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Monday, December 3rd is World Disabilities Day!

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December 3rd is World Disabilities Day and marks the half-way point in the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Violence campaign! This year’s theme is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” Learn more about this year’s global campaign here: https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/news/dspd/idpd.html

Annual celebrations of persons with disabilities began in 1981 with the International Year for Disabled Persons. The goal of this day is to promote a better understanding of disability issues, focusing on the rights of persons with disabilities and advantages of the integration of persons with disabilities into every aspect of society. The World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982, helped established this aim of full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities. Below is an example of some of the work one of our grantee partners is doing to support children with disabilities.


Building Tomorrow, Inc.

Disability is not inability.

8-year-old Mbayine was born with both of his hands lame and with parents who believed that he could not do much in life with his kind of disability. However, with the company and support of the local government chairperson working hand-in-hand with Building Tomorrow Fellow Robert Lumu, Mbayine’s parents were convinced that he is just like any other child with an equal right to an education.

Mbayine has now been in school for over a month, and is very happy and active in class.

~

Most of the time change isn’t as easy as the push of a button, but sometimes it is.

John is a young boy with an intellectual disability in Kyankwanzi District where BT Fellow Patrick Kaboyo works. John’s family members and surrounding community alike believed that he would not be able to do anything of value in school and thus refused to enroll him for his first day of nursery class.

Rejecting this sentencing of John to a life without education, Patrick came on the scene with one of his community education volunteers and local councilman. As expected, young John’s parents insisted that he was unable to learn and that school would be a waste of time for him.

Picking up the boy, Patrick placed him on his motorcycle and then showed him how to start the ignition on the bike. A few minutes later, Patrick asked little John to start the bike, and, reaching out his tiny finger to hit the red ignition button, John pressed down with a smile to start the bike with a “vrooooom!” If John was truly incapable of learning, Patrick argued, then how was he able to listen and learn how to start Patrick’s bike in just a matter of minutes? Clearly, John was capable of becoming a student. The parents were convinced and, with the support of Patrick in purchasing some basic scholastic materials, have enrolled John in nursery class. Do you see the power of a conversation? Let’s get talking for education!


World Disabilities Day is also incorporated into the 16 Days of Activism campaign since women and girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to violence. Women and girls with disabilities lack the same opportunities and access to resources as people living without disabilities and face more stigma and discrimination from their communities. Our 16 Days of Activism campaign celebrates the strengths, abilities, and unique contributions women with disabilities bring to every culture and society. Here is an example of how one of our grantee partners is contributing:


Strong Minds

Not all disabilities are visible. Depression affects up to one in four women in Africa. Fear of stigmatization can prevent women from seeking help. They suffer in silence. StrongMinds provides group talk therapy to African women so they can alleviate their depression. Seventy-five percent of the women who enter our twelve-week therapy groups are depression free at the of the program. That means they can go on to focus on lifting themselves out of poverty and improving conditions for their children. Learn more at www.strongminds.org.


We invite you to take time to reflect on the situation of women and girls with disabilities around you and in your own culture.

Saturday, December 1st is World AIDS Day!

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Today is World AIDS Day and the 7th day of the 16 days of activism campaign. The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Know Your Status.” UNAIDS encourages everyone to know their status so that people living with HIV are linked to quality care and prevention services so they can lead healthy and productive lives. Unfortunately, stigma and discrimination remain barriers for people who need to know their status, especially women and girls. UNAIDS 2016-2021 strategy includes eight result areas including, “Women and men practice and promote healthy gender norms and work together to end gender-based, sexual, and intimate partner violence to mitigate risk and impact of HIV.” For more information on HIV, AIDS, and women, visit: https://www.womenshealth.gov/hiv-and-aids/women-and-hiv/violence-against-women-and-hiv-risk and http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/violence/hiv/en/

World AIDS day is an important day in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign because violence against women is both a cause and consequence of HIV and AIDS. Women and girls often lack power in their relationships, families, and communities and as a result, they are more vulnerable to violence and more vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. For many women, the violence they experience leads to HIV infection. For others, their HIV positive status brings violence, which can speed the onset of AIDS. Violence against women, HIV, and AIDS are closely connected.

Below are some examples of how our grantee partners are contributing!


Mothers2Mothers

m2m Malawi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJB-2IfT6dI

Femia’s Story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kllY2QWyRVs&t=4s

Chancey’s Story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZtLpmoP58U&t=19s


WorldRenew

Phiona Ayebazibwe, 33, is a mother of one living in Karujanga village in Katuna town council, Kabale district, Uganda. Phiona has HIV.

