Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Chaos

Today is Black Friday for retailers across the world, a tradition originating in the USA to mark the Friday after Thanksgiving when thousands of big brand shops hold sales before Christmas. Over the last couple of years here in the UK we have seen this previously unknown day turn into a very big deal. For a country that does not celebrate Thanksgiving we have taken on this commercial tradition wholeheartedly, but in some shops things have started to get very ugly.

Scenes from Black Friday sales at an Asda store in the UK last year went viral for all the wrong reasons. Hundreds of people queued up from the early hours in the morning to be the first people to get a foot into the store and grab the best deals on offer. Take a look at the video below to see the carnage that ensued:


Just looking at this scene fills us with despair.

People in developed countries are coming to blows with strangers over a discounted television, whilst millions of people across the globe do not even have anything to fight over. We spend millions of pounds for our friends and families over the Christmas period, whilst others are simply happy to spend the holiday period with their families and are lucky if they receive anything at all. 

The people that we meet on our projects in Africa have no concept of the life of luxury people live in more developed countries. When our teams hand out donations of toys to young children they will often cry as they have never seen such things before. The mothers we met in Cameroon actually handed back items of clothing that we gave to them as they said that they did not need so many. When you hear these stories the scenes we will no doubt be seeing in shopping centres across the country today look absolutely disgraceful. We are acting like animals!

Isn’t Christmas all about goodwill to all men and peace on earth? The behaviour we see on Black Friday certainly doesn't reflect that sentiment. Here at Ripples we are trying to spread a message of kindness this festive season and encourage people to think about how they can make some else's life that little bit better. We are running a number of different fundraising campaigns to raise money for our flagship programmes designed to improve the lives of women and children through micro-finance, enterprise, education and medical outreaches. We think that the best gift you can give to someone this Christmas is the chance of living a quality life.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be taking advantage of the deals on offer today. We would just urge you to think what is more important: being able to own the latest product, or keeping your dignity and putting a smile on someone else’s face?

Or how about a way in which you can do both? For everyone based in the US who is Christmas shopping on Amazon today, why not shop through Amazon Smile and 0.5% of the cost of your purchase will be donated by Amazon to Ripples Foundation if you choose us at the checkout. This way you can splash the cash and feel good knowing that you have helped to donate towards helping women and children living in poverty in West Africa.

Please see below for our guide to using Amazon Smile. 

This Christmas, lets appreciate what we have and not focus on what we want. #MakeChangeHappen

Alysha Bennett Web Developer

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Friday, November 20, 2015

The life of an African village woman: Ghana

At Ripples Foundation we believe that every woman is important and should be given the opportunity to achieve great things. Our main goal is the empowerment of the African village woman.  We run a range of programmes in villages across Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon that are designed to empower women through work, and provide them with the resources that they need to lift themselves and their families out of extreme poverty.

Before we start work in any community, we take the time to speak with the women of the village to discuss their situations and assess what programmes we can put in place to support them. On a visit to Ghana, our CEO Ms. Anne Phillips had the opportunity to talk to some of the women of one village and was able to get an insight into the kind of life they lead and the difficulties they face as women in their community.

Living in a village of 800 people, these women face many struggles on a day to day basis. They live in very small houses, which are not big enough to house their large families.  In addition to not having enough means for food or basic needs to take care of themselves or their children, one of the main struggles they face is not being able to control the number of children they have. They usually end up having more children than they can afford to look after because they feel that they cannot say no to their husbands. They are also not able to practise any methods of birth control because it is against their culture to do so. If they do disagree with their husbands and go to their families for help, they are sent back to their husbands.

One of the women talks about how she had 14 children out of which 7 of them died because she was not able to provide them with necessary nutrition or health care. A high mortality rate is often the reason why these women have lots of children: they believe that the more children there are, the more likely that some will survive.  

