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The charities we have chosen to work with are all organisations that work tirelessly to support and protect vulnerable women and children around the world. To honour the International Day of the Girl, we are sharing Stories of Change from real women who's lives have been positively changed due to the hard working efforts of UN Women - one of the charities we support.
Yamkela Nqweniso, 14, was born and raised in Khayelitsha, where day-to-day life is challenging against a backdrop of systemic poverty, high prevalence of HIV and AIDS and limited social infrastructure. After graduating from Grassroot Soccer’s SKILLZ Street programme last year, she began volunteering and is now a dedicated member of the Grassroot Soccer SKILLZ Street team. “When I am around the Grassroot Soccer centre, I am safe,” she says.
At Yomelela Primary School, before the soccer fun kicks-off, peer coaches facilitate a high-energy session where difficult but vital conversations are held to guide these young girls on taking care of their bodies and living a healthy lifestyle – irrespective of their HIV status. The hope and energy in the room is palpable and it’s clear that for these girls change is happening right in front of their eyes.
“Before I was a member of SKILLZ Street I didn’t know where I was headed,” admits 14-year-old Yamkela. “But now I know where I’m from, where I’m headed, and where I want to be in the future. It’s built so much confidence in me, because I know what’s ahead for me. I feel proud of myself that I am part of the positive side, the safe side.”
Grassroot Soccer is a grantee of the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (the UN Trust Fund). This civil society organization uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire and empower young people to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.According to UNAIDS, a study in South Africa found that young women who experienced intimate partner violence were 50 per cent more likely to have acquired HIV than women who had not experienced violence.
Ani Jilozian, 31, works for the Women’s Support Centre in Armenia, supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund). The Women’s Support Centre is a domestic violence centre based in Yerevan, Armenia, offering comprehensive services to women and children survivors of domestic violence. The services include psychological, legal and social counselling, as well as safe houses and educational opportunities to help survivors find employment or start their own businesses.
In post-soviet Armenia, the trauma of war, poverty and socio-economic inequalities exacerbates violence against women. But ultimately, this violence stems from patriarchy, and from the idea that a man possesses his wife or that a mother-in-law can control her daughter-in-law. These cultural and institutional barriers are the most difficult issues to overcome for women in Armenia.
"I have learned so much from the survivors.
Their resilience to overcome trauma and to rebuild their lives is inspiring. For example, to see a woman not only escape a life- threatening, abusive situation, but thriving, starting her own business, caring for her children and for her elderly parents is simply amazing."
In an ideal situation, we wouldn’t need safe houses. In a country like Armenia, a survivor would prefer to seek assistance from loved ones, friends and family. But in situations of domestic violence, where the abuser is family and threatens her life, the only safe option for a woman is the safe house.
With support from i=Change retailers, women and girls can live lives free from violence. With your support, women and girls can access effective, respectful services and safe spaces to find hope and a brighter future.
Ndyandin Dawara recently made a momentous decision: she decided she would not subject her toddler daughter to female genital mutilation (FGM).
FGM is a long-running harmful traditional practice in her community in the Gambia that has led generations of women to a lifetime of pain, a lack of control of their own bodily integrity and sexuality, and debilitating health risks, including death. The taboo surrounding the topic has impeded women to freely discuss their experiences of harm and suffering caused by FGM.
“We didn’t know how to speak out about it,” said Ndyandin Dawara. “In the workshop we... talked about pertinent issues about FGM, something that affects our lives, that has been hurting us.” The training provided information and a safe space to discuss their experience of FGM and explore options parents have to discontinue the practice. That gave Ndyandin strength.
“We need to work to change people’s mindsets,”
she said, stressing that all women and girls should live free from this harmful practice. Her husband is also involved, intent on protecting his daughter and all other girls in their community.
GAMCOTRAP (the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children), an advocacy group supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) was created 35 years ago. Since then, it has worked tirelessly to eradicate FGM in the Gambia, where almost 75 per cent of women have undergone FGM. In December 2015, after sustained grassroots activism, largely led by GAMCOTRAP, the Gambia passed a total legal ban on FGM, becoming the 27th African country to do so. The legal ban has had an instrumental impact in reducing the practice, but community education is still vital to ensure accountability that it does not continue.
Ndyandin made her decision after taking part in a training program on ending FGM provided by GAMCOTRAP. The training program, which began in 2015, trains community leaders and delivers workshops to empower women to claim their rights and those of their daughters. So far, more than 300 women have taken part and 64 per cent of young mothers like Ndyandin who attended sessions said they would not subject their daughter to FGM. For the first time, community leaders are discussing how to protect girls and their communities.
A job posting in her local newspaper lured Rosita* to Jordan. “Work as a chef for USD $400 in addition to free accommodation and food,” it promised. The incentives were too enticing to refuse. As Rosita boarded a plane from her home in Guatemala, she felt a rush of excitement. She met 15 other women who had received similar offers, and they eagerly discussed the opportunity that awaited them in Jordan.
