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End of Year Reflection 2018 from IDF

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Dear IDF Friends & Partners,

As we wind down 2018, we have much to be grateful for as we look back on our year. As you may have noticed, this was a year of growth for us – we expanded our team to eleven! One thing that we have committed ourselves to is to continue to learn and grow together as a team and with you, our friends and partners. We just finished reading and discussing the topic of dignity after reading an important article called Dignity and Development put out by Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace. Dignity is something most people affirm in the abstract but, as this article describes, it is not so easy to pull off in spite of all of our good intentions. Indeed, there are so many forces in our world that seem to conspire against dignity.  To bring the topic down to earth, I asked our team to put their own words to what this simple yet elusive concept is in very concrete personal terms:

What does it look like to you when someone is treated with dignity?
What does it look like to you when someone is NOT treated with dignity?

To give you a window into what’s on our mind as we close out the year and who all of the amazing people are on our expanding team, I’d love to share with you a few snippets of how all of the voices on our team answered my question:

Seeing someone treated with dignity means you are seeing and experiencing someone as their whole, true self.  Dignity is such a fundamental piece of the human experience that is often assumed to be present or taken for granted, but when it is absent, I feel it is impossible to give focus, energy, effort to much beyond trying to restore that sense of your own humanity and equality. 

Dignity requires that we acknowledge our common humanity and also individual agency over our lives. I can recall many instances where development work in the Global South does not consider the dignity of those they serve — where individuals and communities are treated as passive beneficiaries, props, or as problems to be fixed. Bringing dignity to development requires that we embrace communities as the de facto experts on the problems they face, and engage local leaders as the people most capable of solving them.  

Dignity is seeing another person as a human–beyond the categories and labels that have been instilled upon us that highlight our “differences”. I think when you truly hold dignity as a value, you make an attempt to see a person for who they are, and in that, you create solidarity that cuts across any system or practice that has been set to divide us. 

Based on my experience in humanitarian aid and development contexts, I most relate dignity with power dynamics in relationships.  One sentence in the article stands out in particular, “It is not for people with power to decide what people with no power need.”  Power, voice, control, and choice are key to how we relate with one another.  In other words, dignity is being dignified in how we treat each other.  Treating someone with dignity requires us to recognize her or his worthiness simply for being human.  Dignity requires trust.  When we fail to treat others with dignity we fail to allow people to be their whole selves, making us undignified.

Treating someone with dignity shows them that you value who they are. It is looking beyond their “cover” and seeing the inside – their heart – and recognizing the unique talents and gifts that God has given them. It is taking the time to think about their purpose here and how can you play a role in encouraging and supporting them to reach their potential. When we let this abstract concept of dignity fall by the wayside, we set our relationships, programs and world up for failure. Being dignified and treating others with dignity lifts all of humanity. 

Dignity is as fundamental as life and liberty.  With it, we cherish our fellow human beings; without it, we risk losing a part of our humanity.  Whereas philanthropy means love of humanity, when we truly love another, we will seek to honor their dignity. 

Being Christian, believing that we are all children of the same God, created in His image, dictates that we treat all human life with dignity. To treat someone with anything but dignity is to miss an opportunity to see the face of God.

When someone is not treated with dignity, we all lose. We lose a sense of our shared humanity, and we all suffer. But when a person is treated with dignity, their own innate beauty is celebrated, and our shared experience as human beings is made that much more beautiful.

Much of my growth, spiritually and as a person, has come from drafting off the wake of a little speed boat named Emily Nielsen Jones. About ten years ago or so, Emily got fascinated with snowflakes – their incredible beauty under a microscope and their uniqueness. In the same way, we human beings are each made with unique skills, interests, gifts and beauty. It is in this reality that our dignity rests and it is also where the name for the Imago Dei Fund was born. From the start, we’ve drawn on the belief that God makes every person uniquely beautiful, a reflection of the creator, an “image of God”. In our work, we hope to tap deeply into the basic dignity of each person and do our part to help restore dignity and beauty where tarnished – in Read More

Monday, December 10th is International Human Rights Day!

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Today is the International Day of Human Rights and the last day of the 16 days of Activism to End Gender Violence campaign.

