US: Don’t Abandon Afghan Women

“We will not abandon you, we will stand with you always . . . [it is] essential that women’s rights and women’s opportunities are not sacrificed or trampled in the reconciliation process.” -U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton speaking to female Afghan officials in 2010

President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s legacy on women’s human rights will face a defining moment with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

When the U.S. and NATO entered Afghanistan in 2001, one of the justifications of the mission was to ensure the protection of human rights, including women’s rights. More than ten years later, peace talks between the Taliban, the Afghan government and the U.S. jeopardize women’s human rights.

So where is the Obama Administration’s plan to protect and advance human rights in Afghanistan?

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Saudi Women Buckle Up for Their Human Rights

Saudi women wait for their drivers outside a shopping mall in Riyadh. © AFP/Getty Images

Having recently won the right to vote, Saudi women activists now are driving to end discrimination and demand all of their human rights.

Saudi women are responding positively to a royal decree granting them the right to vote, but they insist that they will not settle for partial rights. One of their most pressing targets is a continuing ban on their right to drive. “[Winning the vote] is a good sign, and we have to take advantage of it, but we still need more rights,” stated Maha al-Qahtani, one of the women who recently defied the ban on driving.

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Speak Out in Solidarity with Egyptian Women!

From the moment protests began in Egypt on January 25, women have been on the frontlines, demanding respect for the human rights of all Egyptians.

On Tuesday, in honor of International Women’s Day, women assembled in Tahrir Square to claim their human rights, the Washington Post reported. However, the demonstration was marred by an angry mob of men who beat and sexually assaulted the female marchers, insisting that a woman could never be president and objecting to women’s demands to have a role in drafting a new constitution.

Image: © Ramy Raoof

The Washington Post reported, “Everyone was chased. Some were beaten. They were touching us everywhere,’ said Dina Abou Elsoud, organizer of the ambitiously named Million Woman March.”

In contrast to the status of women in Ancient Egypt, a period in Egyptian history which gave rise to powerful female leaders such as Queen Hatshepsut and Queen Cleopatra, women in Egypt today are underrepresented and sexually harassed. The gender-based violence seen in Tahrir square on Tuesday points to the long and difficult struggle that still lies ahead for women in Egypt to fully enjoy their rights.

According to a survey conducted by the Egyptian Center for Women’s rights, 98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed in Egypt. In addition, “20,000 women or girls [are] raped every year,” as cited in an article by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

No More Rapes: End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Haiti

After she moved into a makeshift shelter in Dessalines Square, Champ-de-Mars, Haiti, “Suzie” and her friend were gang raped in front of their shelter.

 “After they left I didn’t do anything….I don’t know where there is a clinic offering medical treatment for victims of violence.” 

Because she was blindfolded, Suzie didn’t go to the police because she didn’t know who the men were that raped her.  She told Amnesty International that the police patrol the streets, but she’s never seen them inside the camp.

In the Haitian camps there are many women and girls like Suzie. It is therefore vitally important that both the international community and the Haitian government take immediate action to treat the issue of violence against women as a priority for the humanitarian and reconstruction effort in Haiti. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Ending Sexual Violence Against Indigenous Women in the U.S.

Earlier this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo issued a statement during her visit to the U.S. scrutinizing the U.S. for its continued failure to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence crimes against Native American and Alaska Native women and girls.

Consistent with Amnesty International’s findings in 2007’s “Maze of Injustice” report documenting the epidemic of sexual violence in Indian Country, Manjoo met with tribal leaders and advocates, who confirmed Amnesty’s own findings – including Department of Justice statistics citing that 86% of perpetrators of sexual violence against Native women and girls are in fact, non-Native men.

This horrific statistic is an all too familiar, frightening daily reality for Native women – particularly as tribal courts still have no jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native offenders, often leaving survivors of sexual violence without access to justice or redress for crimes committed against them.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day all this week, it is all too clear that the U.S. still has a long way to go in addressing this epidemic of sexual violence against Indigenous women here in the U.S.

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Poor Healthcare Endangering Mothers in Zimbabwe

Mother and child outside her home in Hopley Settlement, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Lack of access to appropriate prenatal and post-natal care in informal settlements in Zimbabwe is endangering mothers and increasing infant mortality rates. Forced into unsafe dwellings with no heat or running water when the government displaced 700,000 people in 2005, for women in these Zimbabwe communities pregnancy is a scary proposition.

According to Amnesty International research, “Although thousands of people have been living at Hopley for more than five years, there are no maternal or newborn health services in the community. Women often give birth in unhygienic conditions in their plastic shacks and without skilled birth attendants. In order to reach maternal health services, women have to travel to a municipal clinic in the suburb of Glen Norah, about 8km away.”

