Two weeks ago, Yawo Douvon, CARE’s country director in the Democratic Republic of Congo, found himself showing Angelina Jolie and UK foreign minister William Hague around the Lac Vert camp for displaced people near Goma, where they had come to meet rape survivors. Today, as the G8 foreign ministers gather in London to sign a declaration on preventing sexual violence in conflict, he calls on them to listen to the voices from Goma, support Hague’s initiative, and provide the means to make it work. Continue reading
In response to the ongoing conflict in Syria, CARE has scaled up its emergency response in Jordan to address the needs of Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities, primarily through assistance to help pay for food, housing and to keep warm through the winter. By the end of 2012, CARE had assisted more than 20,000 people.
In late March 2013, CARE Canada’s President and CEO Kevin McCort travelled to Jordan to see CARE’s work first-hand.
Can you tell us about what you saw in Jordan?
When we arrived in Jordan, the first thing we did was speak with urban refugees about what happens when they come into the city. One of their first points of reference is a CARE office. CARE has a community information centre where registered refugees are told what to expect in Amman. They provide information on what neighborhoods may have housing, how to register your kids in the schooling system, and how to access medical services. They also have an inventory of what other NGOs are working in the area that provide different types of support – psychosocial support, for example, or income-generating support.
The staff told me a story about how an entire busload of Syrians from another part of Jordan chartered a bus and came to the CARE office because they were told they would receive good information from them. That is extraordinary – they pooled what little savings they had just to travel to the CARE office!
One of the reasons that office is so successful is because it is actually staffed by Syrian refugees who volunteer there. So when a refugee comes in, they meet a receptionist who is Syrian like them. These are educated, articulate people who have settled into life in Amman as best they can, and they are able to advise what to do.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. We also met some of the families that had settled in recently and they were under significant stress because, although they do get some food assistance when then come into the system, the cost of living exceeds what they are getting in public support.
CARE provides a settling-in allowance when they arrive. But for the families we talked to, all they were able to do with that money was maybe make first month’s rent. They also often have debts that they had incurred just to get where they are now.
Part of the unknown story of the Syrian refugees is the amount of people that are living outside the camps. Can you tell us more about these refugees?
The urban refugees are really living on the margins. They are poor and moving into poor parts of a developing country city. They’re living in pretty rough conditions.
We saw a four-bedroom flat owned by a Jordanian family who had moved themselves into two rooms in order to rent out the other two to Syrian family. So, in a place meant for probably eight people, there are now 16. And it’s not just rooms – there are stories of people camping out in backyards, chicken coups or storage sheds. They have so little income they can’t afford decent accommodation.
One story that really struck me was of this one family we met in Amman. There was a Syrian man who landed in the Zatari refugee camp with his wife and children, and some grandchildren as well. They stayed for a while until they were able to leave and settle in the city, but when we met them, they said that things are so tough now that they may have to go back.
I had been to the camp earlier that day and so I knew the harsh conditions they had come from, and the idea that it was a better alternative to their current circumstances really brought home how tough their situation is.
We’re seeing a steady rise in numbers of arrivals. Some of the UNHCR people I spoke with said, because the fighting is happening at the points of exit in Syria, right now there is a bottling up of refugees who can’t get out, and the pressure is rising.
There are forecasts of an extra million refugees arriving in Jordan for the remainder of 2013 and into 2014. Jordan has only six million people and its public infrastructure is already creaking under the strain of 430,000 Syrian refugees that have come in, 450,000 Iraqi refugees that are still there, an estimated 800,000 migrant workers from Egypt, not to mention a large population of Palestinian refugees
An extra one million Syrian refugees on top of the 430,000 already there would be equal to Jordan growing from six million to 7.4 million in two years, or total population growing by nearly 25 per cent.
Imagine if the Greater Toronto Area – with its population of nearly six million people – received 1.4 million refugees. Jordan will really be stretched to the limit with an extra million people. The international community needs to act quickly.
