International Women's Day

International Women's Day - Why are You Here Instead of Her? - Revisited

Two years ago, on International Women’s Day, I reflected on a question that was posed to me live on Sierra Leone National Television. "Why do we need another white man telling us about the work that is going on in our own country? If this is another woman's school, why isn't she on the television? Why are you here instead of her?" I want to revisit that story.

Some 8 years ago now, that journey to Sierra Leone also yielded other unintended impacts. Because I had been visible in the community, the landlord at the time, who had taken over the original building Esther’s school resided in, threatened to increase rent rates. and began calling me personally demanding an absurd price to buy the building outright - one of many reasons we moved the school.

International Women’s Day Logo

International Women’s Day Logo

When I was studying International Development, my anthropology professor at the University of Toronto would talk about the power dynamic inherent in development. Simply by being present in the community, there are impacts that are often unanticipated. Because of my origin in the West, even during my first visit to Sierra Leone as an undergraduate student, and as a man, I was ascribed authority although in the midst of people who were experts in their own communities. I realized shortly after my arrival that the way many organizations think of development was coloured by a sense of “white saviour” thinking.

This photo of Esther and I that I use often is actually IN the greenroom before that very interview

This photo of Esther and I that I use often is actually IN the greenroom before that very interview

I am grateful that interviewer reminded me of the dynamic I was creating - and to be mindful of. Going on air was Esther’s idea, because she believed doing so provided credibility for Women in Action by demonstrating the school’s international connections. However, I should have brought her on air with me - a missed opportunity to empower someone else and create space for equity while reminding audiences that a local woman is champion and entrepreneur of this project.

Remaining as Esther’s echo, rather than Esther’s voice, is important to us and I was reminded of that conviction by the interviewer. This is why, wherever possible, I try to ensure the Women in Action Development Project can also share a first person voice. So, on that note, new videos! (below). This video shows the catering classes preparing breakfast for Esther and the staff as a review of things they’ve learned. All this is happening because of you. If not for your recent donations, the school would not presently be open. Furthermore, with some of the funds left over from our most recent donations, Esther said that we were able to help cover some outstanding teacher salary payments. Thank you ALL so much again for your donations.

Also be sure to check out the International Women’s Day movement online at https://www.internationalwomensday.com/. Quoted from the website, International Women’s Day is “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women (Like Esther!) The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women's Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Prior to this the Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom's Suffragists and Suffragettes, and further groups campaigned for women's equality.” There are events going on around the world today. Check and see if one is near you.

Once again, my sincerest gratitude to all of you! If you are able to make a contribution in light of International Women’s Day today, it would be greatly appreciated!

-Sincerely,

-Matthew

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Esther sits down to a breakfast prepared by the catering classes as an example of their learning for the staff.





Support Women's Education in Sierra Leone on International Women's Day

Hey Echoers!

It's International Women's Day! Today, across the globe, IWD celebrates the achievements of women in sciences, politics, and social justice while calling for gender equality. International Women's day has been observed since the early 1900's beginning with marches in New York. The reach of IWD has since crossed borders and boundaries. Esther herself writes me on IWD from Sierra Leone.

Women in Action also hosts a community of young children in their education program

Women in Action also hosts a community of young children in their education program

In our support of Esther's school, the Women in Action Development Project, and in recognition of International Women's Day in March, we are extending our donor matching campaign until the end of the month. In February, I promised to personally match any donations that came in as February marked the 20th anniversary of Women in Action's founding. 

This month is particularly important for us. Since December, Esther has been working diligently to relocate Women in Action. The new building has been found and Esther is hoping to secure the space by the start of April. The down payment for year's rent on the loation is $5000USD. With your support and with Esther's own fundraising efforts, we are now up to $3000! We're almost there!

I'm calling on you all to help us secure Esther into her new space. The new building will help us provide her project with new stability as Esther continues to radically change the lives of vulnerable women and girls living in one of the most challenging places in the world to be. 

