Justice Department Reaches Landmark Settlement with Alabama to Protect Prisoners at Julia Tutwiler Prison

 Robin Nelson/ZumaPress.com

Robin Nelson/ZumaPress.com

On May 28th, The Department of Justice filed a complaint and settlement agreement in the district court of the Middle District of Alabama to protect prisoners at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama, from sexual victimization by correctional officers.  The agreement filed is designed to resolve the Justice Department’s findings of sexual abuse and sexual harassment at Tutwiler.

In January 2014, the Justice Department issued a findings letter concluding that Tutwiler subjects its women prisoners to a pattern and practice of sexual abuse in violation the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The findings identified several systemic failures that led to the pattern of abuse, including ineffective reporting and investigations and no grievance policy.  Tutwiler also failed to hold culpable staff accountable for abuses. 

“Prisoners are entitled to be safe from sexual predation by staff, and to live in an environment free from sexual assault, sexual harassment and the constant fear of these abuses,” said the head of the Civil Rights Division, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta.  “Our agreement uses gender-responsive and trauma-informed principles designed to address and eliminate the culture of abuse that Tutwiler’s women prisoners have suffered from and endured for years.”

Alabama has already begun to put in place important reforms to address the department’s findings including the Governor’s creation of an agency-level position of Deputy Commissioner of Women’s Services.  Wendy Williams, Ed.D., has been appointed to the position, and is charged with implementing gender-responsive practices at Tutwiler and with leading long overdue culture change.  The department looks forward to continuing to work with the Warden, the Commissioner and the dedicated Tutwiler staff who will be part of the solution going forward. 

Alabama’s willingness to engage in this cooperative resolution also eliminates the expense of a protracted lawsuit and offers women immediate protections.  “We very much appreciate the state’s cooperation and willingness to work to bring about meaningful and sustainable change on these important issues,” said U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. of the Middle District of Alabama. 

The agreement comprehensively addresses the causes of the abuses uncovered by the department’s investigation.  It draws upon gender-responsive, trauma-informed principles to build on the Prison Rape Elimination Act National Standards, which are designed to prevent, detect and respond to custodial sexual abuse and sexual harassment throughout our nation’s prisons and jails.  The agreement tailors the more generalized national standards to target the specific problems revealed at Tutwiler and to meaningfully address the harm to Tutwiler’s women prisoners.

The agreement requires Tutwiler to protect women from sexual abuse and sexual harassment by ensuring sufficient staff to safely operate Tutwiler and supervise prisoners, supplemented by a state-of-the-art camera system.  The agreement also provides safeguards to prevent staff from unnecessarily viewing prisoners who are naked or performing bodily functions.

Tutwiler must ensure that each prisoner knows of her right to be free from sexual abuse and harassment, and that each prisoner is aware of the several internal and external methods to report abuse, including a new grievance process.  Tutwiler will protect prisoners from the threat of retaliation by monitoring the housing, programming and disciplinary status of any prisoner who reports or alleges abuse.  Further, women who allege sexual abuse are entitled to unimpeded access to medical treatment and crisis intervention services.  

The agreement also has provisions directed toward staff including the requirement to  thoroughly train all staff on their duties to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse at Tutwiler.  Staff will also be trained on how to manage, interact and communicate appropriately with women prisoners and with their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender nonconforming prisoners. 

The agreement requires that all sexual abuse and sexual harassment allegations are promptly, thoroughly and objectively investigated and appropriately referred for prosecutorial review, and that alleged victims are advised of the outcome of their allegations.  Tutwiler must also take appropriate disciplinary action against staff found to have engaged in sexual abuse or sexual harassment or to have violated Tutwiler’s sexual abuse and sexual harassment policies and procedures. 

Tutwiler will put in place a quality assurance program to track and analyze data to ensure that sexual abuse and harassment is being adequately prevented, detected and responded to.  Significantly, an independent monitor will evaluate Tutwiler’s progress towards meaningful reform and assist Tutwiler’s compliance efforts.  The agreement requires the monitor to provide compliance reports to the court every six months.

Tutwiler’s prisoners have already seen some changes implemented following the department’s investigation.  One current prisoner recently wrote to the Civil Rights Division to say, “[W]e thank [DOJ] for all you are doing and are looking forward to all the miraculous things to come.”

The investigation was conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Alabama.  Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.   

