The 103rd Empress Shôken Fund awards

11 April 2015

The Empress Shôken Fund, which was created to promote relief work in times of peace, received 34 applications this year from National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world. It is pleased to announce its support – in the form of grants amounting to 150,100 Swiss francs – for eight projects in Cape Verde, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Suriname, Laos, Timor-Leste, Moldova, and Montenegro.

The projects selected are innovative – particularly in their approach to reaching vulnerable minority groups, adapting services to local contexts and strengthening partnerships – and build on existing programmes and services. The National Societies, which are committed to implementing the projects and ensuring their sustainability, have made the projects a matter of priority in their strategic plans.

The 2015 grants

On 2 November 2014, a volcano on the island of Fogo, in Cape Verde, erupted. Fogo has a population of 37,000 people, many of whom live in the volcano's crater. Most of these people were evacuated before the eruption, which caused significant damage to infrastructure – houses, schools, tourist sites – and seriously disrupted agricultural activities. Some 1,500 people were directly affected by the lava; they included 295 children, the oldest of whom was 11 years old and the youngest, less than one. The Red Cross of Cape Verde – which has a lot of experience in this area and vigorously advocates the importance of education – was asked to provide these children with basic school furniture, supplies, meals, physical check-ups and psychological support for six months until the schools were refurbished.

Road accidents kill approximately 3000 people each year in Nigeria, and injure 10,000 others. The Nigerian Red Cross provides immediate assistance to casualties of road accidents, disasters and political or social violence. Topographical and socio-economic factors limit access to medical care in various regions of Nigeria; knowledge of first aid is especially important in places where there is no guarantee of receiving even basic health care. This project will enable the Nigerian Red Cross to continue to provide training in first aid and to assist victims of road accidents throughout Nigeria. The raising of public awareness with regard to road safety is another important element of the project.

Terrases is among the districts worst affected by poverty and social problems in Costa Rica. Recent studies indicate that 39% of its inhabitants are living in abject poverty, 35% of minors are not in school, and 37% of all those above the age of 15 have not completed primary school. Drug trafficking, as well as the presence of numerous gangs, has led to an increase in violence (including domestic violence), sexual abuse, teenage pregnancies, prostitution, and human trafficking. To enable the community to overcome these problems, municipal authorities have developed a number of responses in partnership with public institutions, non-governmental organizations and others seeking to improve the quality of life and reduce poverty. The Costa Rica Red Cross will contribute to an integrated community approach for addressing key issues; its focus will be on young people, health, social welfare, the cultivation of leadership qualities and the propagation of humanitarian values.

In Suriname, a sharp increase in the number of motor vehicles – almost 250,000 vehicles now for a population of about 500,000 – has created an urgent need for a training programme in road safety. The government has set up a national road safety platform, of which the Suriname Red Cross Society is a member. Providing training in first aid – for private individuals and for organizations that request such instruction for their members or employees – is one of the most important activities undertaken by the Suriname Red Cross. The National Society realizes that more people must be trained in road safety if the number and severity of accidents are to be reduced, and will focus on encouraging young people to behave responsibly and adopt safer practices.

In Laos, fatal traffic accidents continue to be a matter of serious concern. Neither hospitals nor the police systematically document such incidents, but every week, Lao Red Cross volunteer teams record between five to ten deaths at least. Only two free emergency response services are available to the public, of which one is run by the Lao Red Cross. The inadequacy of such services contributes to the high rate of death on the roads. The Lao Red Cross is seeking to build its capacity to train volunteers in emergency medical response and first aid. It has two aims in mind: to provide much-needed services, and to improve income generation through providing first aid training as a business model.

In Timor-Leste, the Timor-Leste Red Cross recently developed a resource mobilization plan, one element of which of is to improve training in commercial first aid (CFA). This entails refurbishing sections of an old building to construct a first-aid training room, a CFA room and a climate-controlled room for storing first-aid kits. At present, the National Society is conducting its first-aid training programmes in rented spaces. The first-aid training sites, when completed, will raise the National Society's profile and also identify it as a key provider of first aid. The National Society will also help its branches to mobilize resources – by providing guidance and equipment – to strengthen their capacities and become more self-sufficient.

Violence against children is widespread in Moldova; this has an effect on the entire society. It has recently been estimated that about 25 per cent of all Moldovan children are beaten by their parents and 3% violently punished by teachers; about 10% have been sexually abused or molested at least once. A number of factors are said to be responsible for this state of affairs: high unemployment, poor investment climate, huge foreign debt, and pervasive corruption. The Red Cross Society of Moldova will reinforce its violence-prevention programmes by working, through its branches, with children and young people, teachers, community leaders, authorities and others concerned. The project will raise awareness among civil society of the risks children face. The Moldovan Red Cross, in cooperation with its partners (local and national authorities, non-governmental organizations), will conduct campaigns, information sessions, public events and other activities, with a view to preventing violence against children and educating people in the consequences of a violent childhood.

Montenegro has to cope with various kinds of disaster: earthquakes, dangerously cold conditions, heavy snowfall, and train and road accidents. In addition, Montenegrin schools are becoming increasingly violent places. The Red Cross of Montenegro plays an important role in providing psychological support for victims of disasters; it has been doing so since 1994. The focus of this project will be to promote humanitarian values and reduce violence amongst young people.

Relief work during times of peace

The Empress Shôken Fund was created in 1912 by Her Majesty The Empress of Japan at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross to promote relief work in times of peace. The fund is administered by a joint commission made up of representatives from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The joint commission maintains regular relations with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva in close cooperation with the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute.

Today the fund has a total value of over 15 million Swiss francs, the proceeds of which are used to support projects of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable. Allocations are granted annually on 11 April, the anniversary of the death of H.M. The Empress Shôken. The first allocation was made just after the First World War, in 1921, to five European National Societies in support of the fight against tuberculosis. The fund has assisted more than 150 National Societies so far.

Whilst not directly intervening in the administration of the Empress Shôken Fund, the imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Japanese people, revere the generosity of the Empress and continue to hold the fund in high esteem, as shown by the regularity of their contributions to it.

For more information on the Empress Shôken Fund, visit