Four questions for Elizabeth David Dembrowsky from Good Counsel Services

By Matti Pousi

Elizabeth David Dembrowsky, Founder of Good Counsel Services

Elizabeth David Dembrowsky, Founder of Good Counsel Services

Our new partner organization, Good Counsel Services aims to ensure the financial and legal security of other nonprofits and social entrepreneurs through education, effort, and empowerment. As a nonprofit that receives funding from foundations, institutions, and individual donors, Good Counsel is able to provide affordable, quality legal services to its clients.

After graduating with a law degree from Brooklyn Law School, Elizabeth David Dembrowsky founded Good Counsel in 2016. She has also served as the Executive Director for Keren Or, Inc., the Jerusalem Center for Blind Children with Multiple Disabilities since 2012, a position that helped her understand the problems many small nonprofits face: an utter lack of invaluable legal support to help carry on their mission and hold their tax exempt status.

We had a chance to interview Elizabeth and asked her four questions about her daily work at Good Counsel Services.

What is the most interesting thing happening at Good Counsel right now?

Our team of volunteers and interns – a great group of students in high school, college, graduate school, law school, and several recent law school graduates, all working together to help us serve over 100 clients.

What is your day-to-day work like at Good Counsel? What role do your interns have?

Everyday is different – we try and balance direct client service work and creating resources that groups can access on their own. We are constantly looking for new support and meeting new partners.  Also- our interns play a huge role and our program is lauded by our partners and participants and we are particularly proud of that. We ensure the students and volunteers grow and are challenged – and have fun doing it!

What is the most rewarding aspect about your work?

Serving a need that is unmet in our community and being able to fully use my skills about something I am passionate about – social impact startups and their inspiring leaders.

What are your hopes for Good Counsel's future?

I would love to see if hire full time staff within the next two years and have a dedicated office space where clients can meet confidentiality and also attend group sharing sessions. We also hope to more fully expand our work to all five boroughs and upstate New York as well.


Girl Be Heard joins Kota as Partner Organization

By Tuuli Mäkinen

46852783_10157015174064835_2485726341333254144_o.jpg

The mission of Girl Be Heard, based in Brooklyn, NY, is to develop, amplify and celebrate the voices of young women through socially conscious theatre-making. The philosophy of the organization is that if a girl can change her own life, she can change the lives of girls everywhere. Girl Be Heard believes in a world where every girl is valued and encouraged to be a leader and a change maker.

Girl Be Heard runs both afterschool and weekend education programs in underserved areas of New York City, where the theatrical work of the girls is generated. Girl Be Heard is positioned to engage at-risk youth and open up dialogue about social justice issues affecting the communities – from gun violence to sex trafficking.

DSC_0184 (1).jpg

Internationally, GBH Across Borders continues to partner with international allies and activists to foster solidarity between communities of girls all over the world and spotlight global issues girls face. 

Central to their work is the exploration of voice, movement, spoken word and song, the help build self-esteem and grow individual talents and to encourage leadership in their communities. Girl Be Heard produces 5 shows a year. On April 11, we offer a chance to support both Kota and GBH at the same time – join us!

Increasing Transparency in the Fashion Industry to Promote Inclusive Growth

By Tuuli Makinen and Anne Rahmouni

February 14, 2019 at the UN Headquarters, the Kota Alliance co-hosted a panel discussion about Increasing Transparency in the Fashion Industry to Promote Inclusive Growth with Hecho por Nosotros and Animana. The event was part of the UN 57th Commission of Social Development. The objective of the discussion was to create dialogue about the challenges and solutions for transparency and inclusivity in the fashion industry.

The event brought together people from different backgrounds: fashion, finance and the technology industry, NGOs, and advocacy groups, to discuss about a more sustainable fashion industry. The panelists Katherine Poole (HxN, Animana), Patrick Duffy (Global Fashion Exchange), Mari-Lou Dupont (UN Global Compact), Alden Wicker (Eco-Cult), Christopher Van Bergen (Nest) John Meyers (CSG Networks), Cara Hagan (GoodWeave), and Riefqah Jappie (International Trade Centre) led the discussion. The dialogue covered multiple topics such as supply chain transparency, artisan empowerment and the availability of sustainable and ethical clothing.

There were some key points that arose during the discussion. Having home-working artisans as a valid source is essential but it is also important to ensure safe working conditions for them. Education is needed in order to empower artisans who can be a source of innovation when we think about new materials and circularity. Working conditions concern not only retail chains but also governments and factories where the clothes are made. Consumers need better information in order to make better and more sustainable decisions, and brands are responsible for igniting connections between consumers and their clothes by sharing the stories of people behind the clothes.

The big C word was also mentioned – Collaboration! NGOs, brands and advocates have to continue working together, share information and incorporate better practices to make the fashion industry more responsible.

The atmosphere was hopeful and positive that the change will happen, and we can achieve a more sustainable fashion industry.

sustainable (2) - Copy.jpg

CEPAZ in New York: The Venezuelan Crisis

By Matti Pousi

32155810908_259ffa8611.jpg

CEPAZ is a partner organization of the Kota Alliance, and as such, it is sponsored by the Anna-Riitta and Fritz Fuchs Fund for Reproductive Health. CEPAZ advocates for women’s rights in Venezuela and provides menstrual hygiene products and contraceptives for refugee women. One of the organizations in their network, Red Naranja Venezuela, fights to decrease violence against women amidst the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis.

The Center for Justice and Peace (Centro de Justicia y Paz, CEPAZ) is an organization whose main goal is to empower Venezuelan citizens in defense of peace, human rights and democracy. It was founded in 2014 as a response to the complex humanitarian crisis that was beginning to consume Venezuela. The impacts of the crisis to date are devastating: fall of institutions, hyperinflation, lack of basic necessities (like food and medicine), rapidly worsening living conditions, increasing discontent and violence, and people fleeing the country en masse. While many say that the roots of the crisis are deep in Chavismo, an ideology based on the governance of the former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, it is not an easy task to pinpoint its exact causes. According to Beatriz “Bibi” Borges, Director of CEPAZ, however, the crisis “has been happening in front of our eyes for 20 years.”  

CEPAZ’s vision is deeply rooted in the idea that collaboration is key to making a change. The main mission of CEPAZ is to unite Venezuelan human rights organizations and accompany them to maturity. It does not do the work for them, but rather, shows them how to successfully collaborate with others. CEPAZ’s network is strong. One of the many projects in their network, REDAC, has currently more than 1,000 activists from different organizations and civil society.

In addition to working on the ground in Venezuela, CEPAZ has a strong presence in New York. It is the only non-profit currently in the city that focuses solely on the Venezuelan crisis. The organization’s work in the city that is home to many non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations is important. According to Bibi, there is a broad-based institutional ignorance in the West about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, and that is why she works tirelessly in order to increase the awareness across the many decision-making bodies of the United Nations.

Under the recent political shifts, Bibi finds both hope and concern for the future of Venezuela. Her message is simple: “if a person is suffering from a flu, back pain and a broken bone, a single medicine will not cure it all.” Similarly, the Venezuelan crisis will not be solved with a one-for-all panacea overnight. Rather, it will need a lot of activism, determination and collaboration.

 

  • Watch CNN’s interview of Beatriz “Bibi” Borges, Director of CEPAZ, on female trafficking here (in Spanish)

  • Read CEPAZ’s statement for the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) about Venezuelan refugee women here (in Spanish)