Women and Girls

Sep 15
2013

The Last Point

I sometimes receive emails from our Afghan partner that stun me in their reality and for a few minutes, I am able to block out the “nothingness” that is all around us and live in the moment of what truly matters.

For over four years our partner has very capably overseen the tailoring and now beautician training courses that we fund for women who desperately need a skill to provide income for their families in the safety of their homes.

International Literacy Day was September 8th.  That same week we began literacy courses and self-help empowerment courses for the women in our training courses.  They want to learn to read since most of them never had the opportunity to attend school.  Our partner recently finished a three-week training course himself to be able to also train these women in organizing Self-Help Groups.  This is a fantastic program that not only teaches them how to start their own businesses, but also gives training in forming self-help groups where they contribute their own money to a fund that will provide low interest loans to its members.  This program was developed by the International Labor Organization and is one of the most valuable tools for helping women who live in extreme poverty and oppression.

A few days ago, I received word from some dear friends that a young Afghan man they had worked with on development projects was murdered to prevent any further progress of this kind for the Afghan people.  I expressed concern to our partner for his and his family’s safety and questioned whether or not we should continue. I received this in reply…

Don’t worry Ms. Linda. We will not die this soon because we have targets and goals in our life. We are building the minds of children and women and giving them hope to continue living.  In this case, we have decided to continue to the last point…”

Everyone is fearful for 2014 and what will happen when international forces leave Afghanistan.  My fear is that the Afghan people will be forgotten once again.  The potential for the increased oppression and brutality toward women and girls is very real and beyond the scope of most of our imaginations.

A report in TOLOnews.com on 9/11/13 states that 95 percent of suicides in Afghanistan are committed by women. More than 2,500 Afghan women have taken their own lives in the past year alone. Countrywide investigations show that the vast majority of suicide cases in Afghanistan were amongst woman and young girls experiencing physical abuse. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Afghan women experience some of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world. According to UNAMA’s mid-year report, cases of violence against women were higher in 2013 than in 2012. In addition to violence, Public Health officials cited forced marriage, often between pre-adolescent girls and adult men, as well as widespread illiteracy as the main adversities facing female Afghans that contribute to the startling rates of suicide. 

This news is very discouraging, and it would be easy to say it’s not worth it, but if those who risk the most for their people are not willing to give up then my momentary feelings of discouragement don’t measure up.

Bless all of you who have supported these training courses with your donations to Eternal Threads for sewing machines, lunch for the women and trainers’ salaries.  I assure you it does not go unnoticed and it will never be forgotten.  It will continue to be a light in the shadows, and even a small amount of light illumes the darkness. DSC00175

After I visited the training courses on my last visit, I learned from our partner that the women could not believe that I would travel so far to see them and that we would care enough to give them these opportunities.  Caring enough isn’t really that difficult nor does it cost us that much, but it changes lives in ways that we really can’t comprehend.  I think it is easy for us to forget that there is a “last point” and I’m thankful for our partner’s reminder.  He is the father of three sons so his sacrifice or risk is certainly no less and a lot more than ours.  He was a translator for our military for two years and still honors the men and women that he saw sacrificing so much for his people and his country.  It is what inspired him.

To make a difference in the lives of these women in Afghanistan, please visit our Life Changing Gifts page.

Aug 31
2013

Kathmandu

Even though we flew completely different routes, amazingly we all arrived within a few minutes of each other at the Kathmandu airport on Friday morning.  Unfortunately some of the luggage for Abby’s extended stay here in Nepal didn’t make it, but they will be here on the 2nd.

After a quick rest, shower and some lunch we went to visit the new offices of of our Nepal partner which up until now had been in their home.  Our partner had invited a young woman to join us that he wanted me to meet.  Her name is Rashmi.  A beautiful young women with amazing blue eyes who has been deaf since birth.  Her husband signed and translated for us.  She is a very accomplished artist naturally and is now studying at Kathmandu University.  She draws all of the anti-trafficking posters that our partner distributes to police stations, bus and train stations, schools, etc.  She wants to use her art to help with the anti-trafficking work.  I wish she could meet our great friend, Ruth Jackson, who never stops thinking about the ways in which she can use her art for good.

