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08/25/2016

Higashimuta Village in Mashiki’s Shimada Ward Manages to Preserve Traditional Festival

Many areas in Kumamoto Prefecture were severely affected by the earthquake in April, 2016. Among them, Mashiki town is one of the worst hit areas, suffering much from the human and property damage caused by the disaster. JEN has been helping the local communities in Mashiki’s Shimada Ward remove debris since June.
The first festival after the quake was held at Higashimuta village, Shimada Ward, in the town of Mashiki. We are delighted to report how this festival went.
While the village has a tradition of holding its summer shrine festival, the villagers had planned to cancel it this year as the shrine has suffered tremendous damage from the quake. Young people in the village, however, gave the cancellation plan some serious thoughts (what the tradition means to them and the festival is for) and came to the conclusion that they should hold the festival as usual despite the tough situation the village was experiencing. Thus, with support from the outside, they managed to maintain their tradition.
Almost all locals living in Higashimuta village participated in the festival. A booth where professional chefs provided dishes was established, a lively music show was provided by a traditional band, and a comical act was performed by comedians.
Overall, the festival was a huge success. One of the organizers said, “Nothing is more enjoyable for men and women of all ages than the festival in our community. I’m happy many people came and joined the festival.” He looked pleased with the result.
Moreover, some of the people were able to have a chance to meet their former neighbors. The festival has therefore, more than ever, strengthened community ties.
【Many locals visited the festival site.】
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【Colorful events and entertainment performances by the comedians (left) and the band (right) were held.】
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August 25, 2016 in Kumamoto |

08/18/2016

Young Women From Across Eastern Japan Show Their Power

A total of 20 women aged between 19 and 41 from quake-hit areas in eastern Japan met at Hoshuan, a workshop remodeled from an old residence surrounded by forest located 30 minutes by car from Japan Railway Koriyama Station.

Their fields of study engaged by the women cover a broad range of areas including support for raising children, support for learning, town revitalization, incubation, work-life balance. Despite the different areas of study,  these have one thing in common - they are addressing the social challenges that disaster-hit areas are facing.

Each participant brought their own challenges to the workshop, such as how to implement projects, run organizations, build relationships within communities. The workshop filled with great excitement amoung the participants as each worked through solutions open and honest discussion with the other participants.

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Women’s Eye, the non-profit corporation based in the city of Tome in Miyagi Prefecture, organized this workshop named Easter Japan Grass Roots Women’s Academy in Fukushima. The workshop is meant for young women engaging in supportive activities in disaster-hit areas and is supported by JEN through the provision of planning, funding, and follow-up assistance.

Click here for more information about Women’s Eyes

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Ms. Asako Osaki, an expert on gender, assumed important roles in planning the facilitating the workshop, as well as serving as a lecturer on the second day 2.

What need is there for providing these women with opportunities to build and enhance their co-operation through such as this?

The answer lies in what is currently happening in the disaster-hit areas.

Now that NPO’s and NGO’s from outside have left the disaster-hit areas, the local residents are left to take a leading role in continuing the recovery efforts through their own activities in the form of NPO’s or social businesses. We have many young women among those locals who are either long-time residents, who left where they living to return to their hometowns after finding their hometowns in crisis, or who relocated to disaster-hit areas after visiting there to engage in supportive activities.

Five years after the earthquake, the locals are confronted by variety of challenges in carrying out recovery such as how to effectively run an organization, sustain their activities. Among the locals, women, especially young women, are often left to find their own way and are not provided with adequate advice or support overcome challenges, particularly when undertaking new projects.

The life style of women in their teenage years through of their40’s differs radically with age, and so it’s not easy for them to continue their activities.

Creating support networks for young women who are leading the recovery effort in disaster-hit areas in a new and different way is becoming increasingly important. Opportunities such as the Easter Japan Grass Roots Women’s Academy in Fukushima have provided those women with increased possibilities for their future endeavours.

20160818_th_03jpg  (©Women's Eye)

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August 18, 2016 in Tohoku Earthquake |

Difficulty in constructing the well

Hi, my name is Shudo, I am a supporter of JEN Sri Lanka. About one month has passed since I came to Sri Lanka and I’ve gotten used to the hot climate and local meals.

Now, in Sri Lanka, the well construction of this term has begun.

The problem we face first in well construction is the inflow of ground water at work. As rain water springs out, we are forced to drain the water while digging. In order to avoid this, we try to carry out construction during the dry season. Even during the dry season, water sometimes gathers affected by the height of ground water or sudden showers, so we have to continue the work draining off water by human power or machinery.

The problem we face second is the nature of the soil. When the ground is solid, the excavation method is adopted, where concrete blocks are piled up after digging the ground from its surface at one try with an excavator is adopted. However, when the ground is soft, a different method called a step-down method to lower the well itself little by little constructing the wall around it is adopted.

[The step-down method - they are digging down the well piling up blocks]
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The other day, an accident happened at the area where the latter method was adopted. The well went down and caused a crack of the wall. 
The reason may be that workers gave priority to speed and efficiency in order to have finished the work as soon as possible before the rainy season came. In other areas, however, the work in the same process as this went smoothly without any problem. We fully realize how much the well construction depends on environment.   

[The crack brought about in the step-down process]
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As the result of talking between JEN’s engineers in charge and constructors, they tried to dig out by human power so that they could dig the surroundings of the well evenly without giving shock to the foundation of the well and lower it at a slow speed keeping the level. Consequently, the work proceeded without any cracks, so we decided to dig out all 13 wells not with machinery but by human power in this area.

[JEN’s engineers are talking with builders about the solution to the cracked well]
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[Workers are digging down by themselves]
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The well is indispensable for people to engage in agriculture smoothly in the area where they have limited access to water.
The phrase “For such a construction as this, we have to go on digging by human hands” sounds primitive; if possible, we dare to say “we have to dig by human hands”’ not being afraid of misunderstanding. This is, however, the best way we chose after talking on the spot and we think it as desirable.

We only wish this construction will go on without running into difficulties from now on. The accident this time made us become aware that when engineers and constructors go on with the well construction through giving advice to each other and co-operating, we’ll be able to supply people of the community with wells satisfactorily.



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August 18, 2016 in Sri Lanka |

Building the capacity of new leaders

JEN aims for the world in which people are able to stand on their own feet and have power to face/manage/solve their own problems. Implementing a project is one method, but another way is by building the capacity of local staff so that they will hopefully become active leaders for the betterment of their own country.

Over 1 year and 8 months since JEN opened an office in Kurdistan Region of Iraq, we have seen positive changes and growth in local staff.
One example is a change of attitude of national staff towards beneficiaries. When JEN was distributing Hygiene kits for people in IDP camp, one of the local staff asked if he could give out an extra kit because he felt “sorry” for certain families due to their personal situations. However, doing so out of pity would have not only degraded dignity of those families but also lost fairness and equality of JEN’s support. When it happened, JEN’s international staff (=non-local staff) explained and thought with national staff why it was not appropriate to do so.
Now the staff understands the nature of JEN’s work (which is to “support” people with dignity and not to “save” people with pity), and able to make decisions in professional manner rather than in emotional manner without guidance.

This is just one of the small examples of positive growth of local staff, but when those small changes cumulate, it becomes a power to create big change, for the world in which JEN is no longer needed.

Madoka Matsumoto

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August 18, 2016 in Iraq |

08/12/2016

JEN’s Prospectus for Returnees in FATA

Sustainability is an integral part of all JEN projects in every country where JEN is operating. JEN staffs ensure it while making every project if it is emergency, early recovery or development.

JEN has been working with emergency affected people of FATA since 2011 both in the displaced and return areas. JEN’s interventions range from Shelter/NFIs to WASH and from food security to livelihood sectors for almost 70,000 individuals. With security situation improving inside FATA, more than half of the populations (161,064 families) have already returned to their homes. However, 142,727 families are still waiting for their return. But the return process is continued steadily and as per government plan more than 90% of the displaced families will be returned in 2016. Given this statistics, JEN is dealing with the issue on emergency basis as well as pursuing long-term sustainable goals for the rehabilitation of returnees at their homes.

To this end, currently JEN is assisting 22,855 individuals in FATA to enable them to grow agriculture products at household level for improved availability of nutritious food. JEN is also working on economic recovery of more than 5,000 returnees through livestock sector in FATA.

JEN is currently planning to re-align its relations with several clusters for the assistance of returnees in emergency scenario as well as seek partnerships with institutional donors for the rehabilitation of returnees.

