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The Mary Foundation awards its special donation to a women’s shelter in Afghanistan

There is a secret location in Kabul where 70 women and children live. They have escaped brutal violence and now live cut off from the outside world due to the risk of being murdered by their families. Mary Akrami is the woman behind the shelter, which is one of the few places where Afghan women can seek safety. The Mary Foundation awards its special donation of USD 50,000 for 2018 to this women’s shelter.

Fatima was only five years old when her father sold her to an older handicapped man for about DKK 24,000. When she turned 12, she was sent to live with the deaf-mute man.

For two years, she was beaten and abused. Until she plucked up the courage to escape. Out into the unknown. Fatima was lucky to end up at the women’s shelter in Kabul. Had her family found her, she would have been killed.

This was the story author and journalist Simi Jan shared on Children’s Day in November 2018. Among those in the audience was Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, who is deeply committed to the global fight for women’s rights, and who, through the work carried out by The Mary Foundation, actively works to combat domestic violence.

After listening to Simi Jan’s description of the women’s brutal fates and shelter’s difficult financial circumstances, The Mary Foundation approached the Danish Embassy in Kabul, UN Women, Danner and other organisations to find out more about the women’s shelter. The feedback was extremely positive, which made it easy to choose the recipient of The Mary Foundation’s special donation for 2018:

Women’s rights in Afghanistan are under pressure on many levels. Afghan women grapple with destructive and powerful social norms that make them extremely vulnerable. Mary Akrami has dedicated her life to helping women and children and is a strong spokesperson in the fight to change conditions for women in Afghanistan. This requires exceptional courage and has also made her a target for those who don’t want change. We would like to use The Mary Foundation’s special donation to support her impressive and profound work,” explained HRH Crown Princess Mary.

Part of the independent Afghan Women Skills Development Center, the women’s shelter was established by Mary Akrami in 2003 as the country’s first women’s shelter. The almost 70 women and children who are currently living at the crisis centre are safe, but are nevertheless still scarred physically and psychologically by their violent experiences. Fearing for their lives, they do not leave the shelter and instead spend their time healing and regaining their faith in a life without violence.

I am deeply grateful for and delighted to receive this wonderful donation. It means a lot, because it makes me feel that I am not alone. Women’s shelters are under threat because there are many forces that want them closed. But I will continue the fight. It is my mission in life.  I will continue to fight for my fellow sisters’ basic rights, such as the right to education, access to medical care and the right to control one’s own body – and for them not to be treated as a man’s property but as equals. This donation will be spent on education, medical care, legal assistance and increased security. Additional funds also enable me to accept more women into the crisis centres, and that means the world to women in mortal danger,” expressed founder and leader Mary Akrami from Kabul.

Every year, the Crown Princess presents The Mary Foundation’s special donation to a project or organisation that has shown particular potential.

The Mary Foundation's special donation

The Mary Foundation’s special donation has been awarded to various other projects in the past, including:

  • Neighbourhood Mothers, The Foundation for Social Responsibility (DKK 250,000)
  • Danish Refugee Council’s work in neighbouring regions (DKK 250,000)
  • Women Deliver, stipends to 14 young leaders (DKK 250,000)
  • Brothers For Life, South Africa (DKK 250,000)
  • Fórum Mulher, Mozambique (DKK 250,000)
  • Orchid Project (DKK 50,000) The “Africa Now” fundraising campaign (DKK 200,000)
  • Maternity Worldwide, Ethiopia (DKK 250,000)

Facts about women’s rights in Afghanistan

  • The Constitution of Afghanistan introduced in 2004 states:
    Any kind of discrimination and distinction between citizens of Afghanistan shall be forbidden. The citizens of Afghanistan, man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law.” Article 22 of The Constitution of Afghanistan.
  • Despite the Constitution, many regions in Afghanistan are controlled by traditional tribal leaders and religious/cultural traditions that hinder equality. Many Afghans therefore still regard traditions and religious law as superior to judicial law. Source: Human Rights Watch
  • Only a fraction of the actual cases of violence against women in Afghanistan are reported. Source: Human Rights Watch
  • The majority of the cases of violence are addressed through mediation due to pressure from family members and the judicial system. Mediation deprives women of access to the courts and prevents the safeguarding of fundamental rights.ource: The UN report “Injustice and Impunity: Mediation of Criminal Offences of Violence against Women”, 2018. S
  • It is estimated that 87 % of women in Afghanistan experience physical, sexual or psychological violence at some point during their lives. Source: UN Women
  • Until the 1970s, Afghanistan experienced steady progress with respect to women’s rights. Source: Amnesty International
  • 27.7 % of Afghanistan’s parliament members are women. Source: UN Women

Afghan Women Skills Development Center

  • Just under 70 women and children currently live in the women’s shelter.
  • The women’s shelter opened in 2003. Since then, at least 3,500 women have lived at this secret address for shorter or longer periods.
  • The centre has also helped thousands of other girls who have not stayed at the women’s shelter, by providing them with financial or legal support, for example.
  • Mary Akrami is the founder of the women’s shelter and has managed it ever since its inception.

