How Beverly Bell’s Book “Fault Lines” Offers a Portrait of Haiti Through the Lens of Haitian People

Fault LinesThe fourth anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti has come and gone. There were the usual speeches, press conferences, updates and flurries of attention. There was also, at least in some quarters, an expressed concern that it is “taking too long” to make a difference on the ground, that the problems of weak government, corruption, misdirected aid, and missing land titles are inhibiting efforts to put the country back together.

Yes, it is all taking a long time. We at AJWS are not surprised because we know the people who know Haiti well, and they predicted that the recovery process would not go smoothly. They warned those of us who were ready to listen. Haitian people understand the incredibly complex 210-year story of their country better than Americans because they live the complexity—day in and day out. They also know that too often, and in too many ways, the U.S. government has been complicit in creating problems for Haiti and in Haiti and that, in some ways, this is still the case.

All of this is to say that to understand Haiti, I believe everyone should read one of the few books that really tells the story authentically: Beverly Bell’s Fault Lines. Read More »

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Celebrating LGBT Pride Month

What a month! Throughout the country, AJWS was buzzing with LGBT Pride to shine a spotlight on our work to fight for the human rights of LGBT communities in the developing world. One of our grantees, a leading LGBT rights activist from Kenya, traveled to the U.S. to speak about the struggles that LGBT communities face in Kenya and throughout Africa. We also organized screenings of Call Me Kuchu, an award-winning documentary about the efforts of Ugandan LGBT activists to stop the passage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which was tragically signed into law in February, followed by a discussion with our Kenyan grantee.

Hundreds of activists and leaders marched with AJWS in exciting and colorful LGBT Pride Parades in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Chicago to demonstrate support for AJWS as the Jewish voice for LGBT rights worldwide. Here are a few visual highlights:

Photo Credit: Jeff Zorabedian

Read More »

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Global Pride: Celebrating LGBT Activists Around the World

Originally published in Out Magazine.

Lesbian couple Pen Nol, left, and Chhon Nhoeng, live together on their farm in rural Cambodia. They are members of Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK), a Phnom Phen-based LGBT advocacy organization supported by AJWS.

 

Nheap Pen, center left, and Yarn Mok, center right, live with their grandchildren in rural Cambodia. The couple has participated in LGBT advocacy trainings at RoCK. The couple first met in the 1980s, and they have slowly gained the acceptance of other people in their village—a rare phenomenon in Cambodia. “It’s kind of unique,” Mok said. “We do not have this so many other places.” Pen added: “We are genuinely in love. We care for each other. We help each other in times of trouble.”

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Photography by Evan Abramson for American Jewish World Service.

 

A man who works with and AJWS-supported LGBT rights organization in Uganda shields his face with a local tabloid article. The piece incited public hatred and revealed the names and faces of LGBT advocates; many of them fear violence from homophobic extremists.

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Photography by Evan Abramson for American Jewish World Service.

 

Srun Srorn has worked with RoCK and other LGBT rights groups in Cambodia.

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Photography by Evan Abramson for American Jewish World Service.

 

Members of Transgender Equality Uganda (TEU) dance in drag at one of the few bars in Uganda that has accepted LGBT people. Many TEU members work as sex workers due to limited job opportunities; in particular, transgender women who sell sex in Uganda often face violence and abuse from their clients.

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Photography by Evan Abramson for American Jewish World Service.

 

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera is the founder of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), a human rights organization devoted to equality for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. She is open about her lesbian identity, and she’s facing increased threats in her country because of intense hostility toward LGBT people.

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Photography by Evan Abramson for American Jewish World Service.

 

FARUG member “Sara” used a grant from AJWS to start a business selling shoes at a shopping center in downtown Kampala. Many FARUG members have lost jobs after employers discovered they were homosexual, bisexual or transgender.

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Photography by Evan Abramson for American Jewish World Service.

 

Dayanara Nicole Diaz Gonzalez is a transwoman whose life has completely turned around because of her involvement with Asociacion Nicaraguense de Transgeneras (Association for Transgender Nicaraguans, or ANIT). As a teenager, Dayanara suffered discrimination in school and alienation from her family because of her gender expression. She dropped out of school and became a sex worker in Managua to support herself. She developed a drug addiction and ended up in prison, where was raped repeatedly. After her release from prison, she learned she was HIV-positive, and then discovered ANIT’s transgender rights advocacy and started attending their meetings; now she is finishing school, living at home again, and working as the ANIT’s health outreach coordinator.

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Photography by Evan Abramson for American Jewish World Service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the remote town of Waspam in Nicaragua, LGBT activist Abimael Padilla, 22, suffered discrimination for many years at school. After receiving training and support from Movimiento de la Diversidad Sexual Costeña (Coastal Movement of Sexual Diversity, or MODISEC), he was able to improve the situation by engaging with fellow students, teachers and his own family.

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Photography by Evan Abramson for American Jewish World Service.

 

Activists from Minority Women in Action, an LGBT rights organization in Kenya.

