By Melanie Sjoberg
MELBOURNE — At 193 Smith Street, Fitzroy, opposite the Collingwood Post Office, is the shopfront office of the International Women's Development Agency. People come in off the street to talk, volunteers come in to work.
The small staff of the community-based aid group works effectively to market women's goods from many countries. The group helps to sustain its project partners, which are women's groups in many overseas countries.
IWDA supports projects planned and carried out by women. It has helped to improve agricultural production, built safe water systems, established credit societies and set up literacy, legal rights and training programs.
In Honduras, women in village clubs are improving the quality of life in their communities through better health care and construction of improved housing, water supplies and toilets.
Across the world, women are establishing tree nurseries and providing training and equipment in agro-forestry, soil conservation and building, as well as use of fuel-efficient stoves.
To Australia's north, Makamasa, a group of women from the Tondo slums of Manila, is promoting literacy. Their leader writes: "We have a bigger group of learners now, and coming on a more regular basis".
In Australia, "Vegies on the Block" is a women's project to support the Redfern community vegetable garden.
Maureen Flood writes, "IWDA's offer to support the making of a garden has a symbolic as well as practical meaning. The community is deeply rooted and will continue to grow."
Other projects flourish in Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile and Burma.
IWDA needs funds. There are many constant needs as well as new initiatives, and while there are plenty of enthusiasm and energy, there's scarcely enough money to maintain the office and service the projects.
All donations are tax deductible. Anyone contributing $100 or more per year may become an associate.
The related Empower program assists four specific projects each year. In 1990, these were in Tigray (Ethiopia), Honduras, Vietnam and the East Sepik region of Papua New Guinea.
Empower members pledge an amount each month or each three months. Payments may be made by cheque or credit card. For further information, write to: Box 1680, Collingwood or ring (03) 419 3004.