• Published by Chloe Silversmith in: Environmental Justice Indigenous Peoples Nicaragua Website

    Kisalaya is an Indigenous village on the North Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. It’s also the site of Harvesting Hope, an organic community agriculture project supported by MADRE members. The project started with only 30 women, and there are now 90 participants–and Ester Tomas is one of them.

    Yifat Susskind, MADRE's Executive Director, and Ester Tomas during a recent trip to Nicaragua.

    Yifat Susskind, MADRE’s Executive Director, and Ester Tomas during a recent trip to Nicaragua.

    When MADRE staff recently visited Kisalaya, Ester shared what Harvesting Hope has meant for her family. Their family’s diet has improved, from eating the healthy, organic produce. What’s more, she is able to sell her surplus of crops at the market. “I harvested 40 pounds of tomatoes this year. Because of MADRE, I can pay for my children to go to school,” she said.

    Harvesting Hope is one way that MADRE partners with our sisters at Wangki Tangni to improve the health of Indigenous women and families. We provide Miskita women with vegetable seeds and teach them farming skills. Additionally, the project emphasizes the preservation of traditional Indigenous knowledge of natural resource management.

    Today, thanks to this project, the women rely less on costly imported foods and have become leaders in their community.

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  • Published by Kat Noel in: Uncategorized

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  • Published by Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan in: Haiti Latin America & Caribbean Sexual Rights Violence Against Women Website

    In June, I spoke on behalf of MADRE at a conference in the Dominican Republic amplifying the international call to end violence against women.

    The forum, sponsored by the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) in solidarity with the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence, was an effort to bring speakers from different backgrounds to discuss strategies for combating violence against women and the various ways that it manifests, including in armed conflict and post-disaster scenarios.

    Natasha in DR

    Natasha speaking on MADRE’s work with our sisters in Haiti.

    During my presentation, I highlighted MADRE’s work addressing post-disaster incidents of sexual violence in Haiti. Our partnership with KOFAVIV, a grassroots organization established by rape survivors in Port-au-Prince, is an example that sexual violence in conflict and post-disaster situations is often anticipated, and thus can and should be protected against.

    KOFAVIV provides the women they serve with access to medical attention, counseling and human rights training. While MADRE’s support in providing capacity assistance, technical and legal advice demonstrates the need for the international community to pay attention when women’s lives are threatened and to demand accountability.

    As MADRE continues our decades-long work supporting women NGOs and their struggle to claim autonomy in all its facets, we ask that you stand with us and support us.  Now is the #TimeToAct.

    Natasha Time to Act

    Natasha, third from the right, joining other presenters on calling for an end to violence against women.

     

    Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan is a human rights attorney who practices both litigation and international human rights work, including the domestic implementation of human rights norms.  She has worked on gender and racial justice issues, including access to reproductive health, sexual violence and violence against women in conflict zones.

     

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  • Published by Elizabeth Droggitis in: Colombia Guatemala Indigenous Peoples Latin America & Caribbean Violence Against Women Website

    We sang, we danced, we laughed and we celebrated each other. That’s how we started day two of the transitional justice conference with the help of our partner organization Taller de Vida. They led us in a group song and dance that left us all energized to start the day.

    Our partner Taller de Vida leading an energetic drum circle and icebreaker.

    Our partner Taller de Vida led an energetic drum circle and icebreaker.

    And the women needed this positive energy. Because today, we’d be hearing first-hand stories of the human rights abuses that they and their families have suffered. We heard the story of “Maria”, a survivor of the 1982 massacre of Las Dos Erres in Guatemala, where over 200 campesinos, many of them children including her brother and other family members, lost their lives during a wave of brutal violence under Rios Montt. She bravely shared her painful story with us, and how she fought for justice. Years later, she testified against the perpetrators of this violence in the Inter-American system, through regional human rights bodies. And thankfully, some of these men are now in jail.

    And we heard from more women about the violence, threats, discrimination and displacement they and their families have faced. When I listened to these women’s stories, I was inspired by their bravery and by the shared fight for justice that has brought them all together here.

    But what do we do when justice eludes us? What do we do when the police don’t investigate these crimes? What do we do when prosecutors don’t try these cases? What do we do when legislators don’t pass laws that protect women and families? How do these brave women seek justice?