Rashmi, along with her paintings, has started doing painting on canvas shoes.  We all thought they were fantastic and think there is a potential for selling them….especially to benefit the Red Thread Movement.  She wants to train the girls in the safe house to do the painting which will give them an income, but will also give them a way to express themselves.  They often can’t articulate what they have gone through in either the spoken or written word, but can express their feelings in art.Image

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After leaving the offices we visited our partner’s family at their home which is where the sewing center activities take place as well.  We were able to meet some of the girls doing the sewing and see the new cutting machine that they have available to them.  It was great to meet Rosni who is now completely in charge of all the shipments that we receive of bracelets and other goods.  Before returning to the hotel they prepared the most wonderful Nepali meal for us all to share.

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Aug 29
2013

Team Visit to Nepal

An Eternal Threads team departed on Wednesday, August 28th for a visit to Nepal.  The team includes Eternal Threads’ founder, Linda Egle, board member, Diane Rose, and two staff members, Breahna Jordan and Abby Youngblood.  Breahna is the director of the Red Thread Movement and Abby will be remaining in Nepal to live in the safe house for nine months.  We are so excited that she will be able to serve this ministry in such a powerful way…spending time with the girls and helping our partner with so many tasks.

UPDATE: With a little more drama than we would have liked at the DFW airport today, we are all on our way to Nepal.  We are going different routes, but will meet up in Frankfurt for the last legs to Delhi, India and Kathmandu.  Don’t you love that name – Kat-Man-Du!!!!  I always get a kick out of saying it.

I’m very anxious to see our Nepal partner, the staff and especially the rescued girls in the safe houses.  It is always the greatest blessing and the reward for traveling half way round the world to be able to be with them.  They are the reason for it all and they are worth it!!!  Their courage, resiliency and their willingness to build a new life is inspirational in ways that are hard to describe.  They have come from remote mountain villages where they may have never had an opportunity to go to school, where they helped with household chores from the time they were little girls that most women never have to do…collecting wood and feed for animals, building open fires for cooking, and carrying water home from the stream.  Their families are desperately poor and they may have even suffered abuse in their own homes, which made them especially vulnerable to traffickers.  As most Nepalese people are, they are sweet and humble even after being deceived and abused by the traffickers.

It is the love and compassion they receive from the young women “manning” the border stations who rescue them, the house mothers and other rescued girls in the safe houses that gives them the confidence that they can rebuild their lives.  Receiving vocational training in sewing or beautician training gives them the practical skills needed for that life.  Every time you give a “gift” of a sewing machine to someone from our website, you are empowering these girls.

I’ve never been on the border at exactly the right time to witness a rescue first hand, but I love to hear the dramatic stories of their rescue.  This news report appeared in a Nepal newspaper of one such rescue.  Usha Gurung who did the rescue is the most senior staff member of KI Nepal.  These girls are amazing…knowledgeable and courageous.  They are not willing to let anyone slip through their grasp.  I can’t wait to tell Usha…”good for you and thank you.”

BHAIRAHAWA – A teenage girl from Tanahu district, who was being trafficked to India by three men, was rescued from Belahiya border in Rupandehi district on Wednesday evening. …an organization working against human trafficking, rescued 17-year-old Sima Thapa as a group of traffickers were trying to take her across the border. The three men fled leaving behind Thapa when they were stopped at a check post. Thapa, a native of Arunodaya VDC-3 in Tanahu, was drugged by the three men she had met in a passenger bus headed for Bhimad Bazaar.  “When I woke up I was in Belahiya. They threatened to kill me if I did not do what they told me. I relented and walked along with them,” said Thapa. While two of the traffickers walked ahead to cross the border, Thapa was instructed to walk along with the third man and identify him as her uncle if inquired. Usha Gurung, in-charge of … Belahiya check post, said Thapa’s nervous expression suggested something was suspicious about her being there with a man. “When we stopped them for questioning, she first said that the man was her uncle. Not convinced, we pressed her to tell the truth when the man ran away. She later told us what had happened to her,” said Gurung. Police Inspector Mohan Bahadur Khand of the Belahiya Area Police Office said Thapa was handed over to her parents on Thursday.