For more information about CARE’s response to the crisis in Syria or to support our efforts, please click here.
Written by Chris Wardle, provincial program coordinator, CARE International in Laos PDR
I have been working in Sekong Province in Southern Laos for over two years on programs that aim to improve the lives of families by linking the development of livelihood opportunities to the clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) from contaminated land.
During the Second Indochina War (1964 – 1973), over two million tons of bombs were dropped on Laos, resulting in the death or injury of over 50,000 people from 1964-2008. I have often tried to imagine what two million tons of bombs look like in an attempt to understand this staggering number. If a large car weighs 1.5 to 2 tons, then the number of bombs dropped on Laos was equivalent to more than one million large cars.
It is estimated that up to 30 per cent of the bombs dropped did not detonate. This includes more than 270 million cluster munitions, commonly known as bombies, of which around 80 million did not explode on impact and remain live today, even though they were dropped over 40 years ago. Commonly, the trigger or timing mechanism is stuck and disturbing or moving a UXO could trigger it to explode.
As a result, many of the rural communities in Sekong Province where CARE works still face the daily risk of UXOs. The Lao Government says UXO contamination still affects more than 25 per cent of Lao villages. UXO contamination is a cause of poverty and is a significant obstacle to the country’s sustainable development, preventing people from using land and denying access to basic services.
Some UXOs will be on the surface, but the majority lurks under the ground, which means that any agricultural use of land is a risk. Before implementing activities with communities such as fishponds, coffee gardens or rice paddy field expansion, CARE seeks UXO risk assessments and clearance support from clearance agencies.
CARE also provides Mine Risk Education in communities, specifically targeting high risk groups such as farmers, scrap metal collectors and children. Living with UXOs for so long means people can become complacent or desensitized to the problem and take risks. In other cases, the need for food is simply too great, forcing people to risk farming contaminated land.
CARE was working in Tangbrong village last month, responding to a rotovirus outbreak, and while there I was reminded of how young the population is. Of the 1,183 people, 747 (63 per cent) are under 18 years old. It’s worrying to think that although adults may be used to living with and understand the UXO risk, children are growing up with the same hidden dangers, but without the same level of awareness that previous generations had.
As village populations grow, more land is likely to be cultivated, bringing with it all the risks of farming in areas with UXO contamination. It is therefore important to continue with the mine awareness activities and the UXO clearance to support the new generation who will live with this on-going risk.
UXOs can be cleared, but it takes time and money. The communities in these contaminated areas have a right to live without the fear of UXOs. Continued support is necessary to minimise the UXO risk and at the same time provide people with opportunities to work their way out of poverty.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported me in raising funds for Care Canada, through their Walk in Her Shoes fundraiser. The $1,782.00 raised will provide many sturdy 5 gallon water containers ($3.00 each), send many children to school for a year ($49.00 per child) and provide safe drinking water for students ($5.00 per student), along with empowering women to create their own cottage industries, and feel more safe and secure in their environments.
Last week, CARE counted down the days to International Women’s Day with a week dedicated to the many reasons we Walk In Her Shoes.
The Walk In Her Shoes challenge is most commonly associated with women and girls in developing countries who are forced to walk an average of six kilometers per day or 8,000 steps to access basic necessities like food and water.
A new focus
This year we wanted to expand this focus. We wanted the Walk In Her Shoes challenge to represent a nationwide stance against the MANY challenges that women and girls face around the world and the actions needed to solve them.
Unequal access to safe health care, increased vulnerability in emergencies, unequal wages, lack of access to education, sexual violence and rape, child marriage, all of these issues affect the livelihoods of women and girls and are all reasons we need to Walk In Her Shoes.
This is how the #whywewalk tagline was born.
Last week was extremely successful in raising awareness about the many issues that face women and girls around the world. In case you missed it, here’s a look at what happened:
We heard from Jessie Thomson, CARE’s emergency director, about her recent trip to South Sudan in her latest blog.
