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.
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.
This post is also featured on the blog of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.
Marvin Goodman, far left, traveled with an AJWS rabbinic delegation to India.
This July, I traveled to Lucknow in northern India with American Jewish World Service and a group of 17 rabbis from across the United States. Our goal was to personally see and understand AJWS’s important international work. And, as I look back at the trip, we certainly accomplished that—but we also got a more powerful crash course in the profound disparities between the conditions and expectations for human rights in the U.S. versus the developing world. The experience was overwhelming, surprising, uplifting, depressing and eye-opening. Read More
Posted in Giving, Human Rights, Jewish Justice, Letters from the Field
Tagged caste, human rights, India, Poverty, rabbis, travel, violence, women
Last week, conflict ramped up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Congolese rebel group M23 and the Congolese Armed Forces escalated fighting. At least 800,000 people have fled their homes in the DRC since the M23 launched its rebellion in April 2012 and laid siege to the city of Goma last December. In response, the United Nations has launched an intervention brigade with the strongest mandate in UN peacekeeping history.
However, civilians in North Kivu have begun protesting the intervention brigade, arguing that the UN has not done enough to protect civilians. This week, forces from DRC dropped bombs in Rwanda, creating a complex and controversial political situation. Rwanda has allegedly supported the M23 rebels and is now threatening retaliation. According to an AJWS consultant, the current situation is very unpredictable.
This post comes to Global Voices from Nelly Godelive Mbangu, who lives in Goma.
Officials in Ahmedabad, India, built the Citizen Nagar neighborhood for some of the thousands of Muslims displaced by sectarian riots in 2002. Photo: Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times
This week’s New York Times article, “Justice and ‘a Ray of Hope’ After 2002 India Riots,” examines the possibility of peace and coexistence a decade after religious violence plagued Gujarat, India. A few weeks ago, Gagan Sethi, the founder of Janvikas, the Dalit Foundation (an AJWS grantee) and the Center for Social Justice, visited AJWS’s New York office and reflected on a similar theme in his work:
“When we entered the ghetto, there were these slum children playing a game,” he said. “They were wearing saffron bands, they made swords out of paper, and the game was ‘Let’s go hunt down the Muslims and kill them.’” Read More
Protesters gather to voice their opposition against President Abdoulaye Wade who is running for another term as president.
This week, Senegal’s presidential campaign opens amidst stones, tear gas, grenades, student protests and calls for popular resistance by a coalition of opposition parties and civil society organizations.
Senegal’s current president, Abdoulaye Wade, is seeking re-election despite his term limit and dwindling popularity. Though some Senegalese support Wade, there are escalating riots over his bid to stay in power. Last week, four people including a student died from clashes between demonstrators and the police. The president is down-playing the protests, but the mounting tension is notable in a country known for its political stability. Senegal seems to be heading into the ugly lane of pre-electoral violence. Read More
There’s been considerable coverage of the East Africa famine over the past two weeks. In his NY Times op-ed last Sunday, Nick Kristof wrote about a famine-related subject that, for many people, is an afterthought: the unspeakable violence against women and girls that escalates in the face of food insecurity. Kristof writes:
“At the very moment when you think you’re secure, you encounter a nightmare broached only in whispers: an epidemic of violence and rape. As Somalis stream across the border into Kenya, at a rate of about 1,000 a day, they are frequently prey to armed bandits who rob men and rape women in the 50-mile stretch before they reach Dadaab, now the world’s largest refugee camp. It is difficult to know how many women are raped because the subject is taboo. But more than half of the newly arrived Somalis I interviewed, mostly with the help of CARE, said they had been attacked by bandits, sometimes in Somalia but very often on Kenyan soil. Some had been attacked two or three times.” Read More