Local activist recognized by Clinton Global Initiative
Thursday, Apr 12, 2012 06:00 am
Local activist Amanda Lindhout is busy these days working to improve the lives of girls and women in Somalia through her charitable foundation.
That work, and new programs of her Global Enrichment Foundation, brought her to the attention of a former U.S. president and the Clinton Global Initiative.
Lindhout was invited over the weekend to the foundation’s annual event to participate on a panel discussion on Crisis in the Horn of Africa: Poverty, Hunger, and Insecurity about her work in Somalia.
“It doesn’t get any better than that in the non-profit world,” she said in an interview with the Outlook. “It is really exciting.”
It also coincides with the two-year anniversary of Lindhout beginning her foundation work, which has seen $2 million raised for famine relief and education in Somalia.
She said going from a one-woman show to having an amazing global team has been an inspiring experience.
“It is enabling the vision I had coming out of Somalia of making that a better place,” Lindhout said. “We are really doing it… and the support of this community is really touching.”
The 30-year-old, originally from Red Deer, relocated to Canmore after she and an Australian cameraman were kidnapped and held hostage for 460 days in Somalia where she was working as a journalist during the summer of 2008.
The pair were released on Nov. 25, 2009 after their families paid $600,000 U.S. in ransom.
Since beginning GEF she has worked to provide education opportunities and empowerment for Somali women and during the famine in the country last year, the famine relief work was the focus of the foundation with the Convoy of Hope.
While those efforts continue, Lindhout said she is continuing her work to empower women and support the survivors of rape through the new program ‘She Will’ and construction of the first safehouse in Mogadishu.
“For me this is close to my heart given my experience in Somalia,” she said.
As a result of the famine crisis and displacement of Somali people, Lindhout said the number of women being raped has increased.
Fartuun Aden, who runs the Elman Human Rights Centre in the capital city, was seeing the results of that with women seeking help.
Lindhout said after meeting with Aden the Global Enrichment Foundation has committed $30,000 to provide support services for women who have experienced sexual violence.
The She Will program also proposes to provide education and job skills training for women at the Elman Centre, along with establishing a safehouse.
“What we are working towards this year is construction of Somalia’s first safehouse refuge for scores of women who need support,” Lindhout said.
The Canmore resident is now back in Africa meeting with Aden to see the project through to completion.
In addition, at the beginning of March, GEF opened the Rajo Women’s Literacy School to educate and empower Somali refugees living in Eastleigh, a neighbourhood of Nairobi, Kenya.
The school provides beginner to advanced English language instruction to 75 women between the ages of 13 and 58. Classes include basic computer skills and extend to offer education on their rights as refugees, women’s health and job skills.
“Some have already gained employment in the last few weeks,” Lindhout said.
But that’s not all for the local activist who is also gracing magazines as the face of designer jewelery line Hillberg & Berk’s spring line Noqo Rajo: The Collection for Hope.
Established in 2007 by visionary jewelery designer Rachel Mielke and available locally at Indigo Bay, Lindhout said she agreed to represent the collection for a number of reasons.
She said Mielke is passionate about female empowerment and an inspiring business person, but also, the company agreed to contribute $15,000 to GEF’s scholarship program to support university education for Somali women.
“It was a lot of fun to do that and fantastic awareness for the Global Enrichment Foundation,” Lindhout said.