Tuesday: We walk because empowered women mean empowered communities.
As mothers, nurturers and caregivers, women are at the heart of every community. When they have the chance to earn an income, they’ll invest in their families, ensuring their children are happy, healthy and educated. As their children grow up, they’ll have increased opportunities to earn incomes, raise healthy families and break the cycle of poverty.
On Tuesday, we also heard from Sarah Taylor Peace as she reflected on her own life and how the life of a woman in the developing world might compare.
Wednesday: We walk to end violence against women.
We explored some important facts about violence against women and what CARE was doing to fight this violence. Our blog came from Suniti in CARE India who talked about her experience working with men and women to discuss the social norms that lead to violence against women.
Having a baby in the developing world puts thousands of women’s lives at risk every year. At the same time 6.5 million children under five die every year. CARE works extensively with mothers, fathers, and children around the world to change this reality. This infographic demonstrates CARE’s approach to improving mother, newborn and child health.
Do you read the Toronto Star? You might have caught this insert dedicated to International Women’s Day. Check out page 5 where CARE’s work with mother, newborn and child health is featured, along with quotes from Canadian women’s hockey superstar and CARE Ambassador of Change Cassie Campbell-Pascall.
Friday: International Women’s Day!
Friday was a day to celebrate the many successes of women around the world, while also reflecting on the challenges that they still face. To reiterate all the reasons that we Walk In Her Shoes to empower women, we shared the infographic to the left.
On Friday morning, our Walk In Her Shoes team met with Algonquin College’s School of Hospitality and Tourism and spent the day on campus celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD). Students were given CARE pedometers and the School of Hospitality and Tourism donated 10 per cent of proceeds from their on-campus gourmet food shop, Savoir Fare, to the Walk In Her Shoes challenge. CBC Ottawa also joined in the fun. Watch their coverage here.
In Calgary, Premier Alison Redford joined CARE Canada’s I Am Powerful Calgary for a special event to celebrate International Women’s Day.
A powerful letter, signed by Louise Fréchette and Michèle Leduc was featured in le Journal de Montreal. We were also really excited to see one of our Walk In Her Shoes participants, Kaila Mintz, featured in this awesome article by the Western Star in Corner Brook, Newfoundland for her involvement with Walk In Her Shoes.
Now that IWD is over…
International Women’s Day has passed, but the Walk In Her Shoes campaign continues. While many walkers have started their walks already, new participants can join, walk and raise money anytime between now and May 31st. You can also help spread awareness for these issues by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter and sharing our #whywewalk material .
If you’re inspired to take a stand against the many challenges that affect women and girls and are eager to be part of the solution, we urge you to join the Walk In Her Shoes challenge.
We’re not going to let women and girls walk alone.
By Darcy Knoll, CARE Canada
In a small rural health clinic, a traditional birth attendant sits amongst a group of women waiting to support a mothers’ health education session.
She gives only her first name, Margaret, and she has been working in her community near Nzega village in the Tabora region of Tanzania for more than two decades.
She says “working,” but she comes to the clinic five days a week and works a full day as a CARE volunteer for no pay. She provides critical support delivering babies and helps when there’s a medical emergency in her community. Continue reading
Suniti Neogy works for CARE India, as the maternal health program coordinator. Below is an interview about her work with CARE and her efforts to improve gender equality in the communities where she works.
Q: Suniti, tell us about your job.
A: I’ve been working for CARE for more than 10 years. I focus on gender and health issues, and work with families, service providers, NGOs and the government – all at the same time!
Q: Based on personal experiences, what do you think are the best ways to shape and improve attitudes about gender?
A: CARE finds improving gender equality is most successful when we work with both men and women to discuss these issues. When we bring in women’s spouses and sensitize them to ideas of gender equality, we find men are willing to learn and do their part. Over time, values change and the couple starts to respect each other, even becoming best friends. That’s the most interesting part of my work.
Q: Last December, the world grieved for the 23-year-old student who was beaten and gang-raped in New Dehli, tragically dying two weeks later of her injuries. How has this event impacted you and your work?