[Agriculture field in Bara]
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[Post distribution monitoring]
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[Agricultural land assessment]
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August 12, 2016 in Pakistan |

Charikar

Charikar is the capital of Parwan province in the center region of Afghanistan and the main city of Kohdaman valley. The city lies on the road 69 kilometers from Kabul to Northern provinces and is at the gateway to Panjshir valley. People would need to pass this city when they want to travel to Northern provinces like Baghlan, Kunduz, Samangan, Takhar, Balkh, Badakhshan, Bamiyan and Daykundi.

[View of the main square of Charikar city ]
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Most of its residents are Tajiks and the spoken language in Charikar is Dari. Charikar is known for its arts, poetry, fruits and vegetable products such as grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. Charikar city is mainly known for its beautiful nature which has brought many beautiful promenades like Gul Ghundi (a beautiful mound full of purple flowers) where people come from other provinces for a picnic. Every year, the government officially celebrates the ceremony in Gul Ghundi.

[View of Gul Ghundi]
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Ancient history says that Charikar was found by King Jamshid (known as King Yama) and later established by King Kanishka or Kushanians. After establishment of a new
textile factory in Jabal-u-Saraj in 1930s, the modern history of the city began.

[View of a carpet store in Charikar city]
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But after that, Charikar turned into a battlefield during Soviet war and then Mujahiden war which lasted for many years and caused uncountable damages to the culture, knowledge and economy of the people. Since Charikar is a strategic city and the main gate to enter Northern provinces, the city was a border line between Taliban and North alliance during Talibans’ government which ruined the city and unfortunately,  for the last 15 years, the new government has not taken any development steps in Charikar.

Charikar is a small city with big population. Its single road has huge traffic (as it’s the main gate for Northern provinces). A person can find everything in this small city which were imported mainly from Kabul. Most of the population is farmers, some of them are government employees and others are skilled and unskilled labors. Many people’s economic condition  is under the poverty line.

Charikar is counted as one of the water scarce cities in Afghanistan, in which more than 80% of the people does not have access to safe drinking water. So a watering channel was designed and constructed in 1977. This channel comes from Panjshir river and flows towards south and finally enters Charikar. This water is not safe to drink but most of Charikar residents use it as drinking water.

Every day, many people and especially children are infected with different diseases caused by low levels of hygiene and drinking unsafe water. According to a research from 2015, most of these diseases are caused by drinking unhygienic water which comes from low level of economy. Another reason for inadequate healthcare is
unawareness of people on hygiene education and big population but a few health facilities.
In these circumstances, construction of new schools and clinics, upgrading  existing schools and clinics, conducting trainings and increasing awareness of the people can help the new generation enjoy a healthy life.

JEN has been working in Parwan province since 2002 and began implementation of WASH program in Charikar district from 2005. Another WASH project is planned for 2017 which aims to improve school environment and sanitation and hygiene through school teachers to their students and through them to their families and communities.

Zuhra Afshar
Field Officer

[Main Street of Charikar’s market]
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[Cheese shop and on the back side view of a dry fruit shop]
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August 12, 2016 in Afghanistan |

08/05/2016

Do you know Karrada district in Iraq?

It is a commercial area located east side of Tigris River in Baghdad. Many Jewish and Christians resided there in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The Jewish were deported after the country governance shifted from monarchy to a republic. In the 1940’s, the area had developed as a high-class residential area in Baghdad. In the early to mid-20th century, many mosques and churches were constructed as citizen wished to foster further regional development. The community development ran smoothly, and many shopping malls and markets were constructed alongside the main street. The area is always crowded with people.
On July 2, 2016, around 1 a.m. midnight, the place was crowded with many shoppers who were to celebrate the Eid holiday making the end of Ramadan in a few days. They avoided a blistering daytime heat of over 45 Celsius and went out once cooler at night.
The moment came when people were enjoying cooling down and shopping. The blast came suddenly from a truck, and the buildings were engulfed in flames in a minute wiping out people, buildings and everything. Lives of children, women, elderly and even pre-born child were lost without mercy. Between 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. before sunrise, everything was burned to ashes. The scene was a catastrophic disaster. In sunlight, the place seemed totally different from the previous day.
People in Iraq were shocked, appalled, mourned, and frightened by this incident. Who could imagine that a bomb blast from only one truck would destroy everything? What the explosive was all about had been analyzed by professionals and witnesses of this disaster. What is known for sure is that those lost will never come back. 500 deaths and 300 injured, and many of the people remain unidentified. Excited children with their parents to buy a new clothes for Eid Holiday, young people celebrating their graduation with their family and friends, and many people happened to be there, were all victims.  How can we keep ourselves together? People are filled with sorrow and anger.
When will the world direct their attention to this tragedy in Iraq?

