Tag Archives: human rights

Life on $3 a Day: Garment Workers and Cambodia’s Struggle for Human Rights

Monks bless the crowd at a human rights demonstration in Phnom Penh. Photo: Evan Abramson for AJWS

Monks bless the crowd at a human rights demonstration in Phnom Penh.

A month ago, I stood outside Cambodia’s National Assembly with hundreds of Buddhist monks. They chanted in Sanskrit and tossed lotus petals into a crowd of protesters, blessing them. Many of them had walked from rural villages to Phnom Penh over 10 days. They rallied at the palatial seat of the country’s parliament, to mark International Human Rights Day and hopefully draw the government’s attention to the rights Cambodia’s people have yet to fully grasp—rights related to labor, land and a fair legal system.

People passed out water bottles and wrapped towels around their heads to protect themselves from the harsh midday sun. Others held up signs (“WE ARE WOMEN WE ARE NOT SLAVES”) and loudspeakers buzzed, ready to call people to action. We were not supposed to be there; the government had prohibited marches. I searched the crowd, waiting for something to happen.

But it was peaceful.  Despite a day filled with marches and demonstrations, Phnom Penh remained relatively calm. The only government reaction: quietly relocating a dozen protesters who had camped outside the U.S. embassy.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the demonstrations have taken a dramatic and deadly turn. On Jan. 2, after escalating tension over the minimum wage, police shot AK-47s and handguns into a crowd of protesters, killing at least four and injuring more than 29. Most of them were garment workers—the very people I traveled to Cambodia to meet. Read More »

Posted in Human Rights, Letters from the Field, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Human Rights in 2013: Our End-of-Year Top 10

As we get ready for the New Year, we’re also taking a moment to celebrate the joys and victories in human rights that took place in 2013—an exciting and tumultuous year for human rights around the globe. Read on for 10 human rights happenings that AJWS celebrated in 2013, listed in chronological order. Let’s celebrate the strides we’ve made together and take heart for the work still ahead of us!

10.  India: Supreme Court ruling upholds indigenous people’s rights over contested land (April 2013)

photo 1

Children from the Dongria Kondh community. Credit: Survival International

In a landmark ruling, India’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal that would have allowed a UK-based company, Vedanta Resources, to mine the Niyamgiri hills. The court recognized the indigenous community of Dongria Kondh‘s right to the land, which they make a living from and worship as part of their traditional beliefs. The ruling affirmed that people with religious and cultural rights to land must be involved in decisions about how to use it.

This marked a major win for the rights of indigenous people in India, and it shows the power of social action. Thousands of protesters rallied to protest the mining effort last December, and hundreds of Dongria pledged to stay in the Niyamgiri hills.

1st item video screengrab

Click to watch Survival International’s video story on the mine. A new window will open.

Read More »

Posted in Food Justice, Human Rights, Jewish Justice, LGBTI Rights, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Crisis in the Philippines: AJWS provides Typhoon Haiyan relief

help_typhoon_survivorsWe’ve all been horrified and saddened by the images in the news since Typhoon Haiyan struck land on November 7 in the Philippines: flattened buildings, smashed boats and displaced people. Families digging through the wreckage of their homes and lives. Parents searching desperately for lost children. One of the most powerful typhoons to hit land in recorded history has left thousands dead and many more homeless and desperate.

In the midst of all this tragedy, AJWS supporters have turned to us to help. Our donors have contributed nearly $500,000 for typhoon survivors, and we have been working around the clock to get this critical funding to people who need it most. Read More »

Posted in Giving, Human Rights, Jewish Justice | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Congo peace activists celebrate defeat of M23 rebels

DRC edit 2

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.

Read More »

Posted in Human Rights, Letters from the Field, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

AJWS’s first Global Justice Fellows set off for Mexico

This week, AJWS Los Angeles is thrilled to venture to Mexico with our inaugural group of Global Justice Fellows. Ranging from ages 22 to 68, this group includes rabbis, entertainment professionals, Jewish communal professionals, lay leaders, philanthropic leaders and nonprofit executives. Hailing from broad geographies and diverse communities, these fellows truly represent the vitality and variety of Los Angeles.

In August, the Los Angeles fellows began their year-long program designed to help them become activist leaders in support of global justice. By traveling to meet AJWS’s grantee partners in Mexico and witness their struggles and stories, we hope to return inspired and ready to lead the charge of repairing the world.

Meet the Los Angeles fellows below, and watch for updates on their experience in Mexico in the coming weeks!

Read More »

Posted in Jewish Justice, Letters from the Field | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Running to heal the world

eric shapiro

Eric A. Shapiro, the author’s father

On April 28, 2007, a day after my 24th birthday, my father passed away after a six-month battle with brain cancer.

My father’s recipe for living was tikkun olam, healing the world and working to leave it a better place than he found it—both professionally and personally. Following a family tradition, he became a physician. He truly embodied the image of the small town doctor who took care of all, regardless of background or circumstance. He cared about each and every one of his patients, and he always went out of his way to make sure they got exactly what they needed. This often meant making house calls, going head to head with insurance companies or lobbying to change hospital policy. He even stood on his head as a reward to a patient who quit smoking! In his own way, he strived to heal the world, one patient at a time. In his personal life, he was a very involved and loving father, husband, son, brother and friend. He always did his best for everyone who touched his life.
Read More »

Posted in Jewish Justice | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dominicans of Haitian descent deserve full equality in the Dominican Republic

DR protest

Protesters organize outside the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court.

Daniela lives in a batey—a town of sugar cane workers—in the Dominican Republic. At 17 years old, she has just graduated from high school and now volunteers as a community health educator. Her dream is to go to college—but that dream was crushed last month, when the country’s Constitutional Court revoked citizenship from all Dominicans of Haitian descent born after 1929.

Daniela was born in the Dominican Republic, but the government no longer considers her a citizen—just because of her family’s Haitian heritage. The impact on Daniela and her family will be devastating. Her college dream is now shattered, and she might be deported from the only home she’s ever known. Read More »

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seynabou Male Cissé wins prize from Women’s World Summit Foundation

cisse

Seynabou Male Cissé

Seynabou Male Cissé, leader of AJWS grantee Comité Régional de Solidarité des Femmes pour la Paix en Casamance*/USOFORAL in Senegal, recently won the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life. The annual prize celebrates the International Day of Rural Women on October 15. Every year, WWSF awards 10 notable women with this prize, honoring female leaders for their courageous and creative work in the rural women’s movement. Read More »

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ruth Messinger at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative

CGI_Annual_Meeting_2013Last week, AJWS President Ruth Messinger attended the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which annually convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. This prestigious event draws heads of state from around the world, along with Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of major philanthropists and heads of foundations and NGOs.

Ruth, pictured to the right with Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reflected on her experience at this year’s event:

“The Clinton Global Initiative offers one highlight after another.  This year, there were some spectacular panels on the status of women and girls, on the challenges of land grabbing and on the importance of turning our beliefs and values into action.  As always, though, the most fun was simply in the opportunity to make new connections and work collaboratively with others.”

Attending CGI is a valuable opportunity for AJWS and our partners, allowing us to deepen our relationships with activists and policymakers in pursuit of global justice. We are grateful to CGI and its visionary leadership. Learn more about CGI here.

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

Women’s groups in DRC pressure UN special envoy for inclusion in peace process

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. Robsinson, we want justice and not impunity."

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 »

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