The International Day of Human Rights is a celebration of the anniversary of the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On this date in history, nations of the world gathered to respond to the massive number of deaths that occurred during the Second World War. Member States agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in an effort to address and prevent the oppression, discrimination, and violence that led to the war.

Go here to #STANDUP4HUMANRIGHTS and #ADDYOURVOICE: http://www.un.org/en/events/humanrightsday/

International Human Rights Day is the last day of the 16 days of activism campaign to encourage reflection on women’s rights to safety, health, information, education, and income-generation as a universal human right. Below are some examples of the work that grantee partners are doing to promote women’s rights as human rights as well as a prayer to close our campaign. The prayer is given by Reverend Dominic Misolo, ordained priest in the Anglican Church of Kenya, Executive Director of the Ekklesia Foundation for Gender Education, co-founder and board member of Geno Women for Participatory Research and Development, and adjunct lecturer in Theology and Gender Studies at Great University of Kisumu, Bishop Okullu College of Theology.

Prayer for Peace, Justice, Reconciliation & Healing

Prayer for Justice: Loving God, may you show justice to Women and Girls that suffer violence, discrimination, and low self-esteem just because they are born females. Lord Have Mercy

Prayer for Healing: Loving God, may the souls of many Women and Girls that suffer violence in the hands of intimate partners and caregivers to find peace and healing, even the departed souls. Lord have mercy.

Prayer for Leadership: Loving God, may your servants in leadership both in the Church and Society be sensitive to the pain, tears, and deep wounds of survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Lord have mercy

Prayer for Family: Loving God, may your whole truth of mutual love, mutual respect, and mutual submission in marriage be the basis for our shared humanity for happy families.

Prayer for Reconciliation: Loving God, as your children men and women made in your own image, may our daily lives portray your likeness as we reconcile within ourselves and our neighbors. Lord have mercy.

Below are some examples of how our grantee partners are contributing!

Strong Minds

At StrongMinds, we believe mental health is a human right. Using our proven group talk therapy model, we provide life changing treatment for depression. Seventy-five percent of the women who enter our twelve-week program are depression-free by the end. Our goal is to treat two million depressed African women by 2025. Learn more at www.strongminds.org.

Child Helpline Cambodia

At Child Helpline Cambodia, we have 150 T-Shirts with key education message of “Ending Violence Against Women and Girls” distributed to Helpline Ambassadors, who are agents of social change in communities and Local Authorities. We also post the pictures of the T-Shirts on CHC Facebook page to promote the campaign of 16 Days of Activism by appealing to audiences to answer questions of what campaign it is from 25 November till 10 December 2018. The first 20 correct answers are rewarded with a T-Shirts as a motivational gifts/presents.

Our Facebook post related to 16 Days of Activism Campaign #HearMeToo is at https://www.facebook.com/chc1280/posts/2355702217838210

Learn more about the international campaign to defend women defending human rights here: http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/

Monday, December 3rd is World Disabilities Day!

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December 3rd is World Disabilities Day and marks the half-way point in the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Violence campaign! This year’s theme is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” Learn more about this year’s global campaign here: https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/news/dspd/idpd.html

Annual celebrations of persons with disabilities began in 1981 with the International Year for Disabled Persons. The goal of this day is to promote a better understanding of disability issues, focusing on the rights of persons with disabilities and advantages of the integration of persons with disabilities into every aspect of society. The World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982, helped established this aim of full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities. Below is an example of some of the work one of our grantee partners is doing to support children with disabilities.

Building Tomorrow, Inc.

Disability is not inability.

8-year-old Mbayine was born with both of his hands lame and with parents who believed that he could not do much in life with his kind of disability. However, with the company and support of the local government chairperson working hand-in-hand with Building Tomorrow Fellow Robert Lumu, Mbayine’s parents were convinced that he is just like any other child with an equal right to an education.

Mbayine has now been in school for over a month, and is very happy and active in class.


Most of the time change isn’t as easy as the push of a button, but sometimes it is.

John is a young boy with an intellectual disability in Kyankwanzi District where BT Fellow Patrick Kaboyo works. John’s family members and surrounding community alike believed that he would not be able to do anything of value in school and thus refused to enroll him for his first day of nursery class.

