More than a year ago, Nicaragua passed the Comprehensive Law Against Violence Toward Women (Law 779), which represents significant advances in addressing a pervasive problem in the country. The law recognizes that violence takes many forms—physical, psychological, sexual and economic. It also calls for more state resources to respond to violence against women—in all ways that it manifests. It condemns any public official who gets in the way of women pursuing justice in the courts, and it directs federal resources to build violence prevention programs.The law is comprehensive in addressing multiple forms of violence, but does it skillfully address Nicaragua’s demographic and regional diversity? Checking the pulse on this step forward, AJWS grantees in Nicaragua offer insights about the law’s challenges and opportunities: Read More
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Originally published in The Huffington Post.
Every Passover, we gather with family and friends around the Seder table to read the inspiring foundational story of our people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. We tell and retell this story every year, and millennia later it informs who we are. There are many ways in which Judaism speaks so strongly to the themes of service and justice, but to me, there is none stronger than our own experience: Once we were slaves in Egypt, and now we are free. Distilled in this line, the sentiment is clear. Our tradition and history compel us to give back to our society, make the world a better place, and ensure freedom for all.
This intimate connection between Judaism and social justice is why throughout American history the Jewish community—our community—has been a vocal advocate for the values of freedom and equality that make the United States the great country that it is. As a Jewish woman and a member of the U.S. Congress, I strive to bring that connection to bear on my work every day. We are all obligated to make those connections in our own way.
Munija Chooses Her Future: Advancing Girls’ Education and Opposing Child Marriage in West Bengal, India
“My father says not to go to school, that I should be at home. ‘You are marriageable,’ he tells me,” sighs Munija Khatun, 15, as she mashes onions with a pestle for their dinner of fish stew. “My father has two families and takes responsibility for the first family, but not my family. Father comes one or two times a month and dominates the family. He asks why this or why that, why go to school?”
While Munija’s mother toils tirelessly to support her children’s education, her monthly income of 500 rupees ($9) from selling pop rice scarcely covers basic necessities, making the monthly 100 rupees ($1.2) government school fee for each child formidable. Munija helps her mother as much as she can, rising at 5 a.m. to wash the dishes, clean their brick and straw home and take care of the cow. After school, Munija finishes the day’s cleaning, helps her mother prepare dinner and studies for three hours by kerosene lamp. Even with all of her tenacity and hard work, Munija worries she will be married off to become another family’s property, a common occurrence in this remote West Bengal village; by eighth grade 80 percent of girls are pulled out of school for marriage. Read More
Burma is still not free.
Shocked? We didn’t think so. You probably knew this well before the release of Freedom House’s 2013 report that lined up Burma shoulder-to-shoulder with other “Not Free” countries such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran. The resurgence of fighting in Kachin state between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), highlights how ethnic tensions, often enveloped in issues of control over Burma’s rich natural resources, continue to create serious conflict in the fledgling democracy.
Let’s start with the basics. Read More
Good news: A vote on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been delayed once again. Despite a promise by the Ugandan speaker of parliament to deliver the bill as a “Christmas gift to the nation,” it was repeatedly downgraded on parliament’s agenda.
Last Friday, parliament adjourned without taking action on the proposed legislation. It’s unclear whether the bill will resurface when the parliament reconvenes in February.
Local LGBTI activists are relieved but wary about what may come next. At a public event on Monday, Uganda’s President Museveni sent mixed messages about the bill, saying “If there are some homosexuals, we shall not kill or persecute them but there should be no promotion of homosexuality.”
Gitta Zomorodi is an AJWS program officer for Africa.
The night before President Obama’s historic visit to Burma last month, Nge Nge—a Burmese woman from Rangoon—was so excited that she couldn’t sleep. In the morning, she was the first person to arrive at the University of Rangoon where Obama was scheduled to deliver his speech. Nge Nge had graduated from the University of Rangoon in 1988. Upon returning to her old stomping ground, she recalled, “This university used to be vibrant and warm with students who had close relationships with professors and had an enjoyable learning atmosphere. Students could ask professors if they did not understand something. Now, those times have gone.” Read More
On November 19, 2012 at 7:00 AM, two villagers from Khlong Sai Phatthana in Surat Thani province in southern Thailand were shot and killed less than 800 meters from their homes. They were on a motorcycle en route to their local open-air market to sell the vegetables they had farmed on their land that week. After shots were fired, the daughter of one of the women and a neighbor ran out to find two women shot dead. Later the villagers and police found shell cases from M16 and HK rifles. The women were small-scale farmers and had moved from other provinces in the South to farm a small plot of land in Khlong Sai Phatthana. They had no known enemies. So why were these women senselessly killed?
Because of land. Read More
As stories about the resurgence of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill inundate the blogosphere and international media, you could easily get the impression that Ugandans are rallying on the streets demanding the bill’s passage. In fact, the bill is not foremost on the average Ugandan’s mind.
“They are thieves, stealing the money.” The young man shook his head in disgust as he navigated our car through the traffic-choked streets of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. We were listening to an update on the Ugandan government’s latest corruption scandal: the theft of millions of dollars meant to aid the recovery of northern Uganda, a region grappling with deep poverty and neglect six years after the conflict there had ended. Read More
Few symbols associated with our holiday cycle are as colorful and interesting as the sukkah. Following the biblical command that we should dwell in this temporary and frail shelter for seven days, many Jews today will not eat under a fixed roof during the entire period of the festival, taking their meals in the sukkah and eating, conversing, singing—truly a moving experience.
What is the meaning of this commandment? I offer one insight from a line in the Hashkivenu prayer, contained in each evening service, which reads: “Ufros Aleinu Sukkat Shlomecha—Spread over us the sukkah of Your peace.” Read More