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here

August 5, 2016 in Iraq |

08/04/2016

Women’s Eye: Aiming to Help Women Make Use of Their Abilities & Play an Active Role in Society

JEN has been partnering with local NPO’s as a new form of community support activity since October, 2015. In July, 2016, JEN partnered with "Women’s Eye", a certified non-profit organisation based in the city of Tome in Miyagi Prefecture. In this report we will see what kind of activities our new partner is undertaking.

"Women’s Eye" was launched in July, 2013 after taking over the duties from its predecessor, "RQ Women Support Center (Tome city, Miyagi Prefecture)" which was organized in July, 2011 by disaster-relief volunteers who came to work in and around the Sanriku shoreline.

During its support activities soon after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, them witnessed that women in affected areas take a backseat to men as the breadwinner, or children as students, either in their homes or communities. It became a calling for Women’s Eye to focus on helping such women to utilize their abilities and to play a more outgoing role in their homes and communities by giving them an opportunity to live life differently. In order to find out how to the help best these women, they carried out research from the point of view from women, mindful of the fact that people in the Tohoku region of Japan generally don’t talk too much about themselves.

As part of its efforts, "Women’s Eye" hosted the Grassroots Women’s Academy in the city of Tamura, located in Fukushima Prefecture over three days from 5 August 2016.  The Grassroots Women’s Academy is a workshop that provides learning and networking opportunities for young women from the Tohoku region.

The workshop was inspired by an international forum for young female leaders from the Tohoku region and experienced female leaders from both Asia and Latin America, which was held in the town of Minamisanriku and was co-hosted by Women’s Eye and Huairou Commission, a NY-based international NGO in 2015. Since then, Women’s Eye has been meeting to learn from others, share their own experiences with others, and grow themselves.

At the workshop, under the theme of, “How to get people in communities involved in our activities” women from Tohoku’s three prefectures weighed in with their own opinions about the challenges that they are facing and learnt from each other over the three days that the workshop was held.

【The last Grassroots Women’s Academy in Iwate Prefecture】

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                                                                                                    (©Women's Eye)

【The members of Women’s Eye consulting each other】

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                                                                                                    (©Women's Eye)

Leveraging their partnership with JEN, Women’s Eye aims to help women to utilize their capabilities and to play an active role by giving women rich opportunities for mutual learning and cooperation in addressing the specific challenges faced by women.

August 4, 2016 in Tohoku Earthquake |

The construction of a well has been started!

In Sri Lanka, the construction of a well, which is one of the main activities in the current projects, took off in July.
Agrowells are essential for those who are living in areas where only rainfed agriculture is possible, but access is currently limited.
JEN plans to construct 24 wells for 93 households in the next two months.
A 10-meter hole will be dug and blocks will be piled up from the bottom, so that almost all of the work will be done in the ground.
In areas where this project will take place, the quantity of groundwater is large so the construction sites are covered with groundwater once it rains. This makes very difficult to proceed with construction since frequent drains are needed while working on the construction.
For this reason, the plan is to finish by October when the rainy season starts in northern Sri Lanka. 
In the process of construction of a well, there are main steps such as excavation, stonemason, plastering, and measuring the amount of water. As for now, excavation has been completed on almost all wells that our constructor has started working on. Although excavation is done with power shovel, it often happens to be bedrocks on a couple of meters from the ground, which are hard to break with power shovel. In that case, a jumbo breaker is used to break them to proceed with excavation.
[The excavation with a power shovel]
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Local people who are looking forward to have agrowells have started preparing small seed beds in order to start farming at the same time of accomplishment of wells. Also there are some people who try to draw water from an excavated hole using a bucket and a rope when the excavation finished because there is plenty of water in the hole which will become a well.
We will continue monitoring the construction of wells for people like this who have high motivation to start farming as soon as possible.
[The preparation of a seed bed in order to start farming at the same time of an accomplishment of a well]
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[People are drawing water from an excavated hole]
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[Blocks for stonemason are also handmade]
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[Hopeful that this land is filled with vegetables a few months later]
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August 4, 2016 in Sri Lanka |