Projects Funded in 2000:

Balay Integrated Rehabilitation Center for Total Human Development Iligan City, Philippines

In the context of 21st century globalization, economic policy in the Philippines has been directed at establishing the country as the next, newly industrialized economy in Asia. As a result, workers and peasants, in particular women workers, face high rates of unemployment, displacement from agricultural self sufficiency, and increased stress in the workplace including sexual abuse – in addition to continuing counterinsurgency warfare. In the Iligan area workers have been caught in the fighting between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

As a past recipient of support from the Martín-Baró Fund (1995), the Balay group continues to provide psychological and social support to women and children struggling to survive these economic and military pressures. This grant will enable the Center to develop an educational module to promote mental health via workshops about mental health, training sessions on stress management techniques, individual counseling sessions and, most significantly, strategies for creating lasting support systems among those in need. As in the past, women and children will be the focus of this work.

Chiapas Community Defenders Network Chiapas Mexico:

Defensa Comunitaria is a project of the Chiapas Community Defenders Network, a grassroots human rights group which has over 9,000 community participants in six regions of Chiapas, and functions primarily through seventeen "defenders" chosen by and responsible to their own communities. Defensa Comunitaria will meet the need for mental health services in rural Chiapas, with a particular focus on those issues arising out of the military/political conflict in the region, and the frequent abductions, imprisonment and sometimes torture of those identified as peasant leaders. Other stressors include family separation, paramilitary attacks on communal land, sexual assaults, domestic violence, and extreme poverty. The consequences for individual and communal mental health include post-traumatic stress, communal disaster stress, major depression, and somatic disorders.

An experienced licensed social worker will work with the indigenous communities to facilitate a communal healing process utilizing various clinical and indigenous mental health practices. Methods will include narrative therapy, crisis management, community disaster relief and recovery, stress management, psycho-social education, and culturally-appropriate group therapy known as pláticas or "talking circles."

Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México:

FOMMA is a group of indigenous Mayan women who have organized to help poor women and children who immigrate from their rural communities to the city, where they face problems with marginalization, exploitative working conditions, adapting to their new environment, and physical and mental health. Immigration to the city is often a function of the low intensity warfare that is being carried out in their rural communities. FOMMA works to promote women's rights, improve their living conditions, provide mental health assistance, and enhance their self-esteem. It provides a number of workshops for its members on sewing, weaving, theater, dance, health, and literacy, all of which are intended to help women live in the city with fewer problems.

The Martín-Baró Fund will be providing funds to support the development of a popular theater program whereby the women, via collective workshops, will write, produce, and perform plays about their lives and experiences. Through the development and preparation of these plays, the women are expected to gain some mastery over their difficulties, become more conscious of their abilities, become more aware of their rights and acquire the self-confidence to defend their rights and, as a result, experience improved mental health.

Ibdaa Cultural Center, Dheisheh Refugee Camp West Bank, Palestine:

The Ibdaa Cultural Center was introduced to the Martín-Baró Fund by Grassroots International, the Boston-based partner of the Dheisheh Refugee Camp. Dheisheh is one of the 59 Palestinian Refugee Camps established as a result of the creation of the state of Israel and is now home to 11,000 people, 50% of whom are under the age of fifteen. Dheisheh residents face multiple hardships including squalid living conditions, 70% unemployment, displacement from the land, and a generation of young people with extremely limited hope for the future, not to mention continuing political conflict with Israel and now, on occasion, the Palestinian Authority.

The Cultural Center is a thoroughly indigenous project designed to provide youth with opportunities for education, cultural and historical reconnections, computer access and literacy, the discovery of more egalitarian gender relations, and links to youth both in other camps and internationally. These activities are designed to develop new leadership for the entire community and a renewed sense among young people that the future can, with their efforts, be more hopeful than it has been in the past. The Center, in other words, seeks to reclaim a generation of youth who have known little but despair, fighting, and the loss of both the past and the future. The Martín-Baró Fund grant will support the development of an oral history project designed to reconnect participants with the authentic histories of their families and community as an essential condition for positive mental health and the confidence to work for a just future. Some additional information on Ibdaa is available at the GRI website.

Indradevi Association Phnom Penh, Cambodia:

The Indradevi Association is a grassroots organization that provides community education about STDs and HIV and has clinics in slum areas of Phnom Penh, and in nearby rural provinces, that provide care to people with STDs, HIV and AIDS, especially prostitutes and the very poor. Providing assistance to people with AIDS and their families is another service the organization offers. Through their community education and clinic work with prostitutes and the poor, the Indradevi Association staff have come to be known and respected as resources in the areas in which they work. Their involvement in the community has increased their awareness of the need to provide mental health services to these populations as well, given the high incidence of personal and community trauma that the people they work with have experienced.

A grant from the Martín-Baró Fund will provide money to open a counseling room where people can come to discuss emotional difficulties in individual and group settings with trained volunteers and staff. Moreover, funding will support the training of fifteen volunteers who will then lead workshops in the community that will focus on developing problem-solving skills, finding ways to resolve conflict and communicate effectively, and learning how to manage stress.