In 2016, Phiona’s weight dropped dramatically to just 52kg (115lbs). Her t-cell (or CD4 cell) count, the marker of how well a person’s immune system is functioning, dropped too. A healthy t-cell count can range from 500 to 1500; in a person living with HIV, 500 is considered pretty good. At a t-cell count of 200, a person is at risk of serious illness. Phiona’s t-cell count was 320. With her worsening health, Phiona lost her usual energy and strength, directly impacting her ability to farm, her main economic activity and of course her only access to food. Phiona’s baseline nutrition hadn’t been adequate, which impacted her health and, perversely, her ability to get food, capturing her in a cycle of worsening nutrition.

Read more…

Thursday, November 29th is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day!

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Today is the day we celebrate YOU- women, girls, activists, program implementors, and fellow supporters- in the 16 Days of Activism campaign! November 29th is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. While this day focuses on the work of women who defend the human rights of women and girls, we also like to take this time to recognize each of you that work towards that effort, acknowledging that we are few. By playing your part you have bolstered efforts to ensure that women realize their human rights to safety, dignity, and access to information, services, and resources. Thanks to all of you for the work that you do with women and girls. Thank you for sharing information about violence against women and girls, defending women’s human rights, and supporting such important work in the ways that you do. Finally, thank you for helping us to increase our own awareness about the complexities and challenges that come with defending the human rights of women and girls.

International Women Human Rights Defenders Day began in 2004, to recognize and protect the people who work as activists advocating for women’s human rights. Through their efforts, women human rights defenders promote the realization of human rights for all people. We hope that today you will reflect on the women and girls you know who are committed to ensuring women and girls realize their human rights. This day recognizes the specific violations that women human rights defenders face as a result of their advocacy or gender and appreciates the work of these advocates. Many people are not aware that these women face tremendous risk to move this important work forward.

Below are some examples of how our grantee partners are contributing!


No Means No Worldwide

300,000 girls and boys used the skills we teach to prevent rape in Kenya and Malawi. Please view our video at https://www.nomeansnoworldwide.org/.


Building Tomorrow, Inc.

In Uganda, the prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV) is high compared to both regional and global averages. More than 62% of women and 58% of men have reported an experience of physical or sexual violence since the age of 15, which is almost double the average prevalence rate both globally and in Africa.[i]

In Kamwenge District, where Building Tomorrow Fellow Namata Tendo works, rates of GBV are also high, especially for young girls. The district reports that almost 49,000 girls below the age of 17 years—representing about one third of the total female population—already has at least one child and is vulnerable to other instances of abuse.

However, despite the high prevalence of GBV, both formal and informal support structures for survivors of such violence are limited. Formally, Tendo describes both the distance and costs of reporting GBV violations through the male-dominated legal system as a major barrier for recourse. The nearest magistrate court in Nkoma sub-county is between 60-100 kilometers away, depending on where in the district you are located, and costs 60,000 UGX (about $15 round trip) to reach. Therefore, for rural women who often earn less than $1 per day, such formal recourse is simply out of reach. As a result, most cases of GBV are reported to traditional courts, where women are not even allowed to attend sessions and make their voices heard.

Some girls do not even get that far. While not a physical or financial barrier, Tendo says that tradition is just as powerful of a barricade to justice. Cases of abuse are often viewed as defilement that brings shame upon a girl and her family, and the prevailing attitude to deal with one who has experienced such defilement is to confine her quickly to marriage and home-based duties.

Read more…


Strong Minds

Trauma from violence can trigger depression in women. Women who suffer from depression find it harder to earn a living. The day-to-day work of providing education and proper nutrition to children can become overwhelming. Their own physical health can suffer. StrongMinds provides life-changing group talk therapy to African women. Seventy-five percent of the women who enter our twelve-week therapy groups are depression-free at the end of the program. That means they can go on to focus on lifting themselves out of poverty and improving conditions for their children. Learn more at www.strongminds.org.


Hope For Our Sisters

Sadly, in places like the DR Congo, women are aggressively assaulted on a regular basis. Their bodies have become weapons of war. They are not valued by all…yet. These Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) groups, through our partner, World Relief, provide our beautiful sisters with much-needed community, assistance with owning and sharing their stories, opportunities to give back by providing for new sisters who join the groups, and the encouragement to help change their culture one step at a time as they share their stories with children in local schools. They are generating hope one word at a time.

During a trip to the DRC, we attended an SGBV meeting where all thirteen women stood tall and each shared her story. Each woman spoke of moving from despair and a lack of hope to strength and new hope. Each woman spoke of finding a new reason to live.

Lastly, and most importantly, these groups are self-sustaining. Adama*, pictured in the back row with the huge smile, leads one of these groups and most of the women present pointed to her and said she was the reason they had found their new community of women.

One day, all women will be valued.
*Adama’s real name was not shared to protect her privacy.


