Archive | March, 2013

CCMP and Mothers’ Union Guyana

25 Mar

Location: Guyana, South America. 

Guyana is culturally Caribbean (along it’s populated coastline), whilst the interior often referred to as the ‘hinterland’ is populated by various Amerindian tribes who have more in common with their South American neighbours like Venezuela and Brazil. The history in Guyana is rich and diverse; with a dark history of Slavery under Dutch and British colonial rule, and a historically strong sugar industry (many of the plantations were situated close to the Demerara River, whose name lends itself to the well known type of sugar). Many of the sugar factories are now used mostly to produce rum, which seems to be a popular commodity in Guyana. The air is warm and humid, the vegetation thick and luscious (you feel like you’re flying over enormous fields of broccoli as you come in to land). With a population of less than 1,000,000, Guyana is a rural and sparsely populated country – the highest concentration of people is found along the coast. Challenges faced in Guyana are numerous such as high crime rates, tackling poverty and preventing abuse. Those living in the Hinterland face even bigger challenges because they are isolated and live in very remote and difficult to access areas. Those large military trucks used by the armed forces are commonplace on the streets of Georgetown as they are often the only vehicle suitable to venture into the Hinterland where very few roads exist.

Our journey to Guyana is part of an exciting new vision of the Mothers’ Union. Some time ago, the Mothers’ Union in Guyana prioritised ‘umoja’ also known as Church and Community Mobilisation Process (CCMP) as the next step for Mothers’ Union and the local communities.

Essentially, CCMP is a community-led process that is bible centred and enables a church and its community to reflect on their resources, their problems, and how such problems could be met locally with their own resources. It mobilises communities and enables them to take their future into their own hands. For more information, see here

Mothers’ Union members in Guyana are about to embark on this most remarkable journey reaching out to their local churches and communities through an assets based approach (ie match what you have to what you need, rather than first thinking about your needs, and then looking externally for resources to fulfill those needs). Our role is strictly limited to prayer, encouragement and initial facilitation of training and skill transfer.

 If it still sounds unclear: 25 people from different communities (men and women) will be trained to help drive forward development in their communities, using the church as a central organising body and in the long term, getting each community to assess its own resources and capabilities and come up with a vision for moving forward.

CCMP is a process that facilitates change and will help Mothers’ Union members around the world to start developing and expanding the ways in which they are able to carry out the Mothers’ Union objectives in their communities. 

Change will happen slowly, but when it does happen its roots will be deep and long lasting.

Our main objective for visiting, was to help support the start of CCMP in Guyana. What does this mean really? Organising a selection committee to decide who should be trained as CCMP facilitators to ensure fairness and equal representation; setting up a steering committee to help efficiently monitor and evaluate the process as well as provide support to the facilitators, work with the Mothers’ Union leadership in Guyana to understand fully their priorities and expectations of CCMP. Our visit was brief, but allowed us to leave confident, knowing that the time and money being invested (by everyone involved) is matched by hard work and dedication to do all the necessary ground work before the first training begins in June 2013.

We also met with a small group who are currently undertaking a pilot project in partnership with Anglican Alliance. It is called ‘Agents of Change’ and is a distance-learning module in collaboration with the Open University that builds up community development skills through a process of planning and carrying out a community based project.  7 of Mothers’ Union Guyana’s prominent members are undertaking this pilot, being mentored by one of our colleagues here at MSH.  Agents of Change” takes six months to complete, and includes modules in:

  • Inclusion
  • Consultation
  • Governance
  • Protection of vulnerable people
  • Work Programming
  • Principles of financial management

The group are working really well together, and encouraging /supporting one another through the challenges of taking on such a project. By October they will have completed the pilot, and by that time as well the second training for CCMP will have been completed. Exciting things are happening for and in Mothers’ Union Guyana, so watch this space!! 

We are on an exciting journey walking hand in hand with Mothers’ Union members around the world; resourcing, training, praying for, encouraging and strategising with. What a privilege to be part of such a globalised network, and family, of grassroots activists promoting family values around the world.

