This guest post from the Grassroots Girls Initiative tells the story of Mohammad Bazar Backward Class Development Society (MBBCDS) and their efforts to end child marriage and empower marginalized women and girls. MBBCDS is an nonprofit organization that AJWS supports in West Bengal, India.
The Situation for Girls
West Bengal is one of the poorest states in India and its tribal villages are labeled “economically backward.” Female literacy is extremely low; more than half of adolescent girls are either pulled out or drop out of the education system by high school. Girls in tribal villages are extremely vulnerable to early marriage, early pregnancy and domestic violence.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
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.
Celebrate the women and girls creating change worldwide!
Today is International Women’s Day—an important date on AJWS’s calendar! It doesn’t get a lot of fanfare here in the U.S. but it means a whole lot for women and girls around the world who are struggling against injustice.
In the communities AJWS supports, International Women’s Day is a day to honor brave women who are demanding equal rights and working to end poverty and oppression. It’s a day to celebrate determined girls who grow up to be leaders, against all odds. International Women’s Day is about empowering every young girl and every woman—no matter where she is born—to believe that she can make a difference.
To help AJWS spread this message, view our photo gallery on Facebook of extraordinary women and girls worldwide who are working to make the world a better place—and then share it with your friends! Read More
Originally published by Salon.
It’s no secret that when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously declared in 1995 that “women’s rights are human rights,” she cemented her status as a champion for women and girls around the world. And as secretary of state, Clinton made gender equality and women’s empowerment a pillar of American diplomacy. The question now is whether the departure of the leading advocate for women will signal the end of the State Department’s focus on these key issues.
Among her achievements in this area, Clinton launched the Equal Futures Partnership to increase women’s leadership in politics, and made the case that rights for women and girls are key ingredients for democracy, peace and economic growth in every country. Critically, she led the United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security as well as the United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, an initiative of USAID and the State Department. If that wasn’t enough, she also shaped the Secretarial Policy Directive on Gender, which has been instrumental in working to end child marriage. Read More
A community outreach team run by AJWS grantee, Fortress of Hope, teaches about gender-based violence. Photo: Evan Abramson
Last week on October 11th, the United Nations commemorated the very first International Day of the Girl. My colleagues and I were still reeling from the tragic shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani activist who was unjustly targeted for going to school and speaking up for her right to get an education. But we were grateful for the outpouring of support for the UN’s decision to dedicate a day to advancing the status of girls worldwide.
AJWS is committed to promoting girls’ rights, preventing gender-based violence and improving access to education and healthcare for girls in the developing world.
A few sobering facts:
- Two-thirds of the world’s children who receive less than four years of education are girls. Girls represent nearly 60% of the children not in school.
- Child marriage is a threat to the fundamental human rights of girls, and to the health of communities.
- Ten million girls every year become child brides.
- One in seven girls in the developing world marries before she turns 15. These young girls are forced into motherhood before their bodies are ready, and too many die giving birth as a result.
- Every year, some 14 million adolescent girls give birth. They are two to five times as likely to die owing to pregnancy-related complications than women in their twenties, and their babies are less likely to survive. Read More
Leah Kaplan Robins in Cambodia.
As AJWS’s senior writer and editor, my job is to put AJWS’s complex work—helping marginalized people in the developing world realize their human rights—into words. I tell stories about activists around the globe, trying to bring their lives and challenges alive for AJWS supporters who’ve never met them—or who may have never seen this kind of poverty and injustice themselves.
What may surprise you is that, until just recently, I hadn’t seen it either. For the past four years at AJWS, I have portrayed communities and human rights struggles by hearing stories from colleagues, interviewing our grantees when they visited New York, and pouring over photos from our staff, volunteers and grantees to glean images and feelings that I could convey on the page.
But two weeks ago, AJWS sent me into the field with two of my colleagues—to Cambodia. For the first time, I stood face-to-face with the people whose struggles we’re funding—in their own communities. While this one trip can’t encapsulate the diverse range of places AJWS works, it provided moments of deep connection that I can now share with you, and that will inspire my work for a long time to come. Read More
A community outreach team run by AJWS grantee Fortress of Hope Africa teaches about gender-based violence. Photo: Evan Abramson
With World Population Day, the London Summit on Family Planning, and initiatives like the Girl Effect, it seems like women and girls have moved to the top of the international development community’s agenda. Since only two cents of out of every international aid dollar is directed to girls, this new focus couldn’t be more welcomed or exciting.
The statistics about the benefits of investing in girls are well-known and staggering. Improving women and girls’ quality of life will provide more opportunities for their families and, by extension, their entire communities. Investing in girls can reap major benefits for a nation’s economy, too. Family planning will help the environment and sustainable development by decreasing global population growth.
But we should not focus on women and girls only because it is an intelligent policy strategy. It is morally imperative and just. Moreover, advancing the status of women and girls should be integrated with a broader human rights agenda. Read More
From April 19-22, AJWS staff and 25 grantees attended the AWID International Forum on Women’s Rights in Development in Istanbul, Turkey. Seventeen-year-old Naboni Etansa from Ethiopia traveled to the Forum with the Jerusalem Children and Community Development Organization (JeCCDO)—an AJWS grantee and a partner in the Nike Foundation’s Grassroots Girls Initiative. Below are Naboni’s reflections on her experience.
My time at the AWID Forum in Istanbul was so fantastic for me. I left my country, Ethiopia, for the very first time to go to a very big conference with about 2500 people, mostly women, from 150 countries.
Originally posted on AidBuzz.
As the world takes some time to reflect on the growing refugee crisis in many parts of the world, I’m taking a minute to think about some of the “lost refugees” who, for most people, are totally invisible. Medecins Sans Frontieres recently published a report that Dadaab Refugee Camp in north eastern Kenya is completely full – and by the end of the year will be home to over 450,000 refugees. These refugees are primarily from Somalia, but also from conflict ridden parts of Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.