1st Forum on the Eradication of Poverty 2000

The Human Challenges for this Millennium: An NGO's Perspective

The forum was held in Conference Room 4, UN headquarters from 2 to 6 p.m. on October 14 and commemorated the UN's International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17th). The plates of the Member States remained on the tables lending a dignified atmosphere. Among the 350 participants present we were honored by the presence of four ambassadors to the United Nations including H.E. Carolos dos Santos of Mozambique, H.E. M. Joseph Mutaboba of Rwanda, H.E. M. Ousamane Moutari of Niger and H.E. Mr. Ravan Farhadi of Afghanistan. There were also representatives and officials from the UN systems, national governments and representatives of numerous NGOs. Seventy participants traveled from Japan and sixteen WFWP project directors flew in from their various project nations.

At the Opening Session, Ms. Motoko Sugiyama (Vice President of WFWP International), the Moderator of the forum and Chair of Organizing Committee, greeted and explained how the Women's Federation began its work in the field of poverty eradication. Then H.E. Mr. Carlos Dos Santos, Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the UN, and Mrs. Lan Young Moon Park, President of WFWP International gave their opening remarks. Ambassador dos Santos pointed out that "poverty was one of the major challenges that the human beings face in the new Millennium ... (and that it is) the cause of inequality, violence, and armed conflicts." He also recognized and thanked WFWP's consistent effort to help eradicate poverty, achieve gender equality, ensure sustainable economical growth and assist with the resolution of conflict.

Ambassador dos Santos further emphasized the centrality of education and women's participation to the improvement of society. He underscored that educating a girl means educating a future mother, a future wife and future professionals. This in turn means better living conditions for families and their community. He concluded that the efforts of WFWP to provide educational opportunities deserved admiration.

Prof. Lan Young Moon Park stated that the UN has conducted various projects to eradicate poverty, but their programs alone cannot radically change the situation. NGO activities worldwide have a significant role. She called for each individual to approach poverty issues with the heart of a mother concerned for her family.

  • Starting with Education
  • Give Women Economic Strength
  • Vocational Training
  • NGO as Partner of UNDP
  • Micro-Credit Program
  • Course for Homemaking
  • Lively Q & A
  • Friendship Exchange

Starting with Education

Ambassador dos Santos moderated the afternoon session. There were nine presentations which concluded with questions and answers from the audience. Presentations were made by WFWP project directors. Ms. Akiko Hozan began by explaining the process, activities and outcomes of the Junior High School project "Sun of Mozambique."

In Mozambique, the civil war continued for 16 years after the War of Independence. During this time, a great number of people were killed and many others left the country. Seventy percent of the existing schools were destroyed or left in total shambles. Ms. Hozan and her colleagues entered Mozambique in 1994 for the first time. Their fact

In 1999 the school was accredited by the Ministry of Education and 1300 students in total have studied there. Many students with an ardent passion of learning enter this school which is now recognized among the best private schools in the city.

Ms. Hozen mentioned, "if building construction is like giving birth, ongoing school management may be compared to child rearing. In child rearing you have to give thought and care constantly and unconditionally every moment. So too, you have to commit your mind and body with care in running a school... Dedication and care is necessary for each task. Overcoming differences of language, customs and value systems are as crucial elements as fundraising and dealing with the mountains of paper work. All of these at times felt like a thick and tall wall .... On the other hand, our staff feel deeply gratified to see many of their students pass the entrance exams and move on to excellent high schools and universities."

WFWP Mozambique is currently planning to establish another junior high school with a student capacity of 3000. They are applying for the approval to open a senior high school. "The selfraise up the sons and daughters of Mozambique to lead the development of their country," Ms. Hozen concluded.