A: It left us all numb. Women suffer from inequities, assault and oppression, but this case went beyond the norm and brought the masses together. I was in Delhi at the time and could see all of the candlelight vigils. I felt so close to all of the people who attended, as we were all there for a cause.
In January, I held a workshop with school leaders on teen safety and gender sensitivity in Barabanki. The organizers planned to include only all-girl’s schools. I asked they bring in boys’ schools’ principals because boys must learn respect for the girls and women around them, if things are to change.
At the start of the day, we asked the principals to reflect on their lives and gender roles – and the pressures they’ve felt. When we hear these stories, it’s not hard to imagine how frustrations can come out as violent behaviour.
We encourage the principals to live as role models, and to create an environment of dignity and respect towards women when around children, especially boys.
At the end of the workshop, each participant wrote down one change they intend to bring about in their school. When we meet again in two months, we will hear their stories.
Do you see hope for the future?
Yes, I do. Roles are changing. One father says, “Let the other men laugh at me for cooking and washing clothes. It’s my house and my family. And why should my wife alone do all the things?” Best of all, he shows their children – the next generation – that he respects his wife and sees her as an equal.
As a working mother, the feeling that there is so much to do and too little time to do it is a familiar one. And, as I stand on the crowded platform waiting to get my train to work, I think about how I could be better spending this time with my sons or getting on with my job.
But, unlike millions of women in the world’s poorest countries, my daily commute brings a salary with it. Unlike these women, my time isn’t whittled away by thousands of wasted footsteps.
If we walked in their shoes, we would see the hours pass morning after morning, day after day, as we walked towards water, then shouldering its weight as we retraced our footsteps on the long journey home.
Instead of walking towards a classroom or a playground, girls across the world trek for hours to distant boreholes and water wells, spending their childhood on this interminable, unvarying commute. Instead of starting businesses, changing their communities or learning new skills, women across the world will walk and walk and walk.
The sheer wasted life-potential is staggering. On a global scale, women have never been so productive or been a greater force for economic growth. In 2010, 104 million women in 59 of the world’s economies started and managed new business ventures, creating millions of jobs and contributing substantially to the world’s gross domestic product.
According to one piece of research, in South Africa women have up to 40% less productive time than men. Whilst they walk kilometre after kilometre for water, these women remain trapped in a cycle of poverty and inequality that they simply don’t have time to address.
And yet this is a problem that is relatively easy to fix. Another study conducted in Uganda showed that women and girls who live within 400 metres of a clean water source get an extra 600 hours of their lives back every year – 600 hours to change their lives and work towards a more productive future.
Dima’s story is a case in point. When CARE International installed a water pump close to her home in Ethiopia, she swiftly reclaimed her days. She has now joined the world’s 104 million female entrepreneurs, has set up a small business and is already making a profit. She also has more time to tend to her land and her cattle.
Instead of measuring time in footprints, Dima now uses her days investing in her future. It’s time that the millions of other women walking their lives away get the same opportunities too.
You can show your solidarity with these women by putting your own footprints down in their name and taking the Walk In Her Shoes Challenge. Join the challenge and walk 8,000 steps a day for eight days, as you raise funds to empower women and girls around the world. Let’s show the world that these women are not walking alone.
Consult women, entrust them with decision making and see change!
Victoria Machakaire (pictured right) is a program manager for CARE Canada. She travelled to Malawi in November 2012 to see CARE’s maternal health programs.
The village of Tupa is only about 130 kilometres from Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe. Being relatively close, it is natural to assume that the small village would have better access to basic needs such as clean drinking water and sanitation.
Sadly, this was not the case. Continue reading
Visiting the occupied Palestinian territories just before Christmas has always had a veil of mystery to me as it looks like travelling back in time a couple of thousand years.
Visiting the Gaza Strip less than two weeks after the latest conflict is like travelling back in time to 2009. Continue reading