In last night’s State of the Union speech, we were presented with President Obama’s attempts to assuage our fears about the economy, about health care, about the state of public education, about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But it’s not about “winning the future” or any other competitive impulse that leaves the majority of humanity behind. It is about recognizing that the challenges we face are the direct result of policies crafted to benefit the few at the expense of the many.
Two of the greatest threats to women in the communities where MADRE works are the resurgence of the AIDS pandemic and climate change. These are human rights crises that disproportionately affect the world’s poor, most of whom are women. The AIDS pandemic has been drastically exacerbated by policies that privilege corporations’ patent protections over people’s right to health and access to medicines. Climate change has been fueled by profit-driven energy policies that turn a blind eye to the impacts of unchecked carbon emissions on poor communities.
Yet, as daunting as AIDS and climate change may be, the biggest obstacles to combating these threats are not financial or technical. The biggest challenge is getting the world’s powerful people to be accountable to crises that mainly affect the poor.
We know what needs to be done, and so does President Obama. What’s missing is the political will from world leaders. As one of the most powerful world leaders, Obama has the capacity to generate that political will, and he needs to act now.
For other critical responses to President Obama’s State of the Union address, see below:
MADRE is seeking a committed women’s human rights activist to coordinate our programs and partnerships with our sister organizations. Under the guidance of the Program Director, the Program Coordinator will work with MADRE staff to support the work of MADRE’s partners around the world in the areas of Peace Building, Women’s Health/Violence against Women, and Economic and Environmental Justice.
After 14 years as part of the MADRE staff, I have the honor of being our new Executive Director. As a MADRE supporter, you understand what a unique and powerful organization this is. You understand that MADRE gives us a way to act on our strongest beliefs and connect with the world’s bravest women, who are working for peace and human rights against terrible odds.
And I hope you understand—as I do—how critical you are to this work. Not just because our sister organizations are counting on your financial support to fuel the life-saving programs they’ve created with us over the years. But because your participation, your presence in this work, is what gives our sisters hope. It lets them know that they aren’t forgotten and that you believe in their ability to make lasting, positive change—for themselves, their families, and the world.
MADRE is the engine of that change. Through the programs we build together, we can see that solutions to the most urgent challenges are within our grasp—because across the globe, our partners are making them a reality.
But none of it can happen without you. So I hope I can count on your continued support as I move into my new role in the leadership of MADRE.
I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world all the years that I have worked with Vivian, who is our outgoing director and now MADRE’s Senior Advisor, with our sister organizations and with you. I’m looking forward to deepening our work and continuing to partner with you to make women’s human rights a reality across the world.
Thank you for being part of this important work.
For more information on my transition, click here.
Breaking News: Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier has been taken into custody by the Haitian police and waits in a courthouse for the decision on whether he will be arrested and what charges he will face.
MADRE endorses the call by human rights organizations for the arrest of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. Nearly 25 years after he was escorted out of the country into exile by the US military, the former Haitian dictator responsible for terrorizing his country and for countless human rights violations has returned to the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Haitian human rights organizations, such as the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, have long documented evidence of his crimes, and MADRE reaffirms their demands for an end to his impunity.
On Friday, President Obama announced changes to US foreign policy towards Cuba, particularly impacting longstanding barriers to travel and remittances to that country. MADRE applauds this step as a necessary change to a failed policy that has undermined the well-being of Cuban communities and that has flouted international law for decades.
Since the introduction of the embargo and travel ban on Cuba beginning in 1960, the US has worked to seal off the country’s access to trade and external support, a move that has denied the Cuban people basic necessities like food and medicine. Cuban families have been forcibly separated, and US citizens seeking to travel to Cuba have been blocked by a ban that prevents movement to the country.
Worldwide condemnation of repressive US policies towards Cuba has only grown in the many years since their implementation. Every year for the past 19 years, the United Nations General Assembly has voted almost unanimously to condemn the embargo.
The new US regulations will:
Create expanded opportunities for travel to Cuba by religious, cultural or educational groups, provided they obtain a general license;
Return the regulations on people-to-people programs hosted by non-academic study organizations to Clinton-era levels;
Allow for individuals in the US to remit up to $500 every three months to persons in Cuba, provided the recipient is not a member of government or the Communist Party; and
Increase the number of airports eligible to serve as departure and arrival points for flights to and from Cuba.
These changes will become effective in the span of some two months, once official steps have been taken to publish the regulations in the Federal Register and once a predetermined waiting period has passed.
MADRE has consistently denounced the use of the embargo as a weapon to withhold food and medicines from the Cuban people. MADRE calls on President Obama to join with the international community and move quickly to end the embargo and normalize relations between the US and Cuba.
