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On the eve of International Women’s Day, I attended a sold out screening of the film, Girl Rising. The energy in the theater was thick with anticipation and empowerment. As the film began, a hush fell over the crowd. Embracing every second of this amazing film, I learned of 9 girls from 9 different countries- Afghanistan, Haiti, Peru, Nepal, India, Egypt, Cambodia, Ethiopia and the Sierra Leone. Each girl faced with different life challenges from child marriage to abandonment, from the lack of education to violence, and much more. The main theme throughout is the power of education and how so many girls, millions of them, lack educational opportunities.

My heart swelled with sadness and disappointment as each story comes to life. Feelings of hopelessness overwhelmed me and my faith in mankind began to dwindle- how could so many girls be denied their right to freedom, to education, to choosing for themselves? And slowly, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, each girl showed strength and a fierceness that will not die. Each girl overcame her obstacle and displayed grace, light and pride in doing so.

As a mother of a young baby, my view of the world has changed this past year. Issues such as free and available education to every day safety become a common part of my every day thinking. In the film, Wadley a bright 8 year old Haitian girl is troubled as her world is changed forever after the terrible earthquake in Port au Prince. An estimated 80% of schools in Port-au-Prince were damaged or destroyed during the earthquake. Prior to the earthquake, about 40% of children were unable to pay school fees. Only 60% of Haitian children have the opportunity to attend primary school and only 20% go to secondary school. About 50% of all Haitians are literate.

With constant drive and fearlessness, Wadley returns to the makeshift tent school house every day, even when turned away because her mother could not pay the school fees. “I will come back every day until I can stay” she proudly reports. To Wadley, education is the key to her success in life and developing mind. Eventually, she wins and the teacher allows her to stay. With my child always on my mind, I pondered “What would I do if education wasn’t free or available for my young child? Would I send him to the local school house every day to try to be accepted?” Absolutely!

Statistics for education among young girls in developing countries is staggering:

  • Around 11 per cent of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are classed as illiterate.
  • Worldwide, around 776 million adults and young people over the age of 15 cannot read or write – just under two thirds of them female.

– Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

  • Studies show that every year of schooling increasing a girl’s future earning power by 10 to 20 percent.
  • Less than half a cent of every development dollar goes to programs specifically for girls, particularly those ages 10-14.
  • Girls make up more than half of the world’s 143 million out-of-school youth.

– Girl Up, United Nations Foundation

What can you do to encourage the Wadley’s of the world to fight for their right to be educated? What can you to do lift up women and girls around the world? What can you do to encourage equal rights for all? Through Jolkona and the Give2Girls campaign going on right now, projects and causes all over the world need your donations so organizations can continue the strong work and empowerment, helping so many girls in this world. And for a limited time, the first $2,500 in donations made towards women and girls will be matched by the Seattle International Foundation. So give what you can, give today! Educate girls! See Girl Rising! Find a screening here.

Jolkona is proud to be a part of this movement to support and empower women through the Give2Girls campaign. You can also be a part of this movement by helping to spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter (#give2girls), and Pinterest.

As an English teacher living in Italy I used to make all my students memorize Shakespeare. It didn’t matter what level they were – beginners or advanced – everyone had to memorize Shakespeare. Specifically, Sonnet XVIII: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate….” At the beginning of every lesson I would reveal a new line and, like they used to do in the good old days, we would chant it together over and over. Usually, the aim was to have them memorize it in full for Valentine’s Day. The joke being, if they didn’t have a romantic figure in their life, it was a sure way to get one; and if they did, it was a sure way to keep them! But truthfully, I used to do it for other reasons: it was different, it was certainly practical (okay maybe not quite as practical as “Excuse me, where is the train station?” But it still had plenty of good vocabulary and useful grammar structures to learn), it was powerful, and it was memorable.

Wouldn’t it be great, then, if we could do the same with Valentine’s Day this year? Not memorize Shakespeare (though that would be quite a worthy feat in itself), but couldn’t we also do something this year that made Valentine’s Day feel different, practical, powerful, and memorable? You can.

Here’s an idea: instead of sending your loved ones the clichéd Hallmark Valentine’s card, why don’t you send them a Jolkona Valentine’s gift card.

How do they work?

It’s really very simple:

Choose your template

Purchase the gift card for your desired amount

Send the gift card to someone you love

The recipient redeems the gift card via any of our projects

In short, you’re giving so someone else can give. And if love is a gift, then this is love.

Forget not: actions speak louder than words. So this year, tell someone you love them by empowering them to take action. Besides, nothing says I love you like empowerment.

Make this year’s Valentine’s Day different, practical, powerful, and memorable. Send a Jolkona gift card and cultivate change here.

Spread the love and like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

Only months before being shot in the head and neck by two Taliban gunmen on her way back from school in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, a girl of only 14 years of age, had said, “I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” Malala Yousafzai was not only aware of the threat on her life, but she accepted it bravely and with defiance. Yousafzai was prepared to die for girl’s education.

