Soroptimist Federations Partner to Help Women Affected by Haiti Earthquake

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Organizations donate more than $60,000 to help women rebuild their lives

It’s so important to remember that long after the devastation fades from media, there are still countless women who have been displaced and need our help.

Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA) and Soroptimist International of Europe (SIE) have partnered to donate a total of $60,000 to help women and girls affected by the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti in January 2010.

SIA and SIE are two of the four federations comprising Soroptimist International, a volunteer organization for business and professional women. Soroptimist members work on projects that improve the lives of women and girls in their local communities and throughout the world.

“We’ve watched in horror as so much destruction has occurred around the world, including the terrible events in Japan,” said SIA Executive Director Leigh Wintz. “But the reality is that women continue to struggle long after the story has left the news cycle. Women in Haiti are working hard to rebuild their lives. This donation sends a powerful message that they have not been forgotten.”

SIA and SIE will disburse the funds for this donation through their joint Disaster Relief Fund, a grant program designed to assist women and girls who have been victims of natural disasters or acts of war.

Together, the Soroptimist organizations have donated $50,000 to Relief International, which was originally founded to provide emergency, rehabilitation and development services to women. Following the earthquake in Haiti, the organization established the Women’s Development Center (WDC), which quickly became a safe haven that provided access to health care, water, sanitation facilities, transitional shelter and protection for Haitian women and girls.

Relief International determined a need for vocational training for earthquake-affected women and girls in Haiti. The Soroptimist donation will fund a project called Small Business Development Training for Women. The project will help Haitian women enhance their economic status by providing them with vocational, business, and financial literacy skills trainings, and sessions with microfinance agents.

Another $11,000 was given to AmeriCares, a relief organization that supports emergency medical needs and long-term humanitarian assistance programs for people around the world. The organization will use the donation for its Haiti Adolescent Girls Network, a collaborative effort of multiple organizations, committed to empowering and protecting adolescent girls in Haiti so they may safely navigate the volatile post-earthquake environment and break the cycle of poverty.

“We know from experience that disasters affect women disproportionately and that they have unique needs that are often overlooked, and that includes the reconstruction process, “ said Wintz. “That’s why we find the best way to put our funds to work is to invest in long-term projects that help women rebuild their lives, their families and their communities.”

Soroptimists around the world were generous with support directly following the earthquake, distributing $35,948 in disaster grants to support girls at Pediatrics Hospital, and to provide Cholera kits, and maternity medical materials.

Soroptimist has worked on the issue of women and disasters for many years. Some projects have included 9/11 Disaster Recovery, for which Soroptimist sent $84,000 to four domestic violence agencies in Lower Manhattan following the 2001 terrorist attacks. In response to the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in Asia, Soroptimist donated more than $100,000 to several projects that helped include women and girls in the planning and implementation of resettlement and reconstruction efforts.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Soroptimist funded a research study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, titled “Women in the Wake of the Storm: Examining the Post-Katrina Realities of the Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.” The study found that women faced and continue to confront special challenges to their health, safety, and economic wellbeing in the lingering aftermath of hurricane Katrina; that women were at an increased risk of exposure to sexual assault and domestic violence; and that they encounter greater economic hurdles when rebuilding their lives.

More information about other projects Soroptimist has funded through the Disaster Grants program can be found in “Reaching Out to Women When Disaster Strikes,” a Soroptimist white paper that addresses women’s specific vulnerabilities post-disaster due to existing economic, political and cultural conditions that impact them more severely.

“It’s so important to remember that long after the devastation fades from media, there are still countless women who have been displaced and need our help,” said Jenifer Beles, SIE’s executive director. “We are rooting for the women of Haiti as they work to rebuild their lives and we have not forgotten their struggles.”

Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., Soroptimist International of the Americas offers programs that improve the lives of women and girls through social and economic empowerment. Its major program, the Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Awards, provides cash grants for women seeking to improve their lives with the help of additional education and training. Each year, about $1.5 million is disbursed to deserving women through this award-winning program. Soroptimist is a 501(c)(3) organization that relies on charitable donations to support its programs. For more information, visit Soroptimist.org.

Soroptimist International of Europe, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is a worldwide organization of women in management and professions, working to build a better world for women and girls. SIE is present in 58 countries with over 1,230 clubs and 35,000 members. Since 2007, under the slogan "Soroptimists go for Water", SIE has
implemented grassroots water and sanitation projects in the worth of over 2 million Euros. SIE continues to provide access to safe drinking water and improve sanitation facilities for women and girls.

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Jessica Levinson

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