Misean Cara provides support and funding for missionary development projects that deliver vital support and complement state-led responses, in the provision of quality education and health care services. We also prioritise support for initiatives aimed at tackling the root and structural causes of poverty, marginalisation and injustice.
- Enhanced maternal and infant nutrition
In December 2017, local organisation NPCS undertook a nutritional survey in conjunction with Church Mission Society Ireland (CMSI) and with funding from Misean Cara, in the Dolakha District of eastern Nepal, epicentre of a devastating aftershock to the April 2015 earthquake that struck the country. It revealed that 37% of children under five were stunted in their growth, and 12% were underweight. It also found evidence of poor dietary diversity and a high consumption of low-quality, ultra-processed food.
CMSI then secured three years of Misean Cara funding for a community nutrition programme focusing on the 1,000 days in a child’s development from pregnancy to their second birthday. The project’s first year results have been very encouraging, with 318 young mothers cooking nutritious meals from local produce for a healthier, more balanced diet for themselves and their families. Most mothers have also eliminated ultra-processed food from their children’s diets.
Local schools have come on board, cutting down on ultra-processed food and increasing the vegetable content in students’ midday meals. There is also more attention paid to children’s development and growth, with higher numbers brought to pre- and post-natal check-ups at the local clinic. The local municipality has become an enthusiastic supporter of the project, contributing to the cost of student meals, while the Mayor’s office has undertaken to continue funding the project after Misean Cara support ceases.
SOUTH SUDAN (Gender)
- Transformative Girls’ Education
A girl of 15 in South Sudan is more likely to be married with children than to be in school. Girls are taken from the classroom from as early as 11 years old to be married. Keeping girls in school to complete their primary and secondary school education is a constant battle.
The Loreto Sisters established their girls’ secondary school in Maker Kuei, Rumbek, South Sudan in 2008 with 35 girls, with Misean Cara supporting them through Irish Aid funding. Today, the boarding school, providing a secure and safe environment for the girls to pursue their education, has an enrolment of over 290. When the girls are within the compound, the risk of violence, rape and forced marriage is greatly reduced.
In 2011, the drop-out rate from the school was a discouraging 68%. The school leadership then decided to harness the power of family members to push for full retention in education of all their students. After much discussion, planning and negotiation, the Loreto Sisters introduced a commitment form, signed by a male family member, which commits the family to ensuring that the girl in question completes the four years of the secondary cycle. This is backed by local government and traditional leaders. No girl is admitted to the school without a signed commitment form and this innovative social contract is working. In 2018, the drop-out rate had fallen to just 1.4% - although the COVID-19 pandemic will have renewed the challenge of getting all the girls back to school, and retaining them to achieve their potential, after the school partially reopened in October.
- Empowering women through literacy
Maria das Graças Marques Soares is a 57-year-old mother of four children. A native of Paraíba in northeast Brazil, she separated from her partner due to his heavy drinking and brought up her children alone. Maria has always worked in the informal economy. Raising and selling chickens is her main income source, which she supplements by cleaning houses. Because she could not read, write or do arithmetic, she was often short-changed by customers.
Maria had tried to study without success until she came across the Sal da Terra (Salt of the Earth) adult literacy group, part of a project run by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary in the poor bairros on the periphery of the state capital, João Pessoa. Supported by Misean Cara, the group uses an approach to adult literacy based on the teachings of the Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire. Some of the tutors started off as adult learners themselves.
Maria joined the literacy group in the bairro of Renascer II and was an enthusiastic student. After one year of classes, she could write her own name, keep notes about her dealings with customers and do simple maths calculations.
“Today I’m able to write my name and am very good at writing and accounting. No one can cheat me now. I don’t lose money either, I do the calculations and give the right change, I don’t make mistakes,” says Maria. “I know what bus to get at the bus stop when I want to go somewhere. It was difficult but I tried extremely hard and am now very happy because my life has changed a lot and I feel secure in everything I do.”
- Enabling legal action against Gender-Based Violence
Aisha Lewa (*name changed for privacy) is a 15-year-old girl from Kilifi County on the Kenyan coast. When she was 12, an uncle came to live with her family and shortly after began sexually abusing Aisha. She did not know what to do and remained silent for two years of abuse, until she could endure no more. She confided in her class teacher and together they went to the village chief.
Her uncle was arrested and called to trial, while Aisha received counselling to help her come to terms with what had happened and to prepare for going to court. When the time came, however, she was so intimidated by having to speak in the presence of the man who had abused her that she was unable to utter a word. The case was repeatedly adjourned until mid-2019, when a solution was provided by Haki Yetu (“Our Rights” in Swahili), a human rights organisation set up and supported by St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, with Irish Aid backing through Misean Cara.
Using a witness protection booth designed and provided by Haki Yetu, Aisha was able to sit in court without fear and give her evidence, detailing what she had endured. Her uncle was found guilty of incest and sentenced to life imprisonment. With continued counselling, Aisha is moving on with her life.
This innovation, strengthened partnerships with other actors in handling GBV cases, and successful advocacy for special court sittings for GBV and child-related cases have helped increase the positive prosecution and conclusion of cases – and contributed to an increased incidence of reporting, given the higher possibility of success.