Monday, March 24, 2014

Women For Action Champions UN Women's HeForShe Campaign with its Production

Promotional Video for Chicago’s #HeForShe Production, produced by Women For Action (Click image above to watch.) 

Women For Action champions the development for the first Chicago Chapter for the United States National Committee UN Women (USNC UN Women). In honor of this new Chicago development, WFA has initiated a video project to promote UN Women’s launch for a campaign called #HeForShe which can be found on the web at HeForShe.org. The #HeForShe campaign enables men to take a stand on UN Women’s global initiatives in an attempt to accomplish gender equality and empowering women and girls worldwide.

The Mission

Women for Action is spearheading this campaign in and around Chicago in honor of UN Women’s launch for HeForShe, whereby local business men and leaders will be asked to speak on behalf of these initiatives.

The presence of male leaders could set the stage in Chicago for the development of the first USNC UN Women Chapter in Illinois and as Chicago advances the millennium goal to connect its city to the world.

The United States National Committee UN Women mandate is to:

  • Raise Funds that support UN Women projects
  • Advocate by engaging US policymakers to support UN Women and the implementation of international agreements on women’s rights
  • Educate members and the US public about UN Women and its global projects

Partnering with USNC UN Women’s goals places Chicago as a leader for international development, especially in countries where women are lagging behind in economic, education and political equality. This collaboration would support UN Women’s attempt to advance the rights of women and girls in these areas.

UN Women, a UN agency has access and influence that other organizations do not have. For example, in the area of peace and security, UN Women has worked directly with peacekeepers and UN peacekeeping missions, including in Darfur, to protect women during times of conflict.

The Video Project

The project will pose a three to four question inquiry on gender equality, such as “How do you feel about a recent statistic that claims that Sixty-six million girls are out of school worldwide”? Or “For the first time, women in Egypt have the right to national ID cards. They can do simple things like register their children in school. What are your thoughts”?

Male leaders will have the opportunity to respond on camera and show Chicago as well as the world that men are concerned about these issues too.

The plan is to rally at least twenty five leaders in and around Chicago, those that represent the culture and lifestyle of the city and are already making an impact in their line of work or within their communities.

Being that Chicago is a global city (Chicago' economic importance, its corporate powerhouses, educational institutions and research is vital to the nation and significant to the world), Women For Action believes that if Chicago’s male leaders make gender equality a priority, then it could potentially aid in balancing the scale around the world.

Sample footage from the project will be submitted to UN Women’s HeForShe campaign for Youtube  and the official release will be featured at the launch event for the Chicago Chapter of the USNC UN Women.

Will you take a stand?

If you are interested in participating in the project, contact Anthony M./ Senior Project Manager at anthony@womenforaction.org


You can Join the developing Chicago Chapter for the United States National Committee UN Women on MEETUP. Stay tuned for the Founding Members Meet and Greet!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Interview with Carolina Buglione, an Italian Global Philanthropist

Carolina amongst children in Congo. Click on photo to view the rest of the slide.

Carolina Buglione, had just spent four years in what some have branded the most dangerous place on Earth. A job opportunity in Washington, DC enabled her to leave behind a destination located in the Democratic Republic Of Congo (DRC). The late endeavor enabled her to participate in the installation of the American version of a Spanish NGO, called CODESPA, an organization that works towards eradicating poverty and has managed around 800 international development projects in 33 countries to this day.

Though it is presided by HRH the Prince of Asturias and in collaboration with various multilateral organizations such as the EU, Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank, CODESPA, finds itself attempting to rebrand its efforts in the United States and garnering further interest in its initiatives, creating CODESPA AMERICA. Over the past year and a half, Carolina has been part of that reestablishing process. However, she departs in key timing as the organization enacts a strategy.

Buglione’s current role at CODESPA America is Executive Director. In Congo’s capital Kinshasa she was the  country representative for FundaciĆ³n CODESPA and presided over multiple programs that aided the very poor. “Our work there was mainly providing vocational training services to young people… We would support  very small micro enterprises that need help in different ways, especially in access to credit, training, basic equipment... ”.

