Photo: Associated Press
Originally published in LGBTQ Nation.
Twenty-two years ago, I made a promise that has shaped my life and my work ever since. My beloved partner Eddie, a talented musician, was dying of AIDS.
At the time, we felt powerless, isolated and angry—there was no effective medical treatment, no hope for recovery and too much hate rooted in fear of a mysterious disease and its association with gay men. As his final days neared, Eddie asked me to swear to him that he would not become “just another AIDS statistic.”
I’ve done everything in my power to keep this promise to stop HIV-positive and LGBT people like Eddie from being forgotten. Read More
Demonstrators in Nairobi, Kenya rally against wave of anti-gay legislation in Africa. Photo: Getty Images.
The ancient rabbi Hillel famously asked: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” I feel it is important to answer the first two questions in the way Hillel hoped—that we must stand up for both ourselves and for others. (After 40 years as a legislator, my answer to the third is “as soon as we have the votes.”)
On Purim, Jews remember the oppression we faced and overcame in ancient Persia and throughout our history. With Hillel’s questions in mind, we must rededicate ourselves to combating anti-Semitism throughout the world and to combating the oppression of others.
This guest post from the Grassroots Girls Initiative shares the voices of girls from Fortress of Hope Africa, an nonprofit organization that AJWS supports in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Situation for Girls
Growing up among rampant poverty, crime and few opportunities for employment, adolescents and young people make up a significant proportion of the populations in Nairobi’s slums. Girls are significantly more likely to be out of school than boys and are more at risk of violence.
The Organic Solution
In 2006, Fortress of Hope Africa was opened to provide a safe space within the slum to socially and economically empower disadvantaged girls, train them as leaders and support them in developing and implementing their own program ideas. The girls of Fortress are continuing to grow their own organic solutions that include a dance crew, street theater performances promoting gender equality and weekly workshops on self-esteem, health and hygiene and sexual and reproductive rights. 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.
A Ugandan activist holds up a popular tabloid ‘Red Pepper,’ one of several newspapers inciting prejudice and violence against LGBTI people in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal and LGBTI people are routinely denied their rights. Photo: Evan Abramson
A new report released last week by the Pew Research Center reveals alarming data about attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities around the world. Here are a few statistics that shine a spotlight on the countries in which AJWS works:
- In El Salvador, 35 percent of survey respondents believe the LGBTI community should be accepted, whereas 62 percent do not;
- In Kenya, 8 percent of survey respondents believe the LGBTI community should be accepted, whereas 90 percent do not;
- In Uganda, 4 percent of survey respondents believe the LGBTI community should be accepted, whereas 96 percent do not.
These attitudes are symptomatic of the oppression LGBTI people face on a regular basis—the loss of their jobs, unequal access to healthcare and limited opportunities for education. LGBTI people are ostracized, rejected, threatened and assaulted just for living their lives.
It gets worse.
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
Six years after violence and conflict marked Kenyan elections in 2007, millions of Kenyans will travel to the polls to elect their new leaders in early March. This is a pivotal moment in Kenyan history following the peaceful ratification of Kenya’s new progressive constitution in 2010. Each moment in Kenyan history is unique, and we must not allow our views of the prospects for the 2013 election to be overly determined by the violence of 2007.
Posted in Human Rights
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
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
Staff and clients of AJWS Haitian grantee SEROvie. The group’s banner reads, “Everyone should be able to live his life with respect and dignity.” (Photo: SEROvie)
With the International AIDS Conference right around the corner, there has been a flurry of articles about stemming the spread of HIV in the developing world. We have certainly made great strides, but many countries’ efforts to maximize access to HIV treatment do not always succeed. Botswana is one example. In the early 2000s, the country demonstrated commendable leadership and rolled out an ambitious plan to test and treat all Botswanans for HIV. But the number of people without access to treatment remained high. This was the result of a number of issues, including stigma. Former President Mogae said, “I’m very frustrated. Because of the stigma attached to this sexually transmitted virus, and because some religious people have said this is a curse or that those who have HIV are sinners, many are afraid to get tested.”
This cautionary tale contains lessons the rest of the world should heed. Even as we celebrate the scientific discoveries and treatment that dramatically reduce ongoing HIV transmission and death, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that a biomedical solution can overcome the devastating effects of social prejudice and bigotry. These effects exacerbate human rights abuses and prevent people who are most vulnerable from accessing life-saving services.