Remembering the Grace of Dr. Maya Angelou

This week the literary and civil rights world lost an true heroine, advocate and mentor, Dr. Maya Angelou. She will be remembered not only for her pursuit of justice and her literary genius, but also for the graceful way in which she conveyed her messages. We believe that the below video captures this grace. Her words and spirit will be missed. To read about her legacy, click here.

Pam Omidyar Reflects on the Work of Humanity United as Human Trafficking Awareness Month Comes to a Close

Increasingly, there is more awareness among people today that modern day slavery exists in our world to support the demands of a consumer driven global economy.  Today, many of the goods we use are often produced far from where they are bought, successively changing hands along complex and opaque supply chains.  Forced and child labor exist across too many these supply chains, with documented abuses throughout the production process. A growing body of research tells us there are an estimated 21 to 30 million people living in slavery around the world today.  In fact, trafficking in persons is one of the top-grossing criminal industries globally, with traffickers profiting an estimated $32 billion every year.  It is not acceptable to continue to allow people’s lives to not be free and to have millions of people forced to work without choice or beneficial return for their efforts.

HU_FI

In 2005, we established Humanity United to build peace, promote justice, and advance human freedom in the areas of the globe where these ideals are challenged most.  Today, I am very proud that Humanity United remains deeply engaged in the effort to combat trafficking and slavery around the world.

President Obama named January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month to shine a light on modern-day slavery and the trafficking of human beings in the United States and around the world.  As this month draws to a close, let me share with you some of the important anti-slavery work that is being lead and supported by Humanity United on a number of fronts.

Awareness:

Since our founding, Humanity United has supported research and investigative journalism initiatives to increase the understanding and awareness of the issue of modern-day slavery.  Last spring, we began a partnership with The Guardian to increase the quality and quantity of investigative reporting on issues of slavery and trafficking around the world.  This partnership has resulted in the Modern day slavery in focus site, which continues to produce quality reporting from journalists from around the world.

A few months ago, The Guardian broke the story of the plight of Nepalese labor migrants living, working and dying in forced labor conditions in preparation for the 2020 World Cup in Qatar.  This story brought world-wide attention to this issue, and subsequent reporting from media around the world continues to spur dialogue and solutions about the need for improved standards for these workers.

Supply Chains:

Humanity United is working to engage corporations and businesses, who have an clear opportunity and a moral responsibility to meaningfully contribute to the eradication of slavery from their supply chains.  We are working to support specific efforts within the seafood and palm oil industries, and through efforts like KnowTheChain.org, an online resource we launched with partners last fall to promote greater transparency and dialogue with corporations around the issue of slavery in supply chains.

It is encouraging to see corporations, consumers and investors respond as they learn more about this issue. I am hopeful that Humanity United’s efforts to engage companies around these issues continue to spur understanding and action to ensure no one on our shared planet is enslaved.

Policy Advocacy:

Humanity United convened and continues to support the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, a coalition of 11 U.S.-based human rights organizations advocating for solutions to prevent and end modern slavery and human trafficking in the United States and around the world. ATEST advocates for lasting solutions to prevent labor and sex trafficking, hold perpetrators accountable, ensure safety and justice for victims and empower them with tools for recovery.

Trafficking in the United States:

When we hear about human trafficking, too many of us assume it is an issue that only occurs abroad, but the sad fact is that it is happening right here at home in the United States. Tens of thousands of people across this country are living in some type of modern-day slavery. And while human rights organizations work to combat this crime, survivors face a plethora of obstacles as they enter a new life and a system that is not equipped to support and help them.

PFF

Last fall, on the one-year anniversary of the President Obama's landmark speech on human trafficking and slavery at the Clinton Global Initiative, Humanity United – together with the federal government and other private donors – launched the Partnership for Freedom, a public funding challenge that asks communities and organizations to propose new solutions for helping victims of human trafficking in the U.S.

We have identified some exciting and innovative finalists from the first challenge, from which judges will choose winners later this spring, and we will launch the next challenge later in the year.

Funding:

Humanity United joined the Legatum Foundation and Walk Free Foundation to recently announce the joint development, support and foundation of an ambitious seven-year effort to raise and deploy $100 million or more to combat modern-day slavery.  The Freedom Fund is the first private donor fund of its size dedicated to combatting modern-day slavery.

Our objective is simple – to seek and align significant funding to the cause while amplifying the impact of our efforts to combat slavery through collaboration – with the goal of measurably reducing slavery in key areas of prevalence by the year 2020.  The Freedom Fund will officially launch later this year.