Ms. Kati Vighand shared her vision and depth of the programs the Farm offers. Established three years ago to help the orphans to become self

"Two boys found a home in Sunshine Farm. They made a commitment to stay and work on the farm. The boys, Horvath Jozsi and Picai Tino were close friends in their orphanage. Jozsi is of Hungarian descent, and Tino of Romanian origin. Jozsi who is 17 years old was the first one to come to Simian. He was always ready to help do any task. He never knew his parents or any relatives because he was abandoned at birth. He always hoped and prayed that when he grew up he'd have a little house where he could find some happiness." This was his first taste of such freedom of the heart...

To Give Women Economic Strength

Ms. Diane Langston, (Senior Technical Officer, UN Population Fund) spoke on "Role of NGOs in Eradicating Poverty."

Firstly, she expressed her gratitude to NGO that they invest time and money to help the fellow citizens in the global community. She then explained about UNFPA that it is the largest organization on developmental issues and promotes programs such as:

1. Family planning, AIDS preventive activities;
2. Population and developmental programs;
3. Sex equality and advancement of women.

According to the statistics, among the six billion people in the world, 1.2 billion live with less than a dollar a day, and over 1.8 billion with less than two dollars a day. UNFPA has faced the poverty issue since 1987. She stated that poorer women have less choices for education, marriage, medication, employment and family planning. It is important that women have economic strength and so participate in handling the health, birth and economy of the family.

Vocational Training for Self-Reliance

Ms. Sachiko Yokoyama, the WFWP project director in Rwanda reported about the vocational training project for the self-reliance of women in Rwanda. Ms. Yokoyama and other volunteer members entered the country in January 1995. When they landed, they saw everywhere, the fresh wounds of the war and thousands of widows struggling to search for ways to live. The project they started was a vocational training school for women. At present, 150 students are taking courses such as dressmaking, language, barber/beautician, and embroidery/knitting. 40% to 60% of the graduates have been employed or self

In the process of developing the educational program, they realized that vocational training alone would not enable some Rwandan women to become self-supporting. There was a clear need for psychological healing and rebuilding of their own lives. So character education took its place alongside vocational training.

We can easily understand that such support would be needed for many. Ms. Yokoyama saw this first hand as she observed in her classes some students mindlessly repeating the same motions, sewing and untying the same material for a half day. Others would not reply when the teachers asked questions.

When WFWP Rwanda had a chance to meet the then First Lady of Rwanda, she noted that the most tragic people in this country were those children who saw their parents kill others in front of them. "The minds of these children have been numbed." So the volunteer members then started to offer post

The First Lady visited their school in December 1999 to encourage the students. They displayed their dresses and modeled their own fashions. The First Lady was deeply moved to see the students' faces shining with pride and hope.

Ms. Yokoyama concluded her remarks by saying that material aid and vocational education are indeed important but not sufficient to eradicate poverty. "It is important that the Rwandan people themselves develop a strong desire for self

Ambassador Santos affirmed that while the suffering of the Rwandan people was well known he noted that the efforts of the project staff to rebuild the people's hearts and minds as well as the social structure and buildings, was very admirable. The Rwandan Ambassador to the UN later expressed his heart

NGO as Partner of UNDP

The next speaker was Ms. Sarah Timpson, UNDP's Global Manager of the Small Program for the Environment. Acknowledging Ms. Yokoyama's report from Rwanda, she said, "sharing the pains and suffering alongside people in the field is the true example set by NGOs ....The way WFWP volunteers view the situation and respond is admirable," she added.

UNDP conducts 6000 projects in 175 nations a year, in cooperation with other international organizations, governments and NGOs. In her speech, she outlined two of her expectations for NGOs: (1) NGOs raise awareness of issues and bring them to the attention of governments and the world; and (2) NGOs promote grass

Micro-Credit Program for Women

For the second half of the forum, another four speakers came to the podium. First, Ms. Yuko Kuribayashi gave the presentation about their Loan Project in which they provide small loans to help self

