The Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund provides small grants for
grassroots projects that empower women and girls in developing countries.
NEWS AND UPDATES
Food security is a critical issue in households around the world and it’s no surprise to see that many VGIF projects contain an agricultural component. Centre for Women’s Development and Research in India, for example, helped nearly 1,200 families grow legumes and vegetables in kitchen gardens for household consumption. This also allowed family income to be directed to other needs, such as children’s education expenses. One participant specifically said, “With the kitchen garden, I feel more secure and I can educate my children; I am really happy my daughter is going to college." Photo Credit: Centre for Women's Development and Research
Developing strong connections with local communities and family members of participants brings great results for VGIF grantees. Shanti Uganda has been implementing their project, “Teen Girls Health Empowerment Project” (TPG), during the 2013-2014 project year and told us about their own positive results from working closely with the larger community. The TPG project helped young and teenaged girls to learn about sexual and reproductive health, and to increase their sense of self, through 8 workshops in 6 different communities. The program also included a mentoring component and training in vocation skills. TPG actively engaged the family members of participants realizing that their “buy-in” was crucial for this program to have an impact. In addition to educating over 200 girls, the project resulted in increased support in the communities for further trainings on topics that are not covered in schools, including leadership skills and sexual and reproductive health. Photo credit: Shanti Uganda
Moving Forward to Empower Indigenous People
By Arielle Thomas
My last event this summer was a special event for the “International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples” held at the United Nations on Friday, August 8th. With the multi-colored attire, the starting horn call, and introductory song, this event was unlike anything I previously attended through my internship. It felt as if there was an underlying unity among the attendees and panelists around the need to acknowledge the rights of indigenous people.
The event began with remarks from Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who stated we must “forge a new vision for sustainable development and form the ground work for the adoption of a legal agreement,” which would ultimately benefit indigenous people. He continued saying countries that do not recognize their rights are allowing the lives and rights of indigenous people to be threatened. Ki-Moon’s speech concluded, “let us work even harder to empower and support their aspirations.”
I found the remarks by President of the General Assembly, John Ashe, to be quite interesting. He emphasized the importance in bridging the gap between the underlying principles of the United Nations and the reality of its implementation. He continued, stating, “The marginalization of indigenous people is still an unfortunate reality.” Mr. Ashe, however, is optimistic of the future and discussed how the upcoming first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples will provide a foundation to share different perspectives and practices regarding the rights of indigenous people.
Recognizing the rights of indigenous people is of paramount importance; however, there is a parallel need for them to gain skills to overcome present obstacles that arise from their lack of recognition. At VGIF, we have funded several projects that aim to empower and educate indigenous populations. One such project, Madre, was based in Nicaragua where as many as 80% of indigenous people lack access to clean drinking water which often results in waterborne illnesses, a leading cause of death, particularly for children. Women and girls are responsible for the provision of clean water to households and for maintaining water ecosystems in indigenous cultures. Madre worked with the community to promote sustainable clean water, reduce litter at water sources through cleanup days and provided public education. This project shows how indigenous women and girls access creative solutions to overcome existing barriers while they await official recognition and access to necessary rights like healthcare and clean water.
Speaker Wu Hongbo stated, “Gaps remain between actions and words.” There are more than 370 million indigenous people around the world and the fact that a majority of their rights are being overlooked and not acknowledged is a moral and legal unfairness. The upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples is evidence that a universal dialogue will soon begin, and that is the most important step to ending this inequality and creating a stronger unity among humankind.