During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and beyond, I am mindful of the millions who continue to suffer in enslavement.  I want to express my gratitude to the dedicated staff and leadership at Humanity United, as well as our many very committed partners, who work every day on these and other initiatives to combat the crime of modern-day slavery and create a free world for all.

It will take the engagement and significant collaboration of public, private, and social sectors to truly shift mindsets and culture around the hidden and shameful nature of slavery. Through greater partnerships, transparency and aligned intention, we can scale immensely to achieve our worthy vision of our shared global freedom.

Humanity United is a U.S.-based foundation dedicated to building peace and advancing human freedom. At home and in the corners of the globe where these ideals are challenged most, we lead and support efforts to lift up the voices and will of people, ensure good governance and the rule of law, engage markets and business as a force for change, and encourage the exploration of promising ideas and innovations to end conflict and slavery—all with the belief that everyone has the right to a life that is peaceful and free. Learn more at www.HumanityUnited.org or follow us on Twitter (@HumanityUnited) and Facebook. Humanity United is part of the Omidyar Group: www.omidyargroup.com.

__

Pam Omidyar is the Founder and Chair of the Board of Humanity United, which she established in 2005. Humanity United is a philanthropic organization committed to building peace and advancing human freedom by leading, supporting, and collaborating with organizations that also envision a world free of conflict and injustice.

Pam and her husband Pierre are active philanthropists, guided by a common set of values – a deeply rooted belief in humanity, and a conviction that the world thrives when we prioritize treating others with compassion, dignity, and a respect for diversity. Working across many sectors and geographies, the Omidyars have contributed to causes ranging from economic advancement for the underserved and human rights to technology for improving kids' health and sustainability initiatives.

To fulfill their mission Pierre and Pam are deeply engaged in the organizations they founded, including: HopeLab, Humanity United, Omidyar Network, and Ulupono Initiative in their home state of Hawaii. While each organization across The Omidyar Group has a specific focus, they are united in that they all aim to improve access to create enabling positive conditions for people and their communities.

Fighting The Cruelty Of Human Trafficking, Social Entrepreneurs Craft New Models For Helping Victims

This article is reposted in its entirety from Forbes and was written by Tom Watson. President Obama has named January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month – public campaigns aimed at shining a light into the darkest corners of human cruelty: modern-day slavery and the trafficking of human beings in the United States and around the world.

One effort to combat trafficking and help its victims centers on the creativity and energy of social entrepreneursPartnership for Freedom is a coalition of funders in partnership with the Federal government to identify and fund new models for “innovative and sustainable social services for human trafficking survivors,” created by Humanity United, which is partof The Omidyar Group, and launched in partnership with the Obama Administration at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012. The coalition includes the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative,Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation, and other private donors, led by Pierre and Pam Omidyar.

That’s a lot boldface names, but one aspect of the partnership is well worth noting: a public funding challenge that asks social entrepreneurs to propose new solutions for helping victims of human trafficking in the U.S. That challenge has a prize of up to $1.8M over two years to fund the big ideas and measure their impact. Last month, a pool of 162 ideas from more than 260 organizations in 39 states was culled to a dozen finalists – later this spring, as many as three projects will be chosen for funding.

But while the funding is clearly top down, the ideas are much more bottom up.

And that explicit connection to social services practitioners, regional nonprofits, and a range of social entrepreneurs firmly links the hands-on knowledge and experience in this very difficult societal issue with the kind of support that can get a project off the ground, measure its impact and success – and potentially position the idea for greater scale and sustainability.

“The anti-trafficking space has been around for 15 years, we have laws and strong policies in the books, a great system of justice and engaged law enforcement and social services,” explained Catherine Chen, director of investments at Humanity United. “But there  has been little to no work on innovation around solutions in getting survivors out of the situation and helping them to rebuild their lives. We found this area particularly exciting, and the goal is try and spur groups on the ground, to think big – frankly, bigger than the current funding mechanisms at their disposal.”