    When local and national channels fail, that’s when we go to the international system. And that’s what the second day’s training focused on. Lisa Davis and Cassandra Atlas of MADRE’s Human Rights Advocacy staff led a dynamic session on the tools and vehicles available to these women to bring their cases to an international stage. Not only does bringing your case to the international stage give visibility and voice to your issue, but it’s a vital opportunity to demand action from your government and a key moment to build coalitions and solidarity movements for justice.

    Seeking justice in the international system is a long process, and it does not bring change overnight. But it is an important vehicle for demanding justice for these women. But as Maria’s story shows us, it can work. And as Maria said to the group, “I want to say to all the women who are here to not be afraid…because when we are scared, we are silent. But if we go forward fighting, we will find justice.”

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  • Published by Sara McCloskey in: Guatemala Indigenous Peoples Latin America & Caribbean Violence Against Women Website

    What kind of courage does it take to defy death threats in the name of justice? The kind of courage embodied by Dr. Claudia Paz y Paz.

    This remarkable woman has been at the forefront of stopping organized crime and confronting human rights violations in Guatemala since she became the first female attorney general in 2010.

    Claudia Paz y Paz via Nobel Women's Initiative.

    Claudia Paz y Paz via Nobel Women’s Initiative.

    Paz y Paz didn’t let anyone stop her in her pursuit of justice. She charged corrupt police officers, drug lords, politicians and other perpetrators of human rights violations. But Paz y Paz’s term was cut short. The reasons why speak volumes about the enduring impunity in Guatemala.

    Paz y Paz began her term as attorney general when her predecessor was removed from the position 6 to 7 months after he started. Ricardo Sagastume, a businessman and corporate lawyer—whose father was the president of the supreme court when dictator Efrain Rios Montt was in office—argued on a technicality that Paz y Paz would fulfill her term in May as opposed to December because of her start date. The court ruled in favor of this questionable argument, cutting back her term by seven months. Paz y Paz was also excluded from running for a second term as attorney general during this election cycle.

    Sagastume says he pursued this for non-political reasons, but the timing is very suspicious. The retrial of a monumental case was scheduled before the end of her term. Paz y Paz prosecuted and convicted Rios Montt for his role in the genocide against Indigenous Peoples during his term. Rios Montt was only president for a few years during a brutal 36 year civil war that killed over 200,000 people, and during this time, he received supported from the Reagan Administration.

    One survivor of this violence, Rosa, shared her story with us and our partner organization Muixil. Both of Rosa’s parents were executed when she was five-years-old. She sat next to her parents’ bodies for two days, waiting for someone to come. When her uncle arrived, they hid in the mountains and ate grass to fight their hunger. Numerous women told similar stories about losing their loved ones during this terrible time.

    The case against Rios Montt was a landmark in the quest for justice in Guatemala. Our partners told us that the mere initiation of these charges against the former dictator was validating. But two weeks after the decision, everything changed. On May 20, 2013, the verdict was overturned by the courts. Now 88-year-old Rios Montt will not face retrial until January 2015.

    During her four years in office, Paz y Paz developed into a prominent political figure and brought significant change to the region. She became a voice for women, who now have laws acknowledging that violence against women is a crime. The overall crime rate also dropped by around nine percent.

    Even though she has been forced from her position, it is clear that Paz y Paz’s role in bringing accountability to Guatemala’s judicial system will leave a lasting legacy for victims of violence and others standing up against human rights abuses.

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  • Published by Elizabeth Droggitis in: Colombia Guatemala Indigenous Peoples Latin America & Caribbean Violence Against Women Website

    Some have been forced from their homes in waves of mass displacement. Others have lost family members to decades of violence. And others still have suffered sexual violence in the context of armed conflict. Though their stories may differ, they are all here for a shared purpose: a tireless pursuit for peace and justice.

    Our sisters from Guatemala leading a ceremony of thanks to start the transitional justice conference.

    Our sisters from Guatemala leading a ceremony of thanks to start the transitional justice conference.

    Over 30 women from Colombia and Guatemala have been brought together for a MADRE-organized, two day transitional justice conference in Bogotá. The courageous women have gathered to share their stories of survival in the context of the human rights abuses suffered during the armed conflicts in both countries. It will be a chance for these women to reflect on their experiences in a safe space, discuss the challenges they’ve faced in their pursuits for justice, learn from each other as they move forward, and benefit from a community of support.

    This morning, we listened to the women share strategies for preserving their historical memories, an important process for building peace. As Magdalena Ceto from Centre for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) shared with the group, “Our memory is something that cannot be erased.” Preserving their memories, the memories of their ancestors and communities is a powerful tool for seeking justice. It promises that their struggles will not be forgotten. And it drives us all forward in our shared commitment to peace and justice.

