Another day brings more free tickets to give away for this Sunday's screening of Rethink Afghanistan!  Be one of the first five people to answer this question, and get two free tickets!  Email your answers to madreblog@madre.org.  Here is today's question:

Name the person who said this quote: "The Afghan people want peace, and history teaches that we always reject occupation and foreign domination. We want a helping hand through international solidarity, but we know that values like human rights must be fought for and won by Afghans themselves."

Thank you to those of you who participated in yesterday's ticket giveaway.  The answer was: MADRE was founded in 1983, and our first partnership was with women in Nicaragua.

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The MADRE co-sponsored film screening of Rethink Afghanistan is coming up this Sunday at 4:30pm, and we’re so excited to see all of you who are planning to come.  If you’ve been wondering what the impact of the US war in Afghanistan is for women and their communities, don't miss this opportunity.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to start a daily free ticket giveaway for the remainder of this week.  Each day, we’ll ask a question on this blog, and the first five people to answer correctly will each get two free tickets!  Email your answers to madreblog@madre.org.

For today’s question, we’ll start off easy:

In what year was MADRE formed, and what was the first country in which MADRE worked?

Remember, the ticket giveaway is a limited opportunity, so send in your emails soon!  The next question comes tomorrow…

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The top commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, said in a report
leaked to the Washington Post that he needs more troops or the war will
"likely result in failure." But as pressure to end the war builds, President Obama appears reluctant to commit
to raising troop levels and is reportedly exploring other options.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ousted June 28, returned his country Monday and took up residence with some supporters at the Brazilian Embassy in the capital. Roberto Micheletti, who has occupied the presidency since the military coup, declared a round-the-clock curfew.

A new agreement expected to be announced today at the G-20
economic summit in Pittsburgh
will make the G-20 the new
permanent council on international economic cooperation, replacing the G8
This move highlights the growing
economic importance
of countries in Asia and Latin
America.

The 64th session of the UN General Assembly saw 192 leaders from all over the world come together this week.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the need for global cooperation and the global threat of climate change.  President Obama spoke for the first time at the Assembly, stating that the "world must move in a new direction". MADRE Executive Director Vivian Stromberg responded with an open letter to President Obama, stating that the success of his policies hinge on the integration of women's human rights.

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Yesterday, I had coffee and a good long talk with Yanar Mohammed, MADRE’s partner and the director of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). It was Yanar who first launched the OWFI women’s shelters that MADRE has supported since 2004.

Yanar showed me pictures of some of the women and girls at the Baghdad shelter. Two teenaged girls looking up and smiling from a computer. A middle-aged woman in jeans showing off a meal she had prepared for all the other women.

I wish I could post the photos here, but it would be too dangerous for the women. The shelter’s exact location and the identities of the women who are there have to be kept secret. That's standard for women's shelters everywhere. In Iraq, women on the run are at risk for “honor killing,” one of the forms of violence against women that's risen dramatically since the US invaded.

People often lump "honor killing" under the category of "culture" and leave it at that. But no behavior is purely "cultural," and rates of "honor killing" change along with policies and social conditions generally. In the case of Iraq, the US put in place a government including reactionary leaders who favor violence against women (even "honor killing") as a way to enforce their vision of Iraqi society. You can read the gory details here.

For now, the OWFI shelters that we are supporting keep the women safe. While they are there, some of them will learn skills to help them relocate, get jobs, and begin to rebuild their lives.

Talking with Yanar, I was reminded that the shelters provide more than just temporary refuge to women threatened by war and violence in Baghdad. OWFI gives the women “a sense of home,” as Yanar said, “a close network of sisters who are risking their own lives to stand up for other women in Iraq.”

Yanar told me the story of Fatin, a young woman who escaped from a Baghdad brothel with the help of an OWFI activist. At 16, Fatin was barely literate. She was physically and emotionally scarred from years of rape and beatings. The code of “family honor” meant she could never go home again. But thanks to Hind, an older OWFI activist who had infiltrated the brothel to reach out to women trapped there, Fatin is free. For now, she is living in the OWFI shelter. She is finishing her studies and working on OWFI’s newspaper, Al-Mousawat, which means Equality. “Fatin is no longer a victim,” Yanar said with a grin. “In fact, I think one day she may be a great journalist.”

