Projects Funded in 2016:

Project Hajra
Queens, NY
$7,000

This is the second year of support for Project Hajra, a Queens-based grassroots mobilization of Muslim women organizing in the face of multiple forms of domestic, community, and state-sponsored violence. Their main project is the Community Safety Initiative, based on peer organizing meetings that foster trust, safety through mutual support, and a deepening understanding of how interpersonal violence and gender injustice are linked to the marginal status of Muslim communities in the wider society.

Last year’s grant from the Martín-Baró Fund provided travel reimbursements, meeting supplies and refreshments, child-care support, and small stipends for 206 peer organizing meetings. As a result of their success, membership in Hajra increased from approximately 150 in 2014 to 200 in 2015, with a growing awareness among members and volunteers of their common struggles and capacity to support one another.

The group reports: "A woman came to our CSI meeting for her own needs around gender justice, but then recognized that her economic struggles were similar to those of many women in the community. She is now taking the lead to form a female-led giving circle popular in South and Central Asian communities, a small way to gain some economic dignity." Project Hajra also launched Pressured Diamonds: Chai and Conversations, a youth-named and -led safe space to discuss and organize around gender rights, LGBT issues, and state-sponsored violence.

Funding for 2016 will be used to expand Community Safety Initiative meetings, deepen discussion of the roots of gender, economic, and state violence, and sponsor several community-wide events. Project Hajra also intends to build on their internal successes by establishing ties to other Queens-based and national organizations working on the intersection of family and state violence.

Kyabaan Association, Inc.
Pakistan
$7,000

Since 2005, Kyabaan has been working to support indigenous youth in the southernmost island of the Philippines, Mindanao. Mindanao is a site of historic and ongoing counterinsurgency warfare aimed at suppressing local movements for autonomy and suspected communist insurrections. Since the War on Terror, the U.S. has been a growing presence in the region, providing military training, advising, and counterintelligence to the Philippine armed forces. According to Kyabaan staff, U.S. assisted counter-terrorism operations have resulted in "extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and community dislocations" and have "been rampant and worse under the present regime." Those who suffer the most are children, driven into the "hinterlands" by the fighting and stripped of their daily routines, including regular schooling.

Last year, with support from the Martín-Baró Fund, Kyabaan launched a food-producing community gardening program for youth, trained teachers and community leaders on how to respond to the effects of door-to-door military patrols on children, and conducted community forums on healthcare and other pressing local concerns. The group also arranged medical examinations for both children and adults. In their second year of funding, they will offer training in barefoot psychology, informed by indigenous spirituality, to teachers and community leaders involved in advocating for protection of the community’s ancestral lands and mineral rights.

 

FAMDEGUA
Guatemala
$7,000

The Association of Relatives of Detained-Disappeared of Guatemala (FAMDEGUA) has been a leading human rights organization in Guatemala since 1991. They have worked tirelessly to denounce human rights violations and determine the whereabouts of the many thousands of people disappeared during the civil war, which ended formally in 1996. They have been instrumental in pressing for the exhumation of clandestine cemeteries, accompanying the relatives of the disappeared and helping prepare for bringing cases to the judicial system.

This year, FAMDEGUA will receive support from the Martín-Baró Fund for a series of workshops for Maya women relatives of disappeared people in the Alta Verapaz region, in order to create a climate of trust, solidarity, and cooperation individually and collectively. Alta Verapaz is where some of the largest mass graves have been uncovered to date in Guatemala, on a former military base (now called CREOMPAZ). FAMDEGUA has been a key plaintiff in this and many other cases for transitional justice in recent years. Helping the relatives achieve a "psycho-emotional equilibrium" in order to prepare for possibly giving testimony in a court of law is an additional objective of this project, especially given the historic lack of confidence in the legal authorities.

Proyecto Buena Semilla
Guatemala
$7,000

Since 2014, Buena Semilla has been holding Women’s Circles in five marginalized Mam and K’iche' Mayan communities in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Poverty, food insecurity, and lack of access to social services are widespread problems in the region. Women also frequently experience hardship related to child pregnancy and domestic violence, and restrictions on their economic participation and other rights. Buena Semilla offers women a place to face these conditions collectively, while also participating in entrepreneurial activities, problem-based and cognitive-behavioral therapy, and participatory, arts-based activities to bring about healing and empowerment.

Buena Semilla will use its first year of funding from the Martín-Baró Fund to host 20 Women’s Circles, a monthly series of workshops focused on leadership development and mental and maternal health, and bimonthly productive activity workshops on enterprises including agriculture, handicraft production, and making children’s toys, to increase participating women’s household economic and food security.

