Hasna Kandatu: One Woman who Shook the World »

Let me tell you a story about hope, vision and courage. Meet Hasna Kandatu, a seamstress from a small village called Damo in the Philippines. Since the 1970’s Damo has been a community rife with violence and unrest. Such conflict made everyday living difficult for the women of Damo as attacks against them were a very real and dangerous threat. If a woman cannot walk through her community knowing that she is safe from aggression and violence, how can she go to the market to get food for her family? How can she sell goods at the market and make a living? How can be secure in the knowledge that her children are safe at school? How can she live her life in peace? Hasna Kandatu asked the most significant question of all; how can we create a better world?

Hasna understood her power as a woman. However, she also understood her limitations. Societal and cultural dictates would not allow her to express her voice. Yet, Hasna’s answer was simple in the face of such opposition. Her idea was to unite the women of her community and encourage them to withhold sex from their husbands in exchange for peace. Hasna understood the language of men. What’s more, she understood the power innate within a collective group of women. Hasna’s ‘Sex Strike’ strategy worked instantly and peace began to emerge within her village.

Some may think that the men forged peace in order to supress the withholding of sex. Yet, perhaps Hasna and the women involved within the strike gave the men an opportunity to reflect upon their actions and realize the consequences of their violence and aggression an terms of how it affected life throughout the wider community.

Hasna Kandatu through her vision of a better way of life, her courage and her spirit of fearlessness brought peace and stability to her community. She is a true leader and a true exemplifier of the power of womanhood.  As Women, we may at times struggle with embracing the power within us. In times of injustice, inequality and aggression remember this story. Remember Hasna Kandatu. Most importantly, remember that you too have the ability to create a story of hope, vision and courage.

Note: See link for an interview with Hasna Kandatu at: http://www.filmannex.com/movie/no-sex-unless/28562

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The Role of Women as Change Agents in Irish Society

The Irish Department of Justice and Equality defines gender equality as something which can be ‘achieved when women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making, and when the different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favoured.’ (Department of Justice & Equality: Ireland, 2011)

However, Ireland has a troubled history in terms of gender equality and gender issues. In recent weeks, the Prime Minister, whom the Irish people refer to as the Taoiseach, made a historic apology for the treatment of young women who were sent to industrial schools known as the Magdalene Laundries. These women included girls who had been sexually abused, orphans or children from broken homes who relied upon the state for care and unmarried mothers who had their children taken away from them as they were locked away from society in shame.

Within these laundries the women were subjected to forced slave labour in harsh conditions with little or no access to the outside world. According to Pollak (2013) these laundries were in operation between the years 1922 and 1996. Approximately 10,000 women were forced into a penal existence. 900 women died while living and working in the laundries. In addition, it has recently come to light that these women were buried in unmarked graves which many regard as the final insult against the dignity and rights of these women.

(Young girls working in a Magdalene Laundry)

It has been difficult and challenging for the Irish State to acknowledge the lack of dignity and basic human rights that these women were denied in terms of educational, psychological, nutritional and physical well-being  Once locked away, these women were forgotten. What is even more difficult and shocking to comprehend is the fact that this slave labour and abuse against women was taking place during my own lifetime as the last laundry closed its doors in 1996 when I was seven years old. What’s more, the survivors, or victims, of the laundries have only received an apology from the state this year, the year 2013; seventeen years after the last laundry closed its doors.

In addition, the process of compensation for the many hours of unpaid work that these women undertook is still being completed and many of these women continue to wait for help from the state in terms of rehabilitation and reintegrating into society after years of institutionalisation and abuse.

Another dark chapter in the Irish state’s treatment of women is the practice of symphysiotomy which was a medical procedure carried out on women without their knowledge and consent during childbirth throughout the 20th century in Ireland. Symphysiotomy is quite a barbaric medical method insofar as it involves cutting through a woman’s pelvis with a hacksaw in order to widen the pelvis for childbirth. Currently the practice does not take place in developed countries as the procedure includes lifelong debilitating effects such as chronic pain, mobility issues, incontinence issues and depression.

As with the Magadalene Laundries, the practice can once again be regarded as institutionalised abuse against women at the hands of the Irish state. However, the victims, who did not agree to this medical procedure taking place, have yet to be compensated or indeed apologized to despite the gross misconduct they were exposed to. The Journal (2012), states that the chairperson of Survivors of Symhysiotomy (SOS) Marie O’Connor believes that this issue is “arguably the biggest human rights scandal in Ireland since the foundation of the State”. Indeed, ‘protecting the reputation of deceased doctors should not be allowed to take precedence over the rights of living survivors’ who are currently struggling to have their stories of pain and abuse acknowledged.

