Monday, April 30, 2007

Let Your Own Light Shine

"And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

-Nelson Mandela

Monday, April 23, 2007

Why We Should Act!

“Less than 10 per cent of the children who have been orphaned or made vulnerable by AIDS receive public support or services.”

(Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Get all girls into school and give them a fighting chance against HIV

Across the world today, one in every five girls of primary school age are not in school. When girls miss out, not only are they denied the chance to learn to read and write, earn a living and participate in democracy, it also puts their lives in jeopardy. Education gives women and girls the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to protect themselves against HIV and AIDS. The Global Campaign for Education is calling on world leaders to join up and take urgent action now. They must ensure everyone, especially girls, can go to school and get the education needed to fight for their rights. Poorer countries need to enact policies that will make school free, accessible and safe for girls and boys, whilst rich countries must live up to promises repeatedly made, and still not fulfilled, to increase aid in support of these policies.

Around the world, 80 million children - mostly girls - are out of school
. Eight hundred million adults, mostly women, cannot read and write. Yet free education has been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights since 1948.

Giving girls the chance to learn to read and write not only fulfils their right to an education – but it also helps them in challenging the many power imbalances between men and women, and crucially in protecting themselves against HIV.

In a survey carried out last year 30 per cent of girls in South Africa said that their first sexual experience was under force or threat of force. When it comes to HIV and AIDS women and girls fare the worst – accounting for 74 per cent of young people living with HIV in Africa.

At present many women simply do not have the power they need to decide who to have sex with, when to have sex and how to have safe sex. Education can give women a chance to challenge this situation. The more education women and girls receive, the better they are able to negotiate safer sex and HIV rates. This is clearly demonstrated in Swaziland, where two in three girls who are in school are HIV negative, while two in three of girls out of school are HIV positive.

Girls who complete primary school are 50 per cent less likely to be infected with HIV. Seven million cases of HIV could be prevented in a decade if all children attended primary school.

Not only are educated girls better able to protect their own health but they are also able to make informed choices that can protect the health of their family and earn a greater income, giving them more bargaining power within the home:
~The children of women who can read and write are 50 per cent more likely to live past the age of 5.
~In poor countries, each year of schooling increases girls' future earning power by 10-20 per cent.

The Global Campaign for Education asks that leaders no longer turn a blind eye whilst the rights of women and girls are denied. Give them a fighting chance. Ensure education is of high quality, free and accessible to everyone, especially girls.

Click here to read the entire article!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sex work thrives as girls struggle to survive

ZIMBABWE: Sex work thrives as girls struggle to survive
Photo: IRIN
Dressed in a tiny white skirt and a top, Linda, 16, (not her real name) struts into a nightclub in Madlambuzi, a sprawling rural settlement in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland South Province. Swinging to the deafening music, she scans the room for potential customers.

She joins a group of visibly drunk girls with pints of clear beer in their hands. Sex work is a last resort of girls desperate to make a living in this poverty-stricken village, or just to "get money to feed our families," Linda told IRIN.

"I was deported as an illegal emigrant from Botswana in December last year, where I used to work as a maid. I have no means of getting money to feed myself and my little child. This is why I am here," she said.

"My parents died two years ago, and I am the one responsible to fend for my two siblings and my only child. They look forward to me to bring food home. There are no jobs here, [and] food is very expensive," she added.

Desperate times
Gordon Chavhunduka, sociologist and political commentator, said Zimbabwe's "social fabric is fast collapsing, just the way the economy is. It's sad that people, especially the vulnerable ones - let alone young girls - would do terrible things just to survive in this economy. It's a sad story."

Linda has many difficulties to contend with besides soaring food prices and the rocketing inflation that has sent the economy into a tailspin, but worst, she feels, is facing criticism from her neighbors and relatives for selling her body.

According to village elders, sex work has been spreading rapidly in rural Matabeleland, especially where there are drinking spots or nightclubs. "These girls are a disgrace. We know survival is not easy, especially considering that commodities are expensive in shops and the there are no jobs, both here [countryside] and in towns, but selling their bodies is wrong," said Methuseli Dumani, a village elder. "We have tried talking to some of them to abandon their evil deeds but they would not listen. Each time the sun sets, you see them trickling in [the club] and start soliciting. We don't know how they can be stopped, at least for the preservation of our culture, which disapproves of prostitution," he added.