CODESPA wanted her to lead their efforts after making contact with her at a youth center in Goma, Congo, where they provided the vocational program training. My experience in Congo started in Goma, which is located on the border with Rwanda. It’s one of the most difficult towns in the country, with a complex war going on since more than  20 years”.
 
Her destination in Goma was an appointment awarded in scholarship by the Italian government. She was assigned to an Italian NGO by the name of VIS Volontariato Internazionale per Lo Sviluppo (VIS). In Goma, VIS dedicates its efforts towards training minors in a Salesian ran youth center called Don Bosco Ngangi.  Don Bosco aids vulnerable and displaced children, such as those that are affected by HIV/AIDS, and even  child soldiers, refugees, orphans and street children. Carolina states that, “They provide assistance to around 3000 kids everyday in school and food and different kind of health services and professional training”.

In the initial stages, Buglione was a bit distressed by her deployment. The realities were far more disparate than what she had been used to “...I was pretty scared in the beginning of course. It was really tough and it’s a very difficult environment”.  

Rightfully so, Congo is also considered the most dangerous place for women. Aside from the sorrows of children, women are likely victims, caught between rebels and soldiers that have been designated to protect the villagers. In-spite of the risks, Carolina explains that there are many women that work for the NGOs in Congo. “In Congo, generally speaking, there was a majority of women working with NGOs, also at higher level and in  big organizations”.

Even though there are organizations like CODESPA or VIS that are making significant strides, Buglione is concerned about the country’s stagnant progress. “Congo is such a complex country. It’s such a complex situation, that actually when I left, the situation especially in Nord Kivu where Goma is, was exactly the same as in 2008 when I arrived...The population was still suffering at exactly the same level. The level of insecurity was very high”.

Safety is a big issue. You have curfew... especially in Goma there were moments when we were evacuated in Rwanda for example because the rebels were coming in town; there were shooting and everything...there was a cholera epidemic, so we were evacuated again...then managed to deal with that, taking thousand of precautions 20 times a day and try to be careful,...the life you live there is very small somehow because there are so many things you can not do, like walk around by yourself

However, Carolina believed in the work that she was doing which is why she is a strong advocate of sustainable techniques. “In my opinion most of the time the humanitarian aid is just the giving of things and equipment. It’s not sustainable. And it doesn't really help the population from real improvement. It’s always very temporary. And it creates a very particular view from the population on international aid. We are perceived as some sort of actors that arrive and provide things. And you can find yourself in front of a situation where some local community is actually waiting for someone to come and bring, food or stuff instead of like putting themselves to work.

Though she doesn’t negate the necessity of humanitarian aid, justifiably so, Congo’s conflict puts it at high risk. However, she is a champion of sustainable action. “Even though the humanitarian aid is sometimes extremely necessary,... especially in a place like Congo, where its conflict situation is going on for so long...So you have a whole generation of people that was born and living under this situation, …..it’s like kids that now has grown up have seen this humanitarian aid like a very important part of their economy…This is very sad for me”.

She doesn’t regret her time spent there. Actually, she came to enjoy the country. However, It’s realities started to wear thin. “It was really tough and it is a very difficult environment and you come so close to difficult realities. It kind of changes the way you see things”.

