We are thrilled to congratulate Tostan, a leading Senegalese organization working to end female circumcision in Africa, for winning the world's largest humanitarian prize awarded by the Los Angeles-based Hilton Foundation.
An early Global Fund grantee, Tostan's model and campaigns have been feted for being sustainable and innovative by the likes of UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Tostan, means "Breakthrough," in the West African language of Wolof, and was established by its founder Molly Melching, to reduce the high rates of illiteracy in Senegal, through education and literacy programs involving village women's groups.
Its focus today continues in rural regions in West and East Africa providing basic education and increasing community engagement in programs related to health , child welfare, human rights and democracy, the environment, and economic development.
Since 1991, Tostan has implemented its programs in over 2,600 communities in nine countries in Africa.Using traditional song, poetry, theatre and dance to educate people in West African villages about the dangers of FGM, Tostan's outreach has now expanded into five other countries consisting of diverse ethnic groups in West and East Africa, including , Guinea, The Gambia, Mauritania, Somalia, and Djibouti. Its grassroots approach to dealing sensitively with the issue of FGM has been widely acclaimed as a highly successful model for reducing the practice.
We have been receiving information from some of our grantees in Peru about the damages of the 7.9 –magnitude earthquake that struck the Peruvian coast on Thursday. The death toll stands at 510 and is expected to rise. Hundreds have been injured and more that 80,000 have been forced to abandon their homes. According to our grantee Centro para el Desarrollo Urbano y Rural, the worst damage occurred in the provinces of Cañete, Pisco, Chincha and Ica, where most of the population is rural, indigenous and Afro-descendent.
Communication systems have been disrupted, and major highways have been damaged, hindering rescue and response efforts. We have sent solidarity letters to our grantees and network of formal and informal advisors in the country, expressing our concern and outlining our grantmaking abilities. Some of our current grantees in the affected areas have been encouraged to use their grants for activities and relief efforts that are most critical at this time. We have also received a request for additional support from VIDA, a Global Fund grantee, as its shelters for lesbians survivors of violence have been severely damaged. We are sharing information and referring our grantees to other partners and funders.
Logon to the Global Fund blog for more updates on this crisis through our grantees.
On May 21st, I celebrated my 16th birthday and wanted to have a "Sweet 16" party and invite a lot of friends. My parents and I discussed the party and we all decided that my birthday party would also find a way to make a contribution back to our community, either locally or globally. My idea was to ask all of my guests not to bring birthday gifts for me, but instead make a donation to a charity of my choice. I choose to have my friends and their families donate money to the Global Fund for Women.
I chose the Global Fund as a result of having attended a fundraising breakfast earlier this year, at my middle school. One of the honorary speakers was Kavita Ramdas, who spoke about her work at the Global Fund for Women. I liked the stories she told, the passion she showed for her work. Afterwards, I wondered what I could do to make a difference in the world.
I had 116 of my friends attend my party on June second, and together we raised a total of $2,480 for the Global Fund for Women! People contributed through checks, cash and online donations. My mother and I were very surprised when we counted all the donations and realized how much money had been collected! It is a testament to how inspired local teenagers and their families were by this opportunity. My birthday and the party were a lot of fun, but I feel even better when I think that all of us together have helped to make a difference in the world for women's rights, for human rights and for greater global compassion. This was one of the best things I have ever done and I am really proud of how well it all turned out.
Erin Piper will be entering her junior year at Gunn High School in Palo Alto this Fall.
We recently received sad news from the Positive Women's Network, a Global Fund grantee in South Africa. Sizakele Sigasa a staff member with the group was murdered earlier this month for advocating the rights of the Gay and Lesbian community in South Africa. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission published this release on the murder:
The South African lesbian and gay communities through the Joint Working Group* and partner organisations STRONGLY CONDEMN the killing of Sizakele Sigasa (34) and Salome Masooa (23) from a township in Johannesburg. They were found (Sunday 8th July) murdered, execution style, in a nearby field in Meadowlands; a shocking image that is not so new in South Africa in the light of the recent increase in violence and rape against women either identified as, suspected of or supporting lesbian and gay rights.
Gays and lesbians are men and women, human beings who deserve equal rights and treatment - not to be ridiculed or called names, beaten, tortured, raped or killed. These gross human rights violations are not just inhuman and barbaric - they must not be tolerated! Sizakele and Salome's killers, like everyone else, HAD NO RIGHT TO THREATEN OR KILL THEM!!
Violence against lesbians and gays is unSouth African. Here, oppression and discrimination have no place, still there are parents who reject or kick children out to the streets; siblings, friends and communities who hurt, beat, rape, torture and even kill lesbians and gays. If they survive all this, they face further victimisation at in the hands of the police and even the courts - THIS IS NOT JUSTICE AT ALL. People who inflict harm upon and even kill lesbians and gays (or anyone else) do not belong in South Africa. Leaders and communities that do not oppose violence against gays, lesbians, women, children, rape survivors and HIV+ people do not belong here.
1) We call on the Meadowlands Police Services to investigate this matter - efficiently and rigorously;
2) We call on other state bodies and communities to support the families by working with the Police and the Prosecuting Authorities towards ensuring that the killers are brought to book.
We express our deepest condolences to the bereaved families and friends. We offer our support to the colleagues and comrades as they mourn the death of these two precious women.