Linda and her colleagues know they are seen as immoral people, but say they have no choice. "I know what I am doing is wrong - it is even forbidden in the Bible - but there is no other means through which I can make a living. If I don't go out and sell my body, then my family will starve. Relatives and neighbours say I am a disgrace, but when I go to them and ask for maizemeal or money to help the family, they just look aside; yet they love to be critical."

After a while, Linda gets a "customer", a bald-headed man old enough to be her father, and disappears with him. 'Anita', another sex worker, said the poverty ravaging Matabeleland often forced girls as young as 13 to sell their bodies.

"Save for those who have breadwinners in South Africa and Botswana, many families here have no one looking after them at all. Many of us dropped out of school because our parents could not afford the school fees," she said.

Despite the dangers
Anita is adamant that she understands the dangers of sex work. "Everyone knows there is AIDS; it has actually killed a lot of people here, and some are even ill right now. I am personally afraid of the disease and I always insist on the use of condoms," she said. "For an all-night session, I charge something like Z$200,000 [US$8 at the informal market rate], and half that amount for a short-time session, which normally lasts for only two hours," Anita explained. "Our customers are normally truck drivers who deliver beer from Bulawayo, and those who go or come from Botswana to deliver or collect some goods."

An official of the Matabeleland AIDS Council said a recent survey in southern Zimbabwe had revealed that rural Matabeleland was worst affected by the AIDS pandemic, mainly because of its proximity to South Africa and Botswana. According to 2005 UN estimates, HIV prevalence among people aged 15-49 was 18.8 percent in South Africa and 24.1 percent in Botswana, with Zimbabwe estimated at 20.1 percent.

"Many people in this province work in Botswana and South Africa. Often it's a single partner of the family, say a husband or a wife, and because they stay away from their partner for long, they end up engaging in extramarital relationships, which have the potential of spreading the virus," the official told IRIN.

"Prostitution is another cause [of spreading HIV infection], and it is sad that we are seeing it rearing its head in rural areas," he said. "It just shows how desperate people are."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

ETHIOPIA: I knew the risk I was taking, but my family had to eat

Via: PlusNews
Picture: PlusNews

Article:ETHIOPIA: I knew the risk I was taking, but my family had to eat

The following are excerpts from an article written and published by PlusNews:

By day, Aster Beyene [not her real name], 21, is a saleslady at a boutique in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa; by night she attends computer school. After losing her mother and older brother to AIDS-related illnesses, Beyene has been left with the responsibility of feeding and clothing her remaining siblings. "Even though I am the last born, I have experienced the struggle for survival first hand, and I vowed to rescue my family from the pit of poverty that seemed to get worse as the days went by. A middle-aged guy who lived next door had always had his eye on me, but I never considered going out with him before the problems at home.

I pushed all the frightening thoughts aside and opted to have a relationship with him; in return, he offered to give me money, including my tuition for night school. Despite repeated warnings from people in my community that he was infected with the HIV, I continued having sexual relations with him without protection. I was aware of what was at stake, but my family relied on me to provide for them and I felt I had no other option.

*Note all credit and references should be afforded to the authors/sources for this article.

A Simple Reflection...

by: Nasir Al-Amin
I wrote this to a friend today and thought I would share it….

I think the best intentions and initiatives that address the plight of marginalized populations both domestically and abroad originate in the heart. And like in any relationship with the heart, the turning of the heart towards an individual or issues is a connection that could be instantaneous or gradual, but that connection—a station of the heart, which motivates one to love for humanity that which one love for oneself—is the aim. One of the responsibilities that comes with reaching and/or aspiring for this station of the heart, is to create an atmosphere and/or environments that will nurture that connection for others—so that this desire for the best for all is contagious. That’s actualized through the facilitation of presentations, workshops, downtime during meetings, and random conversations on the subway or at a dinner with the waiter/waitress.

One never knows what will be their moment of awakening, nor does one know what it will be for someone else, as I was oblivious to the magnitude and meaning behind my encounter with a little 5 year old street girl I bumped into in Mercato (a bustling market in Ethiopia). This girl was the spark that created ALIF. When I reflect on it now, this initiative to send 50 orphans and vulnerable children to school (the Hiwot Campaign) is merely a response to that “accidental” meeting with the 5 year-old child laborer in Ethiopia. That was my moment of turning, my awakening!

