It’s the end of 2011 and, boy, do we have a lot to celebrate! For one thing, 2011 is the year Global Voices was born. But, more importantly, 2011 marked many victories for justice around the world. It’s all too easy to focus on the brokenness of our global community—indeed, there is so much to fix—but we’re closing out the year by taking stock of 2011’s big wins.
In chronological order, here are our top seven global justice victories in 2011. Why seven victories instead of five or 10? Because seven has special significance in Jewish tradition. In fact, seven is considered to be one of the “greatest power numbers” representing creation, blessing and good fortune… things that everyone should have in 2012.
Without further ado…
1. Indians received the water justice they deserve. In February, India’s state legislature in the southern state of Kerala passed a law allowing people who had been affected by Coca-Cola operations, which had polluted the Plachimada District’s natural water supply, to seek compensation. The action was welcome by communities throughout India and was celebrated at the international level as an important step toward holding multinational corporations accountable for their actions. Read More
Contradictions are popping up a lot around here lately: By now, you’ve likely heard AJWS say “U.S. food aid saves lives but it’s also causing more hunger.” We’re often uncomfortable with contradictions like these, and instead, crave clear messages that we can embrace: hunger is bad. Aid is good. Too bad things can’t be that simple.
It turns out that food aid has been a complicated topic all the way back to biblical times, when the imprisoned patriarch Joseph was charged with devising a plan for avoiding a hunger crisis in Egypt. He decided to hoard food during the “seven years of plenty” and distribute it to hungry Egyptians during the “seven years of famine”—the world’s earliest example of in-kind food aid. Read More
Foreign Policy Magazine recently released its list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2011. We were disappointed—though not so surprised—by the paucity of women on this list. So, we’ve added six extraordinary women who deserve recognition.
Leymah Gbowee, Liberia. You’ve probably heard a lot about Leymah Gbowee, in the news and on our blog. She won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize and is the founder of AJWS’s grantee Women Peace and Security Network- Africa (WIPSEN), which is why we were so surprised that she doesn’t appear on Foreign Policy’s list. (Leymah was, however, named as one of Forbes’ 10 Most Interesting Women of 2011.) Together with activists from the Liberian women’s movement, Leymah mobilized women from all walks of life and across religious and ethnic lines to demand peace and put an end to Liberia’s devastating 14-year civil war. She also fought to ensure that women could participate in political processes and rebuild the country.
Through its description of the devastating famine in ancient Egypt, Parshat Vayigash suggests two models that can inform our response to hunger today. By this point in the biblical narrative, Joseph, Pharaoh’s trusted vizier, has been reunited with his brothers in Egypt. The rest of his family, however, is still suffering from terrible famine in Canaan. Pharaoh’s solution to the family’s plight is to invite the whole clan to move to Egypt, where he will support them in this time of need. Read More
As 2011 comes to a close, we’re making a case for giving to AJWS at the end of the year. So, without further ado, here are the top five reasons to give a year-end tax-deductible gift to AJWS today:
1. Your generous contribution will change the lives of some of the world’s most marginalized people. In 2011 we impacted communities in 32 countries, promoting human rights, advancing food justice and fighting HIV/AIDS. Your support will really make a difference to those in need.
2. We’re the only Jewish organization exclusively dedicated to this kind of tikkun olam — healing the world — in developing countries. Our approach to creating change is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition and sources. Read More
The New Republic recently published a piece by Sebastian Strangio that exposes the dark underbelly of microfinance. Strangio highlights a Bangladesh-based story about impoverished rural farmers forced to sell their organs on the black market to repay their microfinance loans. This tragedy emphasizes the growing backlash on the ground and in the academy against microfinance as a strategy for economic empowerment and international development. Strangio also provides a short history of the microfinance movement and microfinance institutions (MFIs) as well as a roll-call of the most recent—and powerful—critiques of microfinance.
Originally posted on the blog of Where Do You Give?
September 1997: I am sitting with my family on the soft, beige carpet in the family room ready to begin our annual tradition. Index cards are lined up in front of us: “Hunger in Africa” “Literacy in America” “Homelessness in Mountain View, CA.” My parents hand my brother and me each $1,000 in small bills (monopoly money, of course). We then spend the rest of the afternoon talking about the different issues we could support and how much money we want to donate to each. Once all the money is spread out among the index cards, my brother and I run into our rooms to grab our tzedakah boxes. We pour the coins that we have been collecting all year onto the carpet. As we meticulously count the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, my parents calculate the percentages that will go to each organization based on what we allocated with our monopoly money. As our tzedakah boxes lie empty on the carpet, I know it is time to start setting aside my money for the next year.
A group of women with disabilities and mothers of children with disabilities in northern Uganda exchange stories with AJWS staff and AJWS's grantee, GUWODU.
Henning Mankell’s December 10th New York Times Op-Ed “The Art of Listening” is a thoughtful examination of the role of storytelling in human nature. In many ways, storytelling, and the authentic listening that accompanies it, is a lost art in our sped-up, Twitterized culture.
At AJWS, authentic listening is at the heart of our approach to grantmaking. We hold the perspective that our grantees are best positioned to know their needs and the needs of the communities they serve. It is our job to listen to them so that we can support them most effectively. Read More
Gilda Radner lights a menorah in a Saturday Night Live skit that aired in 1977
When Jewish comedian Gilda Radner lit a menorah on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s, it was the very first time that lighting Chanukah candles had been broadcast on national television. The skit was a hilarious riff on the ubiquity of Christmas, but what millions of viewers remember most is Gilda. After reciting the blessings over the Chanukah candles, she beamed. Then, unexpectedly, she began to cry—and it wasn’t part of the script.
The power of this moment was in seeing a television star—someone so adored by the American public and so integrated into American culture—openly proclaim her difference when she could have so easily chosen not to. Read More
Rectifying pervasive social injustice around our world proves an incredibly daunting and complicated challenge. Each case of injustice is caused by not just the obvious perpetrators, but often myriad unintentional secondary offenders and a seemingly intractable web of social, economic and political systems and power brokers. Given these tangled causes, the average person may feel completely powerless to overcome injustice.