The incident drew an international outcry. Yousafzai, miraculously still alive, was flown to the U.K., where she spent weeks on end in intensive care, undergoing highly complex brain surgeries and skull reconstruction. 3 days ago, nearly four months after the attempt on her life, Yousafzai, made her first public statement, repeating some not too dissimilar words, “I want to serve. I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated.”

Yousafzai’s story is as extraordinary as it is both courageous and inspiring. At its heart is a girl – a teenage girl! – willing to die for her freedom. A freedom that for most of us has already been fought – and won – by those who have preceded us.

7 reasons to invest in girl’s education

We would all concur and understand how education for girls should be a basic freedom. But what we perhaps fail to grasp is that, stemming from this basic freedom, are some incredibly rich benefits for their families, their communities, and society as a whole. So here are 7 great reasons why to invest in girls’ education*:

  1. When 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3%.
  2. Countries where women’s share of seats in political bodies is greater than 30% are more inclusive, egalitarian, and democratic.
  3. In many developing countries, the mortality rate of children under the age of 5 is highest among those whose mothers had no education.
  4. Every year of schooling increases a girl’s individual earning power by 10% – 20%, while the return on secondary education is even higher, in the 15% – 20% percent range.
  5. Girls’ education is proven not only to increase wage earners but also productivity for employers, yielding benefits for the community and the wider society. 
  6. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% into their families.
  7. The impact of investing in girls is intergenerational. A mother with even a few years of formal education is considerably more likely to send her children to school, breaking the intergenerational chain of poverty.

Jolkona’s Project

You can donate to an array of projects via our Jolkona giving platform which further girls’ education in Tanzania, Liberia, Afghanistan, Tibet, and Nepal. Give to one of these projects; help bring freedom and empowerment to girls today! Malala Yousafzai almost gave her life to advance the plight of girls in her country. What can you give?

If you want to know more about Jolkona,  follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

*Statistics taken from the UN’s Clinton Global Initiative.

The definition of ‘Upaya’ is any endeavor or practice that is used to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve a goal. Upaya Social Ventures, the Seattle-based non-profit, exemplifies this mission of determination and due diligence.

In a nutshell, they work to build businesses and improve the quality of life for families. Upaya focuses on helping the ultra poor – the World Bank defines the ultra poor as a family unit living on $1.25/day or less. Extreme poverty is marked by the lack of even the most basic, essential necessities to live.

From now through December 31st, a tremendous matching campaign is going on for Upaya’s Jolkona hosted campaigns. Any and all donations made to either of the two projects will be matched on every dollar (up to the first $10,000) by the Skees Family Foundation. It is a wonderful opportunity to double your impact with a few dollars.

Jolkona Partnership and Projects

Steve Schwartz, Upaya’s Director of Strategy & Operations and Co-founder, has been closely linked with Jolkona since the latter organization began in 2007. His friendships with Jolkona founders Nadia and Adnan blossomed into a non-profit alliance following Upaya’s start in 2011. The two organizations have collaborated in making several Upaya projects available through Jolkona’s platform.

You can help Delhi’s poorest earn a dignified living by making a gift of $250. The meaningful, long-term impact such an amount can make on a family is incredible. The gift will help create a stable and dignified job for someone; this is will greatly increase their family’s income, food supply, and overall quality of life.

Upaya has also teamed up with a startup in Bihar; the startup trains silk weavers in the community to improve their skills, resources, equipment and more. Once again, with a one-time gift of $250 one new job will be created and maintained. Create Stable Jobs for Silk Weavers in Bihar and change the lives of a family for the better, forever.

A Gift of Life and Prosperity

Every person deserves the dignity of a job to call their own to provide for their family’s needs. Upaya is devoted to empowering individuals with skills and stability, thereby influencing their friends, families and communities for the better.

This holiday season, every dollar counts twice. The matching campaign makes it an ideal time to give. These are solvable problems with dedicated means to solve them. Consider giving the gift of impact by supporting one of Upaya’s projects. Doing so will voice your love and support for their mission, Jolkona’s, philanthropy’s and – most importantly – for the hope and happiness you will impart to others.

Like Jolkona on Facebook, follow us on Twitter , and check us out on Pinterest to keep up with all of our ongoing projects.

 

The streets that pave our cities buzz a ceaseless din. Advertising bombards us with images teasing and confounding our wants and desires. Television, digital media and print media – their information cyclones inundate us with stories, facts, opinions, distortions and lies. Today’s global economic engine is a juggernaut with gale-force winds, flinging people from job to job and industry to industry. 21st century life operates in hyper-speed. Sometimes, one needs to apply pressure on the breaks and simply slow down.

The Human Spirit Compels Us

Here at Jolkona, we affirm the life-changing work being accomplished by our partners. We affirm the non-profit sector’s role throughout the world of helping create respectful, well-educated, creative and sustainable communities. We affirm the courageous, compassionate lives people compose for themselves out of an endlessly renewable resource: the human spirit, the will to live, the drive to make life worth living for all.