 Here are some pictures of our time in Guyana for you to enjoy.

Local branch leader Dawn, with the Diocesan President June, stand beside Mothers’ Union Guyana’s latest member being enrolled by the Dean of St George’s Cathedral.

Some of Mothers’ Union Guyana’s members in their uniforms, with Dean Terry of the cathedral.


St George’s Cathedral, Georgetown – the world’s largest wooden building.


A memorial of an important uprising of slaves on the plantations in 1768, the figure illustrated was the leader of the rebellion (which eventually led to the full emancipation of slaves in the 19th century).


Playing Tearfund’s ‘the development game’ with the Agents of Change participants; an exercise in recognising levels of inequality within your own community, and how certain community development projects may serve to benefit a minority and marginalise the majority.

The Mothers’ Union office in Georgetown; where we spent the day with the executive discussing CCMP and moving forward.

An excellent resource produced by the Province and Diocese campaigning against violence and abuse.


Some beautiful examples of Guyana’s flora taken from the side of the road….



Friday 15th March: Agreed agreed conclusions!

16 Mar

Newsflash update – the agreed conclusions were finalised and agreed at 7.50pm this evening after tense negotiations up to the end! Mothers’  Union was there up until the end to witness the final cheer – more to follow soon on the details.

Thursday 15th March: Side event

15 Mar

 Today we hosted our side event with Restored, entitled ‘A relationship based approach to preventing and ending violence against women and girls’, which was well attended by Mothers’ Union members and Anglicans. We showed the video of Jeanette that I recorded last week, in which she highlighted how violence affects women and girls in Papua New Guinea and what Mothers’ Union is doing to address it. Members work with families to develop healthy and respectful attitudes in children in order to prevent acceptance of gender based violence (GBV). Members raise awareness of GBV in villages, using the local language, and encourage women to break the silence on violence; and specialists are used to lead workshops and train Mothers’ Union and Church leaders on GBV. Members also work with other mainline churches and NGOs to campaign and lobby government on ending GBV.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mandy Marshall then spoke about the work of Restored, which is working to create a global Christian alliance to end violence against women and girls, and a men’s movement within it. She highlighted how church and culture can institutionalise and excuse violence in different ways, but that where culture kills, culture has to change; and that scripture can never be used to justify violence.

We were delighted to learn, during the feedback session, that the view of Mothers’ Union held by one gentleman in the audience had been transformed (in a positive way) as he learned about our work to end GBV.

MU and Restored side eventFollowing the side event, I went through the next version of the agreed conclusions and passed on comments to the UK negotiator this evening. At this point, generally, there are fewer dramatic changes to the text and the work is more around amending and bringing together paragraphs. There was some new language acknowledging violence from former partners, which is incredibly important to acknowledge. We are only too familiar with stories of women being murdered by their former husbands and partners.

I rounded the day off by starting the process of cramming my possessions back into my suitcase.

Tuesday 12th March: Lobbying the EU

15 Mar

Today the EU negotiators held a briefing with European NGOs, to update us on progress of the agreed conclusions and to receive our input. Again, I highlighted the importance of the role of the family in nurturing healthy attitudes to prevent violence against women and girls, and suggested how the paragraph relating to the family could be made more acceptable to those opposing its inclusion, which the key negotiator said they would take into account. On the whole, discussions are progressing and those paragraphs on which there is greater consensus are being agreed on first.

Information from other sources also highlighted the real concern over efforts to retain paragraphs about national sovereignty over agreed conclusions. Certain countries don’t want to be bound by all of the agreed conclusions but instead only those that they choose – any reference to this would in effect make the agreed conclusions pointless, as governments should be binding themselves to all of these agreements that they have reached by consensus.

I also received an invitation, via email from the Government Equalities Office, to attend a roundtable follow up meeting next week with Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Millar. This will provide an important opportunity to feedback from CSW, highlight key areas of concern and raise the question of how the UK Government might implement the agreed conclusions.

