Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day 2011

This time last year, Fine Design posted an article on International Women's Day. Last year's commemoration focused on calling attention to the hardships displaced women face due to armed conflicts in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Darfur. It's 2011 now and these issues are far from resolved; in fact, we can now add Libya to that geographic map. In any place or time in history where there is economic and political hardship, women (and children) are the most vulnerable. They are the most at risk for hunger, abuse, poverty, and all other forms of marginalization that makes it hard for them to prosper or even just to achieve their fullest potentials.

This year 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. This year's theme is: "Equal access to education, training, science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women." 

There are various organizations today that work to help uplift the condition of women in impoverished and war-torn parts of the world. They provide income-earning opportunities, access to tools such as cell phones and the Internet. Access to such tools, along with education and training, can help women to break the cycle of poverty, combat injustice and exercise their rights. Most of all, it empowers them to do something to improve the health and well-being of their families.
Rwandan women weaving their famous baskets
Here's an old but nonetheless still shocking stastic. During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, about one million people were massacred. After the genocide, 70% of the survivors were women. These widows who lost their husbands to war, now have to support themselves and what was left of their families. Still more are raising children alone because they have lost their husbands to HIV-AIDS, which afflicts some 250,000 people in Rwanda, a country with a population of less than 9 million. The money made from these beautiful baskets provide critical income for these women and their children. 
One such  organization is the Path to Peace Project. Perhaps you have seen those colorful woven baskets sold at places such as Costco and Macy's among others. The Path to Peace project has dramatically changed the lives of many Rwandans not only through the sale of the baskets they create but also through having a sense of purpose through this industry that they have. The Rwanda Basket Company is another example. The vision of the Rwanda Basket Company is to empower the impoverished women of Rwanda to rise above their subsistence level existence by providing them with the training, tools and support needed to sell their baskets in the west. While aid creates dependency, fair trade benefits everyone and is more valuable because it comes from what people are able to do using their skills, using their knowledge, using their strength.

The projects employ thousands of weavers who are organized locally in smaller weaving groups throughout the Rwanda. Amazingly, every group consists of both Hutu and Tutsi weavers, women from both sides of the 1994 conflict. They work side-by-side, weaving, talking, working to earn their livings and in the process, building durable, respectful relationships across barriers that once seemed insurmountable.
Courtesy of www.rwandabaskets.com

Colorful Rwandan baskets, www.macys.com

For information and how to help:

In Orange County, Human Options is an organization that helps women who have faced domestic violence. To volunteer or help, check out their website:

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