Modern-day Slavery: Misconceptions, Impunity, and a call to action
Nicholas Kristof recently “sat down” with a panel of experts in the field of modern-day slavery for a Google Hangout to discuss the future of the cause. Contributors to the conversation included: Nicholas Kristof (New York Times op-ed columnist, Co-Founder of Half the Sky Movement); Rachel Lloyd (Executive Director of GEMS, author of Girls Like Us); Susan Bissell (Head of Child Protection at UNICEF); Gary Haugen (Founder of International Justice Mission, author of The Locust Effect); and David Batstone (President & Co-Founder of Not for Sale, author of Not for Sale).
Kristof began the conversation taking questions about misinformation on the matter. One topic was the idea that legalizing commercial sex would, in fact, lessen the prevalence of trafficking and the sexual exploitation of young girls. To this, Batstone stepped in to share facts gleaned from research in the Netherlands. In countries in Western Europe that have legalized the sex industry, three out of four girls working in sex shops are from poor, rural parts of Eastern Europe, and in some cases, Africa. Batstone explained, “You don’t find young Dutch girls doing that. What you find are the very poor and very economically depressed, usually those individuals that don’t have access to civil justice.” According to the panel, it has been proven that the legalization of sex work creates a parallel market for younger girls.
A few minutes into the discussion, Batstone and Lloyd clashed. Batstone asserted that the work of the panelists was not to repudiate the prostitution of adults, but rather to stop the exploitation of minors. Lloyd, a survivor of sexual exploitation herself, disagrees with supporting prostitution in general, even if a women is “of age,” because “it’s very hard to separate prostitution from systemic violence and poverty.” She went on to explain, “Overwhelmingly, 90 percent of folks who end up in the sex industry, both children and adults, were victims of childhood sexual abuse prior to recruitment.”
The conversation then turned to the culpability of traffickers. While the panelists agreed on solutions, there was a split among opinions on the most vital way to eradicate modern-day slavery. Haugen argued, “In the developing world…statistics show that if you enslave someone in South Asia, you are in greater risk of being hit by lightning than you are of going to jail for that.” The panelists reflected on the fact that women and girls, some as young as age eleven, are convicted of prostitution at an alarming rate compared to that of johns, for whom, according to Kristof, there is only a “one half of one percent risk in any sexual transaction of actually getting arrested.” He went on to explain, “You make people pay a price, end impunity, and even if attitudes haven’t changed, behavior will.”
For Lloyd, creating a world without the enslavement of women and girls requires getting involved in the lives of children. She emphasized the benefits of working with programs like Big Brothers, Big Sisters as a way to connect with and support a young person who might otherwise have very few role models or caring adult figures in their life. She also described the need for us as a society “to socialize boys and men around healthy relationships, and intimacy, and violence, and gender equality…and [recognize] that men should be having those conversations with boys.” The panel also discussed the importance of compassion and solidarity. Impassioned by her work with vulnerable populations through UNICEF, Bissell posed the question, “How is it that we cannot, as a human society, see the other as the same as me?” To help do this, Bissell implores us to, “Get informed. Read. Listen. Inform yourself… Get engaged.”
Featured Organization: Women's Enterprises International
Imagine a small rural village in Kenya where the nearest clean water is a few hours walk away. Imagine the women and girls who lose those precious hours of their economic and intellectual potential because they must retrieve that water for their families.
Now imagine a similar village where the women have partnered with Seattle-based Women’s Enterprises International (WEI) . The most obvious difference will be the 10,000-liter water cisterns beside each small home that have been purchased with the combined savings of the village’s hardworking women and a matching grant from WEI.
Founded in 2000, Global Washington member WEI is a faith-based, almost entirely volunteer run organization that was formed by two women, Theresa Schulz Norris from the United States and Gracie Mullei from Kenya, who met on a missions trip in Namibia. “We laid brick together for a week and became friends,” said Norris. “We discovered that we both had similar dreams and calling.”
