A Look Back on Yifat's Writing through the Years
Posted on: Saturday, January 20, 2001
Keywords: Meet YifatA look back on Yifat Susskind's analysis of women's rights issues within MADRE's three program areas: Combating Violence Against Women/Women's Health, Peace Building and Economic/Environmental Justice.
On Reproductive Rights
“Funding women’s reproductive health initiatives isn’t an act of charity; it’s a cornerstone of global economic development."
On Violence Against Women in US-Occupied Iraq
“US media generally portray violence against Iraqi women as an unfortunate part of Arab or Muslim "culture." Of course, pinning violence against women on Islam is politically useful: it helps to dehumanize Muslims and justify US intervention in their countries. It also deflects attention from the many ways that US policy has ignored and enabled violence against the women of Iraq (like championing political leaders with an openly-stated intent to unravel women's legal rights). But in fact, culture alone explains very little. All human behavior has cultural dimensions, but culture is merely a context, not a cause or a useful explanation for violence, whether in Iraq or anywhere else. It makes much more sense to examine gender—a system of power relations whose number one enforcement mechanism is recourse to violence against women.”
On African Women and US AIDS Policy
“AIDS, economic under-development, and women’s inequality are mutually reinforcing crises; combating any of these requires addressing them together. But too often, public health programs, government policies, and even activists compartmentalize issues, missing critical points of inter-connection that are the keys to effecting change. In fact, any successful prevention strategy must empower women by advancing their social and economic rights.”
On Women’s Health and Poverty
“Today, poverty is the root cause of most people’s poor health. It is the main reason that people go hungry, can’t vaccinate their babies and lack clean water and sanitation. And poverty is a major contributor to serious public health problems like violence, mental illness, stress and substance abuse. Seventy percent of the world’s poor are women. Since health is determined largely by social forces, improving health for the world’s majority requires enhancing the political power of poor and marginalized people.”
On Violence Against Women in Latin America
"Violence against women in Latin America reflects global trends, mediated by histories and conditions specific to the region. These include colonization, war, migration, and neo-liberalism.
MADRE supports local women’s initiatives against violence in Latin America by recognizing the indivisibility of human rights and by addressing the range of violence in women’s lives, whether on the job, in the streets or at home.
After more than two decades of combating gender violence, Latin American activists’ most fundamental challenges are those shared by women globally: to transform social attitudes that reproduce male violence and oppose all policies that violate women’s human rights.”
On the US occupation in Iraq
“Contrary to its rhetoric and international legal obligations, the United States has refused to protect women’s rights in Iraq. In fact, it has decisively traded women’s rights for cooperation from the Islamists it has empowered. This tactic has relied on and reproduced ideas about violence against women and ideas about Muslims that serve to justify US intervention in the Middle East. Those of us who choose to stand in defense of human rights in Iraq must support the efforts of Iraqi women who are struggling for women's rights within their country and for their country's right to freedom from US domination and Islamist repression.”
On US Policy and Democracy
“The United States has discovered that democracy has created a monster and that the monster is democracy. In Latin America and the Caribbean, popular movements are demanding that the United States' "gift to the world" make good on its promise of majority rule. That would likely disrupt a system—otherwise known as "free-market democracy"—that has benefited a small elite and worsened poverty for most people.”
On the Crisis in the Middle East
“Palestinian and Israeli progressives face a shared challenge: to demonstrate that people’s basic needs- material, social, and spiritual – are better served by support for human rights and democratic process than by religious fundamentalism or extreme nationalism. Only negotiations grounded in international law and human rights principles hold the potential for peace, which entails a formal end to the occupation. Genuine peace will encompass justice and security for Palestinian and Israeli women and their families, and will require a reorientation of both societies on the basis of human rights and equality.”
On the Global Women’s Movement
“Women from the global South have pointed out that the old slogan, "Think Globally, Act Locally," must now be turned on its head. They argue that when local conditions are so heavily impacted by global trends, community-based activists must be equipped to understand and impact developments in the international arena. MADRE has always contended that community-based projects must include components that provide training to enable women to influence macro policies. Otherwise local work remains a limited and, eventually, exhausting venture for women. Ultimately, policies at the local, national and international levels must function together to protect women's human rights.”
On US Intervention and Human Rights
Policing the Millennium – 1999
“In the new era of humanitarianism, interventions remain conspicuously correlated with US national interest. Consider how the language of "humanitarian crisis" is used to mobilize or demobilize public opinion and even policy. In places where the US contributes directly to human rights abuses, crises that might elsewhere be termed "humanitarian" are recast as ideological crusades against terrorists, narco-traffickers or rogue states. Only when human rights abuses threaten the interests of rich and powerful people do we start to hear about 'humanitarian crises.'"