*A version of this blog entry appeared on the Jolkona Foundation’s blog.

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This morning, President Obama addressed the UN General Assembly for the first time.  His speech covered some of the most pressing challenges of our time, such as climate change, peace building and the economy.  In response, we sent out an open letter from MADRE Executive Director Vivian Stromberg to President Obama, calling on him to make women's human rights a central priority of his administration's policies.  In it, she writes:

Your active participation in this key international discussion has set
the stage for future US engagement with the world.  If the
Administration’s efforts to have a positive impact are to be fruitful,
the United States must recognize and promote women’s human rights in
every policy that it pursues. 

You can read the full version of the MADRE open letter here.

Earlier in the day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also addressed the UN
General Assembly
, saying: 

If we are to offer genuine hope to the hopeless if we are to truly turn the corner to economic recovery, then we must do so for all nations and all people. So much is possible if we act together. Together, we are here to take risks, to assume the burden of responsibility, to rise to an exceptional moment, to make history. This year, of all years, asks no less.

The
UN Secretary-General also made reference to the newly created UN agency that will address women's issues and stated that "We have never
been more empowered to empower women."

Videos of his speech have been posted below.  What did you think of Obama's speech?

Part 1:

Part 2:

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Join MADRE for the NYC premiere of the film Rethink Afghanistan, a devastating look at the consequences of war in Afghanistan.  The trailer for the film below has more:

Get the real story and find out how you can support Afghan women who are fighting for their rights.

When:
October 04, 2009
4:30 PM – 6:30 PM

Where:
Quad Cinema
34 W 13th St
New York, NY 10011
Map

Following the screening, a panel discussion featuring the film's
director, Robert Greenwald, and director of the Gender Equality Program
of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-Afghanistan, Indai
Sajor
, will focus on the impact of war on Afghan women's human rights.

Tickets are $8 for general admission and $6 for student admission. Seating is limited, so purchase your tickets now!

Buy a block of five tickets and get one free! Call 212-627-0444 to learn how.

Help us fill the Quad Theater!  Tell all your friends!

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The sentencing for Ezra Nawi, an Israeli peace activist charged and found guilty of "disturbing the peace," was scheduled for today.  The charges are linked to his non-violent resistance in an attempt to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes in South Hebron in February 2007.

myMADRE readers may recall a piece we posted last month by MADRE supporter Jessi Roemer, who remembered Ezra from her time living in Jerusalem.  In it, she wrote:

I first knew Ezra Nawi as the man with the roses. He was not a florist. He was a plumber, a gentle Jerusalemite who would show up every Friday at French Square, his rucksack brimming with bouquets of long-stemmed roses. He would cross the moat of Friday traffic to where we stood: 20 or so women, wearing black and holding little hand-shaped signs that read, "Stop the Occupation" in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Smiling, Ezra would slowly circle the low wall on which we perched, stopping to hand a rose to each and every one of us.

Jewish Voice for Peace has organized a campaign to Free Ezra, gathering over 20,000 signatures in support.  The sentencing handed down today will determine whether he will face two years in prison.

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Afghanistan is beginning to prepare for a run-off election
following widespread accusations of voter fraud in the Aug. 20 presidential
elections. If the new election, likely between incumbent Hamid Karzai his main
challenger Abdullah Abdullah, is not scheduled before early November, it might
have to be postponed until spring.


A UN fact-finding team has released a report saying both the Israel
military and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes during the
three-week war in Gaza
last winter. Richard Goldstone, who led the investigation, defends the findings after Israel
condemns the report
as biased.


An ongoing food shortage in Guatemala prompts President Alvaro
Colom to declare it "a state of public calamity." The World Food Programme plans to
distribute 20 tons of nutritional cookies.

The devastating Kenyan
drought, said to be the worst drought in nine years, forces millions to seek food aid. But a shortage in donations may
force the World Food Programme
to decrease monthly rations. Depleted resources contribute to
a spike in cattle rustling, most recently an attack that killed 32,
including women and children.