The finalists for the initial challenge are intentionally diverse; they include ideas like:

  • SafeNight, a mobile and crowdfunding technology to increase emergency short-term shelter for human trafficking survivors, proposed by Caravan Studios, a division of TechSoup.
  • The Networked Survivor, a plan for creating powerful career paths and networks for survivors of human trafficking, proposed by the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
  • Homes for a New Horizon, an initiative designed to economically and socially empower Hawaii’s forced labor trafficked survivors and their families though an agricultural center, created by Pacific Gateway Center.
  • Thrive Partnership, a new community-based model for assisting survivors of domestic sex trafficking in the greater Baltimore area toward long-range goals of increased independence and self-sufficiency proposed by  the Araminta Freedom Initiative

One aspect that drove the decision to create a challenge – even in an age of manifold philanthropic contests that often leave nonprofits weary and defeated – was the idea of pushing for innovation, while also creating an entirely new funding channel. “For most providers, the primary funding mechanism has been the Federal funding model,” said Chen. The application barrier was purposely kept low, she explained; proposals were limited to no more than six pages with no fancy graphics or charts. “We wanted to keep the bar low intentionally at the beginning,” said Chen. Applicants were asked to answer one major questions – how could they increase services and improve the lives of trafficking victims in one of three particular areas: better housing, increased empowerment, or improved social services.

Last week, the finalists gathered in Washington DC for a day of collaboration aimed at tightening the proposed models, thinking through the models, and taking advantage of outside experts provided by the funding coalition to provide different viewpoints and additional knowledge. The pairing of these experts had a dual purpose: to help the teams with their ideas, but also to expose the experts to an issue area they may not be familiar with. For example, a landscape architect will advise the agricultural project in Hawaii, an expert from LinkedIn will counsel on the creation of a  professional network, experts in housing, homeless welfare,  refugees, and foster care will work on other projects. There was also coaches in communications, public relations and story-telling. Human trafficking, admits Chen, is often a hard story to tell – and a tough cause to sell.

Yet, Partnership for Freedom sees a maturing in the services area and a desire of those working so hard to end trafficking to improve systems, use better data, leverage technology, and take a chance on new models. The coalition’s fund in designed to be risk capital for those ventures. “This really needs a grassroots movement behind it,” said Chen. “We need to engage and activate professionals who wouldn’t have any interaction with this issue.

Glancing Back at 2013

Glancing-Back-at-2013

This year was rife with important milestones, achievements and events related to the human rights movement. We’ve compiled the milestones that most resonated with us. Let us know what resonates with you in the comments section below. 1) Defeated Militia: Colonel Sultani Makenga, Commander of the M23 rebel group in the eastern DRC, surrendered in Uganda along with 1,700 of his rebel fighters this past November. The M23 were ambushed by the Congolese army (also backed by 3,000 UN fighters) and were forced to either be captured or flee. It was under these pressures that they declared a ceasefire, ending a very bloody 20-month uprising.

2) In RemembranceNelson Mandela, former South African President and beloved anti-apartheid leader, died on December 5th 2013. Widely called “Madiba,” Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his political activities during apartheid in South Africa.  Despite his imprisonment he preached the importance of reconciliation and represented survival in the struggle for human dignity. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and leaves behind a legacy of equality, justice and freedom.

Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet and playwright who won the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature in 1995, died on August 30th, 2013. One of his most famous poems spoke of suffering and conflict in Northern Ireland. Below is an excerpt; for the full poem click here.

History says, Don't hope On this side of the grave, But then, once in a lifetime The longed-for tidal wave Of justice can rise up And hope and history rhyme.

3) AppointmentsSamantha Power’s appointment as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations began on August 5th, 2013. Power is widely considered one of the most important thought leaders and is most known for her strong human rights background and specifically for her extensive genocide research. She wrote “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” a study on the response of U.S. foreign policy in regards to various cases of genocide. She also authored “Chasing the Flame: One Man's Fight to Save the World,” a book about the heroic life of Sergio Vieira de Mello.

4) Symbol of Defiance: Surviving a gunshot wound to the head for defending her right to an education, Malala Yousafzai continues to promote girls education and serves as an inspirational role model for millions of girls around the world. Malala publically debuted with a moving speech to the UN to mark her 16th birthday.  Malala tells her story of being shot by the Taliban in Pakistan in newly published book, “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban.”

5) Most Perplexing Conflict: Syria’s civil war continues to escalate in intensity, complexity and scope. For more than two years, violent conflict has ravaged this country and has maimed or taken the lives of thousands of innocent civilians and produced an epic refugee crisis with estimates of 6.5 million people now forcibly displaced with little access to aid or security. Widely considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises partly due to the internal chemical weapons attacks that have killed more than 10,000 Syrians, international observers remain baffled as to a viable political (non-military) solution that would result in meaningful peace and lasting stability.