    These women have been inspiring to listen to and to learn from. I’m motivated by their dedication to justice and to human rights for all. And I can’t wait to share more updates with you as the conference continues!

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  • Published by Sara McCloskey in: Iraq Sexual Rights Violence Against Women Website Women's Health

    Since the beginning of the crisis in Iraq, our partner Yanar Mohammed, President of Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), has provided us with on-the-ground accounts of the hardships and danger Iraqi women and families are facing. Now, we want to give you the opportunity to pose your questions to her.

    AGAINSTwomenVERTICAL_Final

    Here’s how YOU can #AskYanar:

    Up until Friday August 8th, tweet your question to @MADREspeaks using the hashtag #AskYanar or go onto MADRE’s Facebook Fan Page and comment on one of the posts about the Q&A session.

    Be sure to check our myMADRE blog on Monday, August 25th to see if your question was answered by Yanar!

    Please note that not all submissions will be accepted.

    Yanar’s recent interviews and quotes:

    “Suicide, Rape, Murder: Life For Women In Iraq Under ISIS”, HuffPost Live

    “Three days after the invasion began, the militants were knocking on doors asking for unmarried women. We were told that 13 were taken from their homes and raped. More were taken later. The militants said it was their duty to serve the needs of the jihadists.”

    - “In Iraq, humanitarian crisis called ‘epic’”, Toronto Star

    “How Can We Protect Women From A Sexual Jihad?”, HuffPost Live

    “The Iraqi society is suffering unprecedented crisis that threatens the future of peaceful co-existence of citizens, and augments genocides and civil conflicts based on the sectarian identities that were established on the Iraqi population, and were strengthened throughout more than a decade of the American occupation to Iraq.”

    - “On the Occupation of Mosul and the Cities of Western Iraq”, One Billion Rising

    “Iraq’s New Humanitarian Crisis”, HuffPost Live

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  • Published by Chloe Silversmith in: Guatemala Indigenous Peoples Latin America & Caribbean Middle East Palestine Sexual Rights Website Women's Health

    Every July 11, we mark World Population Day to raise awareness of our growing numbers and the effects on global development. Today, the world population is over 7 billion and continuing to grow. Yet, many women around the world still do not have the right to plan the size and spacing of their families.

    Every woman deserves the right to ensure that all pregnancies are wanted and all childbirths are safe. When a woman has control over her reproductive health, her decision-making power in other aspects of her life grows. She’s empowered to voice her opinion in her family and community, placing her in a stronger position to demand other rights and bring about change.

    In order to make reproductive rights a reality, all women around the world — married and unmarried, young and old, no matter their circumstance or identity — deserve to have contraceptive information and health services available to them throughout their lives.

    At MADRE, we work with our partner organizations to promote and provide resources for family planning so that women can decide for themselves on matters regarding sexual and reproductive health without facing discrimination or coercion. For example:

    • In Israel and Palestine, we work with our partner organization, Midwives for Peace, a grassroots network of Palestinian and Israeli midwives. These midwives work together to provide prenatal care and childbirth support to guarantee safe childbirths to women in the West Bank, impeded by the Israeli occupation from reaching hospitals. The Safe Birth Project ensures that the reproductive rights and safety of Palestinian women in the West Bank are attended to, despite the conflict that surrounds them.
    • In Barcenas, Guatemala, we work with our partners at the Women Workers Committee to organize health fairs for women to receive information on family planning, undergo reproductive health check-ups, and obtain other vital care. These well-informed women become empowered to demand their rights and take control of their family planning.

    The freedom to plan your family is a human right that must be protected for all women everywhere. When women can make their own decisions about their health and well-being, they are positioned to lead in their communities. On this World Population Day, let’s re-commit to work towards a future where every woman has that opportunity.

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  • Published by Kat Noel in: Africa Emergency & Disaster Relief Guatemala Indigenous Peoples Iraq Middle East Peace Building Sexual Rights Syria Violence Against Women Website

    What we’ve written, read, listened to, remembered, watched and been inspired by this week

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  • Published by Kat Noel in: Emergency & Disaster Relief Haiti Human Rights Advocacy Indigenous Peoples Iraq Middle East Peace Building Syria Violence Against Women Website

    The call to protect women and children amplifies as the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict comes to a close, militants threaten to gain control in Iraq and families in Nigeria continue to demand the safe return of their daughters.

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