So yes, people will say to you that you are just one person and that’s true. However, the beauty in this whole process is that neither you nor the one that makes that statement knows the beauty inside that one child you will serve and what that encounter will awaken in you.

In difficulty I find solace in the following:
"Past the seeker as he prayed
came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten.
And seeing them... he cried
"Great God, how is it that a loving creator
can see such things and yet do nothing about them?"
God said "I did do something. I made you."
(Sufi Teaching)

Nasir Al-Amin

Overview of Services for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Ethiopia

by: Tsegaye Chernet
via: CRIN

The first part of the report attempts to give a “birds eye view” of basic statistical indicators in Ethiopia. Brief descriptions of the current situation of orphans and vulnerable children is also part of the report. The recurrent droughts as well as the civil unrest are discussed as major factors that influenced the expansion of institutional care. Subsequent discussions are made on problems associated with residential services for orphans. In this connection, a case of the ‘Ethiopian Orphanage’ is presented to help readers gain a better insight of the

Click here to read the article!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

ETHIOPIA: Urban farming boosts families affected by HIV

Via: PlusNews
Picture: PlusNews

Twelve-year-old Woinishet Wujura's dedication to her gardening duties would be surprising in someone her age, but the land she is tilling has been a lifeline for her and her family because the farm is run exclusively by and for women and children affected by AIDS."I love this garden," she told PlusNews. "I come as much as possible, as soon as school finishes." Woinishet's garden is one of many plots of land in an unusual setting: a sprawling urban farm in the middle of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.The farm, called 'Gordeme', is part of a successful urban gardening project that started in 2004 and now has several farms across Ethiopia, all managed and maintained by about 10,000 women or children.
Broad Benefits
The goals of the urban garden programme have been to combine HIV/AIDS education with nutritional support for HIV-positive people, but Kimberly Flowers, communications officer for USAID in Addis Ababa, said surplus vegetables were also sold to the surrounding community, providing much-needed income to the women and their families.An estimated 40,000 people buy their vegetables from the project's farms in Adama, Addis Ababa, Awassa, Bahir Dar, Dessie and Gondar, the six largest urban areas in Ethiopia.
The programme also helps reduce the huge social stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS. "The relationship with my neighbours has changed," said Akaki Kaliti, another single mother. "Before the garden they never came to my house. Now they come to my house for food."Ethiopia's HIV prevalence is estimated at about 3.5 percent, and of the estimated 1.32 million people living with HIV/AIDS in 2005, 55 percent - or 730,000 - were women.

YEMEN-AFRICA: Smugglers drown African migrants

Picture: IRIN

A group of 33 migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia died on Friday after smugglers forced them off their boat near the Yemeni shore, a Somali community leader in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, said on Monday. "Smugglers forced 120 [Ethiopian and Somali] migrants into the sea before anchoring at the shore for fear of the Yemeni coastguard authorities," Sadat Mohammed, head of refugee affairs in the Somali community in Sana'a, told IRIN. "Those who resisted were stabbed and beaten by smugglers, and then thrown into the stormy sea. Twenty of them were stabbed, and the shore became reddish as a result of the bleeding bodies," he added. According to Mohammed, Yemeni authorities buried the bodies in the local area. The victims were on three boats carrying 320 passengers in total that left the Somali port of Bossaso on 4 April and arrived in Bir Ali in Yemen’s southern province of Shabwa after a two-day perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden. Two other boats carrying 100 passengers each arrived safely. The incident came 15 days after at least 35 African migrants were confirmed dead and 113 missing while crossing the Gulf of Aden as traffickers forced 450 Somalis and Ethiopians off four boats into the sea off the Yemeni coast.

Friday, April 13, 2007

ETHIOPIA: New strategy to tackle reproductive health issues

Via: PlusNews
Picture: PlusNews

Ethiopia has launched a national strategy on adolescent and reproductive health that aims to tackle the problems of early marriages and pregnancies, female circumcision, abduction and rape, and poor access to healthcare for 10- to 24-year-olds. Launched by the health ministry in collaboration with United Nations agencies on Tuesday, the Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Strategy (AYRH) will be implemented over eight years.
  • The report cites the 2005 Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey which showed that 80 percent of women and half of men believed that there were situations when a husband was justified in beating his wife.

