Leila and Mahamadi: Five Days for the Sheroes of Burkina Faso

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Photographer Leila Alaoui, who was killed in the Al Qaeda attack in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, on Friday 15 January 2016. Mahamadi Ouédraogo her driver was also killed in the attack.

Monday 11 January – two people meet at Ouagadougou International Airport and their destinies become immediately and eternally entwined.

She – Leila Alaoui, 33, photographer, arriving on an early evening flight from Paris. She will be spending the next nine days in Burkina Faso photographing courageous girls and women for our 8 March ‘sheroes’ exhibition.

He – Mahamadi Ouedraogo, 42, driver and guide, coming to fetch Leila from the airport. He will be spending the next nine days accompanying her all over the country and assisting with the photo mission. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Sheroes: On the Frontline of the Struggle for Sexual Health and Rights in Burkina Faso

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Shelter for survivors of forced marriage in Kaya city, northeast Burkina Faso.

The statistics tell a sobering tale. Burkina Faso has the 7th highest rate of child marriage in the world. More than half of all women were married before the age of 18 and 10% before age 15. Some girls as young as 11 are forced into marriage. Burkina Faso also has one of the world’s lowest rates of contraceptive use – only 17% of women. Many are denied contraception or use it in secret, out of fear of their husbands or in-laws.

The end result is that by the time they are 19 years old, most girls are married, and nearly half of them are already mothers. They are raising children when they are still children themselves, in a country with one of the highest rates of maternal death in the world.

But within this bleak picture are spots of light, like candles in a dark room, moments of grace in the midst of a battlefield. These are the people – the women and girls – whose stories illuminate a landscape dominated by such stark realities. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

3,714,141 Thank Yous!

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LWM 2015 - AI Netherlands. Letter Writing Marathon at the Dutch Office Amnesty International The Netherlands Amsterdam. Every December, to mark International Human Rights Day, hundreds of thousands of people around the globe take part in the world’s largest human rights event: Write for Rights.

Amnesty supporters across the world wrote an astonishing 3.7 million letters, messages, emails, tweets and so much more as part of Write for Rights 2015, the global letter-writing marathon.

From Afghanistan to Zambia, dedicated campaigners, students, school kids and loads of others demanded change on behalf of people and communities suffering appalling human rights abuses. We at Amnesty International USA generated 312,205 of those actions and we are deeply grateful to each and every one of you who took part. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

6 reasons why we still need International Women’s Day

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Malika 'La Slammeuse' photographed by Leila Alaoui in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 13 January 2016, as part of the My Body My Rights campaign.

Malika ‘La Slammeuse’ photographed by Leila Alaoui in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 13 January 2016, as part of the My Body My Rights campaign.

By Shiromi Pinto

Since 1975, 8 March has been a rallying point for feminists worldwide. Established by the UN, it has traditionally been a moment to celebrate women’s achievements while highlighting serious inequalities between the sexes. But 41 years later, is it still necessary?

The answer is yes. Women and girls may have scaled unimaginable heights in politics, science, arts, sports and business, but they are still struggling. Not just for equal pay, which is a concern on so many people’s minds today – but for their basic human rights. Nowhere is this plainer than in women’s struggle for their sexual and reproductive rights. Here are six reasons why we think International Women’s Day is more important than ever. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

My Body, My Rights, My Call for Respect

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By Katie Bellamy Mitchell, Identity and Discrimination Unit Intern

This February 14th, I’ll spend Valentine’s Day with people I love. And when I say I love them — my friends and family ­— I mean I value them. I mean I have decided my life is better when they are a part of it. It’s easy to take for granted, yet people around the world are denied the right to decide the people they share their lives with—even denied the right to make decisions over their own bodies. They are forced to accept others’ decisions about their healthcare, their sexual orientation, and whether they get married or have children.

To live, love, and make decisions free from coercion and threat of violence is a human right. Love is a decision that always means respect: for my body, for my rights, and for the bodies and rights of others.