Rejecting this sentencing of John to a life without education, Patrick came on the scene with one of his community education volunteers and local councilman. As expected, young John’s parents insisted that he was unable to learn and that school would be a waste of time for him.

Picking up the boy, Patrick placed him on his motorcycle and then showed him how to start the ignition on the bike. A few minutes later, Patrick asked little John to start the bike, and, reaching out his tiny finger to hit the red ignition button, John pressed down with a smile to start the bike with a “vrooooom!” If John was truly incapable of learning, Patrick argued, then how was he able to listen and learn how to start Patrick’s bike in just a matter of minutes? Clearly, John was capable of becoming a student. The parents were convinced and, with the support of Patrick in purchasing some basic scholastic materials, have enrolled John in nursery class. Do you see the power of a conversation? Let’s get talking for education!

World Disabilities Day is also incorporated into the 16 Days of Activism campaign since women and girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to violence. Women and girls with disabilities lack the same opportunities and access to resources as people living without disabilities and face more stigma and discrimination from their communities. Our 16 Days of Activism campaign celebrates the strengths, abilities, and unique contributions women with disabilities bring to every culture and society. Here is an example of how one of our grantee partners is contributing:

Strong Minds

Not all disabilities are visible. Depression affects up to one in four women in Africa. Fear of stigmatization can prevent women from seeking help. They suffer in silence. StrongMinds provides group talk therapy to African women so they can alleviate their depression. Seventy-five percent of the women who enter our twelve-week therapy groups are depression free at the of the program. That means they can go on to focus on lifting themselves out of poverty and improving conditions for their children. Learn more at www.strongminds.org.

We invite you to take time to reflect on the situation of women and girls with disabilities around you and in your own culture.

Saturday, December 1st is World AIDS Day!

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Today is World AIDS Day and the 7th day of the 16 days of activism campaign. The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Know Your Status.” UNAIDS encourages everyone to know their status so that people living with HIV are linked to quality care and prevention services so they can lead healthy and productive lives. Unfortunately, stigma and discrimination remain barriers for people who need to know their status, especially women and girls. UNAIDS 2016-2021 strategy includes eight result areas including, “Women and men practice and promote healthy gender norms and work together to end gender-based, sexual, and intimate partner violence to mitigate risk and impact of HIV.” For more information on HIV, AIDS, and women, visit: https://www.womenshealth.gov/hiv-and-aids/women-and-hiv/violence-against-women-and-hiv-risk and http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/violence/hiv/en/

World AIDS day is an important day in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign because violence against women is both a cause and consequence of HIV and AIDS. Women and girls often lack power in their relationships, families, and communities and as a result, they are more vulnerable to violence and more vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. For many women, the violence they experience leads to HIV infection. For others, their HIV positive status brings violence, which can speed the onset of AIDS. Violence against women, HIV, and AIDS are closely connected.

Below are some examples of how our grantee partners are contributing!


m2m Malawi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJB-2IfT6dI

Femia’s Story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kllY2QWyRVs&t=4s

Chancey’s Story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZtLpmoP58U&t=19s


Phiona Ayebazibwe, 33, is a mother of one living in Karujanga village in Katuna town council, Kabale district, Uganda. Phiona has HIV.

In 2016, Phiona’s weight dropped dramatically to just 52kg (115lbs). Her t-cell (or CD4 cell) count, the marker of how well a person’s immune system is functioning, dropped too. A healthy t-cell count can range from 500 to 1500; in a person living with HIV, 500 is considered pretty good. At a t-cell count of 200, a person is at risk of serious illness. Phiona’s t-cell count was 320. With her worsening health, Phiona lost her usual energy and strength, directly impacting her ability to farm, her main economic activity and of course her only access to food. Phiona’s baseline nutrition hadn’t been adequate, which impacted her health and, perversely, her ability to get food, capturing her in a cycle of worsening nutrition.

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Thursday, November 29th is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day!

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Today is the day we celebrate YOU- women, girls, activists, program implementors, and fellow supporters- in the 16 Days of Activism campaign! November 29th is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. While this day focuses on the work of women who defend the human rights of women and girls, we also like to take this time to recognize each of you that work towards that effort, acknowledging that we are few. By playing your part you have bolstered efforts to ensure that women realize their human rights to safety, dignity, and access to information, services, and resources. Thanks to all of you for the work that you do with women and girls. Thank you for sharing information about violence against women and girls, defending women’s human rights, and supporting such important work in the ways that you do. Finally, thank you for helping us to increase our own awareness about the complexities and challenges that come with defending the human rights of women and girls.