Precious Women


Learn more about the international campaign to defend women defending human rights here: http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/

Passionate about racial equity? 2019 Atlantic Fellows Application Process Open!

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South Africa and the United States are connected by a shared history of power structures exploiting people based on their race, gender, class and ability. Over the last two centuries, Black liberation activists in these two countries have learned from and inspired each other to build movements that organise people to achieve full equality. AFRE builds upon this rich history of exchange by creating a space for leaders from both countries to find solutions to end anti-black oppression.

16 Days of Activism to End Gender Violence is Underway!

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The 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Violence is underway! Below are some key facts and information about the campaign including its history, significance, and important dates. Throughout these 16 days, we look forward to sharing more information about the campaign while highlighting different ways IDF partners work with women and girls to address the violence that they face.

Tostan provides a human rights-based education program across communities in eight African countries. Their latest short film entitled, “Religious Leaders at the Forefront of Social Transformation,” showcases the role of religious leadership in the movement for human rights in West Africa. Find here a new perspective to the narrative about Islam, human rights, and the role of women and girls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9ouZWjASQE&feature=youtu.be

This year’s global 16 Days of Activism theme is End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work. Learn more about the Center for Women’s Global Leadership vision for Dignity at Work here: https://16dayscampaign.org/campaigns/iloendgbv/

We also invite you to spend the coming days in personal reflection by revisiting The Inukshuk Blog posting on November 15, 2017, “God As Us” – Me Too where a special two-week series by the Center for Action and Contemplation is still available: https://imagodeifund.org/god-as-us-me-too/

How the Campaign Started

The 16 Days of Activism began in 1991 when a group of 23 women representing a number of sectors from different countries and regions of the world came together at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute with an interest in building the global women’s human rights movement. Here they discussed different aspects of gender-based violence and human rights, how to expose the systemic nature of violence against women, and ways to show how this violence is a violation of human rights.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence was established as one strategy these women developed to create awareness about gender-based violence (GBV), choosing to symbolically link November 25th (International Day Against Violence Against Women) and December 10 (International Human Rights Day). The link between these two days illustrates violence against women as a human rights violation. This 16-day period incorporates other important dates as well, including World AIDS Day on December 1st and World Disabilities Day on December 3rd.

Today’s Significance

Over the years 16 Days campaigns led by local activists have helped change the course of the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights and, with the help of international non-governmental organizations, led to the establishment of a UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, It’s Cause and Consequences. In 2006, the UN Secretary General (SG) consulted with civil society representatives to develop an in-depth study on violence against women in consultation with representatives from different societies. The SG’s multi-year global campaign, “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women,” and other UN agencies’ initiatives on VAW were a follow-up to this study. Since 1991, the 16 Days of Activism campaign has become a major venue for increasing people’s awareness of the UN human rights system.

Over the past years more than 5,179 organizations in 187 countries have organized 16 Days of Activism campaigns to effectively bring education, awareness, and discussion to the issue of gender-based violence on local, national, and international levels. Today, violence against women still happens everywhere, taking different forms according to its cultural context. The 16 Days of Activism campaigns continues to provide unique opportunities to build bridges across cultures and within cultures, helping people to learn from the similarities and differences that exist and adapt new ideas and practices.

For more information see https://16dayscampaign.org/about-the-campaign/

International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women

The International Day Against Violence Against Women was declared in 1981 by the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean, a major meeting of female leaders from the region who come together to discuss and organize around issues impacting women. At this first gathering participants established the International Day Against Violence Against Women in honor of the Mirabal sisters, who opposed the Trujillo dictatorship, suffered and were violently assassinated in the Dominican Republic on November 25, 1960. The United Nations General Assembly officially declared November 25th as the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1999.

For more information see https://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu/about/activist-origins-of-the-campaign

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1 each year around the world. Founded in 1988, World AIDS day has become one of the most recognised international health days and a key opportunity to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, support people living with HIV, commemorate those who have passed on from AIDS-related illness, and celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services.

WHO and UNAIDS took the lead on World AIDS Day campaigning from its creation until 2004. From 2004 onwards the World AIDS Campaign’s Global Steering Committee began selecting a theme for World AIDS Day in consultation with members of local organisations and government agencies involved in the AIDS response. World AIDS Day is incorporated into many 16 Days of Activism campaigns because violence against women is both a cause and consequence of HIV and AIDS. around the globe to raise awareness on the link between violence against women and HIV/AIDS.

For more information see https://www.worldaidsday.org

World Disabilities Day

Annual celebrations of persons with disabilities began in 1981 with the International Year for Disabled Persons. The goal of this day is to promote a better understanding of disability issues, focusing on the rights of persons with disabilities and advantages of the integration of persons with disabilities into every aspect of society. The World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982, helped established this aim of full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities.

