Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Moving Forward: Protecting Women's Rights

This week our Maghreb Regional Director Stephanie Willman Bordat was quoted in a USA Today article entitled “Arab Spring reforms still leaving women out in the cold.” Stephanie put it more starkly – that women are not just out in the cold, but their rights are slipping backwards in the region.  That deeply concerns me because violence against women persists when the rights of women are denied or not recognized. 

Legal Assistance Training Workshop with our partners Association des
jeunes avocats de Khemisset and La Voix de la femme Amazigh.
Globally, one out of three women will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with rates of abuse reaching 70% in some countries.

At Global Rights, working to end violence against women (VAW) is one of our top priorities.   Through legal empowerment and human rights education, we provide women with the tools to protect themselves and their families from violence.  

When I read the article I thought back to Zahira’s story.  Zahira was a shy, young woman Stephanie and her team met in Morocco a decade ago.  At that time, Zahira had to convince her very reluctant father to allow her to travel to one or our grassroots legal education trainings.  Now Zahira runs her own women’s rights organizations in Morocco.   

There are so many Zahiras of the world who, when given the opportunity and tools, thrive.  They inspire Global Rights to continue providing innovative tools such as the strategic use of marriage contacts to promote equitable rights to new brides in Morocco and Tunisia.  They inspire us to work with our partners throughout Morocco to build a national movement to adopt a violence against women act, which would be the first-ever VAW law in the Middle East if passed.

Women like Zahira inspire us to provide practical legal education to the next generation of women lawyers in Afghanistan and to train paralegals in Bundibugyo, Uganda who assist women facing domestic violence and land disputes. In Northern Nigeria, they inspire us to train a cadre of paralegals to handled cases from child sexual assault to alimony/child support.

Together we can build powerful partnerships with men and women around the world to continue moving forward to promote and protect women’s rights.

- Susan

P.S.  You may be interested in reading the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently released strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV) globally.  We applaud that it clearly states that the advancement of women and girls is at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. 

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