International Women Human Rights Defenders Day began in 2004, to recognize and protect the people who work as activists advocating for women’s human rights. Through their efforts, women human rights defenders promote the realization of human rights for all people. We hope that today you will reflect on the women and girls you know who are committed to ensuring women and girls realize their human rights. This day recognizes the specific violations that women human rights defenders face as a result of their advocacy or gender and appreciates the work of these advocates. Many people are not aware that these women face tremendous risk to move this important work forward.

Below are some examples of how our grantee partners are contributing!

No Means No Worldwide

300,000 girls and boys used the skills we teach to prevent rape in Kenya and Malawi. Please view our video at https://www.nomeansnoworldwide.org/.

Building Tomorrow, Inc.

In Uganda, the prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV) is high compared to both regional and global averages. More than 62% of women and 58% of men have reported an experience of physical or sexual violence since the age of 15, which is almost double the average prevalence rate both globally and in Africa.[i]

In Kamwenge District, where Building Tomorrow Fellow Namata Tendo works, rates of GBV are also high, especially for young girls. The district reports that almost 49,000 girls below the age of 17 years—representing about one third of the total female population—already has at least one child and is vulnerable to other instances of abuse.

However, despite the high prevalence of GBV, both formal and informal support structures for survivors of such violence are limited. Formally, Tendo describes both the distance and costs of reporting GBV violations through the male-dominated legal system as a major barrier for recourse. The nearest magistrate court in Nkoma sub-county is between 60-100 kilometers away, depending on where in the district you are located, and costs 60,000 UGX (about $15 round trip) to reach. Therefore, for rural women who often earn less than $1 per day, such formal recourse is simply out of reach. As a result, most cases of GBV are reported to traditional courts, where women are not even allowed to attend sessions and make their voices heard.

Some girls do not even get that far. While not a physical or financial barrier, Tendo says that tradition is just as powerful of a barricade to justice. Cases of abuse are often viewed as defilement that brings shame upon a girl and her family, and the prevailing attitude to deal with one who has experienced such defilement is to confine her quickly to marriage and home-based duties.

Read more…

Strong Minds

Trauma from violence can trigger depression in women. Women who suffer from depression find it harder to earn a living. The day-to-day work of providing education and proper nutrition to children can become overwhelming. Their own physical health can suffer. StrongMinds provides life-changing group talk therapy to African women. Seventy-five percent of the women who enter our twelve-week therapy groups are depression-free at the end of the program. That means they can go on to focus on lifting themselves out of poverty and improving conditions for their children. Learn more at www.strongminds.org.

Hope For Our Sisters

Sadly, in places like the DR Congo, women are aggressively assaulted on a regular basis. Their bodies have become weapons of war. They are not valued by all…yet. These Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) groups, through our partner, World Relief, provide our beautiful sisters with much-needed community, assistance with owning and sharing their stories, opportunities to give back by providing for new sisters who join the groups, and the encouragement to help change their culture one step at a time as they share their stories with children in local schools. They are generating hope one word at a time.

During a trip to the DRC, we attended an SGBV meeting where all thirteen women stood tall and each shared her story. Each woman spoke of moving from despair and a lack of hope to strength and new hope. Each woman spoke of finding a new reason to live.

Lastly, and most importantly, these groups are self-sustaining. Adama*, pictured in the back row with the huge smile, leads one of these groups and most of the women present pointed to her and said she was the reason they had found their new community of women.

One day, all women will be valued.
*Adama’s real name was not shared to protect her privacy.

Precious Women

Learn more about the international campaign to defend women defending human rights here: http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/

Passionate about racial equity? 2019 Atlantic Fellows Application Process Open!

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South Africa and the United States are connected by a shared history of power structures exploiting people based on their race, gender, class and ability. Over the last two centuries, Black liberation activists in these two countries have learned from and inspired each other to build movements that organise people to achieve full equality. AFRE builds upon this rich history of exchange by creating a space for leaders from both countries to find solutions to end anti-black oppression.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.