While the majority of WEI’s work is in Kenya, where its model developed and matured, the organization also operates in Indonesia, and has partnered in projects in Guatemala and Benin. While WEI is commonly thought of as a water organization due to its signature rain catchment systems in Kenya, Norris is adamant that water is, “Just the catalyst that brings women together in a context where the real work of development is happening.”
featured-org-2The three pillars of WEI’s development model are the , micro-savings and the financial match. Matching grants provide the incentive for the group to form and the women to make the sacrifices necessary to save. Grants are provided for development projects focused primarily on water, food security, education and income generation. In each of these areas, the model is set up to be a declining match in order to encourage savings, discourage dependency and to recognize the increasing capacity of the women to lead and fund their own projects.
“With the water projects, we’ll do a 1:1 match, for a second water project, or a drip irrigation project, we’ll maybe do a 2:1 match, so that after a third or fourth project, our match for that particular group has run its course,” explained Norris. For scholarships for the villages’ orphans, it is a 1:2 match.
“The model we use is based on building a culture of savings,” said Norris. In the beginning, the women saved money in tin cans, their “home banks,” that had to be opened by the slice of a machete at their annual “bank openings.” Today, the groups deposit their savings into commercial banks, increasing organization and accountability in the groups’ financials.
Of this, Norris expanded, “The thing that is just so amazing is that working together and saving gives them a sense of dignity, and of believing in their own capability that they never had before.” Word of WEI’s ability to help women find this strength within themselves has spread quickly; within the last eight years, its number of groups has risen from six to over sixty.
However, it often takes the physical size of the cisterns to portray the remarkable feat these women have accomplished to their friends and family. “It changes the perception of the people in the community around them,” said Norris. “It changes their husband’s perception of them, it changes their children’s perception of them, and it actually improves, in many instances, the dynamic in the family.”
The projects spearheaded by these groups, while supported by WEI and its mostly individual donor base, are run with the vision and ingenuity of the village women themselves. Norris explained, “We base everything we do on the ideas and capacities of the people we work with, believing that they are equipped with the basic things they need to solve their own problems and to build a better life for themselves.”
Acknowledging the propensity of Westerners to jump in as problem solvers, Norris said, “If we do that, we can easily foster dependency, as opposed to independence and interdependence. Ultimately, fostering interdependence within the community itself is what I believe is true development.”
To compliment its international work, WEI dedicates resources to developing donor and supporter awareness, including its annual Walk for Water (May 18, 2014), an extensive reading list and book forum, and annual weeklong work team trips to Kenya.
“It’s about creating opportunities for people here to grow in their understanding of issues of poverty and development, so that we can be more responsible and engaged global citizens,” said Norris.
Featured Organization: Ayni Education International
Imagine a school for young girls located in the middle of a war zone. It is a cluster of tents tattered by the extreme shifts in temperature of the harsh climate of Balkh Province in northern Afghanistan. If the girls are lucky, they will have a stone to sit on during class. Now, imagine that the development of their country, which hovers at the bottom of the UN Poverty Index, depends on their education.
This is the educational landscape for thousands of girls within which Seattle-based Ayni Education International operates. After Ayni (pronounced “eye-knee”) is invited into an area, a prerequisite for its work, it builds and repairs schools, which include libraries, security walls and guards, latrines and libraries, before handing them over to the Afghan government’s Ministry of Education, to be integrated into the formal education system. Ayni also offers training in their highly competitive computer programs and teacher certification program.
While Ayni has contributed to schools for boys, its focus is on providing the infrastructure, both physical and institutional, for the education of women and girls.
“We’re building upon a statistic,” said Executive Director Ginna Brelsford, “which is, 40 percent of girls in Afghanistan are in school now, which means our work isn’t done. It’s gotten better, but we still need to tackle getting 60 percent more girls in school.” Of Ayni’s pursuit of full participation of girls in school, she said, “Without question, when you educate a girl, you end up educating a whole family,” an important statistic in Afghanistan where families often have upwards of over ten members.