(Picture of the Irish Dáill i.e. Parliament, when the Symhysiotomy issue was being discussed)

I felt it was both important and necessary to highlight these two particular case studies. In many ways they act as an important introduction to Ireland in relation to the role and treatment of women within Irish society both past and present. Ireland is regarded as a developed country and this argument can be backed up by GDP ratings which indicate the standard of living of a country. However, when it comes to gender equality and the representation of the Irish female voice and indeed, the standard of living that the women of the Magdalene laundries and the victims of symhysiotomy were exposed to, it is clear that in terms of gender equality, Ireland is significantly underdeveloped.

The struggle of Irish women continues. Too often our voices are ignored if in fact we manage to have them heard at all. It is clear to me what the core issue is that prevents the women of Ireland from having their aspirations and needs equally valued and favoured. The root cause of inequality and discrimination against women in Irish society is due to the fact that women have and continue to make up a significantly small minority within Irish government. The Irish Dáil, which other nations would refer to as parliament, is predominantly male. Without a balanced and equal political representation it is clear that the needs of women are not being met. I am not suggesting that this lack of political equality and lack of female representation is done purposefully. Rather, it would seem that within Ireland, a predominately male parliament struggles to understand or relate to the issues and needs facing the female populace.

In light of the Magdalene Laundries scandal being exposed, a debate and examination is beginning to take place within Irish society in relation to the rights and representation of the Irish, female voice. A valid argument that is being suggested includes the implementation of gender quotas in order to achieve sustainable, equal representation between men and women in government. Unfortunately, as of yet, there has been no direct leadership or initiative coming from government in relation to this issue.

However, a rhetoric and argument in favour of balanced government representation is beginning to emerge from the citizens of Ireland themselves. This dialogue needs to be encouraged and developed so that Ireland can begin to learn from its past mistakes and conceive a more promising future whereby the mothers, daughters and sisters of Ireland can ‘enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making, and when the different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favoured’. (Department of Justice & Equality: Ireland, 2011)

Note: For further information on the Magdalene Laundries you can access the 2013, McAleese Report at: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Publications_other_regulatory_functions

References

Department of Justice & Equality: Ireland (2011) Gender Equality[Online] Available at: http://www.justice.ie [Accessed 05 March 2013]

The Journal (2012) Symphysiotomy survivors gather to recount stories of torture [Online] Available at: http://www.thejournal.ie/ [Accessed 05 March 2013]

Pollak, S (2013) Irish Prime Minister Apologizes for Forced Labour in Magdalene Laundries [Online] Available at: http://www.time.com[Accessed 05 March 2013]

Speading AWARENESS – Gender Equality will HELP End Violence Against Women

ImageI had the opportunity to share a pretty special week with some pretty special girls, as we studied about “Women as Change Agents.” The remarkable thing about this unique trip was the passion all of these women shared. We were put into groups and required to assemble some sort of project that we would implement in our home universities’, or communities, etc.

My group shared some similar goals, yet we had very different ideas for implementation and execution. We thought this was especially good, because we could adapt and share ideas about how we thought we could improve the said proposal. We chose to spread awareness about issues surrounding GENDER EQUALITY. This was a hot topic for the week, as most of what we studied came back to this big issue so misrepresented across the world. How were we going to make a difference?

As I went through the week, I encountered many instances where even I was unaware of the extremity of some of these statistics. Did you know that some 100,000 women go missing every year in the world? What does that mean? Because of brutality and violence against women, this many go unaccounted for. This was just the beginning. The amount of women who are victimized is even larger. Why women aren’t considered equal? Are we any less than a “man?” I think not! We are such valuable and amazing creatures; I can’t seem to grasp these startling statistics.

So what my group intended on doing was spreading the word, because before a cause can be addressed, people MUST KNOW ABOUT IT! So each of us women are going to take back to our homes, a program called 50/50: Contract for a change. We are going to make therse fact known, so people, who care, can have an opportunity to fight for this cause along with us. We are going to make murals out of contracts people will sign stating that they are aware of these situations, and put an end to ignorance on these issues. We will also distribute posters and other material with the fact and statistics on them. People must know if they are going to do anything about it. Women are no less than men, and we do not deserve the abuse and neglect that is going on around the world. The change begins with awareness, and so this is where we will begin to.

If you would like to know more about these startling statistics, feel free to explore the links below. Help us put an end to violence against women!

http://www.vday.org/node/1040

http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/Worldswomen/WW2010%20Report_by%20chapter(pdf)/violence%20against%20women.pdf

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StayedED!