As some husbands see it, the main purpose of women is to have as many children as they can for as long as they can. One woman told us that once she reached menopause she was deemed as being no longer useful to her husband because she couldn't have any more children. However she says that she is much happier now because she is working on a Women's Enterprise Project, which she now sees as her 'husband', which means that she has the time to focus on growing the business and making money to support the children she does have.

When a child falls ill they are often unable to get any medical care because the nearest hospital is over 5 miles away and no-one in the village has a car or any other method of transportation that can be used. One woman talks movingly about how her child died in her arms in the middle of the night because she was unable to give him any medical care.

Having heard these stories and many more stories from women in different villages, we recognize how important it is to help these women by providing them an opportunity to do something for themselves whilst working towards lifting themselves out of extreme poverty. For this purpose we offer women with viable business ideas a start-up loan and training so they can start their own business and support their families.

The businesses that the women run range from fisheries and animal farms to Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Coconut Oil, Moringa Oil and Black Soap production. The women are able to use the money they make to take care of themselves and provide for their families and be recognised for contributing towards their communities.

If you would like to make a difference in the lives of these women please donate towards Ripples Foundation by visiting our Total Giving page today and help us make change happen.  
Unknown Web Developer

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Friday, November 13, 2015

The Fight For Women's Rights Continues Today

Since its release in mid-October, the film Suffragette has been dominating the box office with its tale of women’s suffrage in the UK. The suffragette movement was a huge force in the early 20th century, as women from all over the country from all types of social backgrounds came together to campaign for the right to have the vote. This film does a fantastic job of bringing this historical story to the modern generation, but what lessons can we take from the real life campaigners for women alive today?

We celebrate strong women here at Ripples Foundation and the suffragettes are a great example of women deciding to make change happen for themselves, sometimes by any means possible. The suffragettes’ campaigning was very controversial to some, and they often used violent means to gain attention to their cause including setting fire to letterboxes, chaining themselves to railings and even detonating bombs. Obviously we would not condone that behaviour in today’s society but at that time the suffragettes saw that as the only way they could bring their cause into the public light. Many say that by committing these violent acts the Suffragettes actually turned people against their cause. There was another women’s suffrage group, the Suffragists, that used more peaceful means to campaign for the right to vote. They were democratic and believed that holding meetings and forming local committees would be more effective in getting support, and men were even allowed to join the movement!

Whatever their tactics, both of these groups of women had similar principles; they saw an injustice and actively got involved to overturn it and improve their own lives and the lives of others. They strongly believed that women have a voice and that voice needed to be heard by the government. Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the Suffragettes summed up their campaign in this powerful quote:  “You must make women count as much as men; you must have an equal standard of morals; and the only way to enforce that is through giving women political power so that you can get that equal moral standard registered in the laws of the country. It is the only way.”

Here at Ripples Foundation we empower the women that we work with in Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana to encourage them to take responsibility and make change happen in their own lives. Of course we provide them with the resources that they need in order to make this happen, including business loans, healthcare and equipment, but they need to work hard themselves to sustain their development. We find that this philosophy means that the women that work on our Women’s Enterprise projects have a greater sense of pride in their work and the reward tastes that much sweeter when you know that you have made the change happen for yourself.

During our work we have seen women who come to us with no husband and 5 children all living on around $1 a day and begging us to help her make life better for her children. With a helping hand from our programmes, we come back months later to discover the same women with a huge smile on her face. When we ask her how she is; she tells us that because she is working on an enterprise project she can now afford to send all her children to school, she is able to feed them properly and she has a sense of purpose and achievement. There is no greater feeling than seeing that smile on someone’s face and knowing that you have helped that happen.

After decades of campaigning the Suffragettes and Suffragists finally got their wish and today women in the UK have exactly the same voting rights as men. However in many countries in the world, women are still oppressed by archaic laws that put them on an unequal stand to men. In Africa, shocking statistics show that 1 in 4 girls in northern Nigeria are married under the age of 15 against their will. In Ghana’s 2012 elections only 11% of the seats were won by women. In Zimbabwe 30% of women have experienced violence at the hands of a partner. The list just goes on and on.