Stay tuned…hopefully we’ll be blogging several times during the visit.

Apr 17
2013

Journey West

On Sunday, April 14th, our Afghan partner and I traveled to the western city where our projects are located.  It was nice to have a companion for the journey.  Going to this city is like entering another world in Afghanistan.  It is much different than Kabul.  Thankfully, it has not been damaged as much over the decades of war so there are avenues lined with huge pine trees.  The entire city has mature trees (something you don’t see in Kabul) and parks with loads of trees and flowers.  It seems to be a more “normal” city rather than a war zone…people going about their daily lives…shopping, taking children to school, visiting neighbors.  All in all I prefer it to Kabul except for the fact that as a woman I am less free.  I never saw a single woman who didn’t have a burqa or chador. I’m able to wear a long coat and head scarf but we had to be cautious not to attract unwarranted attention.

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Our first project visit on Monday was to an area just outside the city to visit the tailoring course.  My partner brought his family with us to help with the “attention” factor.  This is the second course we have done for women in this area and will begin a third at the beginning of next month. Even though our partner had taken some wonderful photos and videos before it was such a pleasure to visit the young women for myself.  There are 10 in each class ranging in age from 18 to 30…most of them being around the age of 20. Because this is such a poor area none of them have ever had the opportunity to go to school so having the opportunity to learn this skill is a huge benefit to they and their families.  We passed out graduation certificates to everyone and our partner will present them with the supplies they need to start their business when they finish at the end of the month.  These supplies are purchased for only $120.  Anyone interested can give this amount for one of these young women on our website in Life Changing Gifts.

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I was also able to meet one of the young women (17 years old) from our first class who now has a business in her home and the 26 year old woman from our remote village whose story was in my last blog.  I had several questions for them which is such a new experience because never in their lives has someone asked them their opinion about anything.  They would not take their chadors off or even let me fully see their faces.

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We talked to the young woman about her business and what might help her be more successful.  We concluded that we could help the women get more customers in their neighborhood if they had pieces of fabric that their customers could choose from rather than having to travel into the city to buy it. Our partner is going to try and find a wholesaler that would give us a good price for bulk purchases of fabric.  The women are given their sewing machine and set-up supplies when they finish the course, but they would have to repay the loan for the fabric as they are able to make it into clothing for their customers.

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After visiting the tailoring course I had the pleasure of taking my partner and his family to lunch at an Afghan restaurant which is something that they as a family had never done before.  It was a treat for all of us to be able to spend time together.  Our partner’s three sons are ages 12, 7 and 4. (photo below)  His oldest son is a very intelligent boy and LOVES to go to school.  Unfortunately, because they had to move several times he is only in the 3rd class instead of the 6th as he should be.  The government school that he goes to will not let him take exams to advance to the grade that he should be in for his age.  I discovered that the solution to this was that he attend a private school.  I didn’t have the expense of educating children of my own so this was an easy decision for me.  I gave the funds to our partner when I left yesterday so that he can attend the private school.  I can tell that this young man will do well with every opportunity he is given.

After lunch we visited the jewelry project that we have been supporting since a good friend of mine began the project when she lived in this city for a year and a half.  She taught the women to make the beautiful jewelry that we now sell on our website and the young Afghan woman you see in the photo below has carried on the project to employ the women.  I collected some of the Pearls of Perseverance bracelets that were finished and we worked on some new designs as well.

