Tag Archives: Social Justice

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 »

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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)

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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.

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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

Dominicans of Haitian descent deserve full equality in the Dominican Republic

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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 »

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

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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 »

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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.

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New video highlights Obama speech on American Jews and social change

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It’s no secret that American Jews have a rich legacy of involvement in American social movements—the labor movement, the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, LGBT rights and immigration reform, to name just a few.

That’s why we’re so moved by this powerful new video, Hineni, created by our friends and colleagues at the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. Built around a moving speech by President Obama, this video chronicles how American Jews have played key roles in the arc of social change. As President Obama notes, American Jews have “made a difference on so many of the defining issues of the last half century. The world’s a better place for it.”

The video features AJWS President Ruth Messinger, along with many other familiar Jewish leaders. Take a look!

And if you missed Ruth’s op-ed about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, check it out here. How will you carry this work forward in the new year?

Posted in Human Rights, Jewish Justice | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Passover: A Journey to Freedom and Human Dignity

During Passover, we reflect on our ancestors’ journey from slavery to freedom. But our fight is far from over. We must stand in solidarity with those who are still struggling for freedom and human dignity around the world today. Please share this Passover message from AJWS President Ruth Messinger, and share our special Passover reading at your Seder table. Chag Sameach!

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Passover Reading

 

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Dvar Tzedek: Parshat Chukat 5772

As the Israelites wind down their adventures in the desert and prepare to enter the Promised Land as a free generation, they must again confront their faith in God’s ability to protect and provide for them. At the heart of Parshat Chukat is the puzzling episode of Moses and the rock that yields water. Through Moses and the costly mistake that he makes, this parshah teaches us the proper way to express trust in God. The challenges that Moses and the Israelites face in finding the right way to engage in and express their belief in God challenge us to think about the ways we demonstrate commitment to our values in the public sphere. Read More »

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Jews, Vegas, Rachel Dratch and… Social Justice?

When I say “Weekend In Vegas,” what do you think of?

Jews? Really? Me, too!

(And social justice, of course.)

I was on the scene this weekend with fellow AJWS employees and full-time Jewish young adults, Dahlia Rockowitz and Matt Balaban, at TribeFest. The Jewish Federations of North America’s annual convention of Jewish young adults hosted over 1400 participants at the Venetian to learn, teach, network, reconnect, exhibit, drink, laugh and party. Read More »

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Between Forkfuls, Let’s Be Food Thoughtful – and Kosher

Rabbi Noah Farkas

Rabbi Noah Farkas, an alum of AJWS’s Rabbinical Students’ Delegations, and a big fan of Pursue: Action for a Just World, wrote this fabulous article in JWeekly, reminding us to pay attention to our food, its source, and the politics bound up in its production. “We cannot just look at our food,” Farkas writes, “we have to look ‘through’ our food — beyond its materiality to its history, its depth, and to its ability to empower or impoverish the hands that brought it from the field to the fork.”

Read the full article here.

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