Women in Goma marched in the streets to celebrate the defeat of the M23.
For many months, I have heard tragic reports of rising conflict from our partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Eastern DRC has been engulfed by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda—where they had just slaughtered Tutsis and moderate Hutus in one of the most organized genocides of the 20th century.
But in the last week, we have started seeing signs of hope. The notorious M23 rebels have finally surrendered, after years of unrelenting attacks against both civilians and the DRC military.
Here in DRC, people have been celebrating this important milestone. Women have dressed in white to show their support to the Congolese army and government in Goma and Kinshasa. There is a festive mood in the air.
However, grassroots advocates for peace are also calling for caution. People are waiting to see what happens next and how the pending peace negotiations between the government and the M23 unfold. Still, this is a huge step toward breaking the cycle of recurrent violence in the Eastern DRC. We hope the United Nations and the Congolese army succeed in fighting the remaining rebel groups. There will be challenges ahead, particularly when human rights groups seek justice for war crimes—but this is a huge first step.
Read on for reflections on this news from AJWS partners in Goma and Bukavu, DRC, who will continue working with their communities to recover from this conflict and demand their basic human rights.
On Saturday, the International Day of Peace, AJWS grantees and other women’s groups in North Kivu gathered to protest ongoing conflict and finalize a joint statement to Mary Robinson. This activist’s sign reads, “Mrs. Robinson, we want justice and not impunity.”
On September 21, the International Day of Peace, many of AJWS’s partners around the world were pushing for peace, justice and reconciliation in their communities and countries. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where fighting has escalated due to a standoff between armed groups, civilians have increasingly become the targets of violence, particularly women and children. AJWS’s grantees and allies in DRC are particularly working to address sexual violence in North Kivu province, the epicenter of the recent fighting. Read More
Most readers have probably seen the widespread news about the Al Shabab terrorist attack at Westgate Mall in Nairobi. AJWS staff members were able to check in with all of our Kenyan grantees, and we are relieved to report that none of them have been injured or killed. However, many of them know people affected by this horrific attack, which has killed scores of people and injured many more.
We’re grateful that our Kenyan partners are safe, and we mourn for the victims and their families. Please keep Kenya in your thoughts and prayers.
Eight months ago, I stood shivering with my Ugandan colleagues on the steps of the Massachusetts federal court house. We had just witnessed the first hearing in the case Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) v. Lively—a suit filed by a group of Ugandan LGBTI rights organizations against American evangelist Scott Lively for his role in inciting the persecution of LGBTI Ugandans. Lively is well-known for advocating that homosexuality should be criminalized around the world.
At the time, we were cautiously optimistic that the case would move forward. Today, we are celebrating. Read More
This week, the Ugandan parliament approved a piece of legislation that violates its citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms, effectively ending true democracy in the country. The final text of the “Public Order Management” bill has not been released, but the most recent draft of the bill will essentially muzzle free speech.
If that bill becomes law, it will give the Ugandan government unprecedented power to prevent and halt any public gatherings of a political nature. The law will outlaw any “group” of people, defined as three or more, from meeting in any public place to discuss or critique the government, its laws or its programs. These kinds of everyday debates will now require prior permission by the head of the Ugandan police force. The meetings have to be requested a full week in advance, cannot be held after 6 p.m. and can be quickly dispersed if police feel they are disrupting the peace.
AJWS President Ruth Messinger described the situation in a statement:
Last week, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reintroduced to Uganda’s parliament. First drafted in 2009, the proposed legislation quickly gained infamy for its inhumane and draconian provisions. In addition to mandating the death penalty for those found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality,” it threatens jail sentences for those who “promote” homosexuality or fail to report persons suspected to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
These provisions have sparked international outrage over the persecution of LGBT individuals in Uganda—and rightly so. But the outcry overlooks the impact the bill would have on all Ugandans irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Here’s how: Read More
Originally posted on The Jew and the Carrot.
AJWS President Ruth Messinger supporting local agriculture in Kenya.
The issue inspiring the latest Jewish political movement won’t surprise readers of this blog—but it might cause some head scratching among the rest of the Jewish community. It isn’t Israel or the 99%. Nope, it’s… the U.S. Farm Bill!
While it may seem like an unlikely target for a swell of Jewish activism, the Farm Bill—which dictates U.S. law on everything from agriculture to food stamps to biofuels—is packed with policies that go against the grain of Jewish ethics. The bill is up for debate and reauthorization this year, and six Jewish organizations are seizing the opportunity to call for reforms that they feel will go a long way toward achieving their Torah-inspired visions of food justice.
Even though they’re each tackling a different aspect of the bill, they’ve recently joined forces to maximize their power and mobilize their constituents toward a common goal. 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.
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.