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The remainder of our time was spend sourcing raw materials…a very fine cashmere comes from this part of Afghanistan.  I’m hoping we can employ some women make some beautiful infinity scarves and gloves that you will love.

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Oct 2
2012

Afghan Tailoring Courses

ImageEternal Threads has begun tailoring courses in Afghanistan to give women the training they need to be able to have their own home businesses.  We have just completed one of these six month courses for 10 women and began a new course on September 1st.  These training courses are vital because they give women, especially widows, who cannot sell their goods in the open marketplace a way in which to create life-saving income for their families.

Our partner in Aghanistan oversees this project and a trained tailoring teacher is paid a monthly salary to work with the women on a daily basis.  The hand crank sewing machines that they use during the course will be gifted to them on the completion of the course along with a $120 small business loan.  This loan will to help them get started in their home business, providing money for start-up supplies and a sign for the outside of their home to advertise to their neighbors that they are in business.

Our Afghan partner describes the benefits of this project ~

“The tailoring course we have is really helping the women.  They are so happy coming to learn how to make clothes.  Even people from other parts of the city came to me and asked if we can have the same training in their area.  The women are so hopeful for the skill they are learning, they always talk to me about the future.  The women told me that when they are complete with the course that they will be a real tailor in the place where they live and they will be able to make money from this.  In this way they will feed their family members and help the man of the family financially.  In this case, they will not be under pressure from their husbands as they have been before because they are now also making money.”

If you are tempted to think that learning to sew is only an outdated hobby and can’t be that beneficial to women in the modern age, I’d like to recommend an incredible book ~ “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.”  This wonderful book tells the story of five sisters who survived the Taliban years on their own by having a tailoring business in their home. They not only employed themselves, but many young women in their neighborhood who had no way to survive otherwise.  This book is a testament to the perseverance and will that Afghan women have to survive and enrich the lives of their families.  They still desperately need these skills.  Watch this wonderful video of the women at the training center in Afghanistan ~ Afghan tailoring course

Oct 2
2012

Afghanistan Jewelry Project

Eternal Threads projects in Afghanistan include carpet-weaving in a remote village, tailoring courses for women and education for village children.  However, our involvement in Afghanistan originated in a partnership with Onemaker, an organization founded by a good friend, Jana Harp Dean.  Jana lived in Afghanistan for a year and half organizing a jewelry making project to give desperate women an opportunity for income to help their families.  Their first product was the beautiful King’s Garden bracelet which continues to be one of our most popular items.  Thousands of tiny glass beads are lovingly stitched together to make this exquisite bracelet representing King Zahir Shah’s beautiful gardens.  The artisans commemorate the late King whose reign was known for peace, educational opportunities for women and democratic reforms.

Onemaker’s project was turned over to the women when Jana left Afghanistan and the project is now being managed by a new Afghan partner.  The women are presently making the beautiful Pearls of Perseverance bracelets in several colors and the Mother’s Love garnet bracelet.

The income received from the making of these bracelets is vital to these women and their families.  Just wearing one of their bracelets is a symbol of the global community of women that Eternal Threads strives to create.  A community that can support those most in need of our help!!

Aug 24
2012

A journey worth making!!

An Eternal Threads team made a trip to Nepal in June of this year.  We traveled a lot of miles to visit our partner, but our journey seems insignificant to the one that rescued girls must take to restore the life that was almost taken from them.  Here is the story of their Journey of HOPE ~

Border Girls

It begins here…young women in purple uniforms in the blazing sun for 12 hours a day with only a handkerchief to block the heat at a far western border crossing in Nepal.  They stand at the entrance to the “buffer” zone and claim the lives of young girls who will be lost to the brothels of India if the traffickers can get them successfully into that zone.

They never divert their attention from the task even when we are interviewing them.  More girls are taken through this crossing than any other in Nepal, and they are not willing to let even one slip through their grasp.  They are tenacious and equally courageous.  They know their only hope of saving these young women is convincing them of what danger awaits on the other side.

