"The program 'has dared me to hope-of having a house, of living in peace, of reclaiming my dynamism, my dignity. If not director of a school, I would like to be someone of importance, someone of value again.'"--Honorata (pictured left) about her experience with Women for Women International.
A month ago I listened to Christine Karumba, the Country Director for Women for Women International in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tell Honorata's story on the Voices on Genocide Prevention podcast. The show ended, and I immediately signed up to be a Women for Women International sponsor.
Here is a small excerpt from Honorata's story from the Women for Women International site:
"It was in 2002 that the world turned upside down and Honorata lost the signs of a "true and nice life" that she and her husband had built. She was captured and tortured by the armed militias. She was gang raped, sexually abused, forced to endure unimaginable humilities. Honorata's days blended into one another until the moment another marauding band stormed the camp. In the confusion, she escaped.Honorata joined Women for Women International in August 2004.
With nowhere to go, no food, nothing but the torn cloth she wore, Honorata walked. And walked. And walked. Through the blistering heat and through rain storms, she walked over 150 miles to Bukavu, a village that had become a haven for people fleeing the war. There she found her five children who had survived by the kindness of strangers. Reunited, she began to rebuild their life."
"Honorata joined a small group of women who also suffered in war. Each had their own stories of horror, of lives lost, and of struggling to regain their dignity. Together they shared their lives, their hopes and dreams. They sat side by side to discuss the role of women in rebuilding society, women's rights and the new Constitution, and family law. They learned about reproductive health issues, such as their anatomy, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and child birth.In the Voices of Genocide Prevention interview, Christine Karumba said that Honorata now works for Women for Women International training other women to, "understand their role in participating in rebuilding of their community. And one of their roles is to bring their voice."
In small groups, the women learned basic business and marketing skills. They enrolled in special job skills classes designed to meet the market needs of their community. They talked about the economic value of housework, and the importance of education and literacy in gaining economic independence."
Women for Women is a nonprofit that pairs women survivors of war with women sponsors all over the world. Sponsors give $27/month to fund a survivor's basic needs, as well as seed money to start income generating projects. Survivors can also participate in rights awareness and leadership education training, job skills training, and business development support. The program works in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and Sudan. In addition to supplying financial support, sponsors are asked to exchange letters each month with the woman they are helping.
Sissel of the Sissel Byington Photography blog sponsors a women each year.
Denise of the Denise in Africa blog visited one of the program's facilities in Kigali.
Ellee Seymour of the ProActive blog signed up to be a sponsor after meeting Women for Women International's founder, Zainab Salbi, at a Conservative Women’s Organization conference.
Zainab Salbi is the author of Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing up in the Shadow of Saddam, and The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope. She received the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award in 2007. In a recent post on The Huffington Post, she wrote about Women for Women International's work in Kosovo:
"For long-term peace and stability to succeed in Kosovo, women's priorities and recommendations must be part of Kosovo's national agenda. However, most of the people engaged in this conversation are men acting in their professional capacities as diplomats, government officials and advisors, with very few women speaking on behalf of anyone or anything. Women are simply not at the negotiating table.If you want to help women survivors of war to get their lives back, and to have their voices heard, consider becoming a Women for Women International sponsor. I did.
In an attempt to amplify the voices of the women, Women for Women International surveyed more than 1,600 Kosovar women on subjects that extended beyond 'women's rights' or 'women's issues,' delving more broadly into the economic, social and political issues that affect all of Kosovo."
Photo of Honorata used with permission from Women for Women International.