Instituto Accion Para El Progreso, Huancavelica, Peru

Sociopolitical turmoil and violence largely affected the rural towns within the Andes of Peru during the 1980s. Entire pueblos were destroyed as they were caught in the political battles between a revolutionary leftist group known as Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the state's military forces. Many had to abandon their homes, men disappeared, and women, children and the elderly were often left in the villages alone. Currently, in this post-war era, these communities are struggling to rebuild themselves and their cultural identity, and are battling the repercussions of the war, including poverty, psychosocial trauma, and fragmented families and communities.

The project funded by the Martín-Baró Fund focuses mainly on the psychosocial development of women, children, families, and the community as a whole. There are two components to the project. The first aims to create three agricultural fields that would produce various foods, such as tomatoes, carrots, onions, etc. Members of the community will be taught how to work the land, and will supplement their diets with the produce, particularly for the malnourished children. The community and families will also be able to profit directly from the production as well. The second part of the project focuses on psychological and cultural healing, and will involve conducting "platicas" or talks, with the goal to build self esteem, promote resilience, learn about human rights, and teach children their cultural identity through the creation of traditional costumes and artwork in workshops.

Millenium Outreach S. H. Group Homa Bay, Kenya:

The Millennium Outreach S.H. Group is a non-political, non-religious and multi-ethnic organization of thirty-two people of varying backgrounds, established in 1998 to work with the warring ethnic communities of the Luo and Kissi tribal people on conflict resolution between the two groups of people. These two groups have been pitted against each other by politicians of different political camps, and the resulting violence and chaos have caused death, injury, disruption of families and communities, as well as poverty and economic and cultural havoc.

The group proposes to educate the Kisii and Luo in the principles of multiparty democracy and to help them recognize the importance of reconciliation and human rights by: (a) conducting ten workshops along the 100 km. stretch of contested border, which will bring together leaders from both communities to share sentiments and misconceptions about each other and to come up with plans of action to bring about a lasting change in attitude and behavior that recognizes human dignity; (b) establishing ten counseling centers along that border, offering counseling and services to those affected by the ethnic violence; (c) setting up ten action groups consisting of members from each group to monitor the observation of resolutions reached at the workshops; and (d) advocating for peace and tolerance between the two ethnic communities. An estimated 100,000 people will be affected by the project.

Movimiento de Mujeres Lucrecia Lindo Chinandega, Nicaragua:

Nicaragua has been greatly affected by sociopolitical turmoil for more than half a century. The Somoza family held Nicaragua under dictatorial rule from 1936-1979. During this period, a small Nicaraguan elite along with outside business interests enriched themselves at the country's expense while deepening social and economic inequalities. This burden fell heavily on the backs of Nicaraguan women. With the overthrow of Somoza by the Sandinista popular revolutionary movement, 25% of whose military forces were comprised of women, a significant step forward was taken for women. Landmark laws were established that protected women from physical as well as psychological abuse. However, the US-supported counter-revolution and subsequent economic embargo created a war-weary electorate in the 1990s that voted the Sandinistas out and favored a US-backed UNO coalition that promised to end the war and trade embargo. However, with the UNO government, Nicaragua has experienced a resurgence of inequity in the distribution of resources, once again burdening women disproportionately and diminishing their political power.

The Movimiento de Mujeres Lucrecia Lindo de Chinandega was established in 1992 in response to this return to right wing conservatism. There are 1800 women members from thirteen municipal areas of Chinandega whose main objective is to promote the rights of women. The organization aims to reclaim the rights and protections for women promised by the Sandinista government. More specifically, their objective is to eliminate family violence and sexual abuse, and to create a climate supportive of emotional reconstitution, necessitated by these abuses. With the help of the Martín-Baró Fund grant, the group plans to train community facilitators in techniques that facilitate emotional recovery, emphasizing women's and community perspectives. Those women who receive help from the project will, in turn, provide services to members of their respective communities, filling a critical void in mental health services that are sustainable and designed to help empower whole communities.

Slum Development Society Chennai, India:

The Slum Development Society (SDS) was founded in 1987 to combat the severe economic, social, psychological and political problems of the Dalit, or the outcasts of Indian society. The literacy rate of the project population is 31%, and the average daily wages are approximately 25-50 cents. In 1994, 256 rapes were reported in SDS's serviced communities. After a woman is raped her prospects for marriage in this culture are slim. With few other options these women often commit suicide. Furthermore, AIDS is fast swallowing up India. Ten thousand women in Madras alone have AIDS.

The staff of SDS includes fourteen people, mostly women. They have conducted a study of 20 villages in the area, examining their problems and proposing possible solutions. SDS activities include community participation in meetings, street plays focusing on political education, night-time skills training and education for children who work during the day, small loans for women starting businesses, a library for the community, AIDS education, and summer camps for children.

The proposed Human Rights Awareness project further addresses the social, psychological, and economic difficulties of the Dalit by focusing on adolescents, especially school dropouts. The project will identify approximately a hundred young people from twenty remote villages of Tamilnadu, one of the most socially, economically, and culturally marginalized areas of the region. They will provide job, leadership and skill training for two days each month for one year, will offer psychological counseling and guidance addressing problems of inferiority and self-hatred resulting from the institutionalized racism of the caste system, and will encourage advocacy of human rights. Follow-up procedures built into the program will monitor the effectiveness of the intervention and reinforce the participants' awareness of changing social possibilities and human rights.