Donna McDermid was a former missionary to India and Australia and a great supporter of the work of Australian Mercy. Donna was an inspirational leader who had a life-long passion to see the status of women improved in the Developing World. Sadly in February 2008, Donna died after a long illness.
The Australian Mercy Board has decided to set up a specialized fund to improve the status of women and help the victims of sexual abuse in the Developing World, In consultation with the McDermid Family the Board has decided to name the fund in memory of Donna McDermid.
Some Of The Problems Facing Women In The Developing World.
The Australian Mercy Board sees that the Donna McDermid Memorial Fund has enormous possibilities to alleviate the suffering of many women in the Developing World.
The plight of the girl child in the Developing World is well documented. In poorer nations, women have fewer opportunities to be educated or to enter into the business world. They are the major victims of slavery and they suffer marital violence. Women are the victims of rape and are beaten and in some cases murdered in order to settle family honour disputes. A recent UN report on Human Trafficking stated that 79% of human trafficking was for the global sex trade.
Of the estimated 12.3 million people who are trafficked each year the vast majority (up to 80%) are women, many of whom are forced into prostitution; (the rest are forced to do menial labour for little of no reward). This might explain why young women make up over 60 per cent of 15- to 24-year-olds living with HIV/AIDS. (Globally, young women are 1.6 times more likely to be living with HIV/AIDS than young men.)
Each year millions of girls between the ages of infancy and 15 years of age are subjected to what is called female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is usually cultural practice that includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Approximately 85% of FGM procedures involve removal of the clitoris.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. In Africa alone, three million African women a year go through the pain of this procedure; which is often performed without anaesthetic in less than sterile conditions using razor blades, pieces of glass or a knife.
In some cases after the cutting has finished the vagina is sewn up so there is only a small hole for the woman to urinate through. Many women who have undergone female circumcision suffer and die from the Septicaemia and the other infections that follow the procedure.
Another practice that degrades the status of women is that of Child Brides. Throughout the world, the problem of early, forced marriages of children is considered to be a violation of basic human rights. It has been estimated that 49 countries have a significant child bride problem where children under the age of 18 years are forced into arranged marriages with much older men.
In 2006 there was estimated to be more than 60 million child brides, females under the age of 18 years who were forced into marriage.
Recently CNN ran an article which reported a Saudi judge´s refusal to annul a marriage between an 8 year old girl and a friend of her estranged father. The marriage had been arranged in order to settle a personal debt. This case is still being appealed in the Saudi courts.
In some cultures child brides are treated like slaves doing menial work. They are mistreated and beaten, and in some cases tortured. In some situations escaping is futile as there is no place for them to go for protection.
Often communities that hold to the practice of child brides do not see the point in educating girls.
Bride burning has got to be the ultimate in marital abuse. In some cultures the bride often has to bring a dowry into the family at the time of the marriage. Some families consider the bride´s dowry to be too low and the bride´s family are asked to pay more money to the groom´s family. If the money is not forthcoming the brides can be assaulted or killed. Usually these women are burned to death in the kitchen and the death made to look like an accident or suicide.
The United Nations estimates that some 25,000 brides are burned each year by their in-laws in India alone, because they fail to meet dowry demands. Of these at least 5,000 women die and the rest suffer burns with many carrying their disfigurement for the rest of their lives.
In many countries within the Developing World the lack of world women´s health services and access to education seriously threaten the lives of women and children alike. Services we take for granted such as prenatal and postnatal clinics are often non existent giving rise to disease, postnatal infections and birth complications and lack of immunization.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says 99% of maternal deaths are preventable yet every minute a woman dies from pregnancy-related causes. Experts agree that the majority of maternal deaths are preventable through family planning to reduce unintended pregnancies, skilled attendance at all deliveries and timely emergency obstetric care in all cases where complications arise.
Millennium Development Goal 5 focuses on reducing the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015 and ensuring universal access to reproductive health by 2015.
Sexual abuse in all its forms is unacceptable. It is not something that happens only in Western countries or in nations such as Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka where sex tourism is a huge problem. Governments around the world spend millions each year to try to stem the flow of paedophiles and other sex tourists into their region.
In some parts of the Developing World incest is a problem (and in some places a generational problem); as is rape. The vast majority of victims of incest are women, usually daughters or step daughters who are aged younger than 16 years.
Often the victims are forced into silence because they are members of a family or community that demands that these things are never talked about openly. Consequently many victims of sexual abuse suffer in silence. This significantly adds to the disempowering of women.
As these secrets leak out NGOs are able to address the issue by providing safe houses, victim support programs and counselling services. Because speaking about the issue is taboo within the community often women who seek help are ostracized. As a result some women must start a new life away from their home. Victims of sexual abuse need help on many levels and consequently need more time to recover from their ordeals. Without outside support programs some victims lose hope.
The Value Of Being a Girl
In some cultures, boy children are perceived to have more value than girl children. In China where the one child policy exists, it is not uncommon for girl children to be killed or left on garbage dumps so the family can try to have a boy child. Richer families can have the child´s sex determined and then arrange an abortion if it is found to be a female child.
The sad reality is that in some places for whatever reasons it is dangerous to born female.
The time has come to act and do something to help raise the status of women in the Developing World.
Although one fund cannot solve all of the problems, we believe that the Donna McDermid Memorial Fund make a small but significant step in the cause of raising the status of women and assisting the victims of sexual abuse.
Imagine the enormous good that will be done through your donation to the Donna McDermid Memorial Fund; as women become empowered through the DMMF grants scheme to live fulfilling lives in a safe environment. Imagine what it would mean to the victims of sexual abuse to be empowered to take the first few steps towards recovery and to start to rebuild their lives. Imagine young girls and older women being enabled to receive a better education, better access to medical services, and empowerment to have increased business opportunities so that they can provide for themselves and their families. Imagine once discarded little girls living safe and happy lives with certain futures.
Operation Of The Fund.
The Donna McDermid Memorial Fund is a perpetual fund that is set up inside of Australian Mercy. It is tax deductible and subject our yearly audit.
Donations to the fund are placed into a Trust that is operated by Equity Trustees dividends from this trust are given to the work of the Donna McDermid Memorial Fund and distributed by the Australian Mercy Board to projects that are helping women or dealing with the victims of sexual abuse in the Developing World.
The Donna McDermid Memorial Fund website can be found at www.donnamcdermid.org
Because the Donna McDermid Memorial Fund it is a perpetual fund the money you donate will be used again and again and again to improve the plight of women and help the victims of sexual abuse in poor communities within the Developing World.
Your donations to the Donna McDermid Memorial Fund are gratefully received.
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