Eternal Threads and the Red Thread Movement funds two of the border units that our partner in Nepal has established to stop the trafficking of young Nepalese girls (more than 12,000 girls a year are trafficked to Indian brothels).  At this station as many as 300-350 girls are stopped each month to interview they and their companions as to why they are going to India.  Out of these as many as 35 are saved from the fate that awaited them and either returned to their homes or taken to safe houses for a period of restoration that may last six months to a year.  Eternal Threads also supports one of these safe houses. (November 2011)

We have visited three safe houses on this journey and the experience is both numbing and exhilarating.  To think of what they have gone through and the healing that must take place is a task we cannot imagine, but with the help of loving house mothers, spiritual counselors and each other they are meeting the challenge head on determined to leave their past behind them and begin a new journey.  It takes time, a safe place and HOPE for that new life…something tangible to build on. (read Gita’s story in our April 2012 blog)

Vocational training in tailoring and cosmetology provide the hope that they will be able to stand on their own, provide for themselves and never again have to depend on someone who might betray them.  By the time they leave the safe house they have the skills to establish their own businesses and return to their villages as professionals and leaders.

A sewing machine for a new business.

On this journey the team visited a young woman who returned to her mountain village 3 years ago.  She has since started agricultural projects to employ young women as well as a tailoring training school.  Some of the young women in her sewing classes walk a day and a half to be able to take advantage of an opportunity that will likely save them from the deception of the traffickers for “job opportunities” in India.  Eternal Threads has sent funding for the sewing machines to put five of these young women in business in their home village where they will not only have a business but will train others.

Linda Egle and ET Staff member, Jennifer Patterson, at a sewing center.

Young women also receive training in sewing centers in cities along the border where girls are vulnerable to traffickers.  One such center has trained 300 girls…40 of them have started their own businesses.

Purchasing a sewing machine or a sewing certificate for a young woman in Nepal gives the gift of Hope!!

You can also purchase beautiful products made by the girls in the safe house giving them income to start their new life when they leave.

Be sure and watch this short video produced for Eternal Threads by one of our team members, Matt Pinson.

Also check out, Erik Tryggestad’s article and blogs for the Christian Chronicle.

Jul 10
2012

Family Challenges

To begin our Out of the Darkness countdown (more information on our Facebook page) of some of the factors that contribute to sex trafficking, we start with “family challenges” which affect many of the girls and women we serve. As a reminder, all of this information is from an internal study done this year with partners of Eternal Threads.

Family challenges include broken families or families with a dysfunctional background including families with widowed or single mothers or polygamous backgrounds. It also includes families where one or both parents are working away from home in order to provide for their children, and families in which there are too many children for the mother or parents to care for adequately. As you can imagination, whether with good or poor intentions or even neglect, these situations put children at great risk for being trafficked. They need more support and protection.

These family issues are present in numerous countries, but were specifically reported in Nepal, Ghana, Mongolia, and Nigeria. In these countries and every country, Eternal Threads helps by partnering with those who work to stand in the gap of family challenges. By providing jobs and often emotional support for girls and women, we strive to give them the resources they need to be successful in making their own living and taking care of themselves and their families.

Check in tomorrow to see how you can make a specific difference in the issue of Family Challenges.

A Story of Restoration

There are stories of rescue and restoration that need to be told. This is one of those stories that is similar to the stories of so many that are deceived and exploited by traffickers ~

She is eighteen years old and over the past several months has been training to be a beautician in a vocational training program along with others who are receiving tailoring training. With extreme talent, she has been chosen to work in a micro-enterprise salon business, through which she will be able to earn enough money to support herself in her new community.

Just one year ago, her story looked much different. Living in poverty with her father and stepmother, she was asked to be married to a man from a higher social caste. Her parents quickly agreed. However, the man which posed as a potential groom was actually a trafficker working for a trafficking ring in India. She realized through an overheard conversation that he had no intention of marrying her, but in fact was taking her over the border to a brothel.