6) More than Meets the Eye: When Edward Snowden, former CIA worker, leaked classified details of the NSA surveillance program, he initiated a controversial, if not historic, debate on privacy vs. security in a post 9/11, digital world, questioning how far the government should go to protect the American public. At the core of this debate is whether the metadata surveillance collected in the name of national security is pursued at the expense of civil liberties, such as privacy rights and freedom of expression. Human rights defenders say current surveillance policies must be reformed to respect privacy and maintain freedom of speech. This is a debate worth following as the implications are serious and far-reaching. For more information click here.

7) Notable Movies: 12 Years a Slave, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Anita and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.

8) Favorite Reads: The Lemon Tree, The Glass Palace, Long Walk to Freedom, The Kitchen House, Strength in What Remains.

9) Favorite Tweets

@CivCenter: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” -Kenyan proverb

@AmbassadorPower: Violence against women isn’t cultural, it’s criminal. Equality can't come eventually; we must fight for it now.

10) Stunning Statistic: The NSA tracks 5 billion cell phone records daily!

Women Inspiring Women: Past, Present, and Future by Lisa Stone Pritzker, MNA

March 8, 2012 marked the 103rd International Women’s Day, an annual event dedicated to celebrating and inspiring women all over the world. March is also women’s history month. How fitting, then, that the New York Times recently ran a couple of articles about the feminist icon Gloria Steinem (pictured to the right), and that on 3/19, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand officially picked up the Democratic nomination in her bid for re-election.

The theme of this year’s women’s history month was women’s education and women’s empowerment, issues that have had long and distinguished histories in the United States. Interestingly enough, Kirsten Gillibrand is an alumna of the Emma Willard School, named for its founder Emma Willard, a human rights activist who dedicated her life to women’s education. And Willard was the mentor to Olivia Slocum Sage (pictured below), a woman whose charitable work had an enormous impact on the 20th century, paving the way and setting an example for generations of female philanthropists to come.

Olivia Sage was born in 1828, the daughter of well-to-do parents who lost their fortune and struggled to make ends meet. At the age of 41, Sage—after working as a teacher for many years—married family friend and millionaire Russell B. Sage. Russell Sage was not known for his generosity, but his death in 1906 granted Olivia access to over $50 million, most of which she distributed to philanthropic causes. Olivia Sage strongly believed that her change in circumstances obligated her to help those who were less fortunate.

Although Sage did not identify as a suffragette, empowering women was one of her philanthropic priorities. When she established the Russell Sage Foundation in 1907, she made sure to include women on the foundation’s board, a practice that was highly unusual at the time. Like many of her contemporaries—she was a philanthropist in the same league as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller—she supported education, providing generous grants to her alma mater, and establishing Russell Sage College, a comprehensive college for women.

At the 2010 Ted Women Conference, Hillary Clinton said, “Let women work and they drive economic growth across all sectors. Send a girl to school even just for one year and her income dramatically increases for life, and her children are more likely to survive and her family more likely to be healthier for years to come.” Women’s history month is the perfect time to reflect upon the connections between women like Clinton, Steinem, Gillebrand, Willard and Sage—women who, in their efforts to empower other women, are and were able to empower themselves. It’s also a good time to acknowledge female activists and philanthropists who have helped—and continue to help—make the world a better place for women, like the lawyer and philanthropist Helen Lehman Buttenweiser, whose legal practice centered around helping women and children and preserving civil liberties. Another example is the philanthropist Rachel Mellon Walton, a major benefactor to the arts, music, medicine, education, conservation and the welfare of women. Today there’s Mavis Leno, who has been the chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan since 1997. In 1999, in a gesture that now seems way ahead of the curve, Mavis and her husband Jay Leno donated $100,000 to educating the public about the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban. And last but not least, there’s Jennifer Buffett, co-chair and president of the NoVo Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on creating a more just and balanced world through cooperation and partnership, primarily through the empowerment of girls and women.

In one of the recent New York Times pieces about Gloria Steinem, the writer Sarah Hepola asked why no one has stepped in to fill Steinem’s role as the face of feminism. Steinem herself sees this as a positive thing—she believes “it’s obviously a great sign of growth and success that the media no longer try to embody the bigness and diversity of the women’s movement in one person.” In that case, perhaps there are some other questions worth asking about the future of feminism. And maybe one way to formulate those questions is to compare what women have done in the past with what we are doing in the present. To that end, here is a list of women and organizations whose contributions to female empowerment are definitely worth further investigation:

These organizations are also noteworthy:

The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Marie Curie said, “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” But not every woman has access to the resources necessary to tap into those gifts, and that’s where philanthropy and advocacy enter the picture. The women discussed in this post prove that it is possible for one person to make a significant difference, to help women, past and present, obtain the tools they need to fulfill their dreams.

