• Published by Diana Duarte in: Iraq Middle East U.S. Policy Website

    Today, Al Jazeera America features an op-ed by Michael Brooks and Jay Cassano, making the strong case for reparations for the US war in Iraq. An excerpt:

    The Right to Heal initiative was formed in early 2012 as a coalition between Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq. Its goal is to join Iraqi citizens and American veterans of the Iraq invasion in campaigning for reparations for Iraqis and expanded benefits for veterans.

    During the course of the war and occupation, Iraq suffered roughly 450,000 civilian casualtiesmore than 2 million displaced individuals and widespread damage to its infrastructure and cultural heritage. Today Iraqi civilians are still suffering from the war’s legacy. The crippled infrastructure; malnutrition; the extended use of munitions with long-term environmental and public health consequences that are not being adequately studied — all have contributed to a continuing humanitarian catastrophe.

    Back home, U.S. veterans of the war have faced their own challenges. According to CCR’s report to the commission, veterans struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, unprecedented suicide rates and the scars of sexual violence while serving – not to mention the more visible physical maiming from serving in a war zone. Right to Heal views the war holistically, seeking reparations both for Iraqi society and for the U.S. veteran community as part of the same political and humanitarian project.

    To read the rest, click here.

    To learn more about the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, a MADRE sister organization, click here.

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  • Published by Laura Vargas in: Website

    With an ongoing armed conflict now lasting more fifty years, an alarming increase of its internally displaced population, and its social inequalities, Colombia still has a long way to go in bringing women’s issues to the forefront of its national priorities. However, Colombian women are strongly committed and persistently striving for their voices to be heard. When Charo – a vibrant Afro-Colombian woman activist- contacted us announcing that she was going to be a speaker at the 26th meeting of CEDAW, we were very excited.

    Andrea Parra, Director of PAIIS Clinic, speaks at CEDAW.

    Andrea Parra, Director of PAIIS Clinic, speaks at CEDAW.

    Charo is part of the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), one of MADRE’s partner organizations in Colombia. She devotes her efforts to the advocacy of the human rights of Afro-descendent women and girls who face constant violence and discrimination because of the intersection of their condition as women and as part of an ethnic minority. According to Charo the Colombian State is “far from bringing tranformation of de facto racism and patriarchy that continues to treat Afro-descendant women  as second-class citizens.”

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Charo, as well as other women from MADRE’s partner organizations in Colombia who participated in MADRE’s recently released report, From Forced Sterilization to Forced Psychiatry: Report on the Violations of Human Rights of Women with Disabilities and Transgender Women, spoke before CEDAW regarding their experiences and the needs of the marginalized populations they represented. This time, the voices of representatives from some of the most silenced populations in Colombia, such as Afro-Colombian women, child soldiers, women and girls with disabilities and transgender women, resonated at a global level. As a Colombian woman, I feel enormously thankful and honored for being part of MADRE, this truly admirable team, as well as its beautiful process of building such powerful transnational alliances, bridging advocacy efforts from both organizations within Colombia and at an international level, and nurturing the worldwide fight against all discrimination against women.

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  • Published by Elizabeth Droggitis in: Website

    Here in New York, leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations for the opening of the 68th session of the General Assembly.

    General debate will begin on September 24, and member governments will have the opportunity to discuss vital international issues.

    The General Debate is a great place to learn about the world’s most pressing concerns and how global leaders propose to address them. Even if you’re not in New York, you can still follow the debates. Here’s how:

    Click here to view the schedule of meetings. 

    Watch the livestream of the debates.

    Follow the UN on Twitter.

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  • Published by Camille Serrano in: Website

    When I began my internship this summer, I was eager to apply what I learned in the classroom to the office, but as a student of Mount Holyoke College, I felt even more compelled to combine the skills I had learned at a women’s institution to the MADRE cause: using human rights to advance social justice for women worldwide.

    MADRE, a well-respected women’s organization, introduced me to the world of human rights advocacy. As an intern for the Human Rights Legal Advocacy team, I learned how to coordinate tasks in response to humanitarian crises, how to use grassroots campaigning to advocate for women, and how issue-based advocacy can be used as a mode of social reform. MADRE staff work around the clock to meet urgent needs. On my first day, I was encouraged to directly jump into the work of MADRE, reporting on protests in Turkey and analyzing reviews of violence against women in Guatemala. From there, my learning experience continued: reviewing legislation to advance women’s rights in Haiti, drafting work for a documentation training manual in Iraq, and researching transitional justice in Colombia. I became inspired by the work I was doing and as time went on, I began to understand what makes MADRE an exceptional institution.

