Posted January 26, 2012 from Kenya

Our Mission: YOUNG AFRICA WOMEN INITIATIVE (YAWI) provides women survivors of war, civil strife, Gender based violence and young women in distress with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies changing Africa woman one at a time.

Our vision is for Africa woman to live in a changed world with integrity, peace, prosperity, respect and free of oppression.

What we do YAWI works with socially excluded women in five Africa countries where war and conflict have devastated lives and communities. Each woman we serve has her own story– loss of loved ones, some murdered, others of physical and emotional trauma, homeless (refugees), and internally displaced in their own country. Most have endured a struggle for survival. In YAWI we enroll women in our one-year program which are community based they learn job skills and receive business training so they can earn a living. They come to understand their rights and how to fight for those rights in their homes, their communities and their nations and become leaders. YAWI believes that lasting change can only be achieved when women have access to both knowledge and resources. How our programs work 1. Economic stability/Income generation Equipped with job-skills training and basic business education, along with an awareness of their rights, women go on to become leaders in their communities, inspiring other women to follow in their steps. These two elements appear throughout YAWI programming and help generate our programs' key outcomes: • Women sustain an income: Income and property management • Women are well: Awareness, protection and prevention • Women are decision-makers: Family and community decision-making • Women have social networks and safety nets: Solidarity for support and protection When these four key outcomes are met, women experience lasting change and are positioned to be active citizens. Active citizenship is a when a woman engages socially, civically and economically for the betterment of her family and community. As active citizens, woman can become leaders of community change that lead to peaceful and stable societies. Our programs are organized into three stages as women increase their access to resources and knowledge: 1. Creating Awareness: Improving women's access to knowledge about their value and the importance of women's rights and societal roles. 2. Promoting Behavior Change: Encouraging a woman's willingness to actively make decisions in her family and community, apply knowledge to maintain physical and psychological wellness, to form or join women's and community groups and take advantage of economic opportunities. 3. Enabling Action: Providing opportunities to develop personal and group plans for action to allow women to become active citizens individually and in solidarity with other women. In addition, women are provided with support and access to essential services such as microcredit loans, legal assistance, cooperative and employment opportunities and social networks. Establishing the Basics YAWI believes that earning an income is critical to being an active citizen. That's why we focus on helping every woman in our program generate a steady, sustainable form of income. To help the women in our programs, three major topics must be addressed: • Women Face Cultural and Societal Barriers o A number of attitudes and social inequities may prevent women from gaining economic stability: Part of the program's curriculum helps in creating awareness about the value of women's work both inside and outside the home, developing skills for household management and promoting women's productivity for economic self-sufficiency. • Women Lack Money Management Knowledge o Managing finances is an unknown concept to many of the women we serve. Some may have never handled money before entering the YAWI program. We introduce the concept of savings, and how saving money can help women reach their goals. With an understanding of the basics, women can then examine different income-generating opportunities that may suit their needs and circumstances and begin to set personal income- generating goals. 2. WOMEN RIGHT AWARENESS The trauma of war and conflict not only affects women's physical and emotional well-being, it can also deprive them of their sense of worth. Many women survivors of war and conflict are unaware of their rights in their families and under communal and national law; others are coerced to accept second-class status at home and in society. Through our experience, we have learned that it is crucial to raise women's awareness about their contributions to society and their political, economic and social rights if they are to contribute to the rebuilding of their families, communities and nations. YAWI programs help women understand their rights and demand for them. • Fighting Back Against Basic Rights' Violations o Conflict intensifies the challenges women face; the majority of casualties of war and conflict are now civilian, and most of those are women and children. Women are targeted for human rights violations such as rape, torture and sexual slavery, all of which may be used as weapons of war. Many have lived much of their lives without access to health care, or access to economic or legal power. Women and girls are the most overlooked demographic in discussion of human rights and related laws. When women have access to knowledge, combined with access to resources, they are more capable to lead change in their families and communities. • Helping Women Defend Themselves o Women are often subjected to rape and other forms of physical and emotional abuse during conflict. Our program helps women understand that they have the right to live free of violence and inequality–that they are aware of the resources available for legal recourse, are provided with referrals for medical treatment and psychological and emotional support and that violence against women is a public, not private, issue. o We will provide women with a judgment-free environment where they can confidentially discuss their personal experiences with other women and speak about the different ways they can protect and support themselves and their families. • Understanding Health Is an Essential Human Right o Our goal is to help women understand and recognize the importance of health as an essential benefit and human right and to create awareness about the key factors that affect their health. Knowledge about health is crucial for women to improve their lives. Through our program, women gain information on the prevention, treatment and management of key health issues, including communicable diseases, nutrition, sexual and reproductive health, mental health and stress, personal hygiene and environmental health. We promote women making choices they think are best for themselves and their families we offer medical referrals to local partner organizations for participants requiring additional healthcare services. • Educating Women on legal rights o We know that in order to protect women from injustice, they must be aware of the laws protecting their rights and the community resources available for advocating and securing them. As program participants, women learn the difference between what the law states and the actual legal practices in their country, and the ways in which the legal system can protect women and children. They engage in discussions to enhance their legal understanding of marriage, divorce, child custody, domestic violence and rape, ownership, inheritance and the control of assets. As a result, participants are able to make informed decisions, take action and advocate for their families, communities and nations. • Creating Lasting Change When women understand and advocate for their rights, everything changes. Statistics show that women who go through rights-awareness trainings are more confident, healthier and actively participate in their communities.

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