Affirmations aside, we recognize how easily individuals can become wrapped up in the pettiness of differences, the drama of conflict, and the chains of disillusionment. The following short film, We Are All One, succinctly and lucidly articulates an argument for life and the inherent kinship of all living things. Watch it below.

I won’t exhaust the contents of the film by breaking it down point by point – that would weaken the impact of its own presentation. Jolkona simply believes moments like these are critically important to allow for in our busy lives. Reflection is indicative of a curious, caring mind.

Connecting with your Environment

When it comes to philanthropic endeavors – or any meaningful undertakings for that matter – there exists the yin and yang of theory and praxis. Theory speaks to brainstorming, planning and strategic development. Praxis is defined by action; getting out there to complete tasks and accomplish goals. Theory without praxis is, ultimately, only words, only hypothetical conjecture. Praxis without theory may often turn out to be uninformed and unprepared. Both are essential characteristics to develop an open engagement with the world.

Reflection is equally important as the aforementioned qualities. Critical thinking breeds honesty, empowerment, and change. Life is not all sunshine and roses though – the narration confirms this fact time and again. The majestic footage captured in We All Are One is not intended to inspire surface-level, blind optimism about the future. Rather, it reminds us humans, who can become so distanced from the place we call home, that we are part and parcel of this world. There is no I without the other.

Building Bridges, Linking Lives

The ways in which we fortify ourselves from the earth in communication and conduct is illusionary and deceptive. We are not even merely stewards of this planet, here to establish goodwill and reverence for nature. As the classic Beatles song goes, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” If we as a community truly desire a future that is sustainable and inclusive, it begins with personal moments of reflection. From there, a process of dialogue and ‘theory’ building with neighbors, friends and communities. This is followed by the execution of dignified goals. At the beginning of this process is reflection on self – and therefore – the world.

Align yourself with like-minded individuals. Align yourself with family and friends who may possess different values than you. Align yourself with inspiring non-profits. Align yourself with community leaders and local activities. Align yourself with life-affirming ways of being that resonate with what you have seen in the film above.

Jolkona wants to share its passion with people across the globe that we are confident share so much in common. Our histories and aspirations are much the same. Follow the link to Jolkona’s project center to get an idea of environmental projects we are involved with. But the buck does not stop there; Jolkona’s coalition of partners is ever-blossoming.

Like Jolkona on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check us out on Pinterest to keep up with all of our ongoing projects.

Women make the world go round. They inspire, lead, challenge, and renew the lives we lead and the places we call home. But they also need our help. Girl Rising is the name of a transformative documentary that captures the day-to-day life of ten young girls from ten nations all over the globe. The heart of knowledge spearheading the film is this: when provided with adequate educational and social opportunities, girls change the world for the better. Check out this infographic which succinctly illustrates the indelible impact girls make in others’ lives. While you are at it, take a look below at a teaser trailer for the upcoming film!

Day of the Girl Alliance

The filmmakers are backed by an incredible, diverse partnership between NGOs like La Pietra Coalition and Girl Up, project partners such as CNN Films and Business Online, and the leading strategic partner Intel. Together, they form an unbreakable bond of support for the 1st annual International Day of the Girl. Today, Thursday, October 11th honors and celebrates the lives of girls and behooves those in their communities to give back in the name of girls’ education and empowerment.

Jolkona believes that every girl deserves an equal chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Education, economic independence, financial stability, adequate healthcare, and full legal representation; these are a handful of just a few goals among many that International Day of the Girl is all about. See these ambitions being fruitfully put into action through Jolkona’s partners, like a few standouts described below.

Championing Women through Jolkona


Empower Women in Nepal Through Higher Education: The Bo M. Karlsson Foundation is dedicated to advancing young Nepalese women through school beyond the primary level. Differing levels of gifts can provide them with much needed resources like transportation, an internet connection, school books, and even room, board and tuition.

Support Women Farmers in Sudan: Many women in their Sudanese communities are struggling to transform their poverty-stricken lives, which is why standing behind MADRE is so critical. Essential agricultural resources, like farming training, seeds, or a fresh plot of land, are made available through their hard work. In Sudan, women do the majority of farming but there is a dearth of support when it comes to land rights and income. Help MADRE change this.

Provide Education to the Females of Afghanistan: Look no further than Barakat for proof of exceptional work being accomplished for Afghani girls. The cultural taboos and societal imbalances for women pursuing education are significant, but far from insurmountable. Personally fund a girl’s accelerated literary class for only $40. Help these girls stay on track to blossom into highly literate, educated members of their community.

Support Rape Survivors in Haiti Displacement Camps: Sexual assault is a demeaning, destructive and inexorably heinous act. In the aftermath of such a traumatic event, professional resources and emotional support is imperative. MADRE, the previously mentioned women’s rights nonprofit, works alongside women in Haiti, offering hygiene kits and peer therapy sessions. International Day of the Girl should not pass in vain; instantly become an activist on behalf of marginalized women by making a donation.

