Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The most dangerous place on earth for women

This documentary was screened in Britain on BBC 3 tonight. It was excellent, thought provoking, if upsetting, more so because the women interviewed were not hysterical and crying, but matter of fact and simple in their ungarnished truth. If you want to know what is happening, this documentary is recommended.

If you missed it, or you live outside Britain, you can see the programme online, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc3 and then click on the programme title. It will be there for the next seven days.

Thursday, on BBC 3, Hollywood starlet Lindsay Lohan goes to India to investigate child trafficking.

Please watch these programmes if you can. It is only by exposing the wrongs in the world that we can hope to begin to fight them. If we don't watch, TV companies will cease to make the programmes, and then evil will be able to slide back into the shadows, doing its deeds away from our gaze.

Don't let that happen.

Friday, 26 March 2010

HIV/AIDS has a woman face

More than 58% of the people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa are women.

Morenike Ukpong of the Nigeria HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Group says that HIV/AIDS in Africa has “a woman face... further strengthened by high rates of domestic violence”.

Mrs Ukpong points out the socio-cultural status of the African woman predisposes her to the disease. Women’s rights are not of paramount importance in many African societies, they do not have the ability to refuse sexual favours to husbands who may themselves be infected, and they are not able to insist on condom use. Trying to do so often leaves women at risk of physical and sexual violence, with very little redress.

In conflict areas, women are also at risk because gang rape is often seen as an effective weapon of war, used to assert power, inflict pain, shame and humiliation, and terrorise and punish enemy populations. The victims of these heinous crimes are often at risk of disease, through no fault of their own.

Medical care for women is a low priority in many of the world’s poorest countries, and even where such care is available, many of the most vulnerable and at-risk women are not in a position to access it. Medicines and health care are expensive, and when the choice is a woman’s care or her child’s food, most women see no choice at all.

However, it is imperative for the future of the continent that women’s health issues are addressed and the risk to women of contracting HIV/AIDS is reduced. Women have a lot to offer society and if they are sick or weakened, their effectiveness is reduced and everyone suffers.

The next generation suffers if the women of today are unable to care for them, leaving the burden of care on the shoulders of older children, who then have to forego education, career and future to do a job that should not yet be theirs.

Sick and weakened women cannot work effectively, meaning farms don’t get tended, animals aren’t cared for, goods don’t get sold.

And of course, infected women risk infecting men who come into contact with them sexually, as well as passing on the virus to children they bear or breast feed. The resultant deaths are further increasing poverty, placing enormous loads on relatives who have to take care of the families of brothers and sisters who have died and creating a generation of child heads of home as 10 and 12 years olds now become the oldest in the family. This is in fact affecting WIN leaders already.

We'll tell you how next week...

Thursday, 25 March 2010

We CAN make a difference.

A painting done by one of the children in our Day Care Centre in Kabul.

In the developed world, we have grown used to opportunities to develop our gifts and talents. We believe it is important that children are given the chance to achieve their fullest potential, whatever their gender, race, creed or ethnic origin.

Sadly, this is not universally the case. Even in the twenty first century, there are places where people’s life chances are restricted simply by accident of birth, and nowhere is this more demonstrable than in Afghanistan.

For six years from 1996, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan and imposed one of the strictest implementations of Sharia Law ever seen in the Muslim world. Among many other things, their rule made it impossible for women to work and girls to be educated, and some ethnicities also suffered. The Hazara people of Kabul, for example, suffered severe oppression. There were large ethnic massacres of Hazara people, and the Taliban refused to allow food to be delivered by the United Nations to Hazara regions. During conflicts, they were openly and deliberately targeted, and there were cases of men and boys simply disappearing.

World In Need works with the Hazara people in Kabul. We have a carpet weaving programme where Hazara widows can earn a living, and we also have a children’s day care centre.

At the centre, we provide medical services, food, including reinforced food to help the severely malnourished, education, a safe place to play, and art.


The current manager of the centre, Professor Ali Khan, is a professional artist and he gives lessons in art to the children. He quickly discovered some of the children have a particular talent and he encouraged them. The resulting pictures are sold through WIN. Half the proceeds are given to the artist and make a huge difference to their family finances, while the other half goes towards the running costs of the centre.

Each painting comes with details and a photograph of the artist. Some of these paintings will be exhibited in Crowborough, East Sussex in September, as part of the Crowborough Arts Festival.

One of the girls at the centre, Hamida, came to us from a life on the streets. Professor Khan quickly noticed that she had a talent for art. He has nurtured and helped develop her talent, and we found her a sponsor, someone who pays a small sum monthly which enabled her to be educated, fed and cared for.

This young lady has just won a place at University, where she will study art. Proof positive that sponsorship and encouragement do make a difference.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

In memory of Daniel Olara and Apwoyo Sarah.

George Amoli is an Anglican Priest in Lira, Northern Uganda. The area around Lira has been devastated by “The Lord’s Army” rebels and many have been killed, orphaned, raped and scarred by these events.