World Disabilities Day is also incorporated into many 16 Days of Activism campaigns since women and girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to violence. Women with disabilities lack the same opportunities and access to resources as those living without disabilities and face more stigma and discrimination from their communities. Many 16 Days of Activism campaigns celebrate the Read More

A Salute to Jewish Philanthropy – A Tree of Life Quietly and Faithfully Welcoming the Stranger in Our Midst

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The fatal shooting that claimed the lives of eleven members of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago has left so many in our country shocked and devastated. It has eerie parallels to the church massacre that took place three years ago that took the lives of nine African Americans during a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.

On behalf of the Imago Dei Fund, my heartfelt condolences to all who lost loved ones at Tree of Life and our prayers and solidarity to our Jewish brothers and sisters, fellow human beings, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and fellow people of faith.

Like many, we are deeply disturbed by the rise of anti-semitic violence (that has spiked by over 57% over the past two years) and disdain for minorities and immigrants that has been walking out in bald form onto our streets and in our newsfeeds in the familiar clothing of nationalism and an eerie cloak of religiosity which is hard to watch. The killer barged into the sacred space of the synagogue while people were worshiping God with the venom of hate in his heart imbibed by the rising tide of both anti-semitism and the refugee work that Tree of Life was so involved in.

In my conversation with Jewish friends and colleagues after the tragedy, I was reminded of observations I have made over the past decade of the particularly values-driven tenor of Jewish philanthropy that I have glimpsed in places far and wide like Haiti, Cambodia, and remote places in Africa where there is barely a Jewish population but where the American Jewish World Service has a presence in the global development ecosystem. But until the Tree of Life tragedy, I didn’t know how deeply engaged Jewish philanthropy and activism was right here in the US living out one its core values: love and welcome of the “stranger in our midst”.

Depending on how much of the coverage you watched, you might not have connected the dots that this synagogue was attacked not only because it is Jewish but also because it is deeply involved in the work of supporting and resettling refugees fleeing violence and war. Shortly before the massacre, the gunman’s hate for not only Jewish people but also refugees and immigrants was proudly posted all over social media: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” he wrote. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.” In this tragedy, you see in vivid form the fatal intersectionality of two ancient stigmas rising to the surface of the American psyche today: anti-semitism (which has deep roots in Christianity) and fear and disdain of the foreigner.

I am proud to be part of a Christian faith community here in Boston that welcomes newcomers to Boston and lends support to refugees through Christian organizations like World Relief which, along with HIAS, is one of the nine resettlement organizations here in the US that is faithfully continuing to serve refugees despite dramatic cuts in funding and fear of being closed down all together. But there is something different about the tenor of Jewish philanthropy. There is no evangelism mixed in, no echoes of colonialism dressed up in religious clothes. Over the past decade or so of doing philanthropy, I have noticed and admired a number of Jewish women I have interacted with in women’s philanthropic settings who have this dogged commitment to the marginalized and a no-nonsense, practical yet holistic approach to alleviating human suffering that is embodied in the core value of Tikkun Olam which means “Repair the World”.

If you listened to the eulogies at the Tree of Life funeral and the news coverage afterwards, you got a window into what Tikkun Olam looks like on our own doorsteps and around the world: an activism centered on something so basic: being a good neighbor to “strangers” (aka “foreigners”) in our midst. As Christians, we share the same Bible and also have a core value of “loving our neighbor as ourselves” but our witness in the world right now (with many notable exceptions) seems to be falling into the same trap Christianity has fallen into throughout the centuries: getting more swept up with political power and tribal identity than our core spiritual identity as human beings who are all branches of the same Tree of Life and as followers of Christ who are called very simply to love our neighbor as ourself. The work of Tikkun Olam is all of ours and knows no ethnic, religious, or geographic boundaries.

I was just privileged to attend the Black Ministerial Alliance annual dinner last week and felt so lifted by the sense of solidarity, spirituality, and love in the room that made me feel the same Tikkun Olam I sense in my Jewish friends. They are leading a faith-inspired movement in Boston to care for not only their own but for their communities who are made of many races and nationalities, many who are newcomers to Boston. There are many wonderful Christian organizations in Boston, like The Greater Boston Refugee Ministry working in partnership with the Emmanuel Gospel Center, which are doing the work of Tikkun Olam.

So we too have some tikkun Olam in our Christian activism and philanthropy but we have much to learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters to center our spirituality and our do-goodism more firmly in this core Biblical principle which appears again and again throughout the Bible—love for the stranger in our midst—but which we have lost touch with, and as a result we have lost something so basic, our very humanity and which is at the core of what philanthropy is all about and is what truly makes any country great:

And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:19

You must treat the foreigner living among you as native-born and love Read More

“Love springs from awareness”
Anthony de Mello