The obstacles to reaching more Balkh girls, while not insurmountable, are formidable. For one, “culturally, after a certain age, girls aren’t allowed to be taught by men,” said Brelsford. This is compounded by the fact that approximately 245 of 412 districts in the province don’t have a woman who is certified to teach. As Brelsford puts it, “If there aren’t enough women who are able to teach, then the fact is, you don’t go to school.”
To combat this issue, Ayni established a teacher-training certification program wherein women’s education and transportation are sponsored. After the program, “the new teachers tend to go back to their villages,” Brelsford said. “So, it sets up a system where you build into the village structure more and more teachers who are female and who are qualified to provide education to the girls in the village.”
Another obstacle to the education of girls, historically, has been a lack of male leaders’ support. “Without support of fathers, husbands and brothers, it’s hopeless,” Brelsford explained. However, Ayni has begun to see a shift. “What we’ve seen is an increasing number of men who are incredibly supportive of girls’ education.” This support has also been influential on the effects of child marriage, according to Brelsford. “We’ve seen more and more girls who are already married but still coming back to school and working toward graduation, and that’s a different trend.”
Ayni also operates a successful computer training program. With help from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, National Geographic, and Seattle International Foundation, the program teaches basic Microsoft Office skills and Internet use, which keeps students current with the world’s technological shift, and it sets them apart from other applicants in the job market. A program Ayni originally thought might garner modest interest has seen an explosion of demand. “We could do nothing but build computer programs,” said Brelsford.
In addition to bolstering the education of girls, the organization is also improving the lives of local workers. Ayni hires and trains local labor to build and renovate the schools, as well as to dig wells for drinking water. “There’s no question that we’re having an impact on the local economy,” said Brelsford.
In Seattle, Ayni partners with the University of Washington School Of Architecture and the Janet W. Ketcham Foundation to “marry architectural design and sustainable development with international development and poverty eradication,” said Brelsford. The goal is to build a “space for girls to come into a place of beauty while they’re learning. I think that enhances not just their well being, but their ability to absorb the learning material that they’re being given.”
That in itself is going to give women and girls in Afghanistan a fighting chance to reach their potential.
Changemaker: Mona Foundation's Dr. Rita Egrari
Spend just a little time talking with Rita Egrari and you’ll know you’ve met someone who is doing exactly which she was meant to do. Egrari, director of the Mona Foundation Pacific Northwest regional office, embodies a dedication to women and girls. While her focus began with an interest in the health of mothers and children, which lead to a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences and a Ph.D. in Public Health, her path was directed to education early on in her career.
It was a trip to a small village in Kenya for an internship during her Masters program that would ultimately guide Egrari to her present work. Of the women she met there, she said, “I felt that if they had had the same opportunities as me, they would be so much more than I could ever be, and that really affected me. It became a driving force for me to want to have education for all women, because I could see the lost potential.”
Three children and a doctoral degree later, Egrari attended a party in 2003 where she was introduced to Mona Foundation and its founder, Mahnaz Aflatooni Javid. “We ended up talking the whole night,” she said. Of her reaction to the organization, “I absolutely fell in love with its approach to development.” Two years later, she transitioned from her volunteer position to the Board of Directors. That same year, Egrari’s husband joined Mona’s Board of Advisors. “It’s been really great to partner with him and something that we both love,” she said.
As Egrari described the different projects she has visited as a part of Mona’s yearly site evaluations, there was a theme that emerged of what impacted her most: The joy in the women she met that was created by the opportunity to get an education. “They were happy,” she said.
Of the effect education has on students’ self-esteem, she said, “They realize that, ‘Yeah, I might be poor…but I can do something. I can give back,’ and I think that shifts the mindset of people.”