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There is a startling new trend in Mexico whereby young women are not completing their high school education. Statistics from the 2008-2009 school year state that 15.9% of students drop out yearly in Mexico. Of that percentage, 14.1% are women.
To put that into context, that is 286, 287 young girls not completing their high school education on a yearly basis. This is a shocking statistic and highlights the need for decisive action.

This group has devised an action plan in order to counteract this problem. We propose an initiative where groups of young volunteers and mentors go into the schools and create a learning environment whereby girls will be encouraged to stay in school and complete their education. By connecting girls with role models, eliminating discrimination in schools and involving girls in the teaching process we believe that we can counteract the issue of girls dropping out of school.

Through education, girls have the ability to be empowered and create a solid future. That is why we as a group believe in the importance of this initiative.

Our purpose is to work in two countries, Mexico and Ireland. In Mexico we will start in a low-income school located in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon; while in Ireland it will be in the Traveller community. In both cases the programme will be directed to girls between 8 and 12 years old.

The mission of StayEd (QuedatEd) is to have girls realize that they can create a better future for themselves through education. We endeavor to give them the necessary tools needed in order to help them create a vision of a better future.

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The sessions will be once a week, every program lasts one monthe and we plan on doing it for 6 months. At the end of those different 6 programs (6 months) we will gather again all the children that have participated in a party and make all participate and tell their experiences to see how every one has improved.

To see more information:

This link is about improving education opportunities for travelling girls in Ireland

https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DFE-RR043.pdf

What about this academic paper Titled : ” Dropout or Self-Exclusion? An Analysis of Dropout Causes in Mexico’s Sonoran High School Students” http://redie.uabc.mx//contenido//vol10no1/contents-abril.pdf

Aside

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There is a startling new trend in Mexico whereby young women are not completing their high school education. Statistics from the 2008-2009 school year state that 15.9% of students drop out yearly in Mexico. Of that percentage, 14.1% are women.
To put that into context, that is 286, 287 young girls not completing their high school education on a yearly basis. This is a shocking statistic and highlights the need for decisive action.

This group has devised an action plan in order to counteract this problem. We propose an initiative where groups of young volunteers and mentors go into the schools and create a learning environment whereby girls will be encouraged to stay in school and complete their education. By connecting girls with role models, eliminating discrimination in schools and involving girls in the teaching process we believe that we can counteract the issue of girls dropping out of school.

Through education, girls have the ability to be empowered and create a solid future. That is why we as a group believe in the importance of this initiative.

Our purpose is to work in two countries, Mexico and Ireland. In Mexico we will start in a low-income school located in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon; while in Ireland it will be in the Traveller community. In both cases the programme will be directed to girls between 8 and 12 years old.

The mission of StayEd (QuedatEd) is to have girls realize that they can create a better future for themselves through education. We endeavor to give them the necessary tools needed in order to help them create a vision of a better future.

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The sessions will be once a week, every program lasts one monthe and we plan on doing it for 6 months. At the end of those different 6 programs (6 months) we will gather again all the children that have participated in a party and make all participate and tell their experiences to see how every one has improved.

To see more information:

This link is about improving education opportunities for travelling girls in Ireland

https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DFE-RR043.pdf

What about this academic paper Titled : ” Dropout or Self-Exclusion? An Analysis of Dropout Causes in Mexico’s Sonoran High School Students” http://redie.uabc.mx//contenido//vol10no1/contents-abril.pdf

Panamá Welcome Women as Change Agents 2013

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Women as Change Agents is a program that would help me find my way to empower women in my own country and around the world. Since someone mentioned this program to me, I could not think about anything else, and was a great opportunity for me to start thinking of my future.

Today young girls have been treated wrong, and we need to act on their behalf. They are our future. It’s our duty and responsibility to help them to get over these battles against injustice, and give them the skills and knowledge to inspire and help other women. They need to win their respect and a place in the society.

When I discovered this opportunity, I thought of many ways to empower these women, but I knew the first step was to do this for me. In order to help these other women I knew that I needed to help myself first, by joining this movement, and being that change agent each of these women need.

Two of the most important issues women face is self-identity and self-respect. Many of these women have lost respect for themself, lost their identities, and drive to discover ways to please others. Being a “yes” woman or a stereotypical house wife has become a mindset for many women to become the perfect wife. Truth is, we as woman have to learn how to love ourselves first. This is the only way we will learn how to love others and live a life with happiness surrounded by others.

As Michelle Bachelet says “We want a more prosperous, more just, more equal, more inclusive future. I shall keep my word. I shall tell you what I think and I shall do what I say. I give my word as a woman.”

My first day in the program was so exiting; first of all, I’m living the experience of being part of this amazing program dedicated to us all. I can tell this program is leading me to be the best of myself.

