"We Learned How to Dig Up Money from the Ground"
Women for Women International Holds Policy Briefing on Women in Conflict-Affected Areas
Women for Women country directors from six countries shared their experiences of overcoming conflict, destruction, and poverty in some of the most challenging environments around the world.
At a policy briefing hosted by Dominick Chilcott, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy and moderated by Tony Gambino, a prominent Africa scholar, the country directors spoke about how to put women at the center of development and encourage active participation in local and national decision-making.
Dominick Chilcott said in his opening remarks, "It's a fact that over half the worlds population are women and if their full potential is not realized the Millennium Development Goals to which the British Government is very attached will not be met by 2015."
Sweeta Noori, who runs Women for Women International's Afghanistan program, highlighted the country's progress through implementing laws and policies that protect women's rights. Considerable obstacles remain, including security threats and at times misguided foreign interventions. "I see an island of peace where international forces are providing some security, but in many areas women are still not well off," Noori says. "Women are still treated as property and families marry their daughters off to pay debts with the dowry." Despite pervasive poverty among socially-excluded women and their families, many donors and local politicians are failing to include women's voices both at the political and grassroots level into their decision-making processes.
Entrenched patriarchal attitudes and seemingly out-of-touch politicians often inhibit women's participation in economic opportunities traditionally reserved for men. In South Sudan, an underdeveloped area with chronic food insecurity and a fragile peace agreement, country director Karak Mayik and her team have just launched a large-scale women's commercial farming project that will fight poverty and hunger by training 3,000 women over the next three years to grow and market commercially viable crops. "We were all used to receiving food from the World Food Program, but now I think we might be able to give some back," she says, adding that women in her area have started to understand the long-term value of education and skills development over cash handouts.
"We have come a long way. We learned how to dig up money from the ground."
Women for Women International provides over 50,000 women around the world with direct financial aid, emotional support, life- and vocational- skills training and employment opportunities in sustainable income generation projects. Women are educated about their rights and graduate equipped with new skills that enable them to make a living for themselves and their families. Each of these women is laying the groundwork for a stable community, and each of them has turned from a victim of war to a builder of peace.