On the War in Afghanistan
Resource Forthcoming – 2011
“It’s time to transcend the false debate that divides progressives between those who are “pro-war and pro-women” and those who are “anti-war and anti-women.” Instead, we need a new progressive position on Afghanistan: one that is pro-peace and pro-women’s rights.”
On Delivering Aid
“Many people assume that donating to a large relief agency is the surest way to help meet the overwhelming need. The problem is that most big relief operations are designed to swoop into a crisis, deliver services and leave. And when they do leave, people are no more knowledgeable, self-reliant or resilient than they were before. Your first priority in a crisis is to help save lives. In Haiti, and other places where people face frequent disasters, it’s critical to help save lives in a way that builds community capacity to respond to the next disaster and ultimately, move toward real development.”
“All Haitians are suffering right now. But, women are often hardest hit when disaster strikes because they were at a deficit even before the catastrophe. In Haiti, and in every country, women are the poorest and often have no safety net, leaving them most exposed to violence, homelessness and hunger in the wake of disasters. Women are also overwhelmingly responsible for other vulnerable people, including infants, children, the elderly, and people who are ill or disabled.
It is not enough to ensure that women receive aid. Women in communities must also be integral to designing and carrying out relief efforts. When relief is distributed by women, it has the best chance of reaching those most in need. That’s not because women are morally superior. It is because their roles as caretakers in the community means they know where every family lives, which households have new babies or disabled elders, and how to reach remote communities even in disaster conditions.”
On Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Global Justice
Food for Life – 2007
“We know that the world has reached a tipping point in its ability to absorb the harmful impact of unsustainable resource use driven by economic greed.
But we are also on the verge of another tipping point, as hopeful as the threat is grave.
MADRE is part of a worldwide effort to turn our global crisis into an opportunity; a chance not to save the world, but to remake it. As we face rising temperatures and declining supplies of cheap energy, change will come of necessity. It’s up to us- working in partnership with women and families around the world- to create a change for the better.”
On Women’s Rights and Climate Change
“Women living in poverty are the most threatened by the dangers that stem from global warming. They are also key actors in ensuring their communities' ability to cope with and adapt to climate change. When we approach climate change from the perspective of women, we see the ways that women are made vulnerable to threats associated with climate change, and that women's skills and leadership are crucial for people's survival and recovery. Therefore, defending the full range of women's human rights within the context of addressing climate change is essential both to protecting women themselves and to cultivating their capacity for leadership—on which so many lives depend.”
On the Millennium Development Goals
“As we can see, the MDGs call for change, but not for creating the conditions to make real change possible. To address the root causes of the problems that the goals are supposed to rectify, we need to grapple with precisely those phenomena that the MDGs take for granted. These include policies that have increased poverty and inequality around the world (such as free-trade agreements, wage freezes, and hostility to worker organizing) and subordinated human rights to “national security”. In fact, at a moment when the rights of both women and men have been badly eroded by such policies, we can see clearly the limitations of pursuing gender “equality.” To whom should women be equal? Should women in Colombia demand “equality” with male co-workers who are being killed for union organizing? Should Rwandan women who are HIV-positive seek “equality” with Rwandan men who are denied high-priced AIDS medications? The real goal is not equality, but justice; and one of the best ways we have of ensuring justice is the fulfillment of human rights.”
On Disaster Relief and Women’s Rights
“Supporting long-term social change is not always very tangible or glamorous. It requires a commitment to training, capacity-building, and developing networks, strategies, and infrastructure. This is not the stuff of photo-ops and sound-bites. But it is the stuff of sustainable social change.
However you choose to direct your giving, keep in mind that progressive social change is an achievable goal. The evidence is all around us: in the embattled but concrete gains of the women's, labor, civil rights, and anti-war movements in the US and in international movements for human rights, Indigenous Peoples' rights, and economic justice, just to name a few. Money alone can't change the world, but it is surely a crucial ingredient for building movements that can.”
On the US in Africa
“Often, Africa's problems are traced to European rule. But increasingly, it is the United States that creates conditions of deprivation and unrest across the continent. In 1998 the Clinton Administration even proclaimed "a new US-Africa partnership" that aimed to integrate Africa into the global economy and contain the spread of AIDS and armed conflicts. These categories do reflect some of the worst hardships confronting African women and families. But "partnerships" are not unilateral declarations made by the strong about the weak. In fact, if we explore these problems from the perspective of African women and their communities, a very different set of causes —and solutions—emerges.”