Endorse this day as a symbol for the value and worth of women in our world. Watch what amazing things girls will achieve if given a chance. Jolkona’s partners believe deeply and emphatically in promoting equality between the genders and doing whatever possible to empower women. When girls thrive, so too do their children, families, friends and communities. See more Jolkona projects for and about women here.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest and keep up to date with all we are doing and the impact you are making.

We’ve posted a lot before about family planning, and why women are the key to the future, but I think this infographic presents the issue (and a solution!) along a slightly different tack. Girls who become pregnant before 18 years of age are at much higher risk of complications during birth, not to mention that they are often forced to drop out of school to care for their baby. This infographic shows how these potentially life-ruining births can be nearly completely eliminated.

www.girleffect.org

Take a look at some of our projects that work to empower girls, often to avoid child marriage:

Empower the Girls of Nepal: Mentor a girl from the lowest caste to become a leader in her community, and in turn empower other girls.

Ignite Girls’ Leadership in Pakistan: Run by the same group as the first project, Mentor a girl in Pakistan to become an agent for change, and a future mentor to other girls in her community.

Promote Education of Needy Girls in Tanzania: One of the best ways to combat adolescent pregnancy is to keep girls in school. Help these girls do just that.

If these aren’t enough, Jolkona has many more projects that empower girls in order to avoid early pregnancy.

Check out what Jolkona is up to on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Image credit: http://susanpolgar.blogspot.com

Women have been ethically and emotionally suppressed throughout history. But even today, women make up 70% of those who are living in poverty. This is likely due to women’s shrinking employment rates over the years. 66% of illiterate adults are women as well. Tony Cade Bambara said, “revolution begins with the self, in the self.” Empowerment can fuel an entire community when one person decides that what they have to say is important. Amidst such inequality and lack of resources, women continue to transcend difficulties with grace,attitude, and determination. It is notwonder why March 8 is a day dedicated to lighting your revolution of the self. Join Jolkona and I in celebrating the power of the human voice and what we are capable of:International Women’s Day is here!

International Women’s Day began as a social and political event designed to bring greater awareness of the need for women to have equal rights among men. Over decades of monumental change, the meaning behind this day has grown into so much more than just a governmental responsibility: each person who celebrates brings a unique aspect to what International Women’s Day truly means.

International Women’s Day Australina recorded thousand of people’s reactions and ideas about what this day means to them. Here is one such voice:

International Women’s Day is now, of course, a day of celebration. A day when women can get together, celebrate being women– all [that] they’ve come through with a reminder of how much further there still is to go. I know that International Women’s Day didn’t start that way, it started as part of an industrial struggle[;] while there’s still a lot of struggling to be done I think there should be a strong emphasis on celebration.

Here at Jolkona, we believe that recognizing today is vital for the advancement of women, and for celebrating the power women have brought and will continue to bring to our planet.

With CRAVE and women@google by our side, the Give2Girls campaign is our revolution to generating dynamic awareness and change within global communities. We are providing girls and women on every inch of planet Earth with a chance to grow confident, grow strong, and grow wise. No matter which Give2Girls project excites you, we will match your donation made on the site up to $500 per person until our $6,000 match runs out! Find your favorite project to give to on the Give2Girls campaign page.

Did we mention you will receive proofs for both of the donations? Share your story with family and friends when we update you with how your generous impact has transformed a woman’s life.

We would like to thank our very own volunteer Zanoon Nissar for spear-heading the campaign this year and raising our matching fund! Check out her video to learn why she believes in this campaign:

RSVP for our virtual event and help tell your friends about the Give2Girls campaign.

Get a Give2Girls gift card for a friend.

Follow us and share our updates on Facebook.

Tweet using the #give2girls hashtag.


viagra

How’s your knowledge of women’s history? Honestly. I’ll be the first to hold my hand up and say mine is a little patchy. Well, if you’re anything like me, then this month of March is your chance to change that. March is Women’s History Month – a world-wide movement that looks back and celebrates the tenacious achievements of women in our history, with a mind to looking forward and increasing awareness of the great distance that is yet to be traveled to achieve gender equality.

Introducing the Give2Girls matching campaign

To celebrate and participate in Women’s History Month, we’re proud to be launching our second Give2Girls matching campaign, running for the whole of March – starting today! We’re dedicating thirty one days to improving the lives of thousands of women and girls around the globe. Like last year, we’re partnering with the indefatigable CRAVE, a networking organization committed to connecting and promoting women entrepreneurs.

How will the campaign work?

Give to any of our 20+ projects related to women or girls, and we will match your donation, dollar for dollar, up to $500 per donor! Even better than that, though, we will double your proof. So donate $40 to educate one girl in Afghanistan for ten months, and we’ll send you the proof for how two girls have been educated. The campaign is being matched up to a total of $6,000.

Why this campaign?