George has a heart for the people and their suffering. He has taken into his own home 16 street children, and ministers to many more who stay living on the streets. Those in his care include former child soldiers, children who were forced to kill their siblings and parents to prove their loyalty to the Army. Some are so traumatised and damaged they cannot yet be integrated back into society. They cannot go to school with other children, or even play.

Some of the women under George’s care have had lips and noses cut off by the Lord’s Army rebels.

George works with World In Need in Lira and the surrounding area. He runs our child sponsorship programme; the sponsored children are able to go to school. Because of their pasts, and what the rebels have done to them, some of the children in the school have their own children with them as they learn.

There are plans to build a school, clinic and training centre on 2,500 acres of land. The land can be farmed commercially, providing the funds to sustain these projects. However we are trying to raise seed money to start the farm for him.

George’s tireless efforts have not gone unnoticed by our greatest enemy, and that enemy has not made things easy for him. Last year, his home was raided, and he lost all his household goods and office wares.

George’s first born son, Daniel Olara, was admitted to University, starting in September this year. At nineteen years old, he had the world at his feet. His fifteen year old sister, Apwoyo Sarah, was at secondary school. On Friday, 12th March, 2010, they were both killed instantly when their motorcycle was in collision with a lorry. They were buried on Tuesday 16th March.

The President of Uganda, His Excellence Yoeri Kagutta Museveni sent a representative to the funeral.

George writes: “It is a great shock to all of our family members but we hope they are with our Lord Jesus Christ and we shall meet them again. May their souls rest in eternal peace, Amen.”

Please pray for George and his family at this terrible time.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Women and Health

16 year old Zubaider lives in Afghanistan. She supported her family until she fell and broke her leg. WIN was able to get her treated at a high standard, local hospital and she is now improving well. Normally, she would not have received good treatment.

The health problems of women in developing countries are low on the list of priorities for the international community. Often women have different and unequal access to basic health resources.

Where health care must be paid for at source, women often do not have the funds to pay and so do not receive treatment that could improve their health and even save their lives. In poor families, it is often necessary to choose who will receive health care, and the breadwinner, understandably, takes first place.

Cultural or religious rules can reduce the effectiveness of treatment given to women. For instance, in some Muslim countries, women are discouraged from being examined by a male doctor. Women doctors are few and far between, meaning women may be unable to get the treatment they need. Diseases that should be cured successfully are left until it is too late, and women die unnecessarily.

In some cultures, wives are seen as little more than chattels. If a man’s wife dies in childbirth, he simply finds another. If he sees his wife as expendable in this way, he is unlikely to pay for expensive medical care for her.

Women’s health should, however, be seen as vital. It has an impact, not just on individual women, but on the whole of their society. Women bear and look after children, vital to the continuation of a society. Healthy women bear healthy children.

If women are sick, responsibility for caring for the family often falls on their daughters. These girls, who may be as young as six years old, have to look after their siblings, cook and clean, fetch water. Overworked, weakened, they are old before their time and their own life expectancy is reduced, perpetuating the problem. While they are caring for their family, they are not at school. Lack of education will prevent these girls from achieving their full potential, or finding careers that will lead them and their families out of poverty.

World In Need recognises the importance of women’s health on the development of communities and the eradication of poverty. In Afghanistan, we support a women’s co-operative which makes carpets for sale, and a day care centre for children, many of whom are from families with no fathers. Medical care is provided free to all of our women and children. Where the problems are too big for our team, we use the Cure Hospital, an excellent, and free, Iranian-run hospital in Kabul.

One of the functions of our centre in Soy, Northern Kenya, is to provide community health care, with a high priority given to ante-natal and post-natal care. Many women in Kenya cannot usually afford this care, and not only does this increase their risk of dying in childbirth, but it increases the risk to the baby as well. By offering basic care, we aim to improve the well being of whole families.

In several countries, we also work with people, mainly women and children, with HIV/AIDS, and we will report on that in our next blog.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The rights of women: Rape is rarely a sexual crime

Women’s rights around the world are an important indicator of global well being.

A major global women’s rights treaty was ratified by the majority of the world’s nations a few decades ago. Yet there are still areas and issues that need to be addressed.

For instance, women often work more than men, yet are paid less, and opportunities for promotion are often harder to come by for women.

Girls and women suffer disproportionately because of poverty. They are often left to fend for themselves and children, unable to move around, take job opportunities, make the most of life.

Girls and women are more likely than men to suffer sexual violence and rape. When they do, they are often treated badly, as if the crime against them was somehow their fault. Globally, statistics show that it is likely that men who rape will get away with their crimes, while the victims pick up the pieces of shattered lives and cope with the trauma, the shame and the humiliation. Often, raped women are treated badly by societies that see them as wanton and immoral.

Worse, violence against women, especially in conflict zones, is often not treated as a priority or given enough attention by the powers-that-be, who are predominantly men. For example, in the Congo over the last twelve years, about 200,000 women and girls, some as young as eight years old, have been gang raped by marauding soldiers. The soldiers see this act as a way to shame, humiliate, subjugate and punish women and their families and communities.

To date, only 27 soldiers have been brought to book for their actions. These low conviction rates will continue unless and until the authorities see rape as a crime against humanity rather than a crime against women.

