Monday, March 24, 2008

Empowerment, Education, and Self-sufficiency – The Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation

Laura is planning a trip to the Sudan this May to volunteer with the Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation. The Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation is a Cambridge, Massachusetts based non-profit organization that, according to their website, helps "Sudanese women and girls realize their highest potential for personal and social growth through self-empowerment, education, and self-sufficiency. Our goal is to promote positive change in women's lives and enhance the communities in which they live."

John R.: "Good morning Laura. Thank you for taking the time to give us a little insight on what it is that the
Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation does. Please briefly describe what that is."

Laura: "Basically, we promote women's empowerment, education, and self sufficiency through various initiatives on both the local and national levels. In the Boston area we hold film screenings, fundraisers, and other events to raise awareness about the status of women in Sudan as well as to raise money for our programs. Through our website,
http://sudanreach.org, we work with volunteers around the country who raise money through online fundraising pages as well as through planning events in their communities.

"Our current programs include: The Empower-a-Woman Campaign, The Sudan-Reach Scholarship Program, The Women's Education Initiative, The Orphan Project, and The Women's Self-Sufficiency Project. We will also be taking a group of volunteers to Sudan for two weeks this May to rebuild schools, help refugees, distribute relief supplies, teach, and visit orphanages.

"Sudan-Reach is unique in that we are staffed entirely by women who work on a volunteer basis. All of the funds we raise go directly to our programs and the women who need it most in Sudan."

John: "I have a simple question that might not have a simple answer - Can you tell me why the
Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation is necessary? In other words, can you shed some light on the issues women face in that part of the world?”

Laura: "Absolutely. We feel one of the most problematic aspects of the conflict in Sudan is the overall lack of women's human rights. Even though women traditionally lack many rights in Sudan regardless of the conflicts that have occurred there, the current situation in Darfur has worsened an already dire human rights situation.

"One example is the sexual violence that is a huge problem not only in Darfur, but also in the refugee camps. This pressing issue, however, tends be overlooked not only within the camps, but also on the global humanitarian level. Women in the refugee camps who have been raped fear reporting it because of the social stigma that is attached to women who have been sexually abused. Many women choose not to report the abuse for fear of being ostracized and consequently forgo any medical treatment and/or emotional support. The few women who do report being raped are often shunned by their friends and family because of it.

"Another common problem for Sudanese women occurs because many women lose their husbands to the ongoing violence in Darfur. As a result, they are left with no means to support themselves and their children because they never received proper education or job training.

"Our goal is to help any woman or girl in Sudan who faces poverty and distress as a result of the ongoing conflicts happening there by providing them with the means to empower themselves and become self-sufficient। We plan to accomplish this through our programs that foster women's education, support orphanages around the country, promote self-sufficiency through micro-economic projects and business opportunities for women, and we offer small grants to Sudanese women.

"We hope that by providing these women with the means to heal themselves and their communities through education and self-sufficiency that we can slowly change the social structure in Sudan to be more accepting of women's education and empowerment."

John: “It sounds like Sudan-Reach is impacting the lives of so many Sudanese women from across the Atlantic. What are you expecting to see, learn and/or experience when you visit Sudan during your volunteer trip in May?”

Laura: "Although our Director, Loloa Ibrahim, who is from Khartoum, has described to me many times what I can expect to see there in terms of the harsh divide between rich and poor as well as the abysmal conditions in the refugee camps, I know that these images will still come as a shock to me when I see them up close and in person for the first time. I hope to learn as much as I can about the conditions that women in Sudan are facing because the more we know about them the more we can do to help.

"After the trip, I plan on using my experience in Sudan not only as a reference point for my work with Sudan-Reach, but also as a way to let as many people as I can know what the situation for women is like there from my own point of view. Lots of people have read about or heard on TV something about the condition of women in Sudan, but when you can actually hear someone you know recount their personal experience there, the situation becomes that much more real to the listener. The more real the situation becomes to a person, the harder it is for them to ignore it."

John: “I think you should be applauded for this effort and for your desire to take action to cause positive and lasting change in the lives of Sudanese women. Do you have any stories of how you’ve seen Sudan-Research cause positive change in the lives of the women you serve?”

Laura: "I think the most heartening thing I've seen while working for Sudan-Reach is the overwhelmingly positive response from women and girls all over the US to the plight of women in Sudan. We've had girls in high school from places like rural Tennessee who could easily feel disconnected from the suffering of women in Sudan, yet they choose to be proactive and contact us asking what they can do to help, instead of just feeling powerless over the situation.

"I believe women everywhere, regardless of country or background, can feel this connection to one another if they are made aware of it and open themselves up to it. I've found that women's empowerment can by cyclical; not only are we helping women in Sudan empower themselves by giving them access to education, we are also in turn empowering women in the US by showing them that regardless of where they live or how old they are, it is still possible for them to make a difference in the lives of Sudanese women."

John: “Thank you Laura. We’ve learned a lot about Sudan-Reach and how important a role that it plays in bettering the lives of women in the Sudan.”

Every day the
Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation continues to advance its mission of creating positive change in women's lives and enhancing the communities in which they live. Through their many programs they have seen many lives changed for the better. With the help of donations from supporters such as you and from the efforts of volunteers such as Laura, I truly hope they continue to see improvements in the care they provide.

If you would like to support Laura in her effort to visit the Sudan, please visit
her fundraising page. If you would like to learn more about the Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation please visit their website.

3 comments:

Tanya Middleton said...

Programs like these are so contagiously inspiring. We forget how blessed we are living in America, and having the resources and opportunities that we have to succeed. I heard about programs such as these that either helps start, or involve investing in third world business developers who are closed off from most resources that will benefit global growth and stability. I highly recommend you take a look at Microsoft's new Office Live Small Businesses. It's a fantastic business manager that keeps things organized while offering the latest in online businesses. The Office Live is so easy to use and you will be amazed at how many resources and options you can choose from to help promote growth in your business. Definitely take a look at http://smallbusiness.officelive.com for further info. I hope I was able to contribute some valuable assists to your cause, and let me know if you have any more questions!

John R said...

Today’s(3/25/08) featured NYT Op-Ed article is “Make Sudan an Offer It Can’t Refuse.” To read, cut & Paste this: (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/25/opinion/25helprin.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin)

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