Here are just some of the reasons:

  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.
  • The total global population of girls ages 10 to 24 – already the largest in history – is expected to peak in the next decade.
  • One-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before age 18; 14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth in developing countries each year.
  • Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Compared with women ages 20 to 24, girls ages 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die from childbirth, and girls 15 to 19 are up to twice as likely, worldwide.
  • Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school.
  • Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.

(statistics taken from girleffect.org)

For too long women have been over-looked. Their worth within society, communities, and families has been woefully neglected. And the true absurdity of this is that the roles they play within these spheres are of paramount importance. But we’re not here to bemoan the past; we’re here to change the future. So let’s do that.

What can I do?

1. Educate yourself. Give a bit of your time to learning about the past and women’s history. You can start here at womenshistorymonth.org. Then, learn about the present. The sites are numerous, but here are a couple we like: girleffect.org and the UN’s womenwatch.

2. Spread the word. Share what you learn and share our campaign with your friends, families and social networks. Tweet using the hashtag #give2girls.

3. Change the future. Support the Give2Girls campaign and invest in the women of tomorrow by giving to the girls of today!

Empower women and girls the world over here.

 

If Bill the Butcher ever had to change its name, I could only think of one replacement that would be equally suitable and catchy: Barry the Butcher. Well, that’s who we meet today – Barry Mang, head butcher at the shop over in Magnolia. Tall, friendly, and self-effacing, Barry talks with a certain gathered concentration in his voice. He chooses his words carefully; he stares out the window when I ask him a question, and then as if pulling the answer right out of the blue sky, he returns it with a twinkle in his eye. It was a pleasure meeting Barry; he’s professional without having to show off, and he’s passionate without having to talk the hind legs off a cow. Here are some snippets of our interview:

Barry, where were you born?
Encino, California

And where are you living right now?
Queen Anne Hill, Seattle

What’s the furthest you’ve been from home?
Cancun, Mexico.

Do you have any major hobbies?
Fly fishing, wood working, skiing, cycling.

What’s the first thing you do when your alarm goes off?
I don’t set an alarm. Such are the pleasures of opening at noon.

How do you take your coffee?
Double short Americano with cream.

If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Oxblood red.

Summer or Winter?
Fall.

What led you to becoming a butcher?
I was a chef for many years and the opportunity to try something different presented itself.

What’s the best thing about being a butcher?
Assisting our clientele in creating memorable meals for friends and family.

Which cut of meat should people know more about?
All of them!

Are you or have you ever been a vegetarian?
Yes, but it was brief.

How do you see your role in sustainable farming?
Education and facilitation. We create a pipeline for local farmers and an outlet for concerned consumers.

What are your thoughts on the Eat Local, Give Global campaign?
A good idea.

Why is your shop better than the other Bill the Butcher shops in Seattle?
We all do our best to shine in our respective neighborhoods. I must admit, my Marquee has drawn more attention for its witty content [see picture above].

Which Bill the Butcher shop is going to come in last in the Great Meat Race?
We all win with the drive to give charitably.

Do you have any good party tricks?
Zero.

And finally, 3 words to describe natural grass fed beef:
occupy the pasture.

The Eat Local, Give Global campaign is all about raising money to empower and educate women farmers in Sudan with sustainable farming techniques. We’re running the campaign in partnership with Bill the Butcher and its six shops in and around Seattle. Donate online, or go directly to your local shop, meet the friendly butchers themselves, and donate there.

Check out Laura Kimball’s launch post, or go the campaign page for more details.

Remember: each store is in competition with the others to raise the most money. This is called the Great Meat Race. If you want the Magnolia shop to win, donate to the campaign here and join its community.

 

The voice of literature in culture

Like many other people I’m sure, one of my very favorite books of all time is J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. I consider it truly brilliant, and it has had a remarkable influence on me. When Salinger died in January of 2010, the tributes lauding his talent flooded the media. One phrase I recall reading by several different writers was that Salinger “defined a generation.” (You could argue he defined two). Such praise is deservedly lofty and not handed out on a whim. But what does this have to do with Machik’s Women’s Writing Program? A lot.

And here’s why: giving a voice through literature is – and has been for a very long time – an integral part of what we understand as “culture.” Deeper than that, the voice of literature within culture is inextricably conjoined with identity, whether it be on a wide or personal scale, which is precisely why we say of writers, ‘he/she defined a generation.’ We say it because we identify with that particular literary voice; it’s as if the voice is speaking for us. We perhaps take this truth for granted, but when you stop to consider it, you can truly appreciate how invaluable those voices are to us, how much they have shaped the narrative of not only our own lives but that of an entire country. This, then, is what Machik’s Women’s Writing Program in Tibet is going some way to achieve for the culture and identity of Tibetans.

Two historic Tibetan publications

In 2004, under the auspices of Professor Palmo Tso, Machik sponsored the development of two historic publications: the first ever anthology of Tibetan women’s writing, and the first print newsmagazine on Tibetan women’s affairs, The Land of Snow Tibetan Women’s Journal. Yes, these are the first ever of their kind for women’s literature in Tibet. Just think of the myriad anthologies of British and American women’s literature in comparison. Then think how rich Tibetan language and culture is, and how powerful a component women’s voices must be (or should be) within that. And yet this surface has only just begun to be scratched.