In the last three years, they provided the credit for 145 women and some of them became self-reliant with their own small business such as tailoring, roadside stands, Sari peddling, and chicken or duck farms. The borrowers express positive comments such as: "My husband, who had left the family due to poverty, came back," and "the living condition has been stabilized and I fight less with my husband on money issues." So far the repayment rate is 100%. The Japanese lenders receive the profile and picture of the borrowers and the progress report of the borrower's business. This system helps to create trust and interest with each other and strengthen the bond. Ms. Kuribayashi and the project staff want to increase the number of the Japanese supporters to help more people. Ms. Kuribayashi, who is also involved in another educational project on family values, shared her realization that the family bond is so strong in that culture and that she was amazed by the mothers who can dedicate themselves totally for the sake of their families.

Ambassador Santos commented, "we heard a lot about the Grameen Bank experience, which is experimented toward the world. But we never heard this very specific relationship with family household, which help strengthen family, which bring family back together. I think it's quite important to see. How important that is!"

After that, Ms. Minerva De Leon, (Consultant, Poverty Eradication, NGO.PO, Office of the President, and President of WFWP

A Course for Homemaking was added before Graduation

After that, Ms. Tomoko Kaneda, the WFWP project director in Ethiopia gave a report about her project. They created an agreement with the government before they started the vocational training to help women's self

In another proiect. they offer literacy and other basic education for poor children. In the last 3 years, about 270 children came to the program and almost 200 of them were admitted into the public schools. The director of the literacy

Lastly, Ms. Phyllis Bennett (Founder and CEO, PIB Associates, Pennsylvania), spoke about the cooperation between NGO and the government. She introduced about her own experiences and emphasized that in order to eradicate poverty, we need to view the situation not only in a material aspect but mental and spiritual aspect. She stated that one couldn't speak about poverty with out experiencing the sadness, pains and misery. Even now, 26 million children are suffering from starvation. We have to become acutely aware of the pain of poverty and take it as our responsibility to work on its eradication. She concluded that the most important is to provide education for women.

A Lively Question and Answer Session

The session was deluged of questions from the floor and another half an hour was added to end the session. A question was raised, asking how the issue of poverty can be solved. Ms. Bennett responded that all of us have to become givers. If you earn 100,000 dollars for income, you cannot make any difference if you do not give out any. By giving even 10 dollars to others, poverty can be diminished to an extent. There is no reason people remain in poverty. Some African countries have rich oil and people remain poor. This is a man

Another question was about what are the prioritized criteria for WFWP to implicate a project. Ms. Motoko Sugiyama, the Vice President of WFWP International responded that the federation first studied about what is the most needed in the field, secondly, it is concerned especially to provide education for women and children. Ms. Bennett also expressed her expectation to the audience that they would visit the third world and see the poverty situation, which is completely different from the poverty seen in the U.S. Ambassador Santos, who worked as an excellent moderator, closed the impressive forum by summarizing that the information offered was rich, full and fruitful. It was a great step for all of us toward our goals, he added.

Friendship Exchange at the Reception

After the forum, the reception was held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Delegates Dining Hall on the 4th Floor of the UN HQ. The hall was full of people, joined by other guests and visitors to the forum participants. In a corner set up in the entrance, the panels of pictures from the project fields in 16 countries were displayed, where the staff members were explaining and responding to the questions about the WFWP projects.

At the reception, H.E. Mr. Ousmane Moutari, Ambassador of Niger to the UN gave a toast and congratulated the success, and expressed his gratitude to the host and the organizer of the forum. Ambassador Santos received avalanche of request to take pictures together. He expressed his delight that he was happy to work as the host to such a wonderful conference, where everyone was happy. An official from some governnment praised WFWP that it presented an example of NGO that is welcomed by both UN and the field.

At the reception, 23 WFWP project directors received "WFWP, International's Peace & Service Award 2000". President Lan Young Moon Park presented the certificate with the signature of the Founder of WFWP, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and the gift to each project director. The directors were amazed and delighted by the unexpected gift. They renewed their determination to make more efforts to develop their projects.