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Photography by Evan Abramson for American Jewish World Service.

 

Activists from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), which works to advance LGBT rights.

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Photography by Evan Abramson for American Jewish World Service.

 

An activist from GALCK.

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Photography by Evan Abramson for American Jewish World Service.

 

 

 

 

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For Eddie: I Am Keeping My Promise

Photo: Associated Press

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 »

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Nigeria: Update on Abducted Girls, AJWS Allies Respond

Over the past week, the search for more than 250 girls abducted from a school in northern Nigeria has intensified. The U.S. and other countries are now assisting the Nigerian government in an effort to quickly locate the girls and their captors, the Islamic militant group Boko Haram.

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Protesters in Nigeria call for an end to Boko Haram terrorism, including the kidnapping of the schoolgirls. Photo courtesy of Spaces for Change

International media and U.S. activists and politicians have continued to focus attention on the story, particularly after the Monday release of a video showing the girls in captivity. In addition to repeated calls for the girls’ freedom, the story has sparked debate about a spectrum of problems facing Nigeria and how foreign countries should (or should not) assist in counter-terrorism efforts there.

Read More »

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Our Journey to Capitol Hill

Summit Capitol StepsMore than 150 AJWS supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. this week for the 2014 AJWS Policy Summit. Yesterday, after 48 hours of inspirational programming and skills building, we headed out to Capitol Hill to urge our legislators to pass the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), which was introduced in the Senate on May 8th.

Together we visited 100 Congressional offices all in one day—and secured new allies in our fight to end violence against women and girls worldwide!

As a result of these visits, many Representatives learned about the bill for the first time—and others committed to support it as co-sponsors. We crisscrossed the Hill from the House to the Senate and back, and felt the momentum for We Believe building.

Read More »

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Nigeria: AJWS Allies Respond to Girls’ Abduction

Protesters around the world have drawn unprecedented international attention to the plight of more than 250 girls in northern Nigeria. Most of the girls, who were kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram on April 15, remain missing.

American Jewish World Service and other human rights groups—in Nigeria and many other countries—spread the word about this horrific situation over the last week or so, using the popular hashtag #bringbackourgirls. In response to this outcry, governments ranging from China to the U.S. have offered to help Nigeria’s government track down the missing girls.

 

Much of the media coverage of this story has emphasized the roles of American celebrities and activists, while overlooking Boko Haram’s ongoing attacks in Nigeria during this time, including a bombing this week that killed hundreds of people in the northeastern town of Gamboru Ngala. Read More »

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How Being a Third Generation Holocaust Survivor Inspired My Journey to Social Justice

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Rebecca and her grandfather Moshe, a Holocaust survivor, in Staten Island in the late 1980s.

Every day, but especially on Yom Hashoah, I think about my family’s experience in the Holocaust and how that has shaped who I am today.

As a young child, I didn’t fully grasp what being a Holocaust survivor meant. I knew that my grandfather had a big family before the Holocaust and that my great aunt had numbers tattooed on her arm. I knew that two of my great aunts were on line for the gas chambers at Auschwitz, minutes from cremation, when the camp was liberated. I knew that my mom dedicated her life to supporting the needs of Holocaust survivors—physically, emotionally and financially. But I didn’t know what all of these markers would truly mean to me.

Ten years later when I was in college, I had the opportunity to meet Paul Rusesabagina, the Rwandan hotel manager who hid and protected more than 1,200 Hutu and Tutsi refugees during the Rwandan Genocide. I heard him speak during an event with the Hillel at Binghamton University. None of the refugees that he hid in his hotel were harmed during the genocide. He spoke about the genocide in Rwanda—what it was like to live through the violence, religious persecution and political strife. It was during his speech that I had my moment of realization; the moment when I realized that being a third generation Holocaust survivor was bigger than just carrying the story of my family. For me, being a third generation survivor meant taking a stand against injustice everywhere. Read More »

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Notes from Senegal: My American Jewish World Service Study Tour Experience

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Originally posted on the blog of Absolute Travel.

On a recent one week study tour sponsored by American Jewish World Service (AJWS), with the assistance of Absolute Travel, I became fully immersed in the magical world of Senegal—its people, its culture and its struggles to forge peace and overcome poverty. Read More »

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Sex Workers Can Speak for Themselves

WONETHA is a human rights-based organization and registered NGO, based in Uganda. WONETHA seeks to improve the health, social and economic wellbeing of female adult sex workers in Uganda. Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP), India, is a collective of women in sex work against injustice who have mobilized in order to speak out about HIV and AIDS, violence against sex workers and to fight for the rights of people in sex work. 

In a CNN piece published late last year, filmmakers Jane Wells and John-Keith Wasson make sweeping conclusions about sex workers: that they are all victims and that the best way to help them is by shutting down the “evil” sex industry. Their conclusion is troubling because, in order to arrive at it, Wells and Wasson had to blatantly ignore the voices of sex workers themselves who have proposed very different solutions than Wells and Wasson. Read More »

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