Monday, April 6, 2009

Trip Highlings from Ellen Furnari

Ellen Furnari


In our recent trip to Seoul (Feb/March, 2009) we were able to meet with representatives from Korean Womenlink. This is an organization founded in 1987 that advocates for women’s rights in terms of labor, education, participation in public life such as running for public office, and for the acceptance of many kinds of family structures.

We have been working with the Hambumo network – a national organization of single moms, for two years now. So I was happily surprised to learn that this network grew, in large part, out of the work of Korean Womenlink. For a number of years they have had public education campaigns, advocated for better legislation and government policy and helped single moms come together to support themselves.

About two years ago, Korean Womnelink decided that there was a critical need to address the situation of unwed mothers. They recognized that while unwed moms share some of the same circumstances as single moms, they also face many different challenges. So they initiated research last year as a precursor to action. This is one of the many things, by the way, that really impresses us working in Korea. So often both government and NPO’s do research in to a situation or area of concern, before doing public education or advocacy or providing services. They are very thoughtful about understanding deeply before planning and acting. And the role of researchers and professors is very important in this regard.

This year was to be year two of their project. However, the funding from the government for this work had increasing requirements attached and they decided to decline the second year of funding. The funding was to begin a public education campaign about the situation and needs of unwed moms. I hope we can find a way to help them pursue this anyway.

It is so refreshing to talk with people who have on their own, before even meeting us or hearing of our work, recognized the needs of unwed moms and decided to do something about it. It was also just enjoyable to be in their offices. When we asked questions that the senior staff with whom we were meeting couldn’t answer, they would go out and talk with the younger women and come back with various opinions and answers. There was such a sense of mutuality and cooperation. I just really enjoyed our visit and hope to work with them in the future on our shared interests.

To share a bit more, here is how Korean Womenlink describe themselves in their material: (see link below for their website)

Korean Womenlink has 10 local branches and about thousand members who actively participate in building a just and egalitarian society.

A world without domestic violence and sexual violence.
A society with an open family culture that accepts various family forms.
A society where women's sexuality and self-determination is repected.
A society where women's labor rights and equal employment are protected.
An open media, a media for the public! Eco-feminism based on life and women's perspective.
Alternative life-style movement:
A Little, a Few and Slowly Co-operative community movement to monitor environmental and life-related issues.

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