For more on International Women's Day see this great article by the Telegraph that also talks about today's Google Doodle. 

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International Women's Day

March 8th is the annual celebration of International Women's Day

International Women's Day began in the early 1900's with marches for improved working conditions for women in an industrializing age. What began with a worker's movement in New York City spread around the world from developed to developing countries. Today, thousands of events are held around the world in celebration of IWD through community groups, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions to support the equality and rights of women and girls. This year's theme: Make it Happen: For greater Awareness of Women's Equality. 

My own experience with the global reach of International Women's Day was a greeting from Esther online this morning wishing us a "Happy International Women's Day." This is why I love Esther and am always inspired by her. There she is, carrying a torch that ignited in New York over a hundred years ago, and holding it proudly as she supports vulnerable women and girls in the midst of one of the most underdeveloped regions of the world. I am proud to share her story online as she continues to be a relentless champion of women's rights and education. 

But it's not just Esther's story I am sharing today. Esther has sent me a few bios of students enrolled at the school this year. I will be posting them online; representatives of Esther's school. In the meantime, here is the first. Allow me to introduce Sarah Cole. This is her bio in her own words. She represents one of the students you are supporting by supporting Esther's school, the Women in Action Development Project. Donate Today by clicking the link below. Also be sure to check out the International Women's Day website at www.internationalwomensday.com

Sarah Cole.jpg

THE STORY OF SARAH COLE: 

Program: Nutrition and Food

I came from a family of Nine (9) and I am the eighth (8) child. I lost my father about two years ago and one of my sister also died few month after my father’s death.

However, I want to say that I did not actually benefited much from my biological parents simply because we were many in number so they could not afford to send me to school, and so because of this, I was always at home doing domestic work and I was going around working for people that can afford to pay whatever little amount for my up keep. One day, one of my mother’s friend decided to take me and help me with my school fees. It was not too long that this woman stop to pay my fees because according to her she has her own children and family to take care of, so she ask me to return to my parents. I had to return home again doing nothing.

The only option that was left open for me was to go into love affair with guys that will help me out in my domestic up keep as my parent could not just afford it. In this vein, I became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl who will turn 3 years in August 2014.

However, I have come to realize that such is not life so I decided to join the Women in Action family to gain knowledge in skills training and I am now proud of being part of this wonderful family as they have transform my life completely and they have let me know that I must not only depend on men or anyone else to take care of myself or my child. Since my admission, I have gain a lot as I can now prepare quite a good number of food and have also learn a lot on internal decoration and Arts and Craft work so I want to thank God for Women in Action especially the staffs who have made it possible for me.

I am now planning at the end of my course to be self-reliant by opening my own restaurant and employ my Sisters who are seeking for job.

I therefore want to ask the Government, NGO’s, Donors and all well-wishers to come on-board and help us achieve our goal.    

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International Women's Day!

Hey Echoers,

Happy International Women's Day 2014!

International Women's Day has now been observed for over a hundred years! And despite that, women still bear the heaviest burdens of war and poverty across the globe. 

In the face of these challenges, efforts under the banner of IWD have started to make a huge impact. Annually on March 8th, thousands of events happen across the world through various organizations, community groups, and IWD is now officially recognized as an official Holiday in many nations from Afghanistan and China to Moldova and Uganda. 

We wanted to tap into that global effort by sharing Esther's work with the IWD community. We have setup a community page on the IWD website today that you can find at www.internationalwomensday.com/esthersecho The page outlines my history of meeting Esther and her efforts in forming the Women in Action Development project that Esther's Echo supports. 

This year's theme is "Inspiring Change." What a perfect theme to highlight Esther's work abroad having now educated nearly 2000 young women in Sierra Leone to provide them with a hopeful future in the midst of one of the most challenging places in the world to live. Help us help Esther "Inspiring Change" by donating to Esther's project. 100% of your donation goes directly to Esther and her cause. 

You can also read more about the history of International Women's Day here.

Inspire Change on International Women's Day