Buglione was fortunate. She found love in the belly of the harshness. Her husband-to-be was working for the United Nations, in particular on forest management issues. She talks about the survival rate of relationships and family that are comprised of people who prioritize traveling from mission to mission. “I think that it’s much more difficult when people work really into the humanitarian sector. Because what they do is travel from crisis to crisis. You meet those people they’re  like, last year I was in Sudan, and the year before, I was in ... and year before that I was in Afghanistan. I mean they go from tough place to tough place”. Eventually, Buglione and her husband found new assignments and relocated to Washington D.C. “Coming to Washington has been a good change and a good change in life...I wanted to get out of Congo. It has been hard. After four years, I think it was enough for me. “

Some could say that her work in D.C. has been merely a time for reflection and transition, as she embarks on a journey comprised of a new union and their collective interests. Her husband has taken another assignment located in Panama. Just in a few short days, they will reunite after being separated for a month. She is a proponent of family. Even though she misses her own back home in Italy, she realizes that her husband is part of that. They support one another. “We both have curiosity in each other’s interests...experiencing the world and traveling. So we are not afraid of that”. However, Carolina is unclear of what career choices will await her in this new territory. She’s optimistic and focused on family, which makes her choices distinctive but wise, when choosing a career path in global philanthropy.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Interview with Italian Filmmaker Vanessa Crocini for Get Together Girls

Vanessa Crocini to the left shooting the local scenes accompanied by members of  GToG: Project leader Grace to the far right.

What caught my eye the first time in Nairobi, was the difference between rich and poor. Among skyscrapers and residential areas, there are those forgotten areas where 60% of the 3 million people who live in Nairobi tries to survive everyday. Narrow alleys with open sewers. Inhumane living conditions, repulsive smells. Young and old women, men, kids, infants, animals. Really a mix of everything. Most of the street children seen in Nairobi come from these slums. A miserable and violent life without a family and a home. Wandering among the streets of Nairobi begging for money. A difficult life especially for the street girls”.- (A Reading From Grace’s Diary) Get Together Girls

 A young documentary filmmaker,  traveled to Kenya to explore an enterprise that has been changing the lives of young street girls. Contrary to the title, street girls are not prostitutes. They are young girls who are displaced in Kenyan’s society and often homeless. After high school and earlier support from a local organization for rehabilitation, from spending their childhood on the streets, the lives of these girls seemed to have plateaued again into an abyss of no direction or clear future.  They found themselves consuming the reality of a typical street girl while residing in  overcrowded slums, without professional buoyancy and very little stability. Some of them attempt to survive day to day by begging for food.

What was comprised of the filmmakers discovery was that one woman by the name of Grazia “Grace” Orsolato had left behind a comfortable life and career in Italy, to relocate to Kenya, Africa where she aided and assisted in a sanctuary for street girls called “Anita’s Home. In this place for reformation, Grace built an organization called Get Together Girls (GTOG), a project where the girls come together to learn invaluable skills in tailoring and business management. The budding project eventually led to an African fashion collection, which has been seen on the runway in Kenya and Milan. The project has changed the quality of life for the girls and planted security for their futures. Vanessa Crocini an Italian filmmaker living in Los Angeles and Italian rockstar Vasco Rossi, posed as executive producer, documented the project under the same name and exposed the brand to the world.

In a place they have called home, it is often a curse to be a girl. Girls are thought to have very little value in places like Nairobi, Kenya. Life seems formidable. Irene a sewer and now a mom inside the project talks about her upbringing and her means for survival while living in the slums. “When I was in the street, I remember nobody knew that I was a girl because I even looked like a boy. I used to wear boy’s clothes because I was very bright. Because I knew that if people knew that I am a girl, I’d be raped too. So I used to wear like a boy, walk like a boy. Now I was pretending to be a boy. So nobody would know that I am a girl.” Irene may have been far more fortunate than most. In the crowded slums where the street girls reside, girls have very little security and protection; they are often preyed upon by the remnants of the streets. Places like Anita’s Home have become a safe haven for many of the girls. This is where they spend a part of lives because there are very few places to go. A Project like GTOG has enabled them to move forward even when the streets attempt to restrain them.

Crocini’s documentation of the project is a way of creating awareness about certain conditions and sounding the bullhorn on an NGO that has been saving lives. Circumstances surrounding her adopted Ethiopian niece and a previous trip to Africa for another production directed under her mentor and Italian filmmaker Alessandro Rocca, motivated her to unveil some of the layers within the African culture.

