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NEWS RELEASE: Soroptimist helps disaster victims in Japan

Organization grants more than $66,000 to help women and girls affected by earthquake and tsunami

December 19, 2011
Contact: Kamali Brooks, Public Relations Manager
215-893-9000 x130, kamali@soroptimist.org 

Though it’s been several months since a series of natural disasters devastated the eastern part of Japan (a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, followed by a 20.4 meter high tsunami, followed by another 7.4 magnitude earthquake less than a month later), citizens still struggle to rebuild their lives. But Soroptimist, an international volunteer organization of business and professional women dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, hopes to make the rebuilding process a little easier.

The organization recently presented a Soroptimist Disaster Grant for Women and Girls totaling $6,600 to the Akishima Soroptimist club to help open a temporary daycare facility for children in the Omoto area of Iwaizumi-cho, Iwate Prefecture, whose original daycare center was significantly damaged. The grant will benefit the working mothers who rely on the facility.

Soroptimist Disaster Grants range from $1,000 to $20,000 and assist women and/or girls who have been victims of natural disasters or acts of war, such as the disasters that recently rocked Japan.

“While the children now attend the Omoto Rural Women’s House for daycare, the location is not safe because it is near the tsunami-affected area. Additionally, there is no outdoor space for the children to play and they must spend all day in one room. Building a new daycare center will take years,” said Akishima President Katsuno Senka. “Therefore, we’d like to open a temporary facility. After the disaster, some mothers have to work farther than before. It is very important that they have a safe place to send their children while they work.”

The club will also supply the center with a computer, printer, educational tools, and to help maintain a safe and secure area for the children.  

“We believe that this school will be a symbol of revival that gives hope and happiness to children. We also believe that their smiles will give their mothers love and peace,” explained President Senka.

Soroptimist has about 12,430 members and 520 clubs in Japan. The Akishima club is not the only Soroptimist group working to provide recovery and support to women and girls who suffer disproportionately during times of disaster. Here’s how other Soroptimist clubs in Japan have used nearly $60,000 in Soroptimist Disaster Grants to help local women and girls:

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, which it divided among four affected high school girls to help them continue their education on an ongoing basis until they graduate.

Sendai Soroptimists 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 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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