Lisa Stone Pritzker is an advocate for women and children's health and education.

Photos from top to bottom: Gloria Steinem and Olivia Sage.

International Women's Day 2012: Empower Rural Women-End Hunger and Poverty

Bachelet quote

This content is originally from UN Women. International Women’s Day was commemorated for the first time on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, following its establishment during the Socialist International meeting the prior year. More than one million women and men attended rallies on that first commemoration.

In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating 8 March as International Women’s Day. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, headed by Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet. In doing so, UN Member States took an historic step in accelerating the Organization’s goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The 2012 International Women's Day theme is "Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty." Rural women constitute one-fourth of the world’s population. They are leaders, decision-makers, producers, workers, entrepreneurs and service providers. Their contributions are vital to the well-being of families and communities, and of local and national economies.

Yet rural women’s rights, contributions and priorities have been largely overlooked. Rural women have also been hard hit by the economic and financial crisis, volatile food prices and export-driven agriculture. They need to be fully engaged in efforts to shape a response to these inter-connected crises and in decision-making at all levels.

Unleashing the potential of rural women will make a major contribution to ending poverty and hunger, and to accelerating the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and realizing sustainable development.

Rural women are key agents of change. Their leadership and participation are needed to shape responses to development challenges and recent crises.

Women are central to the development of rural areas: they account for a great proportion of the agricultural labor force, produce the majority of food grown, especially in subsistence farming, and perform most of the unpaid care work in rural areas. It is critical that their contributions be recognized and that their voices be heard in decision-making processes at all levels of governments, and within rural organizations.

On this day especially, Article 3 Advisors would like to honor the tireless dedication and countless contributions of women worldwide. Also, a huge thank you to women's organizations and entities, including UN Women, for their commitment to the advancement of women's rights.

UN Human Rights Day 2011: Women that Move the World

Consuelo Morales

In honor of United Nations Human Rights Day, Article 3 would like to pay tribute to the extraordinary work of women that have challenged the norm and faced grave adversity in the process. These human rights activists are paving a new path in the human rights landscape and are also working to preserve and sustain communities that have suffered at the hands of human rights abusers. Due to their resilience and compassion, we have chosen to highlight several extraordinary women-some more well-known than others- who have taken a fierce stand against gross human rights violations. They are a source of inspiration in their own communities, the international community and to us at Article 3. In honor of Human Rights Day, please take the time learn about the exceptional women that we have chosen to highlight today. Leymah Gbowee is a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who led the Liberian women’s peace movement which heavily influenced the end of the most recent Liberian Civil War in 2003. A child of the previous Liberian War, Gbowee directly experienced the consequences of an unstable country rife with violent rage. Due to her own experiences she knew the value of peace and the important role that women play in maintaining that peace. Through the Women in Peacebuilding Network, she led women in peace building efforts and reflects on her Liberian experiences in her new book, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy(NLD) and is the champion voice for freedom, democracy and human rights in Burma. She has been placed on house arrest multiple times for her so-called progressive politics. Despite being on house arrest in 1990, Suu Kyi and the NLD won 82% of seats in parliament. This was at the beginning of a 15-year house arrest term lasting from 1989-2010. She is renowned for her “Freedom from Fear” speech: "It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it." She is also a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who has won the respect and admiration of many human rights thought leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu who declared his adoration and respect for her at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative conference.

Sister Consuelo Morales works tirelessly for citizens of Monterrey, Mexico that have been victims of human rights violations ranging from abuse in orphanages, forced displacement, torture, murder and the disappeared. Monterrey, a place saturated with drug cartels and gangs, is her hometown and her dedication to justice for the victims and their families is unwavering. For the past 18 years she has spearheaded a human rights organization, Ciudadanos en Apoyo de Derechos Humanos, and in 1992 she became a nun. Sister Morales is the 2011 recipient of the Human Rights Watch Alison de Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism for her work in Mexico.