    Much like my academic environment, MADRE is an all-female staff in which women work tirelessly for their partners. This is an environment where women seek challenges and assume leadership roles, where women are not afraid to speak their minds and argue, where women are committed to working in partnership. As a previous intern had said, MADRE demonstrates the true meaning of a working family. In crisis at home or abroad, these women support one another and do not let difficulty define them. They move forward, using the present to build the future.

    My internship this summer has been an incredibly formative experience. From the advocacy team, I learn that law, research and active reporting are key aspects in identifying what needs to be done to alleviate human rights abuses. On a professional level, I am on my way to making a career in global advocacy for marginalized communities. I want to thank the MADRE staff for teaching me the value of working towards a cause and for renewing my belief that women really do have the power to demand rights, resources and results not just for women, but for all people worldwide.

     

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  • Published by Kaitlyn Soligan in: Website

    UPDATE: Since this blog entry was originally posted, there has been a further escalation in the violent threats targeted against our partners at KOFAVIV. More information here.

    In the dark, early hours of August 23, unidentified armed men arrived at the home of Malya Villard Appolon, KOFAVIV’s General Coordinator, and fired several rounds of bullets into her front gate.

    Malya in front of her gate, riddled with bullets.

    Malya in front of her gate, riddled with bullets.

    Although the police responded quickly, the assailants escaped. On September 4, three other KOFAVIV staff members were held at gunpoint near the KOFAVIV Center. The assailants sped away with the staff members’ wallets, cell phones, and the keys to the KOFAVIV car which the organization uses to transport rape survivors to the hospitals and to the courts. On September 15, Malya came back to her house to find that both of her dogs had been poisoned.

    These attacks are the latest in a series of escalating threats against KOFAVIV workers and their families.

    Since the shooting, MADRE has maintained daily communication with KOFAVIV, working closely with co-founders Malya and Eramithe Delva to enact a security plan. MADRE alerted members of the media, human rights networks and international partners about these threats. On September 4, MADRE staff traveled to Port-au-Prince to meet with Malya and Eramithe to hone legal and organizational strategies in response to the attacks.

    MADRE will continue to support them through this difficult time. We’re thankful to be part of a strong community of organizations working on behalf of women human rights defenders in Haiti and around the world.

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  • Published by Yifat Susskind in: Uncategorized Website

    On September 9, the world lost a powerful advocate for human rights: Sunila Abeysekera.

    We’re filled with sadness at Sunila’s passing and with immense gratitude for all of her work and devotion to human rights. We learned so much from her through the years, through her advocacy at the international level for peace and justice and her organizing to bring real change to communities on the ground.

    With her passing, our movements have lost so much. But her legacy will be lasting. Thank you, Sunila.

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  • Published by Yifat Susskind in: Website Yifat's Take

    On August 22, “A Question of How Women’s Issues Will Fare, in Washington and Overseas” was published in The New York Times. The article framed “women’s issues” as separate from the challenges facing the world as a whole, including the problems we face now in Syria:

    Others see women’s issues as a marginal focus when there are so many violent conflicts around the world.

    “Certainly the problems specifically affecting women in Syria are not unimportant,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former staff member of the National Security Council who is now a scholar at the Brookings Institution. But in such a humanitarian catastrophe, he said, “until you have an answer to the military problem in Syria, you can’t solve any other problem.”

    This framework diminishes the human rights of women and the essential solutions they bring to bear on every issue and conflict we face around the globe.  MADRE submitted this response to the editors:

    To the Editor:
    Re: “A Question of How Women’s Issues Will Fare, in Washington and Overseas” (Aug. 22):
    One of the biggest challenges facing Catherine M. Russell as the new ambassador at large for global women’s issues will be people’s failure to understand her job title.
    Women’s issues are not a niche. These are the issues that confront half of the world’s population, and they are integral to every single one of the State Department’s agenda items.
    For instance, it is nonsensical for anyone to assert that women’s issues should be “a marginal focus when there are so many violent conflicts around the world,” while violence against women is rampantly used as a weapon of war. This is a wrongheaded and harmful perspective that Ms. Russell must confront head on.
    As we seek to address climate change, solve poverty, forge peace, promote democracy and more, there are no solutions without women.
    Sincerely,
    Yifat Susskind
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  • Published by Yifat Susskind in: Website Yifat's Take

    Our friends at CODEPINK have created this letter to give you the chance to speak out against US airstrikes in Syria. Read what they have to say – and go here to sign the petition and make your voice heard.