Whether in a conflict zone or not, rape is rarely a sexual crime. Rape is an assertion of power, of control, a crime of aggression. If we start to see it as such, rather than dwelling on the sexual nature of the act, perhaps those in a position to promote justice, understanding, punishment for the perpetrator and healing for the victim would pay it more than the lip service that is all too frequently the current response.

Rape in conflict zones fits the definition of torture as laid out in the Geneva Convention. If soldiers that rape were charged with torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity, perhaps the arrest and conviction rates would rise and rape would be treated with the seriousness it deserves.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

You Tube

You can see us on You tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHamIZcyWmQ

Simply copy and paste the url into your address box and it should take you there.

Women in the world

Taken from the Bible and the Torah:
“God created man in his own image... male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

Taken from the Qur’an:
[sura 33:35] The submitting men, the submitting women, the believing men, the believing women, the obedient men, the obedient women, the truthful men, the truthful women, the steadfast men, the steadfast women, the reverent men, the reverent women, the charitable men, the charitable women, the fasting men, the fasting women, the chaste men, the chaste women, and the men who commemorate GOD frequently, and the commemorating women; GOD has prepared for them forgiveness and a great recompense.

Figures from the year 2000 show that, between them, followers of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions accounted for 52.8% of the world’s population. The quotes above are taken from the sacred texts of those three religions. They suggest that God, Allah or Yahweh considers men and women to be equal in His eyes. If that is so, then His followers, striving daily to be more like Him, should also see the two genders as equal.

And yet, around the world the inequality of the sexes is as strong as it ever was. In many countries, including ones that loudly proclaim their belief in the equality of the sexes, women are often paid far less than men for doing the same job.

Women make up 40% of the workforce in the UK and yet are under represented in the higher echelons: only 12.2% of the FTSE 100 board members are women, even though more than half of all university graduates are women.

In UK politics, in order to ensure fair representation for the “fairer sex”, the main parties force local constituencies to choose candidates from all-women shortlists.

It is only recently that women have been able to take part in politics at any level at all. The first country to allow women to vote was New Zealand, in 1893. In the UK, women have only been able to vote on equal terms with men since 1928.

Switzerland did not allow women the vote until 1971, and Liechtenstein held them at bay until 1984.

Today, there are five countries where women are either denied the right to vote or where there are restrictions on that right. These are:

Saudi Arabia and Vatican City, which do not allow women the right to vote at all,

Brunei, governed by an absolute monarchy and where neither men nor women have a vote,

Lebanon, women are required to have an elemental education before being allowed to vote, a condition not applied to men,

Bhutan, where women ARE allowed to vote, but since the country allows just one vote per household, most women cannot vote.

Some women, however, endure far worse than being paid less than male colleagues or being unable to vote. Over the coming weeks, we will be looking at the problems women face around the world today.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Why we do what we do

The BBC screened an excellent documentary last night. "Zimbabwe's Forgotten Children" followed three children as they struggled to make a life for themselves in a poor and devastated country. So racked by poverty that they didn't always eat, we saw one young boy talk with his grandmother, who told him of people who had filled their bellies by eating mud. This same boy, bright and intelligent, desperately tried to get into school, even though he couldn't raise $2 for a term's fees. He was one of nearly 900 children with unpaid fees, all hoping against hope that their poverty would not exclude them from the Government school.

We saw a young girl on a rubbish tip, collecting bones to sell to raise her school fees.

A tiny girl, crying with hunger, cared for her mother who had HIV/AIDS, and for her baby sister.

A reporter who grew up in the once prosperous country, whose tears flowed as she pointed out, "If children can no longer dream, we should all give up."

It was one of the finest documentaries I have seen in a long time.

Unfortunately, the stories it told are not rare. Nor are they confined to the ravaged country of Zimbabwe. Children wander the streets of Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and many other countries because they don't have the money to pay for school. Even in Kenya, where Government schools are free to attend, children cannot stay in the class if they don't pay, up front, for exams, books, uniform, etc.

In the Philippines, children don't just walk over rubbish tips and scavenge. They live there.

In the Congo, Uganda and many other places, young girls watch their parents die and then take on responsibility for younger siblings, giving up their lives to this cause.

They sleep rough on streets because they don't have the paltry rent for a slum dwelling.

In conflict zones, girls as young as 8 years old are trying to recover from gang rape by soldiers. Some bear children, a constant reminder of their pain and humiliation, and a constant source of shame.

Young boys are forced to fight in armies. They are sent in to the front line as cannon fodder.

Lives wrecked before they've had the chance to build.

World in Need has a presence in 20 countries. We work with children just like the ones shown in the film. Through sponsorship we endeavour to bring damaged children to healing, give deprived children love, education and hope, and build a future for them and their societies. Just 66 pence a day ($1) pays for a child's schooling, clothing, food and other essential expenses. It takes away the need for a child to work instead of attending school and brings a little fairness in an unfair world.

If you'd like to know about our sponsorship program, what happens, how it works, etc., feel free to ask us at info@worldinneed.co.uk

And if you'd like to see the documentary in the next week, you can, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00r5ww9

Together, we can make sure no child is ever forgotten.