NGO War Breaks Out In Committee!

Clarín

Committee session started off with all 14 NGOs joining hands in an effort to end violence against women.  The debate focused on cases of assault, especially sexual assault, and also included discussion about how it could be prevented. Women For Women International suggested self-defense training, whereas WASH United believed in prosecuting the men who commit the crimes, as in third world countries like Pakistan and India, often criminals are not held accountable for their actions.  Areas where war prevails are often areas where crimes and cases go unnoticed, because in the midst of all the turmoil and conflict, women are either ignored or caught up in other issues like poverty and homelessness. Educate A Child suggested focusing on these areas; Save The Children seconded this by stressing on greater security in these areas.

However, crisis broke out when Bill Gates, creator of Microsoft and owner of the GATES Foundation, or more popularly known as “the richest man in the world”, passed away mysteriously in an airplane crash. After receiving this news via The Washington Post, the main emotion expressed by all of the NGOs was sorrow.

This sorrow did not last long though as it was almost immediately kindled into a raging fire when GATES Foundation announced that with the turmoil following the demise of Bill Gates, it would withdraw funding from all NGOs placed in America. GATES Foundation made the following statement: “We are not ‘withdrawing funds’ but are simply steering our direction of funding to foreign NGOs so that they too might have a chance to work for betterment”.

Important to note is that while all NGOs in committee session are on an equal level, in terms of input and the effect they can have on resolutions; out of committee, things are a little different. Some NGOs, such as Save The Children, have been working for a longer time to achieve their respective goals than GATES Foundation has. But it is GATES Foundation that remains the largest NGO with the most funds available, due primarily to the wealth in the hands of Bill Gates. It is for this reason that it is also the NGO that extends help to other, smaller NGOs.

Stung by the injustice of the situation and brought into a near-panic by the possible adverse effects this decision would have on their respective organizations, all NGOs rose up in protest against the measure. Some came out in open opposition; Educate A Child was the first to call out on GATES Foundation for its “ignorant mistake”. This was closely followed by CARE, which was clear-cut in its statement that if GATES Foundation chose to go through with the measure, CARE would remove all Microsoft products from its headquarters and would start a social media campaign titled “Boycott Gates”. Debate heated up when MAMTA added fuel to the fire by presenting the valid question of how CARE would use social media if it boycotted Microsoft products, as Microsoft is the world’s most popular, most well-known, and most widely used software system.

Women For Women International attempted to calm the argument by reminding all NGOs “to work together on the issue at hand”. Save The Children proposed to GATES Foundation that all NGOs needed to work together to “end the suffering of women and children”. GATES Foundation’s response was rather lofty, stating that it would like to remind Save The Children that “it is actually GATES Foundation that saves the children, not Save The Children”. Save The Children came with an immediate backlash by saying that in terms of longevity, GATES Foundation is “an infant in comparison to Save The Children” as it has existed for a far shorter amount of time.  The fire was put out by MAMTA’s passionate words: “There is already a war going on in this world; we do not need one in between the NGOs”. Women For Women International seemed to be playing the role of peacemaker and seconded MAMTA on its statement and with that, debate about violence against women resumed.

It should not be forgotten that while GATES Foundation may have abandoned its quest to fund all American-placed NGOs, it is still an international organization and will be extending help to other bodies across the world. As per the delegate of GATES Foundation, “We have not abandoned our international plans just because funding has stopped in one area”. It is obvious that the withdrawal of funds will pose a serious blow to the smaller NGOs that rely heavily on the aid of GATES Foundation. However, these NGOs took the news in their stride and vowed to work harder. Save The Children, in particular, “believes in all exhausting all measures to raise funds to achieve its goals”. Whether or not the GATES Foundation chooses to carry through with stopping funding for American-placed NGOs or revoke its decision, due to the unfavorable response from the 13 other NGOs, is still undecided.

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Menstrual Activism: A Moral Duty?

Clarín

In light of the ever-growing battle against gender inequality, from the American MeToo movement, to the Pakistani retaliation to the rape of  Zainab Ansari— a young girl assaulted and murdered— the NGOs Programme started off with a heated discussion on female education.

A total of 14 NGOs were present at the conference, and discussion about women independence began immediately. GATES Foundation opened fire with the following statement: “How do you make women independent? You educate them.”

The debate commenced with the topic of why girls do not attend school in the first place. Because the discussion revolved around females, WASH United steered the discussion to the direction of menstrual activism. Research shows that 1 out 10 girls in Africa miss school because of their period; and in Afghanistan and Nepal, 3 in 10 do (World Economic Forum). The delegate from this NGO passionately spoke about how much trouble girls face with regards to menstrual hygiene in South Asian countries, because it is “considered as a disease rather than a normal body process” and explained that that is why girls do not attend school in these areas, “as no management is available for these girls”. 1 out of 3 girls in South Asia are unaware of what periods are before they experience them (Motto) and use cloths instead of disposable napkins, which have adverse effects on their health, including Reproductive Tract Infections, Urinary Tract Infections, and in some cases, infertility.

Dealing adequately with menstruation and menstrual hygiene is an issue that plagues underdeveloped countries. In Nepal, women are banished to ‘menstrual huts’ during their period (The Independent) while in Ethiopia, girls are forced to stay at home for up till 4 days a month (Plan International).

Considering the taboo involved in the mere concept of menstruation, all NGOs, especially WASH United, agreed that education and awareness in schools is vital to allowing girls to be comfortable in attending— CARE stressed on the need to end the stigma revolving around menstruation to overcome the sanitation problem;  Save The Children adopted a slightly different approach and said that it was also important to educate families and society in general rather than just focusing on schools.

It is essential to note that men play a considerable role in the low female literacy rate. Males are either not aware of the issues their female counterparts face, or are the ones stopping them from attending school due primarily to the cultural belief that women are better off engaging in domestic chores.


Taking this fact into account, AfriPads suggested that school systems should introduce awareness campaigns for boys. WASH United countered this by stating the very valid point that many men, even educated men, “take pride in and follow their customs”. MAMTA brought the debate back to the topic of education by reminding all the NGOs that “education is for the betterment of society”, so once educated, men would not follow customs going against societal benefit. AfriPads concluded the discussion with a simple yet heartfelt statement: “No girl should miss school because of her period.”

The committee session came to an end with the successful passing of a directive, where it was proposed that kits with disposable sanitary napkins should be distributed amongst girls in third world countries so that the management of their monthly cycles does not interfere with their education.