Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for February, 2012

In Her Own Words

In Her Own WordsFINCA Haiti Client Bertride Beaufils

As told to Glaphyra Guillaume, FINCA Haiti Communications Associate, and translated from Creole:

“My name is Bertride Beaufils. I am 40 years old and live in Fonfred, a locality of Les Cayes. I grew up with my mother who was retailing fizzy [sodas], and my father was retailing cigarettes and alcohol. My parents put me at school, but when I was in secondary school, they became unable to continue paying for me. They decided to pay for me to go to a dressmaker center.

“Because of a disease, I am unable to practice this profession, so I decided to start running a business in order to be independent. Today, I am retailing groceries. I purchase in the public market of Les Cayes, and retail at home every day from 6am to 10pm.

“I heard talk about FINCA a long time ago from a friend who was a member. Since my first experience with FINCA, I appreciated the welcome I received from the credit officer. About one year ago, I decided to take a loan. I received a first loan of $200 and invested it in my business. Today, I am managing a larger, third loan.

“During a period, I was in the stew with the owner of a house that I rent, so I decided to own my house. My savings in my FINCA group was really useful for me in this time. I am not married and do not have children, so today I am focused on my business, and want to increase it more and more, thanks to FINCA loans.”

You can support Bertride and people like her here.

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Palestinian Women FM

From Nation of Change
by Jillian Kestler-D’amours
23 February 2012

FM Radio Spells Change, Success for Mid-East Women

Nisreen Awwad moves closer to the microphone as she signs off to her listeners, the words “Nisaa FM: music, change, success” displayed prominently over her left shoulder.

“The thing I love (most) in my program is when I interview simple women from the villages, because they are successful and (are doing) something different in their society,” the 31-year-old radio producer, a native of the Qalandiya refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, tells IPS.

Host of the daily morning show on Nisaa (Women in Arabic) FM, Awwad explains that positively influencing the roles women play in Palestinian society, and changing the way Palestinian women view themselves, is what she strives for.

“I got involved here because I believe in the message of the radio station, and I wanted to make (a difference for) women in our society. Nisaa FM, I think, it’s something different,” Awwad said. “I like how my work in Nisaa FM makes me involved more in women’s issues.”

Launched in June 2010, Nisaa FM is an almost entirely female-run Palestinian radio station based in Ramallah, West Bank and the only radio station in the Middle East devoted solely to women’s issues. Its director Maysoun Odeh Gangat says that the station aims to inform, inspire and empower local women.

“Through the positive role that the women are playing in the society that we portray, we believe that we can empower women economically and then socially and politically. It could be any woman from the rural areas or the refugee camp, or a woman parliamentarian or minister,” Gangat told IPS.

In addition to suffering from a myriad of human rights abuses stemming from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, Palestinian women face challenges from within their own society.

According to a 2009 report released by the Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Centre (PWIC) in Gaza, 77 percent of the women in Gaza had experienced some form of violence; 53 percent had been exposed to physical violence and 15 percent to sexual abuse.

In 2008, the Ramallah-based Arab World for Research and Development (AWRD) research centre found that 74 percent of survey respondents did not know of any organization working on women’s rights. Some 77 percent of respondents also said that they supported enacting laws to protect women from domestic violence.

“This is a patriarchal society. This is a male-dominated society, so the change should come by addressing males, as well,” Gangat said, explaining that engaging Palestinian men on women’s issues is important to the station.

She added that talking about difficult issues – such as polygamy, divorce, abuse, early marriage, and poverty – and the ways in which women can assert their rights in these areas, is necessary for change to occur.

“Women were inspired by the fact that we bring some people or experts on issues that are contentious and negative. We’ve had some women calling and asking us, ‘Which organization did you interview?’” Gangat said.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

A Terrifying Limbo

Dear Gabriel,

Moses Bak’s* childhood friend faces imminent execution, but with your help, he can save her.

She and two dozen North Korean refugees in China are in a terrifying limbo — the Chinese government wants to deport them back to North Korea, where the new “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-Un is cracking down by shooting defectors on sight and vowing to kill “three generations” of their families.

Moses escaped the nightmare of surveillance, intimidation, human rights abuses and famine in North Korea — he’s a refugee now living in Seoul, South Korea. But a young woman he’s known since they were kids in North Korea is in the group currently being detained in China.

“We have cried our eyes out,” Moses and his friends say, certain the young woman will be executed if she’s returned to North Korea. Moses’s only hope is that international pressure can save her — he started a petition on Change.org calling on world leaders including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the EU’s Catherine Ashton to do everything they can to stop China from deporting his friend and others back to North Korea.

Click here to sign Moses’s petition telling world leaders to stop China from sending two dozen refugees back to North Korea, where they face imprisonment and execution.

