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Compassion In Kenya

Compassion-CBO

Compassion CBO

Safe World Field Partner in Kenya - Compassion CBO, was formed to eradicate poverty through education and sustainable development among women living in the slums and rural areas and to rehabilitate orphans and vulnerable children.

Survivors In DR Congo

Bahati-with-group

COFAPRI

COFAPRI is based in Bukavu in the eastern Democratic Rupublic of Congo The organisation empowers women through encouraging income-generating activities such as the rearing of livestock.

Field Partner News

Safe World Field Partner, work directly with issues such as poverty, health-care, marginalisation, FGM, child marriage, and education.

Handwashing

Washing Hands to Improve Health in Rural DR Congo

COFAPRI organised handwashing sessions for school children and mothers in rural villages, with the aid of educational DVDs kindly supplied by Thare Machi Education. The word has begun to spread as neighbours are now prompting each other to wash their hands.
Safe Spaces

Safe Spaces Crucial for Women's Self-Reliance in Rural DR Congo

Increased security helps women become self-reliant and less financially dependent on their husbands. This improves the situation for the whole family and also means the women are less vulnerable to abuse.
Towards womens empowerment

DR Congo: Men's Inclusion in Women's Empowerment Benefits Everyone

It remains very important within communities for men and boys to be educated regarding the rights of women and girls, including their proper, fair and respectful treatment. When the women and girls become empowered, it is the whole community that benefits.
Margaret from Kiambu Support Group

Nairobi cancer survivor has hope at last

Margaret is among many women Compassion CBO trained in 2015. She has survived breast Cancer 2 times.

New Womens Magazine for Cameroon

The first edition of the Women for a Change Magazine is now available.

19-year-old SRHR college peer educators talk Feminisms

In most parts of our society, the word “Feminism” still remains a bitter pill for so many people to swallow, however, to Wfac’s college SRHR Peer educators, the ‘F’ word is about change, empowerment of all and transforming lives.

News, Interviews and Blogs

Under-reported issues affecting women and children. Exclusive interviews, articles and blogs by Safe World Correspondents and Content Partners

Lizzy and Victoria

Peace, Dialogue & the Ripple Effect: #RISING16 Global Peace Forum

Perhaps the most inspiring session for me came towards the end of the two days and was entitled ‘Bring back our girls – the forgotten victims of conflict’... We heard the CEO of International Alert, Harriet Lamb, and Victoria Nyanjura - who was kidnapped by…
Olutosin 2

Olutosin Adebowale: To America With Love

Once upon a time in my country, Nigeria, there was a ruler who was dreaded by many... We resisted and said No to every oppressive action or word to any weak or voiceless Nigerian... This is the time to stand firm on what has held the world together - Love.
Berlyne Ngwalem Ngwentah

Berlyne Ngwentah: 'The Biggest Cheerleaders of Women are Women'

All the most prominent, biggest community and feminist movements to alleviate the sufferings of women and girls and support women’s involvement in education and leadership have been championed mostly by women...
Jen 9

Promoting Misogyny, Zenophobia, and Bullying... is.... Nasty

I cannot ever vote for anyone who promotes misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, zenophobia, homophobia... It would be a mockery of my life... dishonoring my elders who have endured the many injustices of racial animosity, my friends who've experienced the same...
Women united

Women United for a Better Community in High Andean of Peru

“Women United for a Better Community” is a new group of grassroots women in the Ayacucho Region at the South High Andean of Peru, recently created by Estrategia, a National Grassroots women's organization. The grassroots women require to be heard and get the…
Narges

Narges Mohammadi - Women Human Rights Defenders Are Heroes, Not Criminals

On September 28th 2016 an Iranian appeals court upheld a 16-year sentence for 44 year old Narges Mohammadi, a prominent human rights defender. Mrs. Mohammadi is a key member of the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty in Iran, a lawyer by training,…

Bakus Crystal Hall

Azerbaijani President's Family Benefits From Eurovision Hall Construction

Source: Khadija Ismayilova | RFE/RL

Later this month, the eyes of the world will be focused on a shimmering glass-and-steel building newly erected on the shores of the Caspian Sea to welcome the pop stars and television crews from the more than 40 European countries who will broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 spectacle.

Azerbaijan won hosting rights to the popular extravaganza last year, when the Azerbaijani pop duo of Ell and Nikki sang their way to victory in Eurovision 2011. The Azerbaijani government responded proudly with plans for a new $134 million concert showplace called the Crystal Hall, which seats 23,000.

Finished only a few weeks ago, it was a tense race to get the venue ready in time. Its importance was signaled by the frequent visits made by President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva to the bold geometric structure as it rose amid the construction site.

Organized Crime and Corruption

But their interest was not just ceremonial and patriotic. An investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and RFE/RL has discovered that the first family is personally profiting from the massive construction project through its hidden ownership in the Azenco construction company.

