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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Will Anger Over Rape Spur Action?

Indian students of various organisations hold placards as they shout slogans during a demonstration in Hyderabad on January 3, 2013.

Indian students of various organisations hold placards as they shout slogans during a demonstration in Hyderabad on January 3, 2013. (Photo credit: NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Every 21 minutes, a woman is raped in India. Most rapes go unreported and even those rapes that are reported often goes unpunished. However, one horrific rape in particular has galvanized activists and has the potential to change India’s attitude towards rape.

By now, many have heard of the horrific rape and murder of a young college student in the heart of India’s capital– New Delhi. She was attacked in a speeding private minibus with iron rods which punctured her intestines. She and her friend were then tossed from the minibus. And despite being dumped on a crowded street, it took 40 minutes for a passerby to contact the police. The lack of intervention by passers-by was likely due to the poor police treatment of Good Samaritans. The victim later died after being airlifted to Singapore for further treatment. The alleged attackers have been charged with murder.

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The Horror of ‘Honor Killings’, Even in US

Noor Almaleki honor killing

Noor Almaleki

Noor Almaleki was 20 years old and living in Pheonix when she and her friend, 43-year-old Amal Khalaf, were struck by a car driven by Noor’s father. While Amal survived, Noor later died, and her father, Faleh al-Maleki, was later convicted of killing his daughter.

The case of Noor Almaleki has drawn attention, most recently last weekend on CBS’s “48 Hours: Mystery” program, as a suspected case of a so-called “Honor Killing”—one committed here in the United States.

And yet, while the case of Noor Almaleki has made national headlines because it happened in Arizona, so-called “honor killings” happen around the world at an alarming rate, often with little press and no justice for the victim.

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Poverty is a Human Rights Issue

An Iraqi woman requests more rice from a window of a soup kitchen used to feed Iraqis in need. An estimated 23% of Iraqis live below the poverty line. © Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Every year, more than 6 million children die from malnutrition.  Every day, more than 800 million people go to bed hungry.  Every minute, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth.  All of these tragedies have one thing in common: povertyPoverty is a human rights issue, one that affects people in every nation across the globe.

Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, a day that started in 1993 by the UN “to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in all countries.”  Soon thereafter, at the Millennium Summit in 2000, leaders from around the globe laid out a specific goal: cutting the number of people living in extreme poverty, those whose income is less than one dollar a day, in half by 2015. Half by 2015. And, though substantial progress has been made in many countries, not surprisingly, we are not on track to meet this goal. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Detention and Torture: Just Another Day in the Life of a Human Rights Defender in China

This post is part of our Write for Rights series.

Mao Hengfeng

Mao Hengfeng

Mao Hengfeng has been repeatedly detained and tortured for her advocacy on behalf of women’s reproductive rights and the victims of forced evictions in China. Mao herself has been forcibly injected with drugs, fired by her employer, detained in a psychiatric hospital and beaten because of her choice to reproduce.  She has three daughters, which is a direct violation of China’s family-planning policy.

In March, she was sentenced to 18 months in “Re-education Through Labor” (RTL)  for participating in a peaceful protest in support of human rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.  In July, she spoke out about the torture and inhumane treatment she experienced while in RTL. She displayed bruises from her frequent beatings and spoke about the unsanitary conditions of her detention, which have led to a skin infection.

Mao is featured along with 11 other cases of human rights abuses in the 2010 Global Write-a-thon. You can take action on behalf of Mao and other cases by signing up to write for rights as either an individual or as part of an event. Find an event near you!

Claire Lesikar, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.

Armenia's Domestic Violence Legislation is Overdue

I was shaking from anger after watching a YouTube video (originally posted in Armenian) describing the 2-year abuse of a young woman that resulted in her death over a week ago. By now I should have been prepared not to shake from what has unfortunately become a pedestrian human rights abuse in my homeland – violence against women. But some words are worth thousands of pictures, and it was the words of Hasmik Petrosyan, a young woman from Armenia, describing the death of her 20-year-old sister Zaruhi at the hand of the latter’s husband and mother-in-law that got me feel nauseous. I did manage to put together a petition, though, and I hope that you will sign it.

You don’t need all the details to grasp my anger over Zaruhi’s death. Here is a summary. On September 30, 2010, Zaruhi Petrosyan, a 20-year-old mother of one from Masis, Armenia, was taken to a hospital for cranial brain hemorrhages, a broken finger, and bruises in different parts of her body. After saying her injuries were from a fall, Zaruhi died in Erebuni hospital. Zaruhi’s sister says the young mother was subjected to continuous domestic abuse since her marriage in 2008. Law enforcement allegedly knew of the abuse. According to media reports, Armenian police have arrested Zaruhi’s husband Yanis Sargisov. But, according to Zaruhi’s sister, Yanis Sargisov’s mother had also continuously beaten Zaruhi. A more detailed description in English (basically summarizing the video) is available at the Armenian Weekly.

