iZōsh Spring Event: March 8, 2019
On Friday, March 9, 2018 approximately 120 women came together at Huron Hills Church in Ann Arbor to celebrate International Women’s Day by empowering women living in extreme poverty.
The night’s meeting was opened with a performance by the Bichini Bia Congo Dance Theater, which included a lively lesson for the whole group in Congolese dancing. As the dancing ended, Katie Glupker, iZōsh® Ann Arbor Chair, announced that this was the 17th iZōsh event, gave a nod to International Women’s Day, and described the program to come. She described how our small group of women, part of the North American middle class, could have an actual, real, direct, and positive impact on women who live in extreme poverty by providing micro-loans. We can know the names of these women who have dreams of improving their lives, their families’ lives, and their communities, and watch as their loans are repaid, and then recycled to other women. These loans allow women in communities all over the world to pursue small business opportunities and improve their living situations, educate their children, and reduce the risk of oppression and exploitation of themselves and their families. This is the mission of iZōsh.
Colleen Dauw , iZōsh Vice Chair, continued the introduction by telling the group how they can CONNECT, by gathering twice a year, LEARN from the speakers about the challenges faced by the women we serve, GIVE of our resources knowing that every penny goes to micro-loans, and CELEBRATE how lives are changed in this process. She reminded participants of how much money had been given to women to date and expressed the hope that tonight we might reach the $200,000 mark.
Ellie Coleman announced the results of the stone voting, introducing recipients by name and occupation. She described how iZōsh works in partnership with Kiva, Opportunity International, and Healing Hands of Joy to grant funds.
Table voting followed, during which those seated at each table chose between two women who have applied for small loans. A representative from each table then presented these choices by name to the larger group.
That business completed, Melodie Marske announced the topic for tonight’s talk, and introduced Dr. Alain Mukwege from Panzi Hospital in the Republic of the Congo, whose work has been dedicated to the victims of gender-based violence stemming from the ongoing unrest in the Congo. He began with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” and went on to quote his father, Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder of the hospital: “Justice is everybody’s business.”
Dr. Mukwege described his home country, citing a population of 80 million belonging to 400 tribes, in an area of 1 million square miles. He gave a brief history of his country, pointing out particularly the 1996 genocide when victims of extreme violence fled neighboring Rwanda. He described how women were the first victims because breaking up the family structure forced children into labor or the military. His story was horrifying and difficult to listen to. He described the founding of Panzi Hospital in 1999. It’s focus is women, and departments are dedicated to victims of sexual violence and fistula. He described the Panzi Model of comprehensive care, to include psychosocial support, health care and surgery if needed, community reintegration, legal assistance, education, and advocacy. Services are free to those who cannot pay.
Dr. Mukwege also described the need to break what he called the “mother-daughter cycle,” as he noticed that he found himself delivering babies who were the result of rape, and then eventually treating those same grown-up baby girls as rape victims themselves. It was time to find the causes as well as treating the victims. Dr. Mukwege and his staff began to fight against the apparent impunity of groups who committed acts of violence, ultimately bringing them to justice in international criminal courts. He ended his talk by describing ways to help the cause. First, he suggested, we must raise awareness, then buy consciously, supporting manufacturers who do not condone violence, and refusing to deal with those who do (Look for a future email with more details on this!). He then suggested supporting the Panzi and Mukwege Foundations, so that the Panzi Model can be used in other African countries, and in Middle Eastern countries.
A question and answer session followed, touching on the current collaboration between Panzi Hospital and the University of Michigan School of Nursing. Additional answers described how Dr. Alain followed in the footsteps of his father, Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis. He was initially struck by the gratitude of the patients who were helped at the hospital, and he tries very hard to follow his father’s example.
Ellie Coleman then introduced Mrs. Deborah Mukwege, who was modeling traditional Congalese clothing, and bags that are made and sold to support of the work of the hospital. She read lyrics to a moving song of the Congo in her native language, describing the sorrow in the Congo and making a plea for relief and prayer.
While micro-loans were still being funded, Ruth Ann Logue and Melodie Marske, the iZōsh Educational Team, introduced “Sarah’s Story,” a moving description of just how terribly lives have been affected by the violence in the Congo, and attendees discussed the story at their tables.
Katie Glupker returned to the stage and gave a brief history of iZōsh and spoke of the value of membership. She also described the value of pooling resources to make a maximum impact on the lives of the recipients and the givers. She recognized the two new iZōsh Chapters that have started: one in Cumberland, Maine and one in Birmingham, Michigan.
Colleen joined her and announced that the next meeting date would be October 11, 2019, on International Day of the Girl. She gave the following statistics: That night $15,464.00 was given, and 44 women were funded. This brings the all-time iZōsh Ann Arbor total to an amazing $207,577.00 and a total of 562 women funded! This announcement was met with celebratory cheers from all present.
Since iZōsh met on International Women’s Day, many of Kiva’s micro-leans were matched by their donors. This means that iZōsh was able to fund more women because, for those loans, we needed to pay only half of the amount necessary to fully fund the requested loan. $4,000 of the money spent that night was matched, meaning our total impact was closer to $20,000!
The evening concluded with a quote from Dr. Denis Mukwege who said about the women he treats, “I think the future of this country lies with these women, who are wonderful.”
-Beryl McHenry, iZōsh Reporter