North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-Un, is ruthlessly cracking down to assert his new authority since his father, Kim Jong-Il, died. In December, Kim Jong-Un told border guards to shoot defectors on sight rather than sending them to reeducation camps and decreed defectors’ families would also be killed.

But one deadline for the deportation of these refugees has already passed, signaling that China knows it will have blood on its hands if it follows through. China may be bending to international pressure, but needs to hear more from other global leaders to release the refugees to South Korea.

Already, more than 30,000 people have signed Moses’s petition. In November, 35,000 people signed a petition on Change.org asking Secretary Clinton to call for the release of political prisoners in Burma — and she did. She also spoke out for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia after receiving a Change.org petition. If every person who cares about human rights signs Moses’s petition, world leaders like Secretary Clinton will listen again.

Click here to sign North Korean refugee Moses Bak’s petition calling on Secretary Clinton and other world leaders to stop China from sending two dozen defectors back to North Korea, where they will face imprisonment and execution.

Thanks for being a change-maker,

– Sarah and the Change.org team

Stories From Syria

Dear Gabriel,

You have heard the stories on the news — Syrian cities are being besieged, and civilians are dying in droves at the hands of their own government. Just today, a U.S. journalist and a French photographer were killed while covering the violence in Homs. I want you to know that Amnesty International is on the Syrian border, collecting stories for the world to hear.

Amnesty’s Syria campaigner Maha talked with a group of women from the village of Tasil, including a young mother:

“One day before we left Tasil I was looking out from the window and saw security forces chasing a man in the farms near the village. They were shooting at him and I thought no doubt they would kill him. When I looked closely I realized that that man was actually my husband. Thank God he managed to escape.”

Maha heard that 8 deaths occurred in Tasil in one week — including a woman shot and killed while putting her laundry out on the roof.

Donate to help Amnesty shine a light on the abuses being committed in Syria and around the world.

Those arrested in Syria face unspeakable torture.

Neil, an Amnesty researcher, spoke with individuals from the city of Dera’a. Dozens have been killed in the last week, their homes looted.

Neil is hearing accounts of torture unlike anything he has seen in 9 years working on Syria at Amnesty International. A refugee named Abu Suhaib tells Neil what he’s truly scared of, “I’ve seen many beside me be shot and killed but I’m not afraid of dying. What I fear is being arrested.”

Neil talked to Jihad, a 34-year-old clothes shop worker arrested last December. Like others, he was subjected to extremely cramped conditions, electrocuted several times, and sometimes violently beaten. Also, like many, he had his religious beliefs denigrated by the security guards.

After refusing to recognize Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as his god, Jihad was kicked down two flights of stairs. Jihad unwrapped the bandage around his left hand and told Neil what happened next. “He then ordered that I be restrained in the crucifix position, and have a piece of dynamite the size of a pen tied to my left palm. ‘Boom’, it exploded and half my hand blew off. Blood flowed everywhere.”

Jihad was taken to a hospital from where he was able to escape and later find his way to Jordan. After he fled, the security forces gave his family a document stating that if captured he will be executed.

Neil and Maha continue to uncover accounts of violence and torture. How much blood do the people have to shed before the world helps?

Amnesty International is campaigning for governments to take action individually and through the United Nations to protect Syrians from their government’s brutality. We need your help.

Donate today to fund Amnesty’s work to expose human rights abuses — and push the world community to act!

Sanjeev Bery
Advocacy Director, Middle East North Africa
Amnesty International USA

Bombing Neighborhoods

Dear Friends,

With each passing day, Syria’s crackdown on democracy protesters reaches new levels of horror — bombing crowded neighborhoods filled with innocent civilians, cutting off electricity and phones so families can’t call for help, and blocking medical aid to the wounded. But finally a flicker of hope is emerging that could stop the terror.

After the UN Security Council failed, Syria’s neighbours in the the Arab League are taking the lead. They have called other key powers to an emergency meeting in 4 days in Tunisia, and Avaaz will be sitting at the table with the Syrian democracy movement to deliver a clear mandate for strong action.

Right now, the level of public outrage could make the difference between forceful action and feckless diplomacy. Let’s deliver a 1 million-strong call to action, and press negotiators to move now to stop the bloodbath. Click below to sign the petition — it will be delivered directly to the delegates in the meeting:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/arab_league_save_syria_3/?vl

The student organizers and mothers who month after month have led peaceful marches for freedom are now facing down the full military might of Assad’s army. They are calling for the world’s help to ensure that the Syrian Spring does not die a gruesome death on the streets of Homs, Hama and Idlib.

So far, the Arab League and United Nations have failed to stop the slaughter. But the international community knows that they cannot postpone action any longer. There is no panacea to end this, but a combination of more targeted sanctions, humanitarian action, support to the opposition to form an alternative government that unites people across the sectarian divide, and a plan to help those fearful of regime change to defect, could tip the balance of power.

