Sarah Gunther Associate Director of Grants, Africa

Sarah Gunther is the associate director of grants for Africa at AJWS, where she is responsible for shaping AJWS's grantmaking strategy on the continent and managing grants in Uganda.

Posts by Sarah:

Supreme Court Ruling on “Anti-Prostitution Pledge” is a Victory for Public Health and Human Rights

Sex workers mobilize for their human rights. Photo credit: Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers

Sex workers mobilize for their human rights. Photo credit: Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled on the side of human rights. In a six to two ruling, the Court struck down a federal provision that required organizations receiving government funding to pledge that they had adopted a policy “opposing prostitution.”

Commonly known as the “anti-prostitution pledge,” this provision contravened best practices in public health, including evidence-based research showing that supporting sex workers to lead their own community health interventions is an effective way to fight the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The policy also created a chilling effect for sex worker rights organizations, as non-governmental organizations feared they would lose their funding if they engaged with sex workers. Read More »

Posted in Human Rights, LGBTI Rights | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Leymah Roberta Gbowee, Women’s Rights Activist, Wins the Nobel Peace Prize!

Leymah Gbowee, director of AJWS's grantee WIPSEN, winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

AJWS is thrilled at the news that Leymah Roberta Gbowee, director of our partner Women Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN), won the Nobel Peace Prize this morning!

Leymah was awarded the Nobel Prize in recognition of the pivotal role that she played in bringing an end to Liberia’s devastating 14-year civil war. 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. She also fought to ensure that women be able to participate in politics and rebuilding the country. Leymah, who joined AJWS at our 25th anniversary gala last fall, shares the award with none other than Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as well as Tawakul Karman, a pro-democracy campaigner in Yemen. Read More »

Posted in Human Rights | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Reflecting on Today’s Victory in Uganda

When I woke up this morning to the amazing news that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been killed (at least for now), I started thinking about what made it possible and what lessons we might extrapolate for the human rights work that AJWS supports all around the world.

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Posted in Human Rights, LGBTI Rights, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is Still a Threat

It’s no coincidence that the Ugandan parliament has galvanized new energy for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 at a time when Ugandan citizens are protesting high food and fuel prices and the government is cracking down with violence, repression and disregard for the rule of law. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which AJWS’s partners have courageously tried to kill for over a year, is an unconstitutional attack on the LGBTI community and on Uganda’s citizenry at large. It would criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality,” including the provision of health and other essential services to LGBTI people, with three years in prison, and punish “aggravated homosexuality,” which entails homosexual acts by “serial offenders” and those who are HIV positive with the death penalty. Read More »

Posted in Human Rights | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A Fight for Lake Turkana, A Fight for Life

I am writing from a tiny plane in the sky on our way back from Turkana (northwestern Kenya) to Nairobi. It is hard at times to get your head around the fact that both places are in the same country. When traveling to Nairobi or elsewhere in Kenya, Turkana people will often say “I’m going to Kenya,” as if it’s a completely different state. It gives you a sense of the government’s neglect of the region and the marginalization of its people as a result.

AJWS’s partner, Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT), came together in 2008 to fight the Gibe III dam in Ethiopia. If the dam is built, it will dry up the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia that feeds Kenya’s Lake Turkana. It will destroy the ecosystem and the very existence of the lake, upon which 300,000 indigenous people depend for their fishing and herding livelihoods. A shoddy environmental impact assessment that didn’t comply with international standards was done on the Ethiopia side, and there was no consultation with lake communities in Kenya.

Fishermen told us that the lake is their only survival, and killing the lake is tantamount to killing them. Women told us that the income they earn from selling fish is their only means of feeding their families and sending their children to school. The region is so arid that the only viable livelihoods are fishing and livestock, both of which depend on the lake. Turkana is already heavily affected by armed conflict between tribes, mainly due to conflicts over resources, and a further reduction of the water supply would surely make matters worse. People know that the fight for their lake is the fight for their lives.

Working closely with our collegial partner International Rivers, FoLT has led national and international campaigns that have resulted in the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank pulling funding from the project. FoLT will continue to advocate the Kenyan government to refuse to buy power from Ethiopia, and it is now shifting gears to target the Chinese, who have just come in with their open arms and huge pockets to finance the dam.

What’s remarkable about FoLT is how effectively it works at the international, national and grassroots levels. FoLT’s long-term vision is to build a resource rights community movement in Kenya, and it has begun in Turkana. We attended two community meetings where we heard chiefs, councilors and local people all speak passionately, with ownership over the struggle. A recent public demonstration galvanized support for the campaign, and people are now asking questions and demanding answers from government officials.

Sarah Gunther is AJWS’s Associate Director of Grants for Africa.

Posted in Food Justice, Human Rights, Letters from the Field | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments