- Ms. Susan Bradbury, Founder, The Sound Essence Project in Mongolia
- Ms. Evelyne Drake, Coordinator, WFWP- USA Relief Project for Haiti
- Ms. Merly Barlaan, Founder, Center for Wisdom and Character Excellence, Philippines
- Dr. Nessie Ndive-Hill, Professor, Essex County Community College, Cameroon
Moderator: Ms. Bonnie Berry, UN Representative, WFWP International
In the heart of New York City, the United Nations Headquarters welcomed official delegations to the 56th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and NGO representatives, the UN Church Center and the Salvation Army headquarters opened its doors to women from all parts of the country and world to attend the 56th Commission on the Status of Women to participate in NGO sponsored parallel events. WFWPI's event took stage on the morning of opening day, February 27th, 2012 addressing the theme: Growing Sustainable Projects in Rural Communities, Women to Women. This topic supported the priority theme of this year's CSW: The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges. While outside it was turning into a beautiful sunny day in the middle of what should be the winter season, inside, the meeting room overflowed with people making their way to the side walls and stuffy corners. The audience respectfully listened to four talented women, Ms. Susan Bradbury, Ms. Evelyn Drake, Ms. Merly Barlaan, and Dr. Nessie Ndive-Hill, speak on behalf of rural communities in Haiti, Cameroon, Mongolia and the Phillippines. Their practical strategies, personal stories and engaging visuals showcased their passion and energy for the projects they have conceived of, created and nurtured. Many of these projects started at the grassroots level, which gave insight into the planning and sustainment of each project. The panelists offered proven ways to eradicate poverty in small steps through education and love. The event only lasted two hours, but transformed the way people understood how to dissolve poverty even on a small and personal scale.
With an inspirational message by Dr. Nessie Ndive-Hill on Cameroon's impoverished villages, she set the stage by defining the rural woman as someone who is hard working, family oriented and essentially a super woman. Dr. Ndive-Hill promotes self reliance through certain strategies: food banks, food preservation methods, and educational resources to help women farmers improve product marketing. One major staple crop is the cassava vegetable, which could feed everyone in a village with its many uses if people know how to preserve it well. She feels strongly that knowledge will protect and enhance the environment. However, women in these rural villages lack marketing tools, government support, and technology, which slows progress.
Ms. Merly Barlaan's energetic personality lit up the room as she spoke from her 21 year experience working through grass root projects to support marginalized women and children. Her most recent activities include the Hope Program, a project of the NGO she and her husband cofounded, the Center for Wisdom and Character Excellence. This program helps cross barriers of poverty in the small village of Montesunting in the Philippines. With the addition of the library and learning center, 2000 Moringa trees and a vegetable garden being planted, and leadership programs for women, the results are transformational. Household income increased on average, more tourism opportunities were invited and more scholarships became available for students looking to pursue their dreams.
Ms. Evelyne Drake spoke on her efforts through her program, the Haiti Relief Project, created in 2008, to help the Haiti community move forward through education. Planting over 1000 seeds of the Moringa tree helped reduce poverty and sustained the community with its medicinal uses. Women in rural areas practice natural healing methods to cure headaches and other common ailments using the Moringa tree, because of minimal access to doctors. In 2011, she initiated a summer service project that included health education on diabetes, hypertension, and anemia. Midwifery lessons were taught in a seminar to promote women to women networking and support. She believes that by living for the sake of others, change will come for women in Haiti and all over the world.
Brilliant storyteller, Susan Bradbury weaves together dreams and real life testimonies that reflect on the potential of Mongolia's rural women through her sustainable projects. She established five essential points on making these dreams into realities: envisioning the design, trusting yourself and others, working across boundaries, respect and having courage. For seven years now, The Sound Essence Project has led the Mongolian Student Scholarship Program in efforts to provide a four year college education to young women; they have successfully helped 20 young women into college. Ms. Bradbury's micro-lending project that empowered five women to start and own a local bakery with a $500 loan, helped stabilize and feed a whole community, including supporting 50 other people in their extended families. Expanding into two bakeries eradicated poverty in their entire community. Susan ended her presentation with a three minute movie showcasing the beautiful landscapes, people and projects in Mongolia.
As moderator, Bonnie Berry, closed the afternoon's event with a small question and answer session. Women from the audience chose topics that addressed farming and farmland being replaced by industries, higher education for women and using better energy solutions that protect the environment. An overwhelming applause following the conclusion of the questions was directed at the panel of women who presented their tremendous efforts in the process of fighting poverty. People then made their way around and congratulated the panel of women and conversed among each other for insight and guidance. The event was a huge success. Most women left with resources and new faces to access on their way to build new projects around the world.