Breaking the shackles of marginalization

Ultimately, though, beyond culture and identity, giving Tibetan women a recognized voice through literature is about empowerment; empowerment against gender inequality. Women’s literacy rate in Tibet, for example, is that of approximately one third compared to men’s. And in a country where voices are largely marginalized, women’s especially, it becomes abundantly clear the scale of the struggle Tibetan women face. In the light of such facts, Machik’s Women’s Writing Program, and the projects it has brought to fruition, become all the more extraordinary. Not only that, they become all the more critical. This is why we as the Intern Team here at Jolkona have chosen to support this project for the 12 Days of Giving Campaign. Here’s our very bookish campaign video:

Give Tibetan Woman a voice

We’re asking for donations starting at $5 in order to support the publication of twelve stories or essays by Tibetan women in the tri-annual Snowland Tibetan Women’s Journal, which is produced both in print and digitally. $40 covers the publishing costs of one story or essay. By donating you contribute to the improvement of women’s literacy and education, whilst helping give Tibetan women a conduit to greater empowerment and gender equality. In this way, you assist in shaping the narrative of not only the personal lives of the Tibetan women, but also the very narrative of Tibet as a whole. That is no small privilege.

So if you care about gender equality, if you love to read, or if you’ve ever read a book by a woman and enjoyed it, then give here via our campaign page.

Give Tibetan woman a voice – through literature.

 

Late July of this last summer, Jolkona raised money through our Groupon campaign to fund women grassroots leaders to come to Seattle and participate in a 10 week training program. The deal was this: for every $500 raised, Jolkona would fund one week of training for one woman. In addition, all funds raised would be munificently matched by Seattle International Foundation, and then implemented by iLEAP. Let me say right now that it was – and continues to be – a brilliant success, and on so many levels. And here’s why:

The total raised from the 3 day Groupon campaign, plus the additional donations since then, including the generous match from SIF, is a vertiginous $20,000! (I’m not usually one for wielding exclamation points in my grammar, but that one is thoroughly warranted.) And with that amount raised, Jolkona was able to fund fellowships for two women for the entire 10 week training program. Please, allow me to introduce them to you:

Claudia Vanessa Siliezar (left) and Margaret Edwin Molomoo (right)

Claudia Vanessa Siliezar (left) and Margaret Edwin Molomoo (right)

Claudia Vanessa Siliezar is from Honduras – she is a Sociology and Law professor at CEUTEC-UNITEC in La Ceiba, and is coordinator at GOjoven Honduras, where she is involved in promoting women’s rights, especially those pertaining to reproductive and sexual health, as well as in combating violence against women.

And….

Margaret Edwin Molomoo is from India. She works for Tarumitra, where she educates students, farmers, and women about the methods and benefits of organic farming in villages surrounding Bahir. Her work has assisted many farming groups in changing their use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in their farming practices.

Thanks to the funds raised, Claudia and Margaret, already stalwart pursuers of a fairer society, are now even better equipped to grow their successful, high-impact programs.

In connection with this, we are inviting you to the extraordinary annual Women in the World’s Breakfast, held at the Four Seasons in Seattle, where you can meet our fellows, Claudia and Margaret, in the flesh. Buy tickets here. And to whet your appetite, here’s the inspiring video of last year’s event:

The raising of the funds and the opportunity and skills it provided Claudia and Margaret were not the only success stories of this campaign. Another aspect deserving of sincere pats on the back was the campaign’s collaboration: the three-pronged spearhead of SIF, iLEAP, and Jolkona. You see, unfortunately, too many nonprofits try to go at campaigns alone, and what this campaign exemplifies is the exponential difference nonprofits can make when they work together. Remember: a problem shared is a problem halved.

Our goal is to fund 5 women; so far we’ve funded 2. The campaign is still running and SIF is still matching every one of your donations, dollar for dollar. Make a difference. See the results. Give to the campaign here: Invest in Women Grassroots Leaders from Around the World.

Post written by Jolkona intern Almudena Rodriguez

Mechai Viravaidya at Seattle Town Hall
Mechai Viravaidya at Seattle Town Hall. Photo by Tom Paulson of Humanosphere Blog.

I had the pleasure to represent Jolkona at How To Be A Changemaker: Combating HIV/AIDS and Eradicating Poverty through Social Enterprise, A Conversation with Thailand’s “Mr. Condom” on June 9, an event hosted by the World Affairs Council.

Known as Mr. Condom for his humorous and unorthodox approach to family planning, Mechai Viravaidya founded the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) in 1974 to address unsustainable population growth in Thailand. The talk he gave at TEDxChange explains some of the innovative methods PDA used to promote family planning and condom use in Thailand — efforts that helped reduce Thai family size from 7 children per family in 1974 to only 1.5 children per family in 2003.