    To President Obama,

    As concerned citizens of the United States and as firm believers in a peaceful world, we urge you to reconsider military intervention in Syria. Not only is the American public opposed to embarking upon yet another war, intervention is counterproductive to ending the conflict in the region by further instigating a cycle of violence, retaliation and bloodshed. There are already 100,000 dead Syrians, and we cannot have any more. We oppose the violence inflicted upon the Syrians by the Assad regime, but do not believe that military intervention is the key to peace.

    Instead, we urge you to take the following steps:

    1) Broker an immediate ceasefire and hold regional talks: The goal of any intervention should be to protect the lives of civilians. With much of the ground fighting in Syria taking place in densely populated areas, bombing by the U.S. and coalition forces will inevitably lead to the deaths of innocent Syrians and civilian bystanders. Additionally, the obvious brutality by the Assad regime towards innocent civilians will not stop with bombs; instead, the regime will retaliate against innocent Syrians.

    That’s why the U.S. should broker regional peace talks with Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. It should call upon the United Nations to demand an immediate ceasefire and consider the option of peacekeeping forces in Syria.

    2) Prioritize humanitarian aid: Over 2 million Syrian refugees are flooding into the neighboring countries of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The United States must redirect military dollars to help the hungry and homeless civilians fleeing violence. We need to pay particular attention to the over 1 million children who are refugees, and the systematic sexual assault of women and girls by combatants, who use rape as “a weapon of war”.

    3) Uplift the voices of the peaceful, non-violent resistance by including them in negotiations. We must highlight and honor the peaceful forms of civil resistance by Syrians who are opposed to all forms of violence. We must make the peace process inclusive by inviting these voices into the conversation, and give financial support to spread their efforts.

    4) Halt immediate arms sales to regimes throughout the Middle East: The United States must stop engaging in weapons trades with regimes in the area that only bolster violent conflict and oppress their populations. While Assad’s apparent chemical attack is abhorrent and a gross violation of international law, the United States must also stop engaging in the trade of dangerous and illegal weapons such as cluster bombs.

    We hope you will resist the calls for military intervention and instead help bring an end to the violence that is plaguing the Syrian people.

    Go to CODEPINK to sign the petition and speak out against military action in Syria. 

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  • Published by Kaitlyn Soligan in: Website

    We couldn’t be more excited or grateful that two wonderful supporters had MADRE and our sisters worldwide in mind on their special day!

    Dave and Mindy getting married under a chupe/kaffiyeh

    Dave and Mindy getting married under a chupe/kaffiyeh

    In lieu of gifts, Mindy and Dave asked guests to give to one of thirteen suggested organizations and raised nearly $4000 through the generosity of their guests and loved ones. MADRE is so lucky to be part of such a wonderful, expansive, global community. Thanks so much Dave and Mindy – and congratulations!

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  • Published by Sarah Peck in: Website

    A mere 20 minutes after I submitted my application to work as a development intern at MADRE, I received an email response from a woman named Roxana who, unbeknownst to me at the time, would change my life. I remember being startled by her immediate interest. I am from a small town in Ohio and had never had any real internship experience, let alone an internship at a major nonprofit organization in New York City. However, what I lacked in experience, I made up for in enthusiasm, and Roxana recognized that. She saw something in me and hired me on the spot. It was the first lesson I learned from her; don’t sit there waiting for something to fall into your lap, make it fall there.

    The first day of my internship was a whirlwind of facts and passwords and logins. Though Roxana was challenging me with a constant stream of new information, she regularly paused to ask me how I was doing. She asked me not as a protocol or as a pleasantry, but because she genuinely wanted to know the answer. This was the second lesson I learned from Roxana; if you sincerely care about the people you work with, not only will they respect you, but they will work their absolute hardest for you. And I did both.

    Throughout the following weeks I helped Roxana finish reports, file papers, write thank you notes and complete many other development-based tasks. Though some responsibilities were more of a learning experience than others, I was constantly learning from her about the value of being a perfectionist. Every spelling of a name was quadruple checked, every thank you note was read over multiple times. The third lesson I learned from Roxana is that no task is too trivial, no job too small; the smallest details are the most important.

    My relationship with Roxana ended as abruptly as it had begun. When I received the phone call about her tragic death I was stunned, heartbroken and selfishly saddened that I would no longer be learning from her anymore. I had only been working with her for six short weeks yet the lessons I learned from her will stay with me forever. Despite the devastating circumstances, I would not trade my experience working with her and the MADRE team for anything. Through Roxana’s life I learned the true meaning of hard work, and through her death I learned the true meaning of a working family. All of the women at MADRE came together to support one another in the most unbelievably positive way. I have the entire MADRE team to thank for an unforgettable experience, and I have Roxana to thank for making that experience possible.

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