There is no ambulance service to these communities, forcing women to walk to the clinic while in labor because they cannot afford a taxi or bus. Women frequently give birth at home, unaided and alone. The women Amnesty interviewed stated they were aware of the importance of medical care during pregnancy and after delivery, but due to costs and inaccessibility, they were not able to seek this vital healthcare. Inability to afford healthcare affects 75% of women in the lowest five wealth groups in Zimbabwe, of which most of the residents in these informal settlements fall.

Further, 45% of mothers in Zimbabwe have no access to a postnatal check by a trained health provider. Amnesty International documented the deaths of 21 infants in a six month period in 2010. Adequate living conditions and access to necessary health services after delivery could have prevented many of these deaths.

We need to demand the Zimbabwean government takes care of its women and children. Tell government officials of the importance of providing affordable healthcare, placed in the community. No more women should have to give birth alone and then watch their babies die.

One Post Read-One Mother Dead

By the time you finish reading this post, one woman will have died due to conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Around the world, one woman dies every 90 seconds in pregnancy or childbirth-that’s more than 350,000 women every year.   And here in the United States, more than two women die every day.

These deaths are a human rights violation.  Why?  Because women are not dying of diseases that doctors cannot cure, but because societies have yet to decide that their lives are worth saving.

As part of our celebration of International Women’s Day, we recognize the women all around the world who die while trying to give life.

In the United States, women have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than women in 49 other countries, including Kuwait, Bulgaria, and South Korea. In addition, African American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Amnesty International found that most of these deaths could have been prevented with access to good quality health care.

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On International Women's Day – Amplify the Voices of Women and Girls!

Sometimes referred to as an International Bill of Rights for women, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the most comprehensive international treaty on basic human rights for women.

It offers countries a practical blueprint to promote basic rights and open opportunities for women and girls in all areas of society. It is a useful tool to reduce violence and discrimination against women and girls, ensure girls and women receive the same access as boys and men to education and health care, and secure basic legal recourse for women and girls against violations and abuses of their human rights.

CEDAW has led to concrete changes for women in key areas; ending violence and trafficking in women and girls, improving conditions for women’s economic opportunity, increasing women’s political participation, and advancing human rights of women by promoting equality.

In countries that have ratified CEDAW, women have partnered with their governments to engage in a national dialogue about the status of women and girls, and as a result have shaped policies to create greater safety and opportunity for women and their families. For example:

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Egyptian Revolution Sidelining Women?

Originally posted to Other Words

By Widney Brown, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Law and Policy

Women protestors, Cairo, 28 January 2011. Photo by Sarah Carr

One hundred years ago, more than a million people marched in streets across Europe on the first International Women’s Day, calling for an end to discrimination and for women to have the same rights as men to work, vote and shape the future of their countries.

One hundred years on, the reality is that women are still much more likely to be poor. They are more likely to be illiterate. They earn only 10 per cent of the world’s income but do two thirds of the world’s work. They produce up to 80 per cent of the food in developing countries but own only one per cent of the land.

In many countries, they are still told what they can do, even what they can wear. Women in Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Iran face harassment if they don’t observe conservative religious dress codes. Muslim women in Belgium, France and some parts of Spain may soon break the law there if they do.

Women campaigning for change are often met with derision, abuse or worse. In places like Russia, the Philippines, Mexico and Nepal, leading activists have recently been murdered for speaking out. In China, Bangladesh, India, Zimbabwe and many other countries, they are routinely detained and tortured.

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Flash Protests in Zimbabwe

WOZA women LOVE sign

A flash mob is a” group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire.” Flash mobs might be pointless and designed to entertain, but Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) borrowed the concept today for a very different purpose.

To commemorate International Women’s Day, 500 dedicated  WOZA and MOZA (Men of Zimbabwe Arise) activists formed “flash protests” in downtown Bulawayo. Unlike typical WOZA protests where activists sing, march and converge on a central target where they practice peaceful civil disobedience in the face of police presence, today five individual protests sprang up and dispersed as soon as police presence appeared. There was a reason today’s protests were different-Zimbabwe police continue to actively target WOZA members.

Just this past weekend, four more members were arrested at private homes, detained for two nights and beaten by police. One woman, a nursing mother, was unable to hold or feed her child when visited by family members. Today WOZA reported high numbers of police presence who accused them of trying to incite a revolution. Following dispersal by police, the protestors went to the local court in solidarity with the four women being detained. They were victorious-the magistrate dropped all charges.

The flash protests, WOZA demanded President Zuma of South Africa take a more active stance in his role as guarantor of Zimbabwe’s negotiated unity government and end the violence. Amnesty is making a similar call to President Zuma to ensure political violence does not escalate further and elections are free and fair. Raise your voice with WOZA and send a message to President Zuma. Tell him there should be no voting violence in Zimbabwe.

(By the way, if you don’t get the whole flash mob thing, don’t worry, I don’t get it either. But here is a really funny link anyway.)