The 100th Empress Shoken Fund awards

2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Empress Shoken Fund, created by Her Majesty the Empress of Japan to support Red Cross and Red Crescent activities worldwide. Since then, it has grown thanks to contributions from the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross Society, the Imperial Family and the Meiji Jingu shrine.

For the past 100 years, the Empress Shôken Fund has contributed to activities of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world. Each year, the Empress Shôken Fund supports a wide range of initiatives, from tuberculosis programmes to first-aid training, from blood collection to community projects. Since the inception of the fund, more than 150 Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies worldwide have benefited from the philanthropic initiative by the Empress.

The Shoken Empress and Red Cross Exhibition is now being held at Meiji Jingu shrine in Tokyo.

The Shoken Empress and Red Cross Exhibition is now being held at Meiji Jingu shrine in Tokyo.

The annual allocation of grants traditionally takes place on 11 April, the anniversary of the Empress’ passing. The most promising and innovative projects are selected by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Despite the global financial crisis since 2008, the fund continues to support new Red Cross and Red Crescent activities to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable.

In 2012, the Empress Shôken Fund will award five project proposals by Red Cross/Red Crescent societies on four continents for an amount totalling CHF 100,076. Among the initiatives selected are a youth education project in Azerbaijan, a climate change project in Mexico, promotion of living standards for women in Senegal, communications technology in Trinidad and Tobago, and blood donation in Tunisia. Here is a brief description of the projects awarded.

Red Crescent Society of Azerbaijan activities towards creating opportunity for continuing education of 90 children from vulnerable families living in rural areas of Ismayilli region (CHF 25,000)

This project will contribute to the education and development of children from the poor Ismayilli region of Azerbaijan. Access to schooling in Ismayilli is difficult and many children are taken out of school before they can complete even their basic primary education. This project will create the conditions for a number of children to continue their education, help parents understand the importance of their children’s education and engage local authorities in the process.

Mexican Red Cross- Don't let the climate affect your health: preventing diseases driven by climate change (CHF 11,147)

The project will help reduce the incidence and spread of diseases and illnesses caused by the effects of climate change (cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal and skin diseases) through education about prevention in schools and vulnerable communities in the country and large-scale dissemination of the measures required for climate change adaptation.

Senegalese Red Cross Society- Promotion of living standards for vulnerable women in the suburbs of Dakar (CHF 24,821)

The Senegalese Red Cross Society will construct a professional training centre for vulnerable women in the suburb of Gueédiawaye in Dakar. Up to 250 women will be trained in skills ranging from cookery, to micro-project management, to first aid. There will also be educational training courses on sexually transmitted infections to help women become educators in their own communities.

Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society- Equipping the National Society with video conferencing capability (CHF 19,108)

The geography and distance between the two islands makes it particularly difficult and expensive to communicate and coordinate actions. This project will enhance the communication infrastructure within the National Society to engender more efficient and effective decision making. It will contribute to faster and better response in times of disaster and increase cooperation with public authorities.

Tunisian Red Crescent - Pilot project for blood donation in universities and professional settings (CHF 20,000)

A project to increase the number of new blood donors through behavioralbehavioural change and strengthening the capacity of the National Society’s blood services. An emphasis will also be placed on increasing the number of regular donors with rare blood types.