I came to class the first day , and people were great.  We started to get to know each other, girls from different countries, different cultures, all here together for the same cause. To empower ourselves, to learned how to inspire people around us, and to make a change.

Since the program started I knew something really good was coming to me.  With the skills I am gaining from the program, I now know that I need to be fearless, find my path through a vision, and make a plan of how I’m going to encourage other women. Persistence is one of my objectives, and I will help other women in believing in themselves because that’s where great ideas merge.

There’s this phrase that I just love from Marie Wilson, “It’s woman time” Back then, getting women into leadership seemed to me the fair thing to do; now I see it as the only thing to do.

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One Woman: A song for UN Women” to launch on International Women’s Day

http://www.unwomen.org/2013/03/press-release-one-woman-a-song-for-un-women-to-launch-on-international-womens-day/

“Showing the Way: Mostrando El Camino”

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After attending this 2 week program our group wanted to find a way to tackle the UN’s #3 Millennium Goal

Showing the Way: Mostrando El Camino.

By 2015 the UN would like to

Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

       Plan:  Develop a 1 year program in which we inform children throughout middle school and high school (secondary schools) on topics that revolve around their rights, the importance of education and prevention of exploitation. With our target audience being low-income schools/students from the ages of 12-18. This program will occur once a month for 12 months, starting at the beginning of each school year(September 2013-September 2014.) *In different schools EACH month.*

Vision: Everything is based on education and through education we can lessen the violence in future generations inflicted on women and children in our communities.

 Topics we are going to inform the children on throughout the year: 

1. Introduction to Human Rights

2. How to exercise those rights

3. NGO’s + Institutions that can help them with their rights

4. Educate on importance of staying in school

5.Life planning (Plan to be successful, organizational skills, goal oriented)

6. Mentor Program (So they can have constant support)

7. NGO’s + Institutions that help with education

8. Scholarship Program (Invite the Parents)

9. Education on family issues at home (abuse, sexual abuse, abuse outside the home)

10. Sex Education (Prevention pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, rights to body)

11. NGO’s that address exploited Youth

12. Graduation from Program (That reflects on what they have learned through the programs/ Diploma)

After the Program we hope:

  • All students who enroll can last till the end and graduate
  • Obtain a diploma from the program
  • Leave more informed about the topics and be able to spread it to other children
  • Lower the amount of violation and abuse inflicted on children in lower income families by having them informed.
  • SHOW THEM THAT THEY CAN DO IT. They can graduate from a program and become successful in the future!

A powerful video that addresses the importance of a girl and education:

The Girl Effect 

Interesting article that addresses Afterschool Programs 

and their importance.

Also if you would like to check out our Prezi presentation it is

here.

BETTER EDUCATION = BETTER WORLD

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Monday morning as the Women as Change Agents speaker was Debbie Pyschoyos, M. Ed., Ed.D. Founder/CEO of PROED Foundation. This Foundation is a non-profit organization that began in 2001, influencing students the culture of learning in schools. She won the Woman of the Year in Education (2004), and been nominated for HEROES for Panama (2012), and so many more. Debbie is facilitating and evaluating the development of empowering the teachers in Panama.

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 When Debbie came to us she started with an activity, she want us to own our potential, and believed that opportunity needs to be lead by potential, so she gave us these quotes and we launched in teams and discuss about them, and we chosed the better quoted that exemplified potential. “First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” (Epictetus)

Therefore, she explained to us, the main things that she is doing with PROED. She started to told us that classrooms were not designed for learn, being one behind another in a row is useful, what people of new generations need is to start to communicate with themselves.

Instead of having people row by row she came up with this idea of placing them in groups of four at a square table, this set up enabled a better learning environment in interaction between the students. Accordingly to what Debbie does, she gave these materials to fix the classrooms to the school, so that between teachers, parents and students help the school to build this new space of work.

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What I like about PROED Foundation is that they’re helping the teachers one at a time, getting to know them better, and inspire them so that they can teach better, and have all these energy and new ways to encourage their students.

One of the advises that they give to their teachers is that it is important to cover most of the program, but it is more important to have a clear objective about what do you want for the kid to learn every day. “The seeds of learning are found in the heart of each lesson taught by a caring & competent teacher!”

