Newsletter 5 (English, September 2020)
Dear Members and Friends of FrauenPower e.V.,
We hope you are all keeping well and managed to cope with the Covid-19 triggered lockdowns and restrictions in the past few months. We just hope that the fears of the “second wave” are short lived and that a vaccine (available to everyone around the world, at minimal cost) will be on the market soon to help deal with this pandemic.
Covid-19, lockdowns and their consequences in the countries where we work
FrauenPower has been in close contact with the organisations we work with, in Kenya, India and Nepal, and hear that the situation on the ground looks pretty grim in these countries. Apparently, more people are said to have suffered from the results of policies enforced by these governments to combat the pandemic than from the virus itself! The world has, however, so far not seen such a pandemic, that spread around the world so fast, and no government or decision makers have a blue print for the “right actions” to take. In general:
- There has been massive loss of jobs, and thereby income, resulting in poverty and hunger for people who have no savings.
- Many schools are still closed (Kenyan schools will only open in January 2021) which means children have lost out on nearly a year of schooling, as well as a source of daily meals. In many countries the only “proper” meal children (from economically poor backgrounds) have on a daily basis is at school. Therefore, no school means no food for the children and, as a consequence, an increase in malnutrition.
- Less than 30% of the schools in sub-Saharan Africa have clean running water or soap to wash hands, which further delays the opening of schools.
- Parents who have lost their jobs are sending their kids out to work. According to Save the Children, 10 million children (mostly girls) may never return to formal education after this pandemic.
- Not many parents in these countries can afford the computers, smart phones, Internet, data, etc. required for online learning, which has meant that the gap in learning for the “haves” and “have-nots” has increased tremendously.
- Children who have been away from school for so long, are learning less and losing the habit of learning. Since education is the best way out of poverty, the consequences of no, or limited, schooling will have a severe effect on these countries.
- There has been an increase in children suffering from physical and sexual abuse, as well as mental health problems in all three countries where we are active.
- Sick people are not seeking help for other health issues for fear of being labelled as having Covid-19, or for fear of catching it in the process.
- As is always the case during disasters, girls and women have borne the heavier burden in the past 6 months. There has been an increase in sexual assaults and a major increase in teenage pregnancy, as the recent UN Women report confirms.
- Child/teenage marriages are also on the increase in India and Nepal, as a way out for the parents to feed one less mouth.
Our Covid-19 relief work
As mentioned in the last Newsletter, FrauenPower e.V. has had to change its funding focus in the past 6 months to help people in Kenya, India and Nepal survive the Covid-19 crisis. Funds that had been allocated to women’s empowerment programs in 2020 were used to support women and their families survive the crisis. With the help of organisations that we work with in these countries, we bought and distributed clean water, hand-soap, sanitizers, rice, beans, flour, oil, salt, sugar, vegetables, face-masks, water canisters, information on hygiene and hand-washing, hygiene articles, and much more. Through this initiative, we managed to help hundreds of people survive the crisis, even though it was a short respite for many. All beneficiaries were more than grateful for the help they received, and we would like to thank you all, on their behalf, for the generous donations you continue making to FrauenPower that makes such work possible. The following amounts were transferred to our partner organisations to undertake the Covid-19 relief work on our behalf (all below pictures are provided by the respective organisations for our use):
Organisation: Divya Jyoti Mahila Vikash, Odisha, India (djmv.cfsites.org)
Amount donated: 2,500.00 Euros
Activity: Distribution of food rations and hygiene articles
People served: 400 households
Organisation: Institution for Culture and Rural Development, Assam, India
Amount donated: 5,000.00 Euros
Activity: Distribution of food rations and facemasks
People served: 516 families
Organisation: Jukumu Letu, Kenya (www.jukumukenya.org)
Amount donated: 1,500.00 Euros
Activity: Distribution of food rations, water drums, clean water and soap.
