often bear the brunt of war, poverty and disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Whether
it be brutal rapes in Darfur and eastern Congo or the toll taken by HIV/AIDS,
women often receive little help dealing with the consequences. But the NGO Women
for Women says it's working to rebuild lives to help women regain their
strength and stature in society.
2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in Sudan, ending the long
civil war between north and south. But four years later, many have yet to reap
the peace dividends, as fighting among militias continues and tensions simmer
again between Khartoum and Juba.
Mayik, country director in Sudan for the group Women for Women, says women face
many war-related and other obstacles.
war destroyed everything. There is lack of infrastructure. No development. No
basic needs for human beings, especially women. And also, after the peace
agreement, women are facing another war, which is the culture. They can't own
land. They can't do some other major activities for themselves," she says.
says that until the entire country is at peace, it will be difficult to help
all those in need.
there is a wound in one of your body parts, you cannot feel peaceful and you
cannot feel well. So, the war in Darfur is challenging us. The war in Abyei is
challenging us. The peace agreement is a challenge to be implemented.
is a town in South Kurdufan, linking north and south Sudan. It's the site of
much of the country's oil production and the cause of much tension. A 2011
referendum may determine whether Abyei belongs to the north or south.
help deal with poverty and lack of development, Women for Women has obtained
land for farming in the town of Rumbek.
year, we got 90 hectares of land from the community leaders. They give it to
use forever, 99 years, and we call it CIFI – Commercial Integrated farming
Initiative. It is an agro-business for the women. Women are cultivating more
than 21 types of vegetables," she says.
communities and businesses now depend on produce from the farm. And Mayik says
that income from the farm has changed women's lives.
benefit from the farm in many ways. First, for themselves. They say we're
looking smart now. We've changed our lifestyles. They are sending their kids to
the schools, to the hospitals," Mayik says.
the beginning, men were opposed to women starting their own business, saying it
went against the culture. Now that they've seen the benefits, they support it,
even to the extent they make sure their wives wake up in time to get to work.
not only in countries affected by war that Women for Women has projects. Ngozi
Uchenna Eze is the group's country director in Nigeria, working mainly in Enugu
and Plateau States.
people we work with are usually the very socially excluded. I mean the very
vulnerable groups, very poor women. The majority of our program participants
are illiterates. They don't have access to credit. Sometimes it's difficult for
them to get legal justice. We also have the issue of health – lack of health
facilities in the rural communities. It impacts a lot on the reproductive
health rights of the women," she says.
says illiteracy makes it difficult for women keep business records.
instance, we encourage our women to form cooperatives and they have to keep
records of their accounts of their sales. So, you know, it's very difficult
because they do not have numerical skills," she says.
Women for Women education programs open the door to starting a business.
says, "We encourage the illiterate women to come to the banks to open bank
accounts. Initially, they said, no, we are scared of coming to town. That is
only the wealthy ones that have bank accounts. But I'm happy to say now that they
operate bank accounts and they come to the bank to withdraw, to deposit money.
And people are wondering where these women are coming from and they say the
Women for Women group."
of those women going to the bank deposit money earned through their business enterprise
in Ekoliokpanku in Enugu State.
would say one of the success stories – 640 women used the sponsorship funds to
start a mini rice mill and factory in their community. They see it as a way of
increasing their income generating capacity," she says.
money enables women to travel to health clinics, enroll their children in
school, buy food and pay their debts. Eze
says, "It also gives them confidence. Increases their self-esteem. And they now
know they are worthwhile human beings and they can also participate in the
decision-making processes in their community."
for Women has programs in four sub-Saharan African countries, as well as in
Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.