The company contracted for the work has long been identified in all official announcements as the German company Alpine Bau Deutschland AG. Yet some of the equipment at the construction site is stamped with the company name Azenco. Rolf Herr, a representative of Alpine Bau in Azerbaijan, described Azenco as a subcontractor.

He would give no other details of its involvement. The Alpine Bau press office in Germany did not respond to questions about how subcontractors and vendors had been chosen.

Front Companies

Azenco is owned through a series of front companies that mask the real owners. The official newspaper of the agency for privatization of state property in Azerbaijan announced in 2010 that Baku-based Interenerji MMC acquired 97.5 percent of the shares of Azenco.

The Crystal Hall under construction, with Azenco equipment taking partThe Crystal Hall under construction, with Azenco equipment taking part

According to privatization records from March 2010, ADOR MMC, another Baku-based company controls 70 percent of the ownership of Interenerji. Company registration documents list ADOR's legal address as "7 Samed Vurgun Street." The registered occupants of that address at the time were Mehriban Aliyeva, Leyla Aliyeva, and Arzu Aliyeva, the wife and daughters of the president, respectively.

In 2010, RFE/RL investigated the privatization of the State Aviation Company's infrastructure, including Azalbank (currently Silkwaybank), which also has as a registered shareholder Arzu Aliyeva, residing at the same address. Presidential spokesman Azer Gasimov at the time confirmed that the shareholder was indeed the president's daughter.

Gasimov did not respond to repeated phone calls and a written inquiry about the president's family's connection to Azenco and the appearance of a conflict of interest if Azenco is profiting from state-funded construction projects.

Predating Eurovision?

Eurovision 2012 event coordinator Sietse Bakker said that it was not the proper organization to answer questions about the first lady or the Crystal Hall construction.

Bakker said the city of Baku commissioned the multifunctional indoor venue before Azerbaijan won Eurovision. "We have no involvement with the construction of the hall, so you should ask this question to the responsible authorities," he said.

Record sources do not support Bakker's contention. Presidential Order 1620 from July 2011 to build the concert hall came after the May Eurovision victory.

"I have not seen written records," Bakker said, "but it doesn't take much to realize that there is quite a lot of planning going into the construction of such venue.

Very Expensive Flag

The Crystal Hall is the second project to raise conflict-of-interest questions about Azenco.

It also helped construct the grandiose $38 million State Flag Square near the Crystal Hall, which briefly held the "Guinness Book of World Records" title for tallest flagpole in the world.

A few months after it was put up, Azerbaijan's 162-meter flagpole was surpassed by an even bigger flagpole in Dushanbe in Tajikistan designed by the same U.S. firm.

Two-thirds of the cost of the square in Baku came from the Reserve Fund of the head of state by presidential Decrees 532 (October 26, 2009) and 1052 (August 3, 2010). The other third came directly from the 2011 state budget in accordance with a decree of the Cabinet of Ministers 260 S (August 25, 2011).

A spokesman for the cabinet, Akif Ali, refused to respond to questions about how Azenco came to be chosen as a partner in the project.

Looting State Coffers

Azenco has been employed on numerous state-funded projects less showy but no less profitable than the Baku work.

State Procurement Agency records show that in 2010 alone the company was awarded contracts worth $79 million. The company also recently gained control of Sumqayit Technology Park, a former state-funded enterprise started by Azerenerji, the government-owned energy production company.

Azer Mehtiyev, director of the Center for Assistance to Economic Initiatives, a politically independent think tank, says Azenco is a clear example of a scheme to misappropriate some of the country's oil wealth.

"With the big oil money flowing into the budget, a parallel process of monopolization of spheres of economy, redivision of state property...[made] way for the misappropriation of revenues," Mehtiyev said.

"Big infrastructure projects financed by oil revenues are mainly distributed to companies which belong to high-ranking officials.

The government keeps the information about owners of the companies secret. The state contracts are assigned to companies established in offshore zones with unknown owners making the public control over the process impossible."

According to Mehtiyev, it is especially difficult to get information about the business interests of the president's family.

Anticorruption Talk, No Action

Azerbaijan adopted an Anticorruption Law in 2004 that obliges officials to declare the income and property holdings of themselves and their relatives.

President Ilham Aliyev and his wife, Mehriban, attend the opening of the Crystal Hall.President Ilham Aliyev and his wife, Mehriban, attend the opening of the Crystal Hall.

In August 2005 (order No. 278), the president ordered the Cabinet of Ministers to prepare a special form on which officials would give that information within two months. But the forms were never drafted and officials never provided the information. It is not clear if the president or the first lady, who is also a member of parliament, have submitted declarations in the past decade.

The presidential administration and the Central Election Commission will not respond to questions about their property.

A written inquiry sent to the first lady's website was not answered.

In January 2011 President Aliyev declared that the government would take serious measures against corrupt officials.

The 2012 Eurovision event will have one other tie to the first family besides the new showcase auditorium.

Between acts, the singer chosen to entertain the crowd just happens to be the president's son-in-law.

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