People served: 300 families
Organisation: Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation, Nepal (www.krmef.com)
Amount donated: 2,809.00 Euros
Activity: Distribution of food rations
People served: 400 families
Organisation: The Zuri Initiative, Kenya (www.zuri-initiative.com)
Amount donated: 2,000.00 Euros
Activity: Distribution of food rations and handmade face masks and soap
People served: 50 families (to date). Remaining funds are to be utilised to help women set up vertical gardens (see “New Projects Approved”)
Update on ongoing projects
As mentioned earlier, funds that FrauenPower had allocated for women’s empowerment programs for this year were diverted towards Covid-19 relief work as we did not have sufficient funds to support both activities. This, plus the lockdowns in these countries, has meant that we have had very few active projects so far this year: - The Zuri Initiative Women’s Empowerment Program, in partnership with The Zuri Initiative, Nairobi, Kenya, is to resume its training this month after a 5-month Covid-19-forced break. Some of the 50 women, in 5 different groups, who registered for the soft, technical and entrepreneurial training courses in March 2020, will either be taught face-to-face in large classrooms or via Zoom, depending on the infrastructure available and conditions on the ground. One of the groups (Stawi) in Kibera, however, continued volunteering and doing social work during the “semi-lockdown” (night curfews and restricted movement during the day) in Kenya, despite the health risks they faced. This small group of women accumulated a number of social capital credits (SoCCs, a concept developed by our partner Asia Initiatives) by helping make face-masks and hand-soap, with their distribution and that of food rations to the needy. This group is going to use their community-SoCCs to “acquire” a sewing machine to start a tailoring business that makes face-masks amongst other things! They used their individual SoCCs to mostly acquire, and further sell, Zuri hair-care products. - The project, Empowering Adolescents and Young Women through Menstrual Hygiene Management, in partnership with Divya Jyoti Mahila Vikash (DJMV), Odisha, India, had made considerable progress until Covid-19 disrupted the awareness campaign and brought the production of sanitary napkins to a halt. The following was achieved by April 2020:
o Awareness was created among 263 adolescent girls and young women, on menstrual hygiene practices, in 10 project villages and other surrounding villages, through video shows, information material and awareness camps.
o Skills were enhanced on production of napkins, and its packaging process, among women self-help groups (SHGs).
o A collective woman-led social enterprise, the Sanitary Napkin Production Unit, was established by the SHG members at Gopalpur, and they now produce the “Happy” brand of sanitary pads.
o Adolescent girls started using these sanitary napkins during their menstrual cycle and started avoiding the unhygienic methods practiced earlier.
o 128 women SHG members were trained on menstrual hygiene management.
o 12 women SHG leaders were trained on social marketing of napkins in rural areas.
o 5 retail outlets were engaged in marketing of napkins in rural areas.
We were sent the following story by DJMV, that we would like to share with our readers: “Ms. Sibani, aged 18 is an adolescent girl from Venkatraipur village of Rangeilunda block. She was not aware of menstrual periods until she first faced first it. Nobody had informed her about it. She was very afraid to share this with her parents. She felt that it was a disease. When she got her periods, her mother asked her to use a cloth. She was putting this cloth under other clothes to dry it. In this period, she was not able to attend school. When she became a member of Kishori Manadal (girls club), she could clarify her doubts and discuss things openly with the trainer. Now she uses Happy sanitary pads, does not miss her classes and is encouraging others to use the affordable pads.”
- The Centre for Development (CfD, www.cfdngo.org), Ahmedabad, India, set up the Kadam Resource Centre for Girls (KRCG), with partial support from FrauenPower, to provide teenage girls from severe home environments (slums, single parent household, abusive parents, ethnic minorities, sexual abuse, etc.) with counselling, therapy, education, and training. At the beginning of the Covid crisis, Kadam staff spent time supporting the 30 girls and their families survive the pandemic with food rations and informing them about where they could get further help. Counselling (via Zoom, Whatsapp, telephone, etc.) also took on a large part of the staff’s time, especially as the economic crisis, triggered by Covid-19 and the lockdown, made the situation at home more stressful. Some of our funds were used to buy tablets, and credit time, for the girls which meant that they were able to continue with their therapy and learning. However, due to the Covid-19 lockdowns, more cases of domestic violence where reported in the areas (slums) where the girls live, often due to unemployed, frustrated men being at home most of the time. This meant that at times, both the mothers and their daughters require(d) counselling. There has also a lot of pressure from the parents for the girls to stop virtual classes or learning, and instead help out with the household chores, go out to work, or even to just get married. The following is a comment from one of the girls' uncle (copied from a report sent to us by Centre for Development):
“There is no point in educating girls beyond high school; it is a waste. Such girls become a liability for the family. Their marriage becomes difficult with every passing year, and they do not fit into their marital homes (sasari) once they are educated beyond high school. And after all this education what are they going to do? Are they going to become doctors or collectors?” (The latter are district magistrates who collect land revenue).
Over the past 4 months, Ahmadabad has seen over a hundred reported suicides from the areas where these girls live. This is at least 10 times the "normal" number of suicides. On a happy note, despite all the constraints in the past few months, 3 girls from this Centre completed their higher secondary certificate examination and have secured admission in St. Xavier’s College, Ahmadabad, one of the best colleges in the city!
