Poverty Eradication: Presentation by Motoko Sugiyama

By: Motoko Sugiyama, Vice-President of WFWPI

Practical Approach to Poverty Eradication through Empowerment of Women and Children

Distinguished guests, respected panelists, ladies and gentlemen, I am very honored and privileged to be invited as one of then panelist for the conference of Poverty and globalization sponsored by the Center for Global Studies at St. John's University.

I am here to represent a women's NGO, which offers its efforts and resources for the poverty eradication worldwide.

Introduction

Aims of WFWP International are:

  1. Global Empowerment of Women
  2. Reinforcement of Family Values
  3. A sound upbringing of Children
  4. Building partnership for peace through the cooperation of women.

Based on those four main aims, our ultimate goal is to realize a peaceful and harmonious global family for all.

In our pursuit of this goal, we learned that the most urgent issue is to find ways to contribute to establishing a balance between the global north and south be reducing the obvious gap.

This gap means some of our human family does not have equal access to the many positive benefits of globalization such as information technology, medical advancement and economic prosperity.

  • Starting Projects
  • Programs Underway
  • Empowerment of Women
  • Grass-root Activities
  • Conclusion & 4 Prayers

The Process of Starting Projects

As a women's organization anxious to find and to contribute to a solution in any way we could, we became volunteers. In 1994, members from Japan went to over 100 nations. Free from the political concerns of governments, we felt no boundaries except in our own conception of who we are as a women's NGO. NGO's can be global.

Volunteer members first researched their mission country's situations and tried to find programs and projects that need to be supported. Then they brought back ideas and proposals for a project to Japan. First of all, 47 Japanese prefecture branches were matched with over 100 nations as a basis for cooperation and support. The projects were developed between these"sister" partners. After discussing and deciding which projects the Japanese WFWP branch would support, they made plans for fundraising. Very often charity bazaars and bingo centers were opened in many communities. Requests for donations were also sent to other charitable organization such as Rotary Club, Lions Club, etc. Thus, to help individuals and communities, grassroots activities began on both sides of the world. These projects are very much"home grown" involving women from both sides of the global divide. Most of the time voices came not from officials of the governments but from women in homes and communities.

References to Projects and Programs Underway

A common aspect of our work in Mozambique, Rwanda and Ethiopia arose from the common fact that each nation had recently suffered from civil war. The women and children of these nations, having lost their husbands and fathers in violent conflict, were facing severe poverty and emotional. Seeing this, we just had to start projects as soon as we could.

The projects we developed were designed to help women become self-reliant. So we first built vocational centers and also prepared the local women to run the centers themselves. These centers are not only for skills training but also to help erase illiteracy and to help the women deal with their traumas associated with civil war. Schools were developed to help children because the wars destroyed most of the schools.

All of these, the face value, are similar to the efforts of other humanitarian organizations. What makes our work unique is that WFWP considers character education an essential part of the educational component. That is, character education or education of values and principles, many of which were articulated in the Millennium Declaration and include topics such as: understanding true human freedom, why it is important to affirm equality of all people, why the practice of"living for the sake of others" is the essence of solidarity, how affirming tolerance strengthens each individual's faith, attitudes toward consumption and sustainable development, and why it's important to recognize the interdependence and interconnectedness of all things, and much more.

Countries where WFWP school projects and/ pr vocational schools were started and are on-going are: Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Guyana, and Uganda. These educational projects, contents and methodologies developed, I believe, can be used as models for other countries.

In many countries, we also witnessed huge percentage of the population facing the life threatening disease of AIDS. To cut the cycle of this disease, we started AIDS Prevention programs in Zambia, Malawi, Costa Rica, Canada, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Taiwan, R.O.C., Solomon Islands, Italy, and Macedonia. These programs too are approached from a"character development" perspective, designed to enhance the individual, providing them with greater understanding of the health benefits of practices that will cut this cycle, benefits that directly and indirectly enhance their emotional and economic health as well as their physical health.

Other programs we have started and are funding are: Foster Parents and Micro-credit in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Haiti, Mauritania, Mauritius, and Swaziland.

Empowerment of Women and Globalization

As we know very well, there are gaps not only between the global North and global South but also between the sexes. In many countries of the global south, there are many less opportunities for women or girls to go to schools. It means women get less formal education, learn fewer marketable skills and are less capable of economically supporting herself and her family. Generally speaking, poverty itself is the main culprit, but cultural and religious norms very often contribute and exacerbate the situation.

While biological differences between man and woman define some differences in the work place, we emphasize the human value is the same, neither sex being superior or inferior to the other. Furthermore, we consider it more accurate to consider men and women as complimentary partners contributing to the fulfillment of the same responsibilities and therefore able to accomplish more together when they support and respect each other. By promoting this concept of true partnerships between men and women as being the goal for successful homes and communities we are saying that the quintessential social relationships formed in strong families is what provides the basis for social balance and harmony is desperately needed if globalization is to become a positive force. In other words, without the empowerment of women through equal access to education, skills training, and political decision-making, true globalization will never be achieved.

Grassroots Activities and Globalization

As a women's organization, when we meet with women, we meet with children at the same time. When we try to start grassroots activities, we often and very naturally start with women and children. If positive benefits of globalization are to reach every individual, community and nation, it has to begin with grassroots activities, women and children.

What can NGOs contribute to globalization? NGOs can start grassroots activities, which draw on our sincere, constant and tireless effort and more than anything else, on our love for out human family. WFWP is taking initiatives not only in all the aforementioned humanitarian service projects for the poverty eradication but also in peace building programs which we call the"bridge of peace" sisterhood movement. This is a restorational social technology developed for effecting deep, personal conflict resolution. In over 70 countries starting with women of past enemy nations, we organized the sisterhood peace ceremony to cut the cycle of conflict, violence and animosity which breeds resentment and hatred in our hearts. Peace really should start from our heart and expand to every individual's heart.

I would like to conclude my presentation with four wishes and prayers.

  1. That true partnerships between men and women be formed;
  2. That universal values which transcend diversities, can unite human families as one;
  3. That a true, harmonious and peaceful world be achieved; and
  4. That true globalization can be realized unveiling the greater reality of our interconnectedness and interdependence.

Thank you very much for your attention.