NEWS RELEASE: Soroptimist Disaster Grants

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Organization aids victims of sexual abuse following Haiti earthquake.

Soroptimist's disaster grants mitigate the barriers facing women and girls during disasters, making it easier for them to get the resources they need to survive.

Soroptimist, an international volunteer organization of business and professional women dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, recently presented a $50,000 Disaster Grant for Women and Girls to MADRE, an international organization that works to advance women’s rights by meeting urgent needs in communities and partnering with women to create long-term solutions to the crises women face.

MADRE will use the grant to strengthen and expand the Women’s Center of the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (its sister organizations), to address critical needs of sexual violence survivors in post-earthquake Haiti and to support Haitian women in rebuilding their lives and country.

The Commission of Women Victims for Victims was developed in 2005 by and for rape survivors and provides direct support to survivors of sexual violence through peer counseling, individual therapy and emergency medical care. The 2010 Haiti earthquake destroyed the Women’s Center, leaving women impacted by violence with almost nowhere to turn for help.

“Immediately following the earthquake, the Commission responded to the needs of rape survivors by working out of a tent in the Champs de Mars displacement camp and holding group therapy sessions,” said MADRE Executive Director Yifat Susskind. “However, the makeshift solution was not sustainable as the number of rapes rose to epidemic levels due to the conditions of the camp.”

Soroptimist has long been concerned about the disproportionate effects of disasters on women and girls. In addition to providing Disaster Grants, Soroptimist funded a research study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), titled “Women in the Wake of the Storm: Examining the Post-Katrina Realities of the Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast,” available at: 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 they were at an increased risk for sexual assault and domestic violence; and that women encounter greater economic hurdles when rebuilding their lives after disaster strikes.

“Women and girls are particularly vulnerable during disasters. They lack mobility and access to resources, have increased family responsibilities, and are susceptible to physical danger,” said Soroptimist President Pat Donohue. “Soroptimist's disaster grants mitigate the barriers facing women and girls during disasters, making it easier for them to get the resources they need to survive.”

Soroptimist Disaster Grants provide recovery and support to women and girls who suffer disproportionately during times of natural disaster or acts of war. In 2010, Soroptimist International of the Americas joined with Soroptimist International of Europe to increase the scope and impact of the grant program.

Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., Soroptimist is a cause-related philanthropic federation of clubs improving the lives of women and girls through social and economic empowerment. With 37,000 members in 20 countries and territories, 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. The organization also sponsors the Live Your Dream Campaign in recognition of the power of women and their dreams. Visit the Campaign’s online home at For more information on how Soroptimist improves the lives of women and girls, visit

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Jessica Levinson
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