Monday 11th March: The next round

13 Mar

Early this morning an email arrived with the next version of the agreed conclusions. I was pleased to see that paragraphs we had a particular interest in had remained included, such as the rehabilitation of perpetrators of violence and the need for the media to consider its portrayal of  and reporting on violence against women and girls.

There was also a new paragraph on the role of the family in preventing discrimination and violence against women and girls. This was great to see but many NGOs are nervous about the inclusion of references to strengthening the role of the family, as in some cultures the family is used as a vehicle of control of women and girls. However,  it is important to recognise the role of parents and carers in shaping the attitudes of children, as they do not learn by osmosis or in isolation; and with a small amendment, the paragraph was more acceptable to some of the other NGOs. I passed on this, along with other recommendations, to the UK Government delegation.

The new version of the agreed conclusions had also been tidied up a lot by the facilitator and there is greater optimism that there will be a final outcome document this year.

Le weekend

13 Mar

The weekend provided the opportunity to get out and about to enjoy New York. After doing a debrief with Jeanette on Saturday morning, I headed down to The Village to stroll around, do a bit of shopping (much enjoyed, following my year-long fast from clothes shopping in 2012) and take in a movie. On Sunday, Jeanette headed off to the airport and after brunch at the nearby diner I headed up to Central Park and nearby shops, where I picked up some goodies for the family. I also remembered to call my mum to wish her a happy Mothering Sunday. The Americans also put their clocks forward this weekend so I enjoyed a lighter evening.

The Village Diner

Bridge over East River Skyscrapers

Central Park Me at Central Park


Friday 8th March: Happy International Women’s Day!

9 Mar

Happy International Women’s Day! This day has been commemorated since 1909 and provides a global opportunity to highlight the plight, progress and all that is wonderful about women. There was an official commemoration at the UN and yesterday a march through Manhattan had been organised.

This morning we had our final UK NGO gathering of the week and reflected a bit on our progress and functioning as a group. The consensus seems to be that we are working well together to lobby at the UN, especially considering our limited resources, and have some very committed people who have really made things work. Meetings will continue next week and we have already agreed to reconvene in April back in the UK.

As discussions on the agreed conclusions continue, there are a number of contentious issues. These include sexual and reproductive health and rights; acknowledging violence against girls as a problem; recognising intimate partner violence not necessarily in a domestic situation; and involving men and boys in ending violence against women and girls. It seems so obvious that these issues should be acknowledged as crucial in addressing violence against women and girls and therefore including in the agreed conclusions; but several countries seem to inhabit a very different world.

I managed to catch the end of an event run by the Church of England and Anglican Communion, on breaking the church’s Jeannette OOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnn Gsilence on violence against women and girls. The Q&A session yielded questions and comments from Mothers’ Union members Jeanette, Mathilde and Ann –  all waving the Mothers’ Union flag. Jeanette particularly enjoyed this event as it was interactive and goal orientated.

Jeannette and I headed over to the UN building to record a short video of Jeannette making a call to action to end violence against women.  We had to hang around the press ‘stakeout’ zone until after Michelle Bachelet, head of UN Women, had finished her interviews on IWD. Jeannette heads home on Sunday so we had a final debrief on her time here.  She has learned and absorbed much this week, made contact with her government delegation and will take home learning and new ideas.  I’ve had all too brief a time with her but have so enjoyed getting to know her and learning about life in Papua New Guinea – she’s an amazing lady.

J in wet snowI received no word on any further draft of the agreed conclusions, so it looks like I’ll have a break this weekend. There is no shortage of things to do in New York – museums, galleries, very tall buildings, Central Park, the river, shops, restaurants – a weekend isn’t enough to cram everything! Tomorrow is forecast to be sunny, a welcome change from the continuing wet snow. Jeannette was excited to experience her first snowflakes on her arm – her granddaughter will be intrigued to hear all about it.