MADRE joins the many who mourn the tragic events in Tucson, Arizona just days ago, when a gunman opened fire on a crowd that had gathered to participate in a discussion with Congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Six people lost their lives, and 14 were injured. These events have left many reeling in the attempt to understand how this could have happened.
Yet, the call for civility sets a low bar. Rep. Giffords and her constituents were brutally attacked as they exercised human rights codified in the US and internationally, such as the right of peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of expression. Their intent was to engage in an act of participatory democracy, and they were violently cut down.
In the face of seemingly senseless violence, we must do more than just be civil to one another. We must come together to condemn any act that violates basic human rights and commit yet again to uphold them.
Yesterday, to recognize the year that has passed since Haiti's earthquake and to express our ongoing committment to the women and girls of Haiti who have faced an escalating epidemic of sexual violence since the disaster, we sent this message to our sister organization in Haiti, KOFAVIV. We wanted to share it with you so that we all can join together in honoring their work:
On the one year anniversary of the earthquake, MADRE stands with KOFAVIV and the women of Haiti as you bravely speak out against all forms of violence against women.
KOFAVIV’s tireless effort to ensure dignity and security for all Haitian women and girls is an inspiration to MADRE and our members worldwide. Your leadership in international women’s human rights advocacy strengthens this global movement and serves as a call to action for all people who believe in justice and peace.
We thank you for your courage, leadership and unwavering defense of human rights. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with an organization of such undeniable commitment. You are in our thoughts today and we will stand with you as you continue, through hope and hard work, to rebuild your lives and your country.
If you’ve read our last couple of blog entries and are keeping abreast on the news, you’ll know that today marks one year since the earthquake that devastated the nation of Haiti. One full year after the disaster, people in Haiti should not still face a faltering rebuilding effort and should not still be living by the millions in the camps for displaced people. But one year after the earthquake, Haiti remains under the rubble.
Haitian women’s organizations be included in reconstruction efforts as required under international law,
Donor States release the money pledged to Haiti and be held accountable to the people of Haiti,
There be increased coordination between the Haitian government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Haiti,
The international community recommit to a Haitian-led reconstruction process that upholds human rights, and
The United Nations, the government of Haiti, NGOs and Donor States uphold the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to ensure accessible medical and psychological care, implement effective security measures, respond to complaints of gender-based violence, end impunity to violence against women and ensure the participation of women in reconstruction efforts.
Tomorrow marks one year since the Haiti eathquake, which killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions. One year later, the situation in Haiti remains dire. Millions of people still live in IDP camps with minimal shelter and inadequate security and lighting, and sexual violence has reached epidemic levels. Tomorrow, a “Marching for Change” rally will be held in New York City to highlight the unacceptably slow pace of reconstruction efforts and to demand that the Haitian government and the international community remain dedicated to helping the country and its people rebuild. The rally is being organized by our friends at Diaspora Community Services, and MADRE is a co-sponsor of the event. If you are in the New York City area and want to partake in the rally:
The rally will be held from 2 PM to 5 PM, Wednesday, January 12, 2011 It will begin in Times Square at 42nd Street and Broadway. From there, it will proceed to the Haitian consulate on West 39th Street and Madison Avenue, and will end at the United Nations’ Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 47th Street and 1st Avenue
Wednesday, January 12 marks one year since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the island nation of Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people and displacing millions more. In the aftermath of the earthquake, as displaced people moved into overcrowded IDP camps lacking security and lighting, women and girls began to face an epidemic of sexual violence. Although gender-based violence (GBV) was already high in Haiti prior to the earthquake, after the disaster levels of sexual violence increased dramatically. Six months after the earthquake, MADRE, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), TransAfrica Forum and the Universities of Minnesota and Virginia law schools released a report, entitled Our Bodies Are Still Trembling: Haitian Women's Fight Against Rape, which documented the alarming levels of GBV in Haitian IDP camps – and the failure of the Haitian government, the United Nations and the international community at large in responding to the crisis.
In recognition of the one-year marker, MADRE, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the IWHR Clinic of CUNY School of Law released a one-year update on sexual violence in Haiti. The report, Our Bodies Are Still Trembling: Haitian Women Continue to Fight Against Rape, serves as a follow-up to the six-month report. This new report highlights the ongoing crisis of sexual violence in Haiti, and the continued lack of response. Despite Haitian women's tireless efforts to combat GBV in the camps, incidents of rape continue to rise. Events over the past year, including deteriorating conditions in the camps, a recent outbreak of cholera, political instability and persistent impunity for rape, have actually served to exacerbate insecurity for Haitian women and girls living in the camps.