these women are carving out revolutionary spaces in the midst of a complex and violent conflict. When one woman’s daughter goes missing, the six women’s stories swirl around the search to bring her home, capturing the many sides of opposition in Nepal, and illustrating with grace and eloquence the changing attitudes towards women’s involvement in the country.
© Women Make Movies | wmm.com
The Sari Soldiers
Flow: For Love of Water Irena Salina | Oscilloscope Laboratories, 2008 | Global Water is life, insists Flow, a hair-raising documentary of the global water crisis that showcases the many practical, affordable solutions now being implemented around the globe. Traveling from a polluting slaughterhouse in Bolivia to sustainable rainwater reservoirs in India, Flow makes a strong argument: The answer to clean water shortages is not a single, billion-dollar solution, but many thousand-dollar solutions.
Lisa F. Jackson | Women Make Movies, 2008 | Democratic Republic of the Congo In this unflinching documentary, filmmaker Lisa Jackson travels through the Democratic Republic of the Congo, exposing the grotesque realities of gendered violence. With harrowing detail, Jackson portrays the resilience and courage of the women at the center of a humanitarian crisis that has led to the death of four million people and the rape and kidnapping of tens of thousands of women and girls. Piecing together intimate and chilling footage of survivors, activists, peacekeepers, and even the rapists who are part of the Congolese army, Jackson releases an urgent telegraph of this modern horror.
© Women Make Movies | wmm.com
The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo
Tuya’s Marriage An epic drama about the hardships of survival on the Mongolian steppe, Tuya’s Marriage is a darkly comedic exploration of tradition and expectation. Conflict begins when Tuya, a stubborn but beautiful sheep herder, must divorce her paralyzed husband in order to ensure the survival of her and her children. Refusing to abandon her ex-husband, Tuya bucks tradition in order to find a man who will both support her entire family and allow her to continue living in rural Mongolia, far from the modernity of Ulaanbaatar. The fiery spirit of Tuya, set against the stark landscapes of inner Mongolia, creates a harsh yet inspiring representation of the reality of Mongolian culture and life.
© YU Nan
Wang Quan’an | Music Box Films, 2007 | Mongolia
Lioness Lioness is the story of the first women in American history to enter direct ground combat in the Iraq war. Through piercing narratives, archival footage, and journal entries, this film chronicles the unheard stories of female soldiers, who, with insufficient training, entered into some of the bloodiest battles in this war’s history. By revealing these little-known experiences, Lioness brings a gritty human understanding to women’s lives on the battlefield.
© Lloyd Francis Jr
Meg McLagan, Daria Sommers | Chicken and Egg Films, 2008 | USA/Iraq
© Ricardo Funari | Peter Arnold Inc
70 | MarketplACE
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BY Preeti Mangala Shekar
“Market women are my true constituency,” remarked Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her address to Global Fund for Women supporters at our recent gala. In Liberia, about 37,000 women are market women. In the countryside, they are women farmers who sell their surplus. In the city, they are professional traders who buy wholesale and sell produce items from other small farmers, also mostly women. Over the years, as Liberia witnessed violent conflict, market women played a stabilizing role in sustaining local communities and contributing to the national economy. These women possess remarkable skills that help them endure, and even reverse extreme hardship. Recently, they joined forces across religious lines and forged peace—a peace that paved the way for Sirleaf’s election. Most market women work and look after their children in conditions that are unsanitary and that jeopardize their health. It’s also difficult for them to do more than eke out a living. To address these challenges, Her Excellency is backing an
b i r t h d ay
initiative called the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund that will provide steady, formal credit for financing women’s businesses. An impressive array of state and non-state actors support the SMWF’s initiative—including Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai. Global Fund Board Chair Amina Mama highlighted the Global Fund’s commitment in the next five years to raise $12 million for women in conflict and post-conflict areas. As part of fulfilling this commitment, the Global Fund will contribute $50,000 towards the SMWF. We are excited to participate in this initiative that addresses the welfare of market women who have resisted years of conflict in Liberia and are today its true peacekeepers. Learn more about supporting market women at smwf.org, including how to adopt a market!
h o l i d ay
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76 | PARTNERS
Women’s poverty means they can’t get a job, escape abuse or provide for their children.
When women thrive, families and communities thrive. Join us. Be part of the solution at www.womenthrive.org PROGRESS OF THE WORLD’S WOMEN 2008/2009
Who Answers to Women? GENDER & ACCOUNTABILITY UNIFEM’s biennial report assesses national and international achievement on commitments to advance women’s rights
w w w.unifem.org /progress/20 08 <http://www.unifem.org/progress/2008> www.unifem.org/progress/2008
REMA RKABLE WOMEN
Women, Power and Politics global online exhibition What difference do women make?
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▼ Read Maria Landa’s story in her own words at worldpulse.com.
For more and more women around the world, the torch has been passed. At
This space generously donated. Photo © Jason Sangster/CARE
This space generously donated. Photo: © Ami Vitale/CARE
CARE, we’ve found if women who have traditionally been marginalized can be empowered, it’s one of the fastest ways to address poverty and create lasting change. As teenagers, Maria Esther Landa and her sister attended a CARE program in Peru where they learned to weld. They went to work welding toys. Then aircraft engines. And when Maria decided to start her own company, we provided a loan she repaid within a year. Visit www.care.org and join the movement to empower women worldwide.
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80 | YOUR WORLD
Elemental Actions To Balance Your Inner & Outer WorldS
Take Global Action for Women
Sign the petition to Pass the International Violence Against Women Act Time: 5 minutes
Care for Your World
Calculate Your Global Carbon Footprint Time: 15 minutes
Nourish the Movement
Flow Your Money: An Antidote to Economic Fear Time: As long as you like
Use the Power of Thought
Make This Moment Magic Time: An instant
Developed in part by US Vice President-elect Joe Biden, the IVAWA act will make ending violence against women a diplomatic priority by requiring the US government to respond to gender-based violence in armed conflict— such as the mass rapes now occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo—and to invest in women’s organizations that are successfully working to reduce violence in their communities. Go to worldpulse.com/action to add your name to the petition.
Take this quick and simple quiz to figure out your personal impact on climate change. This is the most comprehensive carbon lifestyle calculator available on the web. Once you see your score, you can create your own earth conservation plan, exchange tips with members around the world, and pledge to make lifestyle changes to tread more softly on the earth. Visit earthlab.com to take the quiz and see for yourself.
According to money guru Lynne Twist, money is like water; when you keep it flowing, it can be a conduit for commitment, a currency of love. But when you hoard it in fear, it becomes like a stagnant pool. In this time of economic uncertainty, operate with bold intention and give a financial gift, of any size, towards a cause or individual you believe will bring us closer to the ideal world you envision.
When your world is spinning off the hook and you’re feeling hopelessly behind—take a long blink. Whisper to yourself, “Make this moment magic.” Sense everything around you rearranging itself into divine order. Slowly open your eyes, and notice that your surroundings are exactly as they should be. Feel how connected you are to your own heartbeat and the rhythm of humanity everywhere. It takes only an instant to adjust your perspective.
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Transforming Global Economy
5 New Models for a Prosperous Future Women Rewriting National Budgets The Girl Revolution Unraveling Fair Trade
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