Upon arrival, their optimism turned to fear. “We were taken from the airport to an apartment,” said Rosita. “We were locked there with no food or water or light.”
The women had become ensnared in human trafficking. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that women and girls account for 70 per cent of those trafficked worldwide.
Unlike many in a trafficking situation, thankfully, Rosita and her friends were able to escape and find refuge at a Jordanian shelter supported by the UN Trust Fund. Shelter staff helped them reclaim their passports, stolen by the traffickers, and return home to Guatemala.
To decrease women’s vulnerability to human trafficking, an anti-trafficking program was established across three countries: Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. Because trafficking is cross-border by nature, the program is multifaceted. It involves lawyers, judges and international human rights law experts across multiple countries who have been vital to drafting model laws, focussed on protection, criminalization, punishment of perpetrators, and the restoration and repatriation of survivors.
Through the collaborative efforts of governments, NGOs and legal representatives, improved enforcement mechanisms are now in place to monitor new anti-trafficking laws. Rights-based services were set up to empower survivors, and networking and campaigning led it increased awareness of the issue. In addition, a safe shelter, run by the Jordanian Women’s Union, implemented an anti-trafficking programme to educate women about trafficking and offer support and pathways to escape trafficking.
“My people have suffered a lot at the hands of ISIS. If you were a man, you were shot. If you were a woman, you were taken away as a sex slave to Mosul in Iraq or Raqqa in Syria. These women suffered enormous trauma. They have been raped many times a day by different men. That’s why I started the Free Yezidi Foundation -- to try to get women and girls trauma care so that they can start living their life again as they used to.”
“The UN Trust Fund made it possible for us to get two psychologists. In one year, two years, three years, we’ve already [seen] a lot of change with these women and girls who have gone to a psychologist. You see them being more active, you see them in groups, you see them making friends, and that’s a huge difference. You see the women and girls holding their head up rather than down. We have more than 100 women actively participating in a three-month course.”
The Free Yezidi Foundation opened a women’s centre that provides access to a psychologist and a trauma programme. The centre also runs music, art and language classes as part of efforts to reduce stress, and helps women prepare for employment through livelihood trainings.
The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) supports the Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF), an independent, non-profit organization that provides services for the Yezidi community, including women survivors of violence, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Pari Ibrahim, 27, founder and Executive Director of the FYF, described how ISIS attacked Yezidi civilians in Sinjar, northern Iraq, in August 2014. During the assault, she said, Yezidi women and girls were captured and sold as sex slaves in markets in Iraq and Syria, and that there are still thousands of Yezidi women that are held captive by ISIS, mainly in Syria.
“By bringing the women and girls to the centre, by going to their houses, by talking to their family members, I see the women and girls becoming much stronger, much healthier because they express what they feel. Our centre is a safe space and a refuge... All of our staff are IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] themselves who have training in psychological first aid.”
Emrah Gonuler is one of 20 fathers participating in a ground-breaking fatherhood program to discuss family issues and dynamics that lead to more equitable and non-violent households in Turkey. Run by the Mother Child Education Foundation (ACEV), the Father Support Programme, funded by the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, has a simple, yet life- changing aim: to prevent domestic violence in Turkey by engaging men in a comprehensive and community-based prevention programme.
Creating a positive future begins in early childhood, and fathers have a crucial role to play. However, many children are living in the shadow of what remains the most widespread form of violence around the world—violence in the home. In Turkey, a 2014 study by the Ministry of Family and Social Policies found that nearly 4 in 10 married women were subjected to physical violence by their husbands. Sadly, in many homes, children will have witnessed this violence, or experienced direct violence themselves.
“I realized I wasn’t giving the necessary time to my daughter, and to my wife,” Emrah Gonuler explained, while drinking tea and watching his 3-year-old daughter draw during a visit to a Father Support Association in Istanbul. “[I have] started talking with her. Every day when she comes back from school we talk and she tells me what she’s done and what makes her happy and what makes her sad. ... [The Father Support Programme]
has changed our lives as we are empowered to try and make a change.”
The Father Support Programme courses run for 10–12 weeks in small, all-male groups where fathers meet to talk about particular topics, such as child development, encouraging positive behaviour or the challenges of being a father. Fathers are encouraged to discuss sharing domestic responsibilities and become aware of the impact of sexist language in the home, along with non- traditional ideas about masculinity. The hope is that this increased openness in discussion and the understanding it generates will lead to less violent family environments.
A global champion for women and girls, UN Women is the United Nations entity responsible for promoting women's empowerment and gender equality and was established to accelerate progress to meet the needs of women and girls worldwide.
Their aim is to facilitate changes in attitudes, behaviour, and laws, one person and one piece of legislation at a time, in order to create communities that are safer from violence and have effective, respectful services in place to ensure women and girls may seek refuge and hope, everywhere in the world.With our support, women and girls can live lives free from violence. Women and girls can access effective, respectful services and safe spaces to find hope and a brighter future.
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