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 Wednesday, I had the privilege to join a group of 30 rabbis and Jewish leaders from 13 states for a day of meetings at the White House to learn about the Obama administration’s strategy to end violence against women, girls and LGBT people worldwide.
AJWS’s rabbinic delegation at the White House. Photo Credit: Mike Kandel
Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, so I’ve been thinking about the lives of women and girls around the world.
Zeenat, a 17 year old girl from the impoverished community of Hyderabad, India, has already been married and divorced three times. All three of her marriages took place against her will, and all three husbands abused her.
Unfortunately, Zeenat’s experience is not uncommon in her community. Like many girls living in poverty in Hyderabad, Zeenat was forced to drop out of school and did not have any vocational skills. Her parents viewed marriage as a way to relieve a financial burden on their household.
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
It’s hard to believe fall is here, and Rosh Hashanah has already come and gone.
Ruth Messinger in Kenya with an AJWS grantee staff member
As my thoughts turn to the Jewish New Year, I begin to think about all the exciting ways American Jewish World Service will continue to deepen its work in developing world. Here’s what we’re working toward this year: Read More
Posted in Giving, Human Rights, Jewish Justice
Tagged Advocacy, child marriage, human rights, India, Kendeda Fund, LGBTI Rights, new year, travel, women
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
Sophie Gerson. Credit: The Gerson Family.
My Grandma Sophie taught me the importance of standing up against people who take advantage of others. Her activism—and that of her allies in the labor movement—inspired me to dedicate my life to advocating for people who are disenfranchised, marginalized, or rendered invisible. As a little girl, I remember hearing about how my grandmother, a textile union organizer, was arrested, framed and almost deported because she wouldn’t stop speaking out for worker justice. I remember being electrified by my grandmother’s stories about fighting corrupt bosses and profit-hungry factory owners.
But no story from that era was more shocking to me than the terrible Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911.
In that tragic, preventable disaster, 146 women—mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants—perished after being trapped inside. The manager had locked all the doors and exits. Read More