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NEWS RELEASE: Soroptimist helps disaster victims in Japan

Organization addresses psychological trauma experienced by women and girls after earthquake and tsunami

January 6, 2012
Contact: Kamali Brooks, Public Relations Manager
215-893-9000 x130, kamali@soroptimist.org 

Philadelphia, PA—Soroptimist International of the Americas, an international volunteer organization of business and professional women dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, presented a $6,500 Disaster Grant for Women and Girls to its club in Aizu, Japan, to address the psychological needs of women and girls following last year’s earthquake and tsunami.

Soroptimist Disaster Grants for Women and Girls range from $1,000 to $20,000 and assist women and/or girls who have been victims of acts of war or natural disasters, like the ones that recently rocked Japan. This grant allowed the club to organize 11 free counseling sessions where women and girls who had been traumatized by the disasters could talk to caseworkers, nurses, psychotherapists and other professionals.

“Several months have passed since the disaster and many women and girls living in shelters are suffering, worried about the future and experiencing flashbacks of their fearful experience. Yet the local government is not equipped to provide counseling to disaster victims at this time,” said Junko Takeda of the Soroptimist Aizu club. “We hoped that by talking to experts, the victims could release their fears and regain their mental stability.”

In addition to this project, the Aizu Soroptimist club has also organized soup kitchens, provided underwear and sanitary items, and donated school supplies and funds to women and girl disaster victims living in shelters.

Soroptimist has about 12,573 members and 520 clubs in Japan. Together, several clubs have received more than $70,000 in grants from Soroptimist International of the Americas to help local women and girls devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.

The Akishima Soroptimist club used a $6,600 grant to build a temporary daycare facility after the tsunami significantly damaged the original building. The center not only benefits the children, but their mothers who need a safe place to send their children while they work.

Since 1986, Fukushima Soroptimists have provided scholarships to girls to help them further their education. Because of the earthquake, many girls lost their parents, houses and possessions. At a time when uncertainty is high, the club wanted to bring stability and hope back into these girls’ lives. The club received a $19,500 grant from Soroptimist International of the Americas, which it divided among four affected high school girls to help them continue their education on an ongoing basis until they graduate.

The Sendai Soroptimist club addressed the hidden needs and concerns of women disaster victims who were forced to live in evacuation centers. The club used its $20,000 grant to procure personal hygiene and other useful items for the women staying in shelters. Club members organized gatherings at local salons giving women a relaxing environment to discuss concerns related to the disaster, while drinking tea, getting hand massages and doing crafts. The club also worked with other organizations experienced with women’s rights and finances to help create employment opportunities for these women.

Soroptimist’s Higashi Region used a $20,000 grant to help raise awareness of the fact that sex crimes and violence against women increase after disasters strike. Members partnered with Polaris Project Japan, an organization that works on issues such as human trafficking and other forms of violence against women. Together they printed and distributed more than 50,000 domestic violence hotline cards to woman and girls throughout the area. They also provided 1,000 alarm whistles to those without telephone access, and more than 2,500 aid items such as soap, cream and cleansing cloths. 

“These Soroptimist clubs in Japan are really doing their part to help women and girls after one of the worst disasters in recent years,” said Soroptimist President Pat Donohue. “Women and girls are particularly vulnerable during disasters. They lack mobility and access to resources, have increased family responsibilities, and are susceptible to physical danger. Soroptimist's disaster grants mitigate the barriers facing women and girls during disasters, making it easier for them to get the resources they need to survive.”

Soroptimist has long been concerned about the disproportionate effects of disasters on women and girls. In addition to providing Disaster Grants, Soroptimist funded a research study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), titled “Women in the Wake of the Storm: Examining the Post-Katrina Realities of the Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast,” available at: <http://www.soroptimist.org/whatwedo/programs.html#DisasterReliefFund>. The study found that women faced and continue to confront special challenges to their health, safety, and economic wellbeing in the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; that they were at an increased risk for sexual assault and domestic violence; and that women encounter greater economic hurdles when rebuilding their lives after disaster strikes.

Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., Soroptimist is a cause-related philanthropic federation of clubs improving the lives of women and girls through social and economic empowerment. With 37,000 members in 20 countries and territories, its major program, the Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Awards, provides cash grants for women seeking to improve their lives with the help of additional education and training. The organization also sponsors the Live Your Dream Campaign in recognition of the power of women and their dreams. Visit the Campaign’s online home at <LiveYourDreamCampaign.org>. For more information on how Soroptimist improves the lives of women and girls, visit <Soroptimist.org>.

 

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