Sussan Tahmasebi is a relentless women’s rights advocate and a Founding Member of the One Million Signature Campaign which seeks to change discriminatory laws for women in Iran. By rewriting the laws to align with international human rights, Tahmasebi is not only changing the legal framework, but also cultural ideologies. Through Tahmasebi’s campaign women have petitioned for equal rights and in the process have become a source of strength within their communities. Their stories along with Tahmasebi’s can be found by clicking here. Human Rights Watch honored Tahmasebi with the Alison de Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism earlier this year.

Tawakkul Karman, a Yemeni journalist and politician, is the youngest recipient to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her dedication to women’s rights in Yemen. In her unique role as a political activist and a journalist she demands that women have access to texting and other communication services which are tightly controlled by the government. In 2005 she co-founded Women Journalists Without Chains, a human rights organization that promotes the “freedom of opinion, expression and democratic rights.” She continues to fight for her cause despite constant death threats and personal assault.

Samira Ibrahim is a courageous Egyptian woman who was subjected to a humiliating and degrading virginity test while in military detention, along with electric shock treatment. According to PRI’s The World, she and 16 other Egyptian women were detained for four days after participating in a demonstration. Ibrahim’s brave and bold response, suing the Egyptian Army for torture and abuse, is garnering support from all over the world. Human rights defenders maintain that her actions are especially heroic due to the conservative Egyptian climate where the topic of virginity tests is taboo to discuss. Ibrahim’s case will go to court in December.

Eve Ensler, Founder of V-Day, has taken her compassion for all things women to the Democratic Republic of the Congo where she founded the City of Joy. Her organization provides necessary resources for rape survivors including: leadership development, therapy, self defense, artistic outlets and sex education. Despite her recent battle with cancer, Ensler continues to fight for the independence of Congolese women and works vigorously to ensure that their transition back into their community is as seamless as possible.

Carmen Palencia heads the National Association of Victims for the Restitution and Access of Lands in Colombia and advocates for peasant land rights that have been revoked by the paramilitaries. She lost her own land after her husband was murdered and is fighting on the frontlines of the land right struggle. Her determination is unwavering; despite the high number of assassinated land right leaders and personal death threats she receives. As a result of her work, the Colombian government has issued a new policy, The Land Bill (part of the broader Victim’s Law), effective in January that will return 5 million acres of land to peasants over the next four years.

Photo credit from top to bottom: Michael Angelo/Wonderland, Chris Robinson, Tracy Wilkinson/Los Angeles Times, Arash Ashourinia, Reuters, Tahrir Diaries/YouTube, Brigitte Lacombe and Sara Rojas.

Girls Not Brides: A New Global Initiative to End Child Marriage

girls not brides copy
Each year, ten million girls are robbed of their childhood and forced into early marriage. Girls Not Brides, a new initiative launched by The Elders, seeks to end this practice.

Child marriage permeates nearly every culture around the world and affects millions of girls under the age of 18. Often forced into marriage with older men and/or men not of their choosing, these young girls tragically forfeit any opportunity of an education, a childhood or a sense of security. Child brides are often subjected to violence, early pregnancy and poor quality of life.

Girls Not Brides is a global partnership comprised of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who - collectively and individually - commit to end the disturbing practice and to support at-risk girls. The partnership seeks to raise awareness and educate at the local, community, national and international levels and to mobilize for change.

The time to stand-up for girls is now. For more information on Girls Not Brides, please click here and also view the video below. Thanks to The Elders for leveraging their collective voice to impact an issue whose time has come.

Colombia: A Glimmer of Hope?

Women, War & Peace - The War We Are Living
Two weeks ago, I traveled to Bogota, Colombia with Human Rights Watch in my capacity as a board member. Our purpose was to address a fairly specific human rights agenda with the current government, primarily focused around land issues, victims rights and accountability. While there, we met with numerous, courageous civil society leaders and human rights defenders. The stories told of egregious human rights abuses that have occurred in Colombia over the last four decades were heartbreaking. With that said, we concluded our trip with a level of hope about this country's direction because of a publicly stated commitment by President Santos towards good governance and human rights. So far, his actions seem to support his words. Only time will tell if the Santos administration can live up to its promises and bring lasting peace, reconciliation and accountability to a country ravished by paramilitaries and rebel groups.

To learn more about Colombia in this context, PBS just aired an excellent one hour documentary which accurately captures the civilian toll brought about from years of violent conflict. The film concludes by suggesting a glimmer of hope in the Santos Regime. You can watch it in its entirety below.

Watch The War We Are Living on PBS. See more from Women War and Peace.