The overuse
and contamination
of Gaza's
underground water system is compromising the safety of drinking water for its
1.5 million people. Only 5 to 10 percent of the water is safe for human
consumption, and instance of kidney disease has increased. The International
Committee of the Red Cross warns that outbreaks of other diseases could be
imminent.

A new UN
agency will allow the body to engage in “more robust promotion” of women’s rights worldwide by
combining four existing agencies under the same umbrella. The new body is set
to be operational in early 2010. For more MADRE reaction, click here.

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UNExteriorPhoto After more than three years of work and struggle by women’s rights advocates worldwide, the UN General Assembly yesterday took a momentous step forward.  In a unanimous vote, they adopted a resolution pledging to create a new UN agency for women.

To date, the efforts of existing UN entities related to women’s rights issues have been undermined by their lack of funding and political clout.  Unlike many other UN agencies, the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the UN Division for the Advancement of Women, and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), are not headed by an under-secretary-general, the third highest ranking position in the UN system.

All of these factors have combined to weaken the status of women’s rights at the UN.

All of this is set to change with this week’s historic resolution.

The new UN women’s agency is set to be created in early 2010, out of the consolidation of the four existing women’s entities, and led by an under-secretary-general.  The resolution charges Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with creating a detailed plan for the organization, funding and composition of the new agency.

The Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign, mobilizing over 300 international organizations, has for years fought to change the status quo for women’s rights at the UN.  In a statement, the GEAR Campaign commended this latest step forward, while recognizing the work that still remains to make this new UN women’s agency a reality.  The campaign stated:

Women around the world have waited a long time for the United Nations and member states to fulfill the promises made since the first International Women’s Year in 1975, the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) thirty years ago, as well as the UN World Conferences in Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995).

This is an important and crucial step forward – now it must be made operational without further delay.

*Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecadman/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

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2 com

The National Media Week of Action against the War in Afghanistan continues today with the Radio Call-In and Letter to the Editor Day!  The link above has a list of contacts for radio stations and tips on how to call-in.

As part of this week's actions, MADRE also created two sample letters to the editor to help you get the message across to your local newspapers.  You can get started here, or check out the text below:

Join us in standing for peace and justice. Send a letter to the
editor of your newspaper to voice your support for an end to the war in
Afghanistan. Eight years of an unjust war is eight years too many, and
it's time for our voices to be heard.

You can use one of the messages that we've provided, or edit the text to send this message in your own words.

Option 1

To submit this letter to the editor to your local newspaper, click here.

On
April 12, 2009, Afghan women's rights advocate Sitara Achakzai was
gunned down outside her home.  She was active in local politics and was
killed by the Taliban to send a message to other women who might follow
her example.

We've been told that the US military presence in
Afghanistan will advance the rights of women.  But today, women are
threatened and assassinated for demanding their rights, holding jobs,
or simply daring to defy any limitations on their role in society.

Contrary
to the popular argument, continued US occupation is not the answer.  In
addition to endangering women's lives, the war has eroded the political
space for women to advocate for their rights.  The government of Afghan
President Hamid Karzai is ridden with warlords with abysmal records on
women's human rights.  That the US has chosen to ignore these speaks
volumes about our so-called dedication to women's rights.

Best regards,

Your Signature



Option 2

To submit this letter to the editor to your local newspaper, click here. 

It's
been nearly eight years since the US invaded Afghanistan, and the Obama
Administration's main strategy seems to be only more of the same.  Now
is the time to ask: where has all this militarization left Afghan women?

On
September 4, 2009, a NATO airstrike in northern Afghanistan killed
dozens of civilians in an attack on a Taliban target.  It was only the
latest in a barrage of air attacks that have spread destruction
throughout Afghan communities.

Continued airstrikes and US
ground troops will not improve conditions for women.  Rather, the war
disproportionately impacts women, who have had to meet their families'
needs for food, water, childcare and other services through years of
violence, insecurity and grinding poverty.

If we want to stand
with Afghan women, the airstrikes must stop, and the US must set a
timetable to withdraw a military force that is worsening conditions for
women.

Best regards,

Your Signature

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