Debbie shared with us “The Butterfly Story”, it was a butterfly that was struggling to get out of the cocoon and one man saw it and help her to get out of the tiny hole. The Butterfly emerged easily but then it stopped and couldn’t go further, it had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man continued watching the butterfly expecting that in any minute the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body, but neither happened. Instead the butterfly was never able to fly. Even the man was kindness what he didn’t understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required by the butterfly to get to the opening was a way of forcing the fluid from the body into the wings so that it would be ready for flight once that was achieved.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Going through life with no obstacles would cripple us. We will not be as strong as we could have been and we would never fly. (http://www.hawaiiswim.org/business/TheButterfly/TheButterfly.html)

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For more information:

PROED youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DMj7rK1WQo8

PROED WEB PAGE: http://www.fundacionproed.net/quienes-somos/

PROED ARTICLE “Inspiring teachers to inspire…” http://www.prnoticiaspanama.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7825:fundacion-proed-lanza-maestros-apoyando-maestros-2013&catid=18:rse&Itemid=33

Game Changer.

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Meed

Stop for a minute and think about where you are in your life.

Where did you start and how did you get there?

What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

Just seriously sit down for a second and think about that… think about exactly that.

 For the past couple of days the questions stated above have come up in our class discussion. As young women leaders, these questions have enabled us the opportunity to think critically about our life goals and the way in which we will accomplish them. The many speakers throughout the past couple of days have asked the same questions but today I want to focus on one.

How do women own their power? And how can we be stronger leaders overall.

While sitting in the social entrepreneur panel this afternoon, we had the opportunity as students to observe individuals who have reached a certain point in their career. When it comes to being a Social Entrepreneur it is oriented towards solving a problem rather than earning money like a regular entrepreneur. Like us, they too were once sitting in the same seats at the UN trying to figure out where their lives were going and where their passions would take them. Apart of this panel was Virginia, Leanne, Mariery, Eva, Eliise, and Skyler; six entrepreneurs doing great things in their field that empower them as women.

Although all the women interested me the most, Virginia is the one I was drawn to. As a past GLP student, she really has come from the same spot I am sitting in today. “Originally from Colombia, Virginia Campo, holds a BA in international relations and Latin American Studies from Florida State University. In 2008 she started her own NGO called Hecha y Dercha, which focuses on bridging the gap in women from rural and urban areas in Panama.” Now at the age of 24, Virginia works for HSBC bank, where she is a Premier Propositions Manager.

As an individual who works very hard at my passion combating human trafficking, specifically child trafficking, I want to open my own shelter for survivors. Hearing the struggles and challenges faced when trying to start your own organization really sparked my interest, because one day I hope to be sitting in the same position Virginia is sitting in today. As an individual, Virginia has come so far and has been able to answer all the questions stated above. She has been able to open the many doors presented in front of her, and dive in head first to pursue her dreams.

We all have the need to change the world but it is not plausible for that to happen in one day. So as individuals we have to change the world one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Remembering that women CAN have it all as long as they balance out their personal life and business life. Women CAN change the world as long as we break this invisible glass ceiling with inside ourselves that tend to hold us back. Women CAN make a different if society would change its views of the way in which they see women’s place in this world. We are equal and will be equal one day, because of social entrepreneurs like the individuals in the panel today.

Read more about Social Entrepreneurs around the world:

30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs- Forbes

Education and Change Making

“Potential just means you ain’t done it yet” – Barrell Royal

“First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do” Epictetus

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We had a talk with Debbie Psychoyos, who is an educator for more than 30 years and is the creator and CEO of the ProEd Foundation, which is a non-profit organization for the purpose of supporting and advancing public and private education in Panama.

First of all she presented herself with a $2.00 introduction, (which means is a brief and intensive way of presenting ourselves), what it call my attention was when she said she is a committed life-long learner, because even tough she already has a career and develop herself in the education world, she has the humility of saying that she can learn more and more everyday, and actually we all do, no one knows everything in life, and it’s a really important thing to remember.

After she presented herself, we had to do the same presentation, it was a good activity because sometimes most of us girls don’t have a clear vision of how are we, and how can we explain in a short paragraph. For me it made me realize what I’m really committed in life, I believe I’m committed to develop my self, to grow and blossom as we have talked about the women empowerment.

I liked this conference because it focuses in something really important and which I believe is the basic or like a first step to make the world a better place, first of all, we need to be educated, but this is not going to get accomplished just by the act of going to a classroom with chairs and tables, it’s extremely necessary to have good teachers that love what they are doing, have a passion for teaching so the kids can learn better accordingly to their capabilities.

She explained us a little of how she started her NGO and the challenges of making it work, because sometimes people will not believe in your cause, and will not support you, but that does not mean you have to quit your dream. It is a hard work, it involves passion, leadership, believeing in yourself (which I think it’s the first step you have to do for making things happen), knocking on a lot of doors until you find people that trust and believe in your cause.

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For more information about ProEd, go to:

http://www.fundacionproed.net/

Written by: Carmen Natividad