On a trip to Cambodia with her son, she said that, despite the poverty in which the students were living, it was not the state of their clothes or lack of shoes that her son noticed. “What he saw were kids that were so happy getting an education.”
All of Egrari’s children have visited an international Mona Foundation project because she wanted to instill that same sense of agency in her children. “I’m so happy that they experienced that because it’s given them a passion that they can make a difference.”
When asked about her passion for the education of women and girls as the catalyst for change in communities, she said emphatically, “I really am! It’s so real. I mean, I’ve seen it over the last 20 years of being involved in development.” Of getting involved, she said, “I think every one of us has the opportunity to contribute whether we’re doing it professionally or not.”
Egrari urged people to read books such as Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and watch movies like Girl Rising, “and get uncomfortable” with the knowledge that women and girls are oppressed in many parts of the world. “Let’s talk about it.”
Egrari also serves on the board of Recovery Café. “They work with folks that are afflicted with addiction and homelessness to help them remember that they are worthy and loved for who they are, and that becomes their tool set for overcoming addiction,” she said. Of working with the organization, it’s “something incredibly meaningful to me at a local level.”
Of her own goals, “the development of Mona Foundation itself as an agency” and “further examining how I can be of service to my own community” are paramount. “So, while I guess my passion is international, I also believe in being mindful about giving back to my local community too. I certainly love the opportunities that exist in Seattle.”
Member Highlight: Mobility Outreach International
GlobalWA member Prosthetics Outreach Foundation celebrated 25 years of life-changing work – giving the gift of mobility in the developing world – at its March gala, and it used the occasion to announce the organization’s new name: Mobility Outreach International (MOi).
Originally focused on providing services in Vietnam, MOi has grown geographically to include Bangladesh, Sierra Leone and Haiti. It has also seen substantial growth in its scope of services, the main impetus for its rebranding. However, “While we changed our name and our look,” said Executive Director Marion McGowan, “our core mission is the same.”
As a U.S. Army surgeon during World War II, MOi founder Dr. Ernest M. Burgess witnessed the devastating effects amputees face due to immobility. A prominent Seattle-based orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Burgess began the organization as a way to improve lives, as well as U.S.-Vietnam relations. In addition to providing physical rehabilitation services and orthopedic surgery outreach, more recently, MOi has grown to include a substantial clubfoot program, addressing a debilitating deformity annually afflicting one in 1,000 newborns. “It is life-changing,” said McGowan. “When you help that one individual regain their mobility, it creates a ripple effect that helps the family and the community.”
MOi treats, trains, and manufacturers locally. Patients can receive a new, custom-fit limb as soon as three days after their fitting. MOi partners with US surgeons to provide orthopedic surgery outreach and conduct on-the-job training with local surgeons. Additionally, in-country healthcare providers are trained in non-invasive techniques for treating clubfoot, and some components are manufactured locally to reduce importing costs and unnecessary bureaucratic delays.
As MOi examines the past and looks toward the future, McGowan said, “I think [Dr. Burgess] would be very proud of where this organization has gone and that we are continuing to help more and more people gain their mobility.”
Seattle Pacific University Professor Describes Impact on Students
As I walked into the First Free Methodist Church for the screening of Girl Rising , the pews were filled with an audience of mostly young women. Seattle Pacific University’s Professor Dr. Margaret Diddams spoke to the audience about the realities of global injustice and that one of the most important solutions was dedication to international development. Two girls in front of me looked at each other with wide eyes and bright smiles, elbowing each other in a way you might expect to see young girls reacting to a cute boy. These girls, however, were lighting up at the prospect of making the world a better place. I wondered what the nine stories of struggle and courage would inspire them to do.
To find out, I asked Diddams. “There is a growing concern in America, and in the Free Methodist Church, in particular, with human trafficking,” she began. “I think as people learn more and more about it, they understand that it’s a global issue that’s also in our own backyard.”