 

COFAMIDE
El Salvador
$7,000

Each year, thousands of migrants travelling from El Salvador to the U.S. face extortion, trafficking, assault, and other human rights violations, risk of which has only increased due to restrictive U.S. immigration policies and the ongoing militarization of the U.S-Mexico border. El Comité de Familiares de Migrantes Fallecidos y Desaparecidos, El Salvador (COFAMIDE) is a grassroots organization founded and led by family members of individuals who disappeared or perished along the journey. Current membership includes 350 families, most headed by women, who are bearing the psychological and social effects of this crisis. The organization offers members psychosocial support as well as advocacy and legal training to help them assert their rights domestically and internationally as relatives of disappeared persons.

This is COFAMIDE’s first grant from the Martín-Baró Fund and will support the development of additional psychosocial workshops and legal and advocacy trainings for their members. As victims supporting victims, the group’s leadership team will also hold their own self-care workshops to help sustain and strengthen the organization.

 

NOMADESC
Colombia
$6,639

NOMADESC was awarded a third year of funding this year. NOMADESC works with the Afro-Colombian community in the region of El Valle de Cauca, Colombia. This area was the target of paramilitary massacres in 2000. For the past ten years, NOMADESC has accompanied the women survivors of the attacks as they have been reconstructing their lives.

In the coming year, they will continue to conduct workshops on human rights, psychosocial accompaniment, recovery of ancestral practices, and building a Memory House. They will also hold workshops to plan for their annual event "For the Life, Memory and Dignity of the Victims of La Vía Cabal Pombo" massacres. This year, they have also been organizing as part of the civil society movement to participate in public actions related to the peace talks between the government and the FARC rebels. They are pressing for the dialogs to extend to other insurgent groups, as well as to make sure the outcome responds to the historical demands of the population in the search for a lasting peace and true social transformation in Colombia.

 

CEDECOT
Chiapas, Mexico
$6,650

This is the first grant to the Center of Experimentation for Tzeltal Community Development (CEDECOT) in Chiapas, Mexico. They are a relatively new organization, working in four communities to promote alternative development and social justice among a very poor and marginalized population, where women, mostly illiterate, have historically been oppressed and disempowered. Specific projects address developing appropriate technology (stoves, ovens, solar dryers), community economics (bread production, processing and conserving food), nutrition, and food security (promotion of home gardens, chickens, etc.). Their projects emphasize gender as a human rights issue, as the idea for the project came from the women themselves, who want to be "taken into account as someone important."

Through their grant, CEDECOT will conduct a series of workshops in each of the four communities they serve, focusing on gender equality, human and women's rights, social leadership skills, and the exchange of experiences. Following the workshops, participants will also meet with men in leadership positions in their communities, and organize an exchange among all four communities.

Freedom Summer Palestine
Palestine
$7,000

The Aida refugee camp is located in the West Bank, north of Bethlehem, and has been the site of past conflicts with Israeli authorities. Its youth, along with their parents, have suffered from severe limitations of opportunity – and of human rights in general – under occupation. Many young people have experienced arrests and detention, and, reportedly, several have been killed in recent years.

The Freedom Summer project offers the youth of the camp a range of cultural and educational activities designed to enhance their creativity and leadership abilities in their community. Artistic and cultural training includes photography, music and dance, theater, and creative writing activities "to reveal the true image" of the Palestinian community in its struggle for human rights. Among other things, the young people will be involved in documentation of the impact of the separation wall on residents of the camp, and will coordinate their activities with others in the community opposing the wall.

For some, this project and its goals are evocative of the Freedom Summer civil rights project in the U.S. more than 50 years ago. Volunteers with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) worked with young people in southern "Freedom Schools" to register Black voters across Mississippi. The youth used a combination of educational tools and creative and other activities during the project to advance their goals of equality and liberation.

 

Mobile Expressive Therapies Program
Palestine
$7,000

With the support of the Martín-Baró Fund, the Mobile Expressive Therapies program in 2015 provided training for 25 kindergarten teachers in the West Bank and developed a training manual to enable teachers to continue to work with their students independently. During the last few months of 2015, the denial of human rights by the Israeli government intensified. Israeli settlers perpetrated several atrocities and settler violence escalated, while racist and even genocidal rhetoric became more acceptable in Israeli public discourse. The Mobile Expressive Therapies program had to function within this context of heightened tension, fear, and despair.

In response to the desperate need and with the help of the Martín-Baró Fund, the program was able to expand in several important ways. The program is now facilitating groups just for parents, to help them overcome isolation and to share strategies for confronting the daily challenges of living under Israeli occupation. Training in expressive therapy techniques is being provided for teachers and counselors of children ranging in age from seven to twelve, in refugee camps, schools, and community centers. These children have a wide range of emotional, behavioral, and physical disabilities. The families, both parents and siblings, of special needs children are receiving help. Expressive therapy techniques provide ways to minimize stress, relieve anxiety, experience joy, and generally maximize resiliency for all participants.