Monday, August 29, 2005

RAINBO: A Broad Spectrum

Rainbo (which is an acronym for Research, Action and Information Network for Bodily Integrity of Women) is aptly named. Just as a rainbow in the sky covers a broad spectrum in the sky, so does Rainbo cover a broad spectrum of issues relating to the quality of life for Africans.

Because I am writing about this organization on my Blog, you probably have a strong suspicion that it is an NGO that works to improve the quality of life for Africans. But to be specific, Rainbo defines itself as "African led international non-governmental organisation working on issues of women's empowerment, gender, reproductive health, sexual autonomy and freedom from violence as central components of the African development agenda."

And although it has a specific focus on working to eliminate the practice of Female Circumcision / Female Genital Mutilation (FC/FGM, it has worked in many other areas as well.

The attack against FC/FGM has been conducted through facilitating women's self-empowerment and accelerating social change; and this has been approached through two main programmatic areas:

- The first area is the Integrated Initiative Against FGM and it includes their Small Grants Project.

Since its inception RAINBO has worked against FGM and has succeeded in redefining and repositioning FC/FGM in a human rights context, by showing it to be a gender based violation of the rights of women. Because of its constant work in this area, Rainbo has gained the reputation as the lead technical agency in the field of FC/FGM.

Rainbo launched The Integrated Initiative Against FGM in 2003 and this program focuses on using technical tools and assistance to provide direct support in the form of training, consultations and technical assistance to international donor and technical agencies, as well as African governments and NGO's. Multimedia interactive training CD-ROM on design, monitoring and evaluation of FC/FGM interventions are some of the development of tools included in their arsenal. Additionally, Rainbo is developing a web-based center that provides news, key facts and other information regarding FC/FGM, as well as successful projects, updates and recent advances in the struggle. And through their collaboration with the INTACT research network, they are involved in the publication of research findings. Rainbo also is instrumental in the publication of these findings in scientific journals as well.

Under its Small Grants Project, Rainbo extends direct grants to organizations with projects focusing on FC/FGM in Africa. Seventy-six organizations in 20 African countries have been awarded a total of over $850,000 by Rainbo since 1995. Priority is given to smaller organizations that promote innovative and effective approaches which facilitate women and girls' self empowerment and involve the community. The enhancement of organizational capacity is also a goal of the Small Grants Project with an eye towards maximizing impact or providing support through a South-to-South technical assistance scheme.

- The second program area is Amanitare, which is the African Partnership for the Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights of Women and Girls (SRHR)

Launched in the year 2000, Amanitare is a ten-year initiative to create a consolidated African voice to improve the status of African Women & Girls by promoting and protecting their sexual and reproductive health and rights. To date the program has 51 partners in 18 African countries.

Focusing on advocacy through Amanitare, Rainbo aims to:

- Build a network of partners and give support to partners through exchange and advancement of ideas, information and practical skills around issues of SRHR.

- Advocate for regional SRHR policy reform and the implementation of progressive SRHR provisions established in international and regional agreements and ensure they are addressed as part of the Millennium Development Goals and NEPAD

- Impact international policy by bringing a consolidated African women's voice to the UN and other global policy negotiations and highlighting African perspectives in international dialogues around women's rights and gender equity.

Rainbo used to have an African Immigrant Program, but that program has been spun off into an independent organization named: Sauti Yetu Center for African Women (SYCAW).

SYCAW became independent in 2004 as a not for profit organization linking social justice activism with academic scholarship to promote and protect the rights of African women and girls.

Working within the global women's, human rights, and social justice movements, SYCAW works on women's rights as an advocacy organization. SYCAW's web site at: says that their work and programs "have evolved in response to the evidence that women's rights, an empowered community, and access to integrated services are inextricably linked if we are to improve the lives of women and girls." Sauti Yetu means "Our Voice" in Swahili.

I will have to devote an entire article on SYCAW in order to do justice to the work that they carry out, but I wanted to mention them here so that you would know about this "spin-off" from the work began by Rainbo.

Another example of the broad spectrum of Rainbo is the fact that it is concerned with Capacity-Building for African Community-Based Organizations.

One of the organizations which Rainbo assists is Nah We Yone. Nah We Yone means "It belongs to us" in the Krio language; and the organization was created to proactively respond to the absence of culturally informed programs and services for distressed peoples from the various communities within the African Diaspora. These programs and services are offered to facilitate adjustment within the United States ands are carried out by providing psychological and social support, including the provision of pertinent information, the strengthening of community ties, wellness activities, and crisis intervention for adults, children and families.

Nah We Yone, Inc. has an active membership of about 50 people, and over 400 supporting members within the NY metropolitan area, as well as across the U.S. and abroad. Nah We Yone can be found at: http:// and its site is also hosted by Rainbo.

In many ways, this voluntary non-profit group reaches out to displaced Sierra Leonean refugees and asylees , including detainees, and offers "counseling and crisis services, jobs and skills development, information sharing, and referrals to emergency social services; such as food, clothing, and car fare." It also has a youth summer camp, hosts a monthly brunch to help the clients of Nah We Yone to network and help intergrate into their new surroundings. In addition to this, and among their many other programs, they have a detention visitors program to provide contact to the "outside world" to those individuals who flee violence and persecution in their own countries only to find themselves "locked up" in U.S. detention centers for months while their asylum cases work their ways through the lengthy bureaucratic INS process.

There is a lot more I would like to say about Nah We Yone, and I hope to one day. And there is a lot more I could say about the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women, but this article is about Rainbo. And I could say a whole lot more about them. But in holding to my promise to keep these articles brief, I must ask you to go to the web sites of these fine organizations to learn more about what they do. And after you read about them, spread the word so that folks will help them carry out their important work. Rainbo's office is in London, while Nah We Yone and Sauti Yetu Center for African Women are in New York. So, if you are in their areas, pay them a visit, to see how you can help.

The links to the sites for Nah We Yone and the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women are in the article above, and the link for Rainbo is: . You owe it to yourself to check them out.

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