Read more about the Afghan Women Skills Development Center

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mary_fonden Vi har diskuteret det meget. Hvad definerer psykisk vold? Hvor går grænserne? Må man systematisk kritisere sin partners job, spisevaner, tøjstil, familie? Må man kontrollere, hvem partneren ses med? #voldihjemmet #sigdettilnogen #psykiskvold #alleharrettiletlivudenvold
mary_fonden I dag husker vi i særlig grad på, at vi ikke er i mål, og at kampen for ligestilling og piger og kvinders rettigheder stadig er højaktuel. • repost @detdanskekongehus I dag er det en helt særlig dag. For over hele verden retter vi opmærksomheden mod pigers rettigheder, fordi det er FN’s Internationale Pigedag. Derfor vil jeg gerne præsentere Dem for 14-årige Farzana. Hun har netop besøgt mig hjemme på Amalienborg, hvor vi fik en god snak om, hvordan det er at være Farzana og vokse op i Dhaka. Siden hun var 11 år, har hun været aktiv i frivilligt arbejde for bekæmpelse af børneægteskaber og pigers ret til at gå i skole i slumområdet i Citi Polli. Hendes engagement skal anerkendes, og jeg har den dybeste respekt for hendes viljestyrke og overskud i en virkelighed, der både kan være barsk og uretfærdig. Farzana giver håb til mange. 📸 Kongehuset ©️
mary_fonden ”Det gør mig glad – når du glad”, skriver 'S' på et af de mange postkort, vi hvert år modtager fra børn, der bor på krisecenter. I 2018 boede 1.915 børn med deres mor på et af de 50 danske krisecentre. Det viser den seneste årsstatistik over kvinder og børn på krisecentre. Langt de fleste af børnene er mellem 0 og 6 år, når de flytter ind på krisecenteret. Og de har mange voldsomme oplevelser med i bagagen. 85 % har overværet eller overhørt deres mor blive udsat for psykisk vold. 56 % har set eller hørt deres mor blive udsat for fysisk og/eller seksuel vold. De børn har brug for at blive set, hørt og få vide, at volden aldrig er deres skyld. Og så har de brug for også bare at være børn. Sammen med LOKK - Landsorganisation af Kvindekrisecentre​ og Ole Kirk's Fond giver vi en rygsæk med bl.a. praktiske ting og legetøj til alle børn, der flytter på krisecenter med deres mor i Danmark, Grønland og på Færøerne. #voldmodbørn #voldihjemmet #sigdettilnogen #allebørnharrettilenbarndomudenvold
mary_fonden I dag besøgte Kronprinsessen 7.a på Frydenhøjskolen i Hvidovre, for at snakke om temaet 'Døden er da noget, vi taler om'. Død, sorg og alvorlig sygdom kan være svært at tale om for de fleste af os. Men tab og sorg er en del af livet, og begge dele bæres lettere, hvis vi har nogen at dele det med. Derfor skal vi bryde dødens tabu. Sammen med @politiken, @jyllandsposten og @bornungesorg står vi bag årets Mediekonkurrence, der skal give unge i 6-9. klasse et rygstød til at kunne håndtere og tale om de svære følelser. 7.a. er en af de knap 300 skoleklasser, der lige nu er i gang med at producere aviser og nyhedssites. Og der var fuld gang i produktionen af en avis, da Kronprinsessen besøgte klassen i dag. Klassen skrev artikler om alt fra, hvorfor mænd dør tidligere end kvinder til uhelbredelig kræft. Mange tak til 7.a. for at gå modigt til værks og arbejde med et svært tema og tak til Frydenhøjskolen for at tage imod os.
mary_fonden Vi er meget stolte, taknemmelige og beærede. I går modtog Mary Fonden Folkesundhedsprisen 2019 for vores arbejde med at bekæmpe ensomhed. ”Mary Fonden gør en stor indsats både omkring ensomhed og andre indsatsområder, som har betydning for den mentale sundhed. Vi har især hæftet os ved, at Mary Fonden er en drivkraft i aftabuisering, og at Mary Fonden bygger sit arbejde på forskning” sagde formand i Dansk Selskab for Folkesundhed Ulla Tofte i sin begrundelse, da prisen blev overrakt til direktør i Mary Fonden Helle Østergaard i går aftes. Helle Østergaard kvitterede med et stort tak og en opfordring til, at vi alle gør, hvad vi kan for at bekæmpe ensomheden: ”Der er ensomme i alle aldre, og der bliver flere og flere. Ensomhed kan have store konsekvenser for det enkelte menneske – både psykisk og fysisk. Derfor skal vi gøre, hvad vi kan for at hjælpe flere mennesker ud af ensomheden”.