Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Seoul February 2010 take 2

We continue to be very busy. It is such an honor and privilege to meet wonderful Koreans who care so deeply about unwed moms and the issues they face.

We had a lovely breakfast meeting with Ms. Lee Myong Sook, an attorney who has a special concern about women and children. When she became a lawyer about 20 years ago, she was one of 10 women lawyers in the whole country. She told us that now there are over 1,200 women lawyers. Things change quickly here. She is also the first woman to chair the Human Rights division of the Korean Bar Association. She has been working hard to develop a network of lawyers willing to work pro bono on human rights related cases. She expressed an sensitivity and concern about the adoption issues and unwed mom issues discussed and it seems she will be a good resource for unwed moms.

One of the highlights of our trip was spending the afternoon in a workshop with the Miss Mamamia groups. The Miss Mamamias are unwed moms who are raising their children. Currently there are over 40 active members and a much wider network of members and supporters. The workshop presented a lot of information about services available in the community and in particular related to group homes that serve unwed moms. While the moms engaged in discussion and questions and answers, their babies were being cared for by volunteers. After the meeting, the steering committee of the group went to dinner with us and of course brought along their babies. Such a beautiful experience, talking with moms while playing with their children who ranged in age from about 2 months to 4 years old. Each of these moms experienced significant pressure to have an abortion and/or to relinquish their child for adoption. Many of them have endured extreme hardships and painful struggles to raise their children. They are strong and dedicated women and moms and it was such a joy to spend an evening with them. Each of these mother/child families is precious and a testament to their determination to keep their family together.

The Miss Mamamias will be establishing a formal organization this year, registered with the Ministry of gender equality. While they have a more extensive strategic plan, their priorities for the year include: strengthening their organization and outreach to new members; improving public attitudes toward unwed moms; and healing the relationships with their parents, as many of the moms have been estranged from their own birth families. For this last area, they plan to have some group activities and counseling and a three generation camp.

We also visited Doori Home again, which is a group home for unwed pregnant moms, and affiliated with the S. Korean Salvation Army. Women who keep their babies can stay there for several months while they figure out jobs, where to live, and just generally get themselves situated to be a successful family of two. Doori home is working on ways to help these unwed moms get job training, save money, find more secure living, learn about parenting, and many other very supportive activities. It was a pleasure to see our friends there. Doori Home is hoping to open a store, similar to others the Salvation Army already operates, which sells both new and used clothing and household goods, and operates a coffee bar, appropriately named "Sally's Coffee". It will be a place that moms can work, get experience, and also sell crafts and other home made items.

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