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Giving Life, Risking Death in Burkina Faso

Safiatou (not her real name), 26 years old, married her cousin Hamidou when she was 14. They lived in a village in Burkina Faso, about 100 km south of Ouagadougou, where they farmed livestock. Safiatou had already had four children when she got pregnant again in 2007.
Safiatou’s husband told Amnesty International: “The day of her delivery, she was in good health and worked all afternoon as usual without any problem. She prepared tô [a local dish made from maize flour] for her children and went to get the hay for the animals. In the evening, when her labor began, she left for her mother’s home. Her mother came to warn me that she was not well, that we had to take her to the clinic. I do not have a motorcycle, so I had to go and get one. That made us lose time.” Hamidou added that he “did not know that she should have delivered at the clinic. When I came to fetch her at her mother’s house, she had lost consciousness.”
Hamidou borrowed a small motorcycle from his neighbor, but it didn’t have any fuel. The closest gas station was 10km away. Safiatou ended up delivering at home, but there was placenta retention and serious haemorrhaging. Her husband asked a friend to help him take Safiatou to the local health center, but she passed away on the motorcycle on the way there — 4km away from the facility.
Safiatou left five boys, ages 11, nine, seven and four, and the newborn baby.
The story of Safiatou is one of the 50 cases that Amnesty International’s researchers investigated in-depth for “Giving Life, Risking Death,” the new report on women dying in pregnancy and childbirth in Burkina Faso. The report launched today at an event ??? in Ougadougou.
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Maternal mortality in Burkina Faso Safiatou (not her real name), 26 years old, married her cousin Hamidou when she was 14. They lived in a village in Burkina Faso, about 60 miles south of Ouagadougou, where they farmed livestock. By 2007, the family had four children. Safiatou got pregnant.

Safiatou’s husband told Amnesty International:

The day of her delivery, she was in good health and worked all afternoon as usual without any problem. She prepared tô [a local dish made from maize flour] for her children and went to get the hay for the animals. In the evening, when her labor began, she left for her mother’s home. Her mother came to warn me that she was not well, that we had to take her to the clinic. I do not have a motorcycle, so I had to go and get one. That made us lose time.

Hamidou added that he “did not know that she should have delivered at the clinic. When I came to fetch her at her mother’s house, she had lost consciousness.”

Hamidou borrowed a small motorcycle from his neighbor, but it didn’t have any fuel. The closest gas station was six miles away. Safiatou ended up delivering at home, but she suffered placental retention and serious hemorrhaging. Her husband asked a friend to help him take Safiatou to the local health center, but she passed away on the motorcycle on the way there — two and a half miles away from the facility.

Safiatou left five boys — ages 11, nine, seven and four, and the newborn baby.

The story of Safiatou is one of the 50 cases that Amnesty International’s researchers investigated in-depth for Giving Life, Risking Death, the report released today about women dying in pregnancy and childbirth in Burkina Faso. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Mourning the loss of Haitian Women's Rights Leaders

The reports from Haiti are more tragic everyday.  The loss, the devastation, the aftershock, the grief and the suffering.  Today, there are reports of losses to the women’s human rights movement- Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin and Anne Marie Coriolan are Haitian women’s human rights defenders who were victims of the earthquake.  This tragic loss will be mourned throughout the global women’s rights community but the impact will be felt deeply as Haiti rebuilds.

Women’s rights and gender equality must be promoted during the humanitarian relief process but also during the rebuilding process.  On the Dianne Rehm show yesterday, academics and relief organizations spoke about the importance of recognizing the risk of gender based violence in refugee camps and the threat of violence against displaced women. 

Amnesty recently reported on sexual violence against school girls in Haiti. The women’s rights leaders who lost their lives spoke out against the issue of gender violence in Haiti before the earthquake.   The people of Haiti, and all of us, relied on human rights defenders like these to take a stand.  My thoughts go out to the families of them and all of the victims of this disaster.

Real men are not afraid of women's empowerment!

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put it “Violence against women and girls will not be eradicated until all of us – men and boys- refuse to tolerate it”. Globally, men are taking a stand. Kenya’s Men for Gender Equality Now (MENGEN), a member of the Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence Against Women global coalition, stands out as an inspiring organization.  Since 2001, MENGEN has worked to involve men in the struggle against gender-based violence and gender-inequality. To date, the organization has reached thousands of men and women in 21 constituencies across Kenya, championing equality and rejecting violence against women.

During the 2009 global 16 Days of activism against gender violence campaign, MENGEN spearheaded the Men’s Traveling Conference, recruiting male role models across Kenya to oppose violence and to start MENGEN branches in their communities. MENGEN mobilized men and women to sign commitment forms pledging their allegiance to fight gender-based violence; despite meeting heavy resistance in some towns, several police offices and provincial administrators pledged their support.

Activists march against gender violence in Kigali, Rwanda.

Activists march against gender violence in Kigali, Rwanda.

On November 25th, the first day of the 16 Days campaign, Malawi Minister for Gender, Children and Community Development, Hon. Patricia Kaliati, launched the official inauguration of MENGEN in Malawi with a powerful statement, “Real Men are not afraid of women’s empowerment.”

Amnesty International USA could not agree more!

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The Women of Atenco have waited three years for justice…

The women of Atenco calling for justice on the 2nd anniversary of the abuses, one year ago.

The women of Atenco calling for justice on the 2nd anniversary of the abuses, one year ago.

…and they’re still waiting. Yesterday and today mark the third anniversary of the police operations in San Salvador Atenco that resulted in the arbitrary arrests of more than 45 women. At least 25 of those women filed complaints of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the police who arrested them. However, none of those responsible for the events at Atenco have been brought to justice. The women of Atenco continue to wait for justice.

This past week, the swine flu outbreak has caused terrible problems for Mexico.  Unfortunately, on the third anniversary of those events at Atenco, several campaign actions that were planned now have to be postponed.  Rallies had to be cancelled, speakers cannot fly into Mexico, and offices are closed throughout the country.  As such, several of our actions and campaign ideas have had to be set aside for the time being as Mexicans struggle to get through this sudden outbreak.

As you can imagine, the women of Atenco are feeling pretty discouraged that they will not be able to draw attention to their case this week as they had hoped. They continue to wait for impunity to end and for justice to be served.  Support them through our Mariposas Initiative or by signing our online petition to tell President Calderon that they are not alone – the world is waiting for justice for these women.  Even though swine flu is his main concern right now, he needs to remember the Women of Atenco and he needs to see how many people are watching and waiting.