New projects approved for funding
FrauenPower would like to refocus its efforts on women’s empowerment projects again (instead of feeding people, as in the past 6 months) and is supporting the following projects in the next 12 months. Two of these projects, however, include initiatives that will hopefully help women and their families survive such a pandemic in the future:
- Together with the Shohratgarh Environmental Society (SES, www.sesindia.org), Siddharthnagar, Uttar Pradesh, India, and the Asia Initiatives (www.asiainitiatives.org), New York, FrauenPower will be supporting the “Digital Empowerment for Lucknow Adolescent Girls” initiative. The objective of this program is to invest in young girls and equip them with skills, confidence and life options, and help with their needs of mobility, connectivity, safety, and economic opportunities. The project will address vulnerabilities of young girls living in the social, cultural, and economic settings of a slum. According to SES, of the girls raised in slums of Lucknow: 51% will get married before 18 years, 56% are anemic, 72% of those who got married early received no education, and 14% became pregnant when they were teenagers. The joint project we will be working on will focus on empowerment of 1,200 young girls, aged 15- 21 years, through 13 Girl Resource Centres covering 20 slums of Lucknow. Issues that young girls face will be identified to provide them with the appropriate support, also involving parents, community leaders and service providers. Access to basic services such as health, education, nutrition and hygiene will also be made available to the girls. Peer groups of ”Girl to Girl” will be encouraged to support each other. Girls will also be provided with knowledge and support to access government services and schemes available to them. - Another project that we are supporting, together with Asia Initiatives, is the Promotion of Kitchen Gardens among Marginal Tribal Communities of Gajapatri in Odisha, India. The implementation of this project will be done by Voluntary Integration for Education and Welfare of Society (VIEWS, www.viewsindia.org.in). The project objectives are to enhance social and economic empowerment of women, by doing good deeds through the social capital credits model, and to promote organic kitchen gardens and sustainable agriculture among marginal tribal communities through women self-help groups. With men from this area having migrated to work in bigger towns, the women folk are left behind to tend their own limited plot of land (or that they rent). Yet, many of these women lack knowledge on improved methods of agriculture and stick to their primitive, time-consuming, methods of farming that also use high-priced chemical fertilizers. In 10 villages, this project will strengthen and train 30 women self-help groups on organic farming, promote 300 household level organic kitchen gardens, train 300 women on organic kitchen gardens, start organic manure and vermin compost pits, plant 300 trees within a year, start cleanliness campaigns, and create seeds banks for seeds conservation, among others.
- FrauenPower, in association with The Zuri Initiative, Nairobi, Kenya, and the women’s groups they work with, is sponsoring the setting up of Vertical Gardens for at least 100 women and their families (total impact in the range of 500-800 people), in informal settlements of Kibera and Mathare, Ngong Town. These “vertical gardens” are basically large plant growing bags that occupy little space and allow leafy vegetables to be grown on approx. 30 sq. ft. Crops that fare well, and that are widely grown, are kale, spinach and spring onions, vegetables which families also prefer to consume on a daily basis. One such bag is said to have the capacity of feeding a 6-member household, can produce vegetables throughout the year, and is strong enough to last for 3 years. Such gardens require less water and improve land productivity, owing to the fact that the space utilization is minimal. Each woman will be given a growing bag, mash wiring required to stabilize the bags, compost, seeds to start with, and training on how to start and look after their gardens. Adoption of these gardens is not only innovative but also addresses the principles of good nutrition, especially during the current Covid-19-inflicted circumstances where access to food (of whatever sort) is/was limited and restricted. With many urban populations turning to urban farming, to improve on food productivity, vertical gardens provide the necessary solutions to space issues, earning an income by selling surplus produce and, most importantly, for consumption of healthy vegetables. Such vertical gardening is sustainable and scalable, and most suitable for the informal settlements that Zuri works in.
Plant a tree of fruit One of our partner organisations in Nepal, Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation (www.krmef.com), that does wonderful work to address the needs of the very poor and those suffering from leprosy, has recently started a campaign to plant trees on a large scale, not just to combat the climate crisis but also to provide people with something to eat and sell during a crisis like the one we currently face. They are encouraging the planting of fruit trees in the communities they work in. Mayuri planted an avocado tree at KRMEF, 6 years ago, that now bears fruit and which has provided some nutritious calories to people during the recurring lockdowns in Kathmandu. If you wish to plant a tree, contact them either directly or FrauenPower; planting a tree comes with the attached certificate.
Wishing you all good health, The FrauenPower e.V. Team