In situations like this one, a clear public proposal can force the hand of politicians and governments to take meaningful action fast. Let’s show those meeting this week the extent of global determination to save the Syrian Spring and end the bloodshed. Sign the urgent petition for action now:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/arab_league_save_syria_3/?vl

With so many challenges facing our globe, our community rarely campaigns on the same issue numerous weeks in a row. But the situation in Syria is dire and the Syrian people are counting on us not to let this opportunity to make a difference pass us by. Let’s come together one more time and show them that the world stands with them.

With hope and determination,

Ian, Jamie, Maria Paz, Allison, Andrew, Emma, Wissam, Stephanie, Bissan and the whole Avaaz team

Religious Freedom?

From Nation of Change
by Bill Moyers
18 February 2012

Freedom of and From Religion

The president did something agile and wise the other day. And something quite important to the health of our politics. He reached up and snuffed out what some folks wanted to make into a cosmic battle between good and evil. No, said the president, we’re not going to turn the argument over contraception into Armageddon, this is an honest difference between Americans, and I’ll not see it escalated into a holy war. So instead of the government requiring Catholic hospitals and other faith-based institutions to provide employees with health coverage involving contraceptives, the insurance companies will offer that coverage, and offer it free.

The Catholic bishops had cast the president’s intended policy as an infringement on their religious freedom; they hold birth control to be a mortal sin, and were incensed that the government might coerce them to treat it otherwise. The president in effect said: No quarrel there; no one’s going to force you to violate your doctrine. But Catholics are also Americans, and if an individual Catholic worker wants coverage, she should have access to it – just like any other American citizen. Under the new plan, she will. She can go directly to the insurer, and the religious institution is off the hook.

When the president announced his new plan, the bishops were caught flat-footed. It was so … so reasonable. In fact, leaders of several large, Catholic organizations have now said yes to the idea. But the bishops have since regrouped, and are now opposing any mandate to provide contraceptives even if their institutions are not required to pay for them. And for their own reasons, Republican leaders in Congress have weighed in on the bishops’ side. They’re demanding, and will get, a vote in the Senate.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says:

The fact that the White House thinks this is about contraception is the whole problem. This is about freedom of religion. It’s right there in the First Amendment. You can’t miss it, right there in the very First Amendment to our Constitution. And the government doesn’t get to decide for religious people what their religious beliefs are. They get to decide that.

But here’s what Republicans don’t get, or won’t tell you. And what Obama manifestly does get. First, the war’s already lost: 98 percent of Catholic women of child-bearing age have used contraceptives. Second, on many major issues, the bishops are on Obama’s side – not least on extending unemployment benefits, which they call “a moral obligation.” Truth to tell, on economic issues, the bishops are often to the left of some leading Democrats, even if both sides are loathe to admit it. Furthermore – and shhh, don’t repeat this, even if the president already has – the Catholic Church funded Obama’s first community organizing, back in Chicago.

Ah, politics.

So the battle over contraception no longer seems apocalyptic. No heavenly hosts pitted against the forces of Satan. It’s a political brawl, not a crusade of believers or infidels. The president skillfully negotiated the line between respect for the religious sphere and protection of the spiritual dignity and freedom of individuals. If you had listened carefully to the speech Barack Obama made in 2009 at the University of Notre Dame, you could have seen it coming:

The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem-cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships might be relieved. The question then is, “How do we work through these conflicts?

Read entire essay at Nation of Change.

Behind Closed Doors

Dear Gabriel,

Behind closed doors in homes throughout California, more than 200,000 domestic workers — mostly women — work without the basic protections afforded almost every other worker.

Sixteen percent of domestic workers have worked for no pay at all, cheated by their employers or receiving a bad check. Others work for more than 12 hours a day without receiving overtime pay, and aren’t even able to eat a healthy meal of their own choosing or get a full night’s sleep.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance led the fight for domestic workers rights in New York last year and won a comprehensive Bill of Rights — the first of its kind. Now, it has started a petition on Change.org to help do the same thing in California — legislation will be voted on by the State Senate next month. Click here to sign the petition to win California’s domestic workers the same basic rights and protections available to the rest of us.

There are more than 2.5 million domestic workers in the United States, and domestic workers represent the most vulnerable workers among us and are often the primary wage earners for their families. But a domestic workers’ rights are gaining support throughout the state — even from celebrities like Oscar-nominated Octavia Spencer, who starred in last year’s film, The Help, about the struggles of black domestic workers in the 1950s — and a Bill of Rights in California could catalyze a nationwide movement for domestic workers’ rights.

If Californians from all walks of life press the State Senate, lawmakers will have to follow New York’s lead to afford basic labor rights to hundreds of thousands of workers. Click here to sign the petition calling on the California State Senate to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Thanks for being a change-maker,

– Cristina and the Change.org team

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