Human trafficking and gender inequality benefit greatly from the lack of information and conversation about them. “Watching this film is a place where people can go, ‘I didn’t know,’ and that’s why I’m excited,” said Diddams.
As with any problem, sustainable impact will come not only from addressing the effects, but also from directing attention to the societal causes. “Where I see traction happening is our students are seeing the root causes of trafficking, that those roots go deep, and that if you want to deal with this problem, it’s not just stopping the trafficking,” said Diddams. “It’s building capacity and resources for communities in which this is happening. Education of women is one of them.”
As more people, and students in particular, become aware of social issues in need of advocacy, more of them want to get involved. It is then up to organizations to know what potential volunteers are seeking in an experience. What Diddams has seen is that students “really want to make a difference. They want to see that their life has meaning and that what they do is purposeful.” One problem she says is “Students don’t always know how.” Another issue her students run into is “They don’t always know what the commitment is going to be, and that can be kind of scary.”
To find ways to get involved, Diddams says students are directed to SPU’s Center for Career and Calling, the on-campus SPU Abolitionist Club, and to the opportunities available at GlobalWA . Of the final resource, she said, “The goals of GlobalWA are totally aligned with what we want to do with education as a transformational experience.”
A final recommendation Diddams left with students on how to effect change was this: “A good leader is cranky and hopeful. To want to drive change, you have to be cranky about how things are today, but you also have to be hopeful that they can change.”
Get Excited to GiveBIG
2015 marks a significant year in global development, as the UN Millennium Development Goals reach their fifteen-year marker, and the world’s nations recommit themselves to improving the lives of the poor and underserved on the Road to Dignity by 2030.
"As the U.S. nonprofit sector finally approaches levels of top line support not seen since before the Great Recession, it is once again American individuals powering that comeback." Most people assume that foundations and corporations represent the “big money” in nonprofit fundraising. They do not. 73% of all philanthropy comes from individuals.
With the increase of philanthropy in recent years, as the US economy slowly improves, organizations are utilizing technology and creativity like never before to harness the generosity of the American people to address global ills. As scientists, community organizers, and thought leaders develop new and game-changing ways to address these issues, amazing partnerships have formed, making it an exciting time to both give and act.
At Mona Foundation, we, too, are excited. We are excited to partner with our generous donors who are passionate about global development. We are excited about the projects with which we work hard to find and partner to build capacity. We are excited about the thousands of students whom have been empowered by these projects. Mostly, we are excited about our constant mission of universal education.
If you share our excitement, join us on May 5th for Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG event and maximize your support!
A Mother's Day Look at ADCAM
At Mona Foundation, we often speak of the transformational impact education has on the lives of children, girls in particular, and the ripple effect it has on their families and communities. Given that Mother’s Day is quickly approaching, it seems fitting to highlight the positive effects projects Mona Foundation finds and fosters have on the lives of women and mothers.
Long-time supporters of Mona Foundation will be familiar with ADCAM, the amazing project in Brazil started in 1985 by an inspiring woman with a simple mission: to help the street children of Manaus. Despite the modest budget with which she began, Francine has created an organization so robust in success that upon their visits to the project, board members have been told by mothers that they have plead to have their children enrolled, stating, “Our children are transformed here.”
Within the school itself, mothers are empowered. The head of ADCAM’s Moral Education program was once a housekeeper trapped in a cycle of domestic abuse. Determined to make a better life for her four children, she completed university and is raising her children as a strong, single woman who has become a great asset to ADCAM.
ADCAM’s philosophy is that, you cannot educate children without involving their parents. By fostering a relationship with mothers, it strengthens the support system students need to do well in and outside of school. As Secretary of the Board, Sima Mobini describes, “In an area where societal problems, such as drug addiction, alcoholism and prostitution are abundant and common, this program offers not only vocational classes but also counseling classes for alcohol and drug addiction, spouse and child abuse and moral education to parents. 244 families participate in these classes on a regular basis.”
To support mothers, is to support children, and to support children is to support our future.