Giving Back

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

As many of you know my daughter Katie is big on “giving back.”  Since high school she has been developing a real passion for girl’s health and empowerment. My husband Michael has always been a” woman’s libber” and has always encouraged her to go after her passions and impressed upon all the kids that doing well in school gives you options in life. Education has always been huge in our family. As a mother and a woman I love what she is pursuing. She inspires me to do more. Her schedule at school is so packed, but she finds time to do the extra. She wanted to share her latest project with all of you so she is guest blogging this week (below). Maybe all us gals can find a way in our neighborhoods to do something, anything to help our young girls. For so many girls out there, just a little bit of our giving back goes such a long way. Let’s give everybody their best shot at this life! Check out the documentary that Katie speaks of…it is incredible!

-Mary Beth

My name is Katie and I have written in place of my mom, Mary Beth on her usual blog before to share my stories from my Vietnam trip in which I set up mobile medical clinics. Today I am writing to raise awareness about a great cause that I was involved with in high school and have decided to get involved in again only this time at my university, UC Berkeley. My friend Tess and I recently started a club at Berkeley called the Women’s Solidarity Movement. The goal of our club is to raise awareness about sexual abuse and promote the importance of healthy, empowered women in the U.S. and abroad. We plan to fundraise for the Girl Child Network Worldwide, an organization that works to help young women and girls in Africa who have been subject to sexual abuse and harassment, HIV/AIDS, domestic and military violence, trafficking into sexual slavery and the denial of schooling. The Girl Child Network Worldwide was started by a very inspiring woman by the name of Betty Makoni, one of ten individuals awarded CNN’s top 10 heroes of the year for 2009. Through the Girl Child Network, Betty had built three safe villages in Zimbabwe for particularly vulnerable girls and started 500 girls’ clubs with 30,000 members. Betty helps these girls to get back on their feet by giving them the chance to go to school, medical care, food, clothes, a home and safety. Most importantly, she gives them the courage to demand respect for their rights. A big thing that the Girl Child Network provides the girls with are educational packages. These packages include school fees, a satchel, dresses, pads and tampons, stockings, clean underwear, food and transport. The packs cost anywhere from $25-$300 dollars for the year, depending on issues such as if the girl lives in an urban or rural area, if they are disabled, or if they are in elementary, high school or university. In the Women’s Solidarity Movement group at UC Berkeley, we plan to raise as much money as possible through our campus community to send to the Girl Child Network so that they can continue to run and improve their programs in Africa for these young women. We also plan to teach our campus community about the effects of sexual abuse on women and young girls as well as other issues preventing these girls from attending school and living healthy lives. In addition, we plan to bridge a communication between the members of our campus group and the young women living in the empowerment villages via some sort of letter writing or skype so that we can form a connection and support system as women to women and students to students from abroad in the US. We also are planning opportunities for our group to reach out to the community in Berkeley and work with women’s shelters for abused women and children. Finally, we plan to learn and teach self defense to these women and our fellow students and community in Berkeley so that they may all be able to protect themselves in the event of an attack.

Next week on September 28th at 7:30 pm, a documentary called Tapestries of Hope is playing for a special one time only screening at various theaters around the U.S. This documentary follows Betty Makoni’s work in Africa with the Girl Child Network and the myth that having sex with a virgin will cure HIV/AIDS. Tapestries of Hope was directed by Michaelene Risley who befriended Betty Makoni and then traveled with her to Zimbabwe to tell the stories of the very vulnerable girls in the safe villages whom the GCN has been helping to re-empower and find their voice. I highly encourage anyone who is near one of the listed theaters to see this film. Please take a second to go to this website and scroll down to see the very moving preview and to see where the film is playing at a theater near you: http://www.tapestriesofhope.com/   

Our club is new on our campus but we are a group of very passionate and motivated individuals. We need all the help we can get and would greatly appreciate donations that we may send to the Girl Child Network and be able to hit the ground running with our campus group at Berkeley. We’re still in the process of figuring out the logistics of our fundraising but if you’re interested in learning more or helping in any way please contact us at womensolidaritymovement@gmail.com. We look forward to keeping you updated on our progress!