On the day that they attempted to cross the border, dedicated anti-trafficking agents stopped the couple and separated the two for questioning. Broken and scared, she asked to be rescued, as she knew where he was taking her and she did not want to go. The trafficker was taken into custody and she was taken to a safe house for restoration and healing with other girls that had similar stories. Although the organization that rescued her reached out to her parents, they were unwilling for her to return home. The rejection and betrayal that she felt was heavy, and even in the midst of a loving and caring environment, it took a long time for her to heal.

Today, she is an excellent beautician and is thriving in her new community. She is ready to get started in her own business and continue to train other girls as well as give back to the program that made such a difference in her own life. In talking about her rescue and restoration, she says, “I have never been loved by anyone in my entire life like I have been here in this place.”

Nov 15
2011

“Safe” Home and Sewing Center

From the Founder. Nepal

I guess learning to sew in 4-H when I was 9 years old is paying off even though I haven’t had time to use my own sewing machine for years. I recently spent 2 days in Kathmandu, Nepal sourcing fabric, product ideas and materials for the sewing center we want to establish at one of the safe houses for rescued girls. Somewhat laborious, time-consuming and often frustrating, but necessary to our process. Now it’s all coming together as we begin to set up the sewing center at the safe house.

In our world, a “safe” home constitutes one free of any and all potential dangers from accidents or mishaps. We attempt to cover all the bases…covers on electrical outlets, cleaning supplies in locked cabinets, non-slip rugs and floors, alarm systems and more. Most homes in the rest of the world don’t have the luxury of such safeguards, so I had to pause and think about what “SAFE” means to this house. For the rescued girls who live here it is above all else a place to be safe from the deceit of those that would do them harm and also a place to be rescued, restored and redeemed. A place to find new confidence in themselves and build a new life!

This safe house is just such a place. It is filled with light and fresh air with lots of room. The girls have their own garden so that the home never has to buy vegetables and everything they eat is organic.

Picking vegetables

They share all the responsibilities of cleaning, cooking and maintaining the garden. I hear them singing and chattering happily together as they do their work and also learn new skills of sewing, knitting and crocheting on which to build that new life, not only as a means of income, but as a way to regain their sense of value and worth. Saturday morning I was able to witness the fruit of this safe house when I attended a fellowship with the girls. One of those rescued was the leader for that day. She led the fellowship with poise and stature, a strong, confident voice and a great depth of understanding for one so young. It was a clear testament to the growth that comes from this safe place.

THE RIGHT TEAM

Nirmal RajBusantiThe greatest need we had for establishing a really successful sewing center was finding the right team. We were blessed to find just that team in Nirmal Raj (left) who will be doing the advanced tailoring training for a year and Busanti who will be the sewing center manager. Both have the skills we need and with their combined efforts we are well on our way.

DEVELOPING SKILLS
Helping Each Other
Gaining skills that will help you have income is crucial for these girls, but it also gives them the confidence to build that new life because they have something to value in themselves. It is wonderful to watch them working together and sometimes teaching each other how to master a new skill. They have some good basic skills and with Nirmal and Busanti’s help they will be able to advance their training.

DEVELOPING PRODUCTS
Teaching the girls to be creative and entrepreneurial is part of our goal so making a small jewelry pouch out of scraps of fabric is more than just coming up with a new product. Busanti got right to work showing the girls how to make them and pretty soon they were going through all the scraps of fabric that had been discarded to see if they could find pieces big enough to make a jewelry pouch. Picking up the pieces of your life and making it into something useful is a powerful image.

I was pleased to see that the girls were already working on a new product of their own…a crocheted hat. Their design was good, but they needed a little help with color combinations so we went to the yarn shop and did a little designing together. We’ll hopefully have them in the warehouse before Christmas.