It seems as if the women of the world need to follow the lead of the Suffragists and make join forces with men who also believe in women’s empowerment to make the world a more equal place. Women’s empowerment isn't just a women’s issue; men need to get involved to give the campaign a louder voice in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Nigeria that are patriarchal societies. The UN’s recent #HeForShe campaign is a fantastic example of the push to involve more men in this issue, reminding them that improved women’s rights will make life better for their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters.

Add your voice to the campaign and help us change the lives of more village women in Africa by donating towards the Women’s Enterprise Programme and give communities the chance to stand on their own two feet and support their children. You can help us improve local economies and start a ripple effect of empowerment and change across Africa!

As one suffragette, Susan B. Anthony once said: “I think the girl who is able to earn her own living and pay her own way should be as happy as anybody on earth. The sense of independence and security is very sweet.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

You can make change happen.

Donate to the Women’s Enterprise Programme today using our Total Giving fundraising page. Every penny counts!
*Please note that Ripples Foundation is registered under the name BME Concern in the UK, which is reflected on our Total Giving profile.
Alysha Bennett Web Developer

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Rebuilding Young Lives

You probably have heard of Boko Haram, the terrorist group that operate over Northern Nigeria. Their reign of terror has spread across North Africa, particularly over the last 6 years where the group has used bombing, assassinations and abductions to try and push their warped ideology.

Many children have been displaced by the group, and thousands have been orphaned.
The most notorious story of Boko Haram in recent years was the kidnapping of schoolgirls from Chibok, sparking the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Nigerian armed forces have recently done a brilliant job of driving the group out of their strongholds in Northern Nigeria, but the repercussions from their actions are very much being felt by the families of their victims who have been left bereft.

Ripples Foundation’s CEO Anne Phillips visited a group of young boys who had been orphaned by Boko Haram’s violence, to see how they have started to recover. The children were introduced to us by the Kano State Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Welfare, who take responsibility of rehabilitating these boys. The children that met us were shellshocked. Many were in such a state of shock that they could not even speak to us because they were so traumatised. The truly brutal way in which these children lost their family members is often too horrific to describe, and we can hardly imagine the trauma they have been through. We have all heard about the activities of Boko Haram and the way that they terrorise their victims, but until you have seen the results in front of your eyes it is difficult to comprehend the impact this will have on these young boys. Many of these boys had to witness their parents being murdered right in front of them, images that will undoubtedly haunt them for the rest of their lives.

The refugee crisis has been dominating the news in recent months, but as Boko Haram activity has seemingly died down everyone seems to have forgotten about the people left behind who have to rebuild their shattered lives.

Ripples Foundation hasn’t forgotten. After visiting these children we decided that we just had to do something to help them. This month Ms Phillips will be visiting the group again to follow up on their progress and to give out donations of supplies such as clothing. We are looking to set up a programme to help this group of children and the countless other boys and girls who have been affected by the violence, in order to bring some hope and peace back into their young lives. Make sure to look out for more updates from our work for the children here, hopefully we will be able to put a smile back on their faces.

Although Ripples Foundation is focused on empowering the African village woman, we do run a number of programmes that also benefit the youth, including the Ripples Box and the Adopt A Village Programme. By empowering women we can ensure that their children grow up with an equal chance of education, healthcare and opportunities.

Can you help us continue to empower the youth of Africa? Donate towards Ripples Foundation projects today using Total Giving and help us make change happen today. 

*Please note that we are currently listed under the name BME Concern on the Total Giving platform. Ripples Foundation UK is the trading name of BME Concern, which is registered as a charity with the Charity Commission for England and Wales under number 1116698.
Alysha Bennett Web Developer

Morbi aliquam fringilla nisl. Pellentesque eleifend condimentum tellus, vel vulputate tortor malesuada sit amet. Aliquam vel vestibulum metus. Aenean ut mi aucto.