Mechai’s World Affairs Council talk focused on the Village Development Partnership (VDP), a rural anti-poverty project in Thailand for which he won the 2007 Gates Global Health Award and the 2008 Skoll Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurship. The VDP model empowers local communities to improve their quality of life by articulating their needs and aspirations and creating a tailored development plan. Sponsoring companies and organizations provide funds for communities’ development projects in exchange for tree planting. This unique partnership between the private sector and the communities they sponsor has proven successful and sustainable for more than 22 years.

Lesson of VDP’s success that can be applied to Jolkona are summarized in the following diagram:

Even though this model was designed for the Thai population that VDP worked with, it can be applied to other countries and modified accordingly. Portions of this model are already part of Jolkona’s vision.

For example, we support grassroots organizations that collaborate with the communities they serve to develop solutions to local problems. In Sudan, Jolkona partner MADRE works with a local organization to provide seeds, supplies and training to women farmers who have traditionally been denied access to farm aid and credit. Our donors can also support several projects that help low-income people become entrepreneurs, such as a program to teach business skills to low-income people in the US and an initiative to prepare the most disadvantaged Haitian women to receive microcredit. Similar to the VDP model, our donors are empowering the communities served by our nonprofit partners to determine their own destiny.

Jolkona at World Affairs Council
Laura Kimball, Emily Williamson, and Almudena Rodriguez of Jolkona tabling at the World Affairs Council Global Leadership Series with Mechai Viravaidya. Photo by Alabastro Photography.

Almudena Rodriguez is Jolkona’s 
Marketing Coordinator Intern. Originally from Spain, Almu is a firm believer in the need for marketing and communications for any business or nonprofit to reach its full potential. She has an MBA from La Coruña in Spain and a degree in Marketing from the marketing Institute of Ireland. In October 2010, she relocated to Seattle. In her free time she likes skiing, hiking, cycling and staying in touch with her friends spread all over the world. Follow Almudena on Twitter @Mayona80.


This post is a reflection of Saman Nizami’s experiences and observations during her internship for BRAC’s “Targeting the Ultra-Poor” program in Bangladesh.

To recap on my previous post, BRAC’s “Targeting the Ultra-Poor” (TUP) program takes an integrated approach towards empowering women at the bottom of the poverty ladder. In addition to providing income generating assets and enterprise development training, the other four components of the program play a subtle but vital role in lifting these women out of poverty as well. In this post, I’ll discuss two of these powerful catalysts (i.e. healthcare support and social development) and the other two (i.e. financial discipline and subsistence allowance) in my next post.

Preliminary Healthcare Services and Education

Tasmeena

Meet Tasmeena (above). She is a domestic servant, who was recently recruited into the TUP program. Tasmeena suffers from fever frequently, which hinders her from working. Even when I met her, she had a high fever – which I had to diagnose by touching her forehead and wrist because she couldn’t afford basic healthcare essentials like a thermometer. In the past, she has met physicians who suggested she get blood tests, but she never followed through because, again, she could not afford it.

Her weak livelihood and poor health condition were inter-dependent. Her meager income would not allow to her seek formal medical care for treatment or purchase medication. Similarly, her poor health condition was pushing her into further destitution by limiting the manual labor she could perform or making her take days off from work. For Tasmeena and her family, not going to work for a day meant forgoing a day’s income which had dire consequences. Her family may have to starve for the day or she may have to resort to begging for cash and food. Fortunately, BRAC will provide her healthcare services to improve her health condition which will ultimately strengthen her livelihood.

Another strategy of the program is health education. I sat in on one of BRAC’s health education sessions with the TUP members where BRAC’s health volunteers were discussing the importance of feminine hygiene and family planning. See my picture below.

BRAC health education session

These women are also given hygiene education and essential items like sanitary latrines and tube-wells for safe drinking water to protect them from communicable diseases.

BRAC’s integrated health services aim to improve the nutritional and health statuses of these women and their families. As a result, this improvement in their families’ health plays a key role in stimulating any improvements in the households’ economic conditions.

Madhu Bi, wearing sandals and using a tube-well, BRAC, TUP Program
Above: TUP member, Madhu Bi, wearing sandals and using a tube-well she received from BRAC for safe drinking water. She explained that in the past, her children have suffered from diseases like jaundice and diarrhea, but now they have been much healthier as a result of changing simple practices and receiving key facilities (i.e. sanitary latrine and tube-well).

Social Development

Another important mechanism propelling the program’s success is mobilizing the community and building the human social capital of the rural poor (particularly women). The first time I went to a Gram Daridro Bimochon Committee (GDBC) meeting, a local rural elite committee formed to protect these vulnerable families, the leadership proudly described their responsibilities including information dissemination on health issues, protection of the women’s assets , and advocacy of their rights to the local government. At the meeting, the TUP members were closely following the meeting’s agenda and openly expressing their thoughts on how to address their communities’ needs. Towards the end, the women and the GDBC gifted a tin house roof to an ill widow purchased through collective donations from the community.  I was amazed to see this strong affinity and urge to help others among these women, despite the difficult conditions they’re in themselves.

