To our beloved community,
If you recall, our fourth issue of the magazine was dedicated to the Girls4Girls Charitable Association, of which I am both Founder and current President. Proceeds from the magazine magazine has helped fundraise just under a thousand dollars for the organization and as such I thought you should know about our trip!
It’s been just over a week since we returned home from Mexico, and wow, what an experience. It was a jam-packed week, making new friends, connecting with communities, and most importantly: listening. We spent the last week catching our breath, decompressing, and establishing goals as a team for our next chapter. Now we’re back, fired up, and so ready to build on this momentum!
We’ve been beyond excited to share our experience with you, so thank you for your patience and for tuning in!
What did we do?
We spent three days with local women and children in the colonias (slums). We weren’t there to teach or solve all their problems. We were there to connect with them, to learn about their struggles, and to not focus on our preconceived notions as much as understand their shared reality.
- We facilitated workshops with women regarding gender and identity healthy relationships and female equality
- We distributed care packages to women, filled with basic necessities for self-care and hygiene.
- We distributed clothing, accessories and specialty items thanks to the generosity of our Canadian community.
- We sponsored, cooked and served meals to two communities.
- We played with children, provided toys, soccer balls, food and fun.
- We provided a financial contribution to the establishment of two safe spaces in two different communities.
What do these safe spaces look like? We worked out of two sponsored community kitchens, and, as in most homes around the world, these open air kitchens are the heartbeat of the communities. At these kitchens, we have sponsored the establishment of a secure, sectioned off area where women who find themselves in dangerous and troubling situations can find refuge. Think sleeping quarters, locked doors and access to a 24 hour crisis phone line. Furthermore, this is where we’ve stocked vital supplies for the collective community: pads, condoms, baby formula, diapers, oral hygiene, kids vitamins, medication, and the list goes on! The spaces will be managed by members of their own community who are trusted and well-known.
What did we learn?
// Safety and security in the colonias of Los Cabos is increasingly harder to come by. //
// The women we met genuinely want job opportunities so they can earn money and provide for their families. //
// The best way to help women is to help their children. //
Their experiences reflect numerous studies that have shown when women work, their earnings are prioritized to medicine, school for their children, and healthy food. This is opposed to a constant struggle in their patriarchal societies where earnings are often spent on gambling, alcohol, and other items.
We asked the women what they would change about their relationships with significant others, if anything. Without hesitation, one hundred percent of them (literally, everyone!) responded: machismo. They are referring to a “macho” chauvinistic society where they are not considered equal. Part of this society includes exposure to tremendous domestic violence to both women and their children which fuels an endless cycle of repression.
We also learned that one of the biggest needs in the colonias is accessible and affordable day care. Women want to work and earn money for their families, but society tells them they should stay at home and care for their children. Day care will assure these women that their children are safe and supervised while they go out and seek work. Day care will allow the women to explore their role outside of domestic work, and earn an income for them to spend autonomously. It will give them the space to clear their heads, to take time for themselves, and realize they have options – an alternative to the abysmal situation so many of them are suffocating in.
This information has inspired us and will manifest itself in our goals for 2018.
We know what you’re thinking, what about South Africa? How does it all fit together?
Our hearts will always be with the Helderberg Rape Crisis Centre in Cape Town, South Africa who are currently experiencing record-high statistics of violence and sexual assaults. Girls4Girls will continue to support the HRCC and we’re sending them a financial contribution before year end, as this is what they most urgently need to continue their deeply needed work of supporting the survivors. If you would like to donate specifically to this cause, please let us know and we can direct your funds to their project.
Sponsoring centres both in South Africa and in Mexico is all part of our overall mission of supporting women from fragile communities; communities where domestic violence is disproportionately high, where their rights are disregarded, and where their families are exposed to challenges that leave them extremely vulnerable. Creating safe spaces in these communities is a very important step in empowering the women, and as a result, the children. These places often become a lifeline, a lighthouse in the darkness, a warm bed on a very cold day. We feel blessed to be able to expand into a new country, one that is close to home, and one that is just as desperate for a helping hand.
…. So what’s next for our little non profit society?
Our little society has BIG plans for 2018. This trip to Mexico really enabled us to see firsthand what truly makes an impact in these Mexican communities, and we are more determined than ever to bring the right people together to make magic happen.
We are going to build a detached safe house, complete with day care, a communal kitchen, a communal gathering space and bedrooms. This is where women will be taught skills they can use to generate an income. This is where the children will see a doctor once a week. This is where women and children in abusive situations will be able to live comfortably until they figure out their next step. This is where mothers will be able to aggregate, away from prying eyes, to truly discuss their highs, their lows, and share the kitchen supplies to create nutritious meals for their children. The safe house will be stocked with medication, which a visiting doctor will distribute upon prescription once a week to those in need. Antibiotics, worm medication, fever medication, ear infections, diarrhea and more. The doctor visits will be instrumental in providing treatment to the root of any illness, rather than simply treating the symptoms. Furthermore, children will be fed three meals, they will be provided vitamins, and they will be inspired by visiting professionals who will show them what’s possible if they stay in school and work hard towards their dreams. Most importantly, this will be an area where gender as a social construction will be disrupted: children will see men serving women, men respecting women, and communities coming together for one another. The machismo culture is one that is difficult to confront, but through loving, respectful actions these children will hopefully witness the potential of relationships based around equality. After all, they are the future of Mexico. And if we learnt anything, it’s that the best way to support women is to support them in taking care of their children.
Well, we could go on and on but we will leave you with this: from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU.
Thank you for supporting us.
Thank you for supporting South Africa and Mexico.
Thank you for donating so many supplies.
Thank you for attending our fundraisers.
Thank you for spreading the word.
And most importantly, thank you for aligning yourself with a value of equality and upward mobility for women.
You will never know just how big of an impact even the smallest of gestures has made to the life of another. If you don’t believe us, stay on the lookout for our video coming your way soon. The smiles, the sparkling eyes, the hope will be a direct reflection of your kindness, love and generosity.
Robyn and the G4G team Xo
For more information check out Girls4Girls website here