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Write for Rights: A Chance to Change Our World

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By Purva Khanapure, Amnesty USA Student Activist Coordinator, Central New Jersey

A few weeks ago, I found myself stressed as I drowned in hours of homework. After deciding to take a break, I began to check my email. I opened a message about Write for Rights, Amnesty International’s largest event, and clicked over to the website to read about this year’s twelve Write for Rights cases.

The case involving young women and girls in Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa, looked interesting, so I began to dive further in. I learned that in Burkina Faso, thousands of girls and young women are forced into early marriage and must suddenly and unwillingly dedicate their lives to another man. In order for families to collect financial returns by marrying off their daughters and sisters, safety, human rights, and happiness are compromised. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Girls Should be Students, not Brides

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Shelter for survivors of forced marriage in Kaya city, northeast Burkina Faso.

By Naureen Shameem, Amnesty USA Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

What is it that enables you to make your life your own? Could you meaningfully choose your own life if your sphere of opportunity had been cut off as a child?

Globally, at least 25,000 children are married every day. 1 in 9 marry before the age of 15. Although the prevalence of child marriage worldwide has received more coverage in recent years, the rates remain staggering.

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The Devastating Impact of Child Marriage on Girls Around the World

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Shelter for survivors of forced marriage in Kaya city, northeast Burkina Faso.

October 11th marked the fifth year that the global community recognized International Day of the Girl Child, which the United Nations established to acknowledge girls’ rights and highlight the unique challenges girls face around the world. The list of challenges for girls is not short. Girls around the world are more likely to experience exclusion, discrimination, and gender-based violence than their male counterparts. They are also more likely to have unequal access to education and economic opportunities in the future.

The good news is that the world is paying closer attention to the rights of adolescent girls and, as a result, there have been some improvements over the decades. We have seen progress in girls’ education, and many countries have enacted laws to promote gender equality. At the same time, there are challenges for girls where change is insignificant or where progress is uneven: chief among them is early and forced child marriage. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“I Didn’t Know You Could Get Pregnant From Having Sex.” Breaking Barriers to Women’s Rights in Burkina Faso

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Young women hold hands in a shelter run by Nuns, these young women have courageously fled forced marriage or early and unwanted pregnancies. Ouagadougou. July 2014

Young women hold hands in a shelter run by Nuns, these young women have courageously fled forced marriage or early and unwanted pregnancies. Ouagadougou. July 2014

Imagine not knowing that sex could make you pregnant. Imagine finding out how to prevent a pregnancy only after you’d had your third or fourth child.

Now imagine knowing about contraception but being refused it just because you don’t have permission from your partner or in-laws. And even if you have permission, with clinics and pharmacies so far away from where you live, you simply can’t afford the journey there, let alone the contraception itself.

This is the reality for many women and girls in Burkina Faso, where most are already married and have more than one child by the time they are 19. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A Social Movement To Be Reckoned With In Africa

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Fadel Barro, one of the leaders of Y'en a Marre (We're Fed Up) movement and Oscibi Johann, one of the leaders of Burkina Faso's Balai Citoyen (Citizens Broom) at a press conference in Kinshasa on March 15, 2015 before several activists were detained. (Photo: FEDERICO SCOPPA/AFP/Getty Images)

Fadel Barro, one of the leaders of Y’en a Marre (We’re Fed Up) movement and Oscibi Johann, one of the leaders of Burkina Faso’s Balai Citoyen (Citizens Broom) appear at a press conference in the Democratic Republic of Congp. Youth activists were detained following this event on March 15, 2015. (Photo: FEDERICO SCOPPA/AFP/Getty Images)

We are not plotters or terrorists, we are a new generation of committed young Africans.

We who hold the destiny of the continent in our hands must not be deprived of our freedom.

We are a new civic movement that has just emerged in Africa. We will not be intimidated by long detentions, harassment and repression.

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