Here is a short video I took from one of the GDBC meetings:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1CiM9KwvpY&version=3&hl=en_US] As an additional effort in socially empowering women, BRAC’s field staff trains them on social issues that plague their communities. This includes teaching them how to write their name, the importance of marriage and birth certificates, and laws on early child marriage, dowry, etc. These women are then encouraged to uphold their rights, play a more active role in their communities, and strongly resist abuse and exploitation.

BRAC's field staff teaching Rukhsana
Above: BRAC’s field staff teaching Rukhsana how to write her name as part of the social development training.

I met a TUP graduate (2006) named Masooda who has progressed significantly in terms of social development.  When she was recruited to the TUP program, Masooda felt alienated as a poor widow living on her own. Further, she had no time or energy to interact with people because of her arduous manual labor as a domestic servant. However, after graduating from the TUP program, she plays an active role in her community. She frequently gives her community members advice, and even stopped two early child marriages among her relatives by vehemently protesting against it. She is approaching local government representatives to secure her entitlements (i.e. widow allowance) as well.

Another TUP graduate, Afreena, used to be physically tortured by her husband, but she felt like she had no one to turn to. However, now that she generates income and has assets in her ownership, she has authority within the household and her husband treats her with respect. Now, the question that arises is if her husband is treating her well because he considers her to be a source of income, or have his fundamental beliefs about women changed? Will this change be sustained unconditionally in the long term even if Afreena decides to sell her assets and stop contributing to the household? A little too soon to tell…

Nevertheless, it’s clear that lifting these women out of poverty requires the need to intrinsically empower them, where they learn how to protect themselves from marginalization and control their own lives. It also involves instilling perception changes among men and women and dismantling the entrenched ideology of gender inequality.

And it doesn’t stop here…more to come in my next post!

Saman Nizami graduated from UCSD with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and History. She is currently working for a Pakistan-based NGO, HOPE (Health Oriented Preventive Education), primarily in disaster response projects aimed to help the victims of the recent 2010 floods. She’s also a Project Team Lead for ADP (Association for the Development of Pakistan). During her spare time, Saman enjoys trying new restaurants (particularly sushi), learning North Indian classical singing, watching Bollywood movies, and most recently – tweeting. You can follow her @saman_nizami.

Submitted by Jorji Knickrehm, Grants Manager at Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help (or Washington CASH).

Figuring out how to foster new small businesses in low income communities is an ongoing passion here at Washington CASH. Yesterday, all twelve of our program staffers packed themselves into a small conference room, and tinkered for 4 hours with the curriculum of our core business development class. Maybe if we add a weekly lab to each of our classes, it will help more of our clients build businesses that will be around five years from now — businesses that will provide them with a living wage income and the happiness that comes from being self-determined. We’ve helped a lot of people, but we know there’s more out there with unfulfilled hopes.

Many times it is people who are new to the U.S. who encounter barriers as they try to get their feet under themselves financially. Tri Nguyen, for example, moved to Washington as a refugee from Southern Vietnam when he was 22 years old with his parents and two older brothers. “Before coming to America, we went overseas from Vietnam to Malaysia where we lived in a refugee camp for 7 years. We were then sent back to Vietnam for two more years, where we continued to await acceptance into the United States as political refugees. Finally, the United States government opened its doors and welcomed us to America, a free country we had been seeking for almost half of our lives.”

After spending two years learning English, he attended Highline Community College where he received his Associates degree before transferring to Washington State University and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in education. While an undergraduate, Tri worked for two years with a cleaning company where 99% of employees were Vietnamese. His fluency in English allowed Tri to take on a management role within the company, which ultimately provided him the experience and knowledge necessary to start his own venture. “I started my own business to help fellow Vietnamese people by providing job opportunities here in America.”

Tri completed Business Development Training with Washington CASH in June 2009 and has since entered Business Groups, a program providing business support and access to capital in the form of peer loans. His new business, Tri Mountain Cleaning Services, Inc., offers both commercial and residential cleaning services, using only non-toxic products to create a safe environment for pets and children.

The name of his business, Tri Mountain Cleaning Services, Inc., stems not only from his first name, but for the three mountains he says complete his business: himself, family & friends, and Washington CASH. “My company cannot stand by itself. Before CASH, I didn’t know how to do the things necessary to open a business. Now I’m ready to go.”

While he currently has about ten regular customers and employees as needed, Tri envisions expanding to include about five new customers every month, opening more commercial accounts, and hiring more employees. “I was so excited when I got my first customer with Tri Mountain. In that moment, I knew I was going to be successful. Even though it was a small contract, it was a big moment. Owning my own business has given me confidence I never knew I had.” Figuring out how to help more people get that great feeling of empowerment; that’s what gets us out of bed in the morning at Washington CASH.

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