  • Another widespread issue was female genital mutilation. More than half of 15- to 19-year-old girls had been circumcised. Although support for this harmful practice was declining, about a quarter of 15- to 24-year-old girls believed it should continue.

  • The AYRH document noted that abduction was common, especially in Oromia and southern regional states, and young women in rural areas were twice as likely to be abducted. Nationwide, many married women reported having been abducted for marriage.

  • Rape was common in both rural and urban areas. A study in six peri-urban areas found that 9 percent of sexually active adolescent girls and six percent of boys had suffered rape.

  • Another study among street girls in the capital, Addis Ababa, found that 15 percent had experienced rape while 43 percent had been coerced into their first sexual activity. "

Click here to read the entire article!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Becoming Remarkable

"At a tender age I discovered that it isn't doing spectacular things that make you remarkable in the eyes of God, but instead, it is when you light just one candle to dispel a little bit of darkness that you are doing something tremendous. And if, as a global people, we put all the little bits of good together, we will overwhelm the world."
-- Archbishop Desmond Tutu


by Nasir Al-Amin

I want to take a moment to introduce as well as acknowledged someone whose actions exemplify the commitment needed to aid in the global struggle to raise awareness and liberate children from bondage of child labor and poverty. Her name is Feven Shiferaw. I met Feven six months ago at one of ALIF’s CAF (Civic Action Forum) meetings, when she introduced herself to me, in which she indicated her interest in joining ALIF’s efforts to alter the life of impoverished children in Ethiopia. When she introduced herself, I remember thinking to myself that her name was familiar, then I remembered that I received a financial contribution from her the prior week. I went on to thank her for contributing to the Hiwot (Life) Campaign, an initiative to send 50 children to school in Ethiopia, and she maintained that she wanted to do more. However, at that point I had no clue that she would subsequently enter a triathlon in an effort to raise awareness and funds for the orphans and vulnerable children of Ethiopia through the Hiwot (Life) Campaign.

By no stretch of the imagination is a triathlon a simple task. The Liberty to Liberty-America’s Memorial Triathlon consist of a one-mile swim in the Hudson River, 91-mile bike through New Jersey to Philadelphia and a 10K run along Phil’s Schuylkill River ending at Philadelphia’s Art Museum famous for its scenes in “Rocky.”

When Feven and another friend told me of their plans to do this triathlon, I must admit I was in awe of their commitment to affect change in the lives of Ethiopia’s orphans and vulnerable children and inspired to push myself to do more for our children!

In the coming week ALIF will dedicate a page to Feven’s efforts, which we hope will inspire others to join in this global effort to affect change in the lives of Ethiopia’s orphans and vulnerable children.

I’ll close with a reflection from Feven on why she decided to take action:

Saving lives,

When I first found out about the Hiwot Campaign the first thing that came to my mind was to check out the website, and then I thought to myself how can I help? Sure I can donate money, but I wanted to do more than donating, I wanted to raise awareness, get more of our generation involve to help kids in Africa to achieve a better life through education.

When you drive around the streets of Addis Ababa and see hundreds of children roaming the streets, it can be very overwhelming and disheartening. You just want to help all of them. We can change their lives by helping one child at a time.

We're blessed to live in a place of comfort and opportunity. I also feel doubly blessed to have the chance to share and give, to give them hope and opportunity. For me this is a journey, a journey to better children's lives through education.

Click here to find out how you can help Feven raise funds for the Hiwot (Life) Campagin!


Please come out and celebrate with the ESA of George Mason University (GMU) as they host their 6th Annual Cultural Show. This event promises to be one of excitement and purpose. Admission is FREE, however everyone is encouraged to bring a textbook to donate for Africa and/or a $5 donation. Lastly, ALIF will have a booth, as well as an opportunity to briefly speak about the Hiwot (Life) Campaign.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

Tuesday, April 10th
Located @ SUB II
(Student Union Building 2)
On the GMU Fairfax Campus

For more information contact
Ms. Yodit Gebreyes