Loud and Clear: Women’s Rights, In Action!

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda  (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

As we reflected on 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls and its themes, including early marriage, violence against women, and sexual and reproductive health, we got to wondering: What does all this integrated human rights talk look like in practice?

So we turned to a woman who walks the talk and leads change herself, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda. Take a look at her examples of women’s participation in claiming their own rights. Then take action on an issue important to you, and join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay connected. (Don’t forget to join the World YWCA’s efforts, too!)

In your experience, what does participation mean in the context of women’s rights in your country?

For women to participate, it [is] important that they know and are aware of their rights, have the social empowerment to engage and the space to exercise their voice. Women’s community groups, organizations and networks…have provided the platforms for such participation.

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This Mother’s Day, It Was Motherhood, Not Rape, That Made Congo the Worst Place to Be a Woman

Save the Children's "State of the World's Mothers" report has named the Democratic Republic of Congo as the world's worst place to be a mother (Photo Credit: Leon Sadiki/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images).

Save the Children’s “State of the World’s Mothers” report has named the Democratic Republic of Congo as the world’s worst place to be a mother (Photo Credit: Leon Sadiki/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images).

In honor of Mother’s Day, Save the Children released its annual “State of the World’s Mothers” report. I was saddened, but not surprised to see the Democratic Republic of Congo is the worst place to be a mother.

Severe violations of women’s human rights in Congo are, unfortunately, a perennial subject of attention for me and numerous other rights activists. Typically those violations are associated with the long and bloody conflict that has spanned the country and concentrated in its most recent stages in the East.

Indeed, DRC has been plagued by almost two decades of conflict resulting in the suffering and death of millions of men, women and children. Most chillingly, the Congo conflict has become synonymous with rape and other forms of sexual violence, which are committed with impunity by security forces, including the armed forces of the DRC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, FARDC), and other armed groups. For this reason, it was ranked the worst place to be a woman by the United Nations just last year.

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Angola’s Contrasts: Forced Evictions and Billionaires

Angola housing eviction

In 2009, as many as 15,000 people were believed to have been made homeless in forced evictions on the southern peripheries of Luanda. The string of land clearances were an effort to make way for gated condominiums and shopping centres. (Photo: LOUISE REDVERS/AFP/Getty Images)

Angola celebrated a milestone when it was revealed in early January as home to Africa’s first female billionaire. While at first this seems like a “You go girl!” moment, the reality is the woman is the daughter of President dos Santos and she had a little help along the way via corruption and nepotism. Less than a month later, Amnesty International learned the government of Angola is once again forcibly evicting citizens in the capital of Luanda. How are these two events related?

There is a severe wealth dichotomy in Angola, where most citizens subsist on $2 dollars a day with limited access to safe housing, running water, electrical services, and adequate healthcare. Conversely, a small percentage of the population is benefitting from the oil and diamond resource boom, accumulating vast personal fortunes. Accompanying this is a demand for luxury housing and high rise office buildings. The government has long engaged in a campaign of violent forcible evictions to make way for these new buildings, destroying the homes of the most vulnerable citizens in the process.

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Shell’s Niger Delta Pollution: The Good, the Bad and the Ongoing Quest for Justice

Oil spill in Nigeria's Ogoniland

An indigene of Bodo, Ogoniland region in Nigeria, tries to separate with a stick the crude oil from water in a boat at the Bodo waterways polluted by oil spills attributed to Shell equipment failure.(Photo credit: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

By Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director

This week’s ruling by a Dutch court in a case brought by four Nigerian farmers against the oil company Shell for pollution damage represents a small victory – but also underlines the real-world challenges facing victims of pollution and human rights abuses involving multinational companies.

The four farmers who brought the case had seen their livelihoods destroyed by oil pollution from Shell’s operations.

The court found in favour of one plaintiff, stating that Shell Nigeria had breached its duty of care in that case by failing to take reasonable action to prevent third parties tampering with oil wells and causing oil spills. Shell will now have to pay compensation to the affected farmer.

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7 Ways for Obama to REALLY Earn that Nobel Peace Prize

president obama

Photo: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

At the local level, Americans are demonstrating a strong commitment to advancing human rights. In recent elections, voters legalized marriage equality in nine states and passed the DREAM Act to expand educational opportunities for undocumented residents in Maryland. In addition, legislators in four states abolished the death penalty. The message to the nation’s leaders seems to be this: human rights still matter, and the task of “perfecting our union” remains incomplete.

As President Obama prepares to give his second inaugural address, he should embrace an ambitious rights agenda: enhancing our security without trampling on human rights; implementing a foreign policy that hold friends and foes alike accountable for human rights violations; and ensuring human rights for all in the United States without discrimination.

INCOMPLETE

Measured against international norms and his own aspirations, President Obama’s first term record on human rights merits an “incomplete.” While he made the bold move of issuing an executive order to close Guantánamo on his second day in office, he has yet to fulfill that promise. The U.S. government’s reliance on lethal drone strikes is growing steadily, but the administration has provided no clear legal justification for the program. Congress has abrogated its responsibility to exercise meaningful oversight of this most ubiquitous element of the “global war on terror,” a paradigm which is in and of itself problematic. Although President Obama has on occasion stood up for human rights defenders abroad — in China, Iran, Russia and Libya — his administration has often muted criticism when it comes to U.S. allies, in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

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It’s Never Too Late for Justice: Standing with the Women of Indonesia

Indonesian laws need to be reformed to help overcome discriminatory practices © Amnesty International

For many of us, Indonesia may seem to be a country recovered. We may recall the conflicts in Aceh, Papua and Timor-Leste in the late 1990s, or even the violence that ravaged the country in 1965. We may think of it as a country split asunder into more peaceful parts, a region struck by a tsunami that showed its strength to recover, or the former temporary residence of President Barack Obama.

For many of us, Indonesia is a country on the other side of the planet, whose human rights challenges perhaps don’t make us sit up and take notice compared to the acute and current crises we hear flit through our TV news.

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Gaza Blockade: Still Operational, Still Violating Human Rights

gaza blockade white house

One of our postcard actions in front of the White house

This morning, Amnesty International USA delivered thousands of signed postcards to the White House.  The postcards call on President Obama to push for an end to Israel’s continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip. For over five years, the 1.6 million Palestinians of Gaza have lived under an Israeli military blockade that has left more than one million Palestinians dependent on international humanitarian aid.

The postcards, signed by thousands of Amnesty International supporters and members across the US, call attention to Israel’s near ban on exports from the Gaza Strip.  The Gazan economy has been effectively crippled by this export ban and other aspects of the blockade.

As a result, massive numbers of Palestinians now live in a state of permanent unemployment.  Our 2012 human rights report documents that over 70 percent of Gaza’s residents now depend on humanitarian aid.  While imports into Gaza have increased since mid-2010, they are still far below the levels allowed before the blockade began in 2007.

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