Even though Africa is generally perceived as impoverished and struggling, Vanessa feels that it is often misinterpreted. She elaborates on Kenya.  “Kenya would have money. But it is not well managed. First you see the skyscrapers and then you turn and see slums...There is still this difference between rich and poor...”  

Though poverty is thick in Kenya, there are also people with riches. Crocini seems certain that there is a much bigger picture. “I think they do have resources but they are not used properly... the amount of money that we give back to Africa, or all the after taking all the resources we take from them, is a tenth of what we earn, from you know, any resources that we take from them. So you understand over there is a balance that is completely off...it is definitely their fault too. It is our fault and their fault…”

As a documentarian and investigator, Vanessa has a certain obligation to the truth, which is why she traveled to Kenya alone and left behind her executive producer. She felt that the girls inside this project may have been less likely to share their lives if a man accompanied their crew. Afterall, the objective was to get a peek inside their worlds so that their reality could be revealed on camera. Though, It wasn’t an easy task. Initially, Crocini thought the girls would be reluctant. The first couple of days Vanessa would follow them around with the camera turned off. She felt that she had to earn their trust. Eventually, they embraced her presence. Once the camera started rolling, she became enthralled by their stories. She talks about the roller coaster of emotions she underwent while interviewing the girls of GTOG. “I was crying too when I was interviewing  them... It’s a lot to bring up again, you know? It’s a lot to share. But I think also. I was telling them you know, that if you share your story, someone else probably is going to feel empowered.  

Vanessa was amused by Grace’s presence in front of the camera. No emotion seemed to be barred. “Grace was so natural in front of the camera. Like, meaning like she really didn't care if it was there or not...She would scream. She would be quiet...she was acting like normal, like the camera wasn't even there...”

Crocini wanted to respect Grace’s space. She was finally able to interview her on day 28 out of 31. For that reason, the time invested seemed far more rewarding .“She had never really talked like this to anyone,... like in an interview like that. The interviewed lasted for an hour and half”.

Yet, Vanessa was unsure of her progress. Working alone presented some obstacles. There was no colleague to discuss the day’s work or to lend her feedback on the mounting footage. Nor was there anyone to assure her that it was a success.

Still the final results speaks for itself. The GTOG girls are a testament of that. Not only have they championed the efforts of the film, their collection has increased in sales. In addition, the film trailer and clips has been seen in over 116 countries and the film has been showed in 16 film festivals all over them world.

Vanessa feels that documentaries are extremely resourceful. Unlike movie-making, they don’t resolve in minutes. The stories continue, sometimes for better or for worse. In this particular case, one girl by the name of Esther left the GTOG project since the filming, yet another young woman by the name of Janet who appeared to have blown off the project in the past, had returned.  It would seem that documentary makers have very little control over their subjects. Lives go on beyond the filmmaking, even for the filmmaker herself. Back at home in Los Angeles, Vanessa collaborates with the Social Impact Media Awards which works towards promoting and exhibiting the works of independent filmmakers, activists and change-makers that are often overlooked. Just like those of the Social Media Impact Awards, her film has worked to change perceptions. It has even aided girls that no one cared about. Aside from its global viewership, Get Together Girls, has won several awards at the Women's Independent Film Festival.

Some could say that Vanessa is biased about Africa; the continent is tattooed on her shoulder. Apart from that, she feels that folks can learn a few things,“The women there are strong and there is a lot to learn from. Because...they always have hope…”  If not Africa, she encourages folks to step into unfamiliar territory which builds character. “I feel like we need to know and we need to experience a little bit of when we are not a majority...and when we are a minority, when we are in a situation when we have no control of, I think its good because it puts a lot of things in perspective...you should always not be afraid of what we do not know, ... push a little bit boundaries of yourself...to the next level

Visit Get Together Girls online at:

www.gettogethergirls.com

(The documentary is visible on Indieflix, Roku and XBox and will be watchable through Facebook soon through Yekra!)




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