Monday, December 10, 2012

Human Rights Matter

Last week when I watched Secretary Clinton’s Frontlines and Frontiers: Making Human Rights a Human Reality remarks from Dublin, on more than one occasion I wanted to jump out of my chair. Clinton’s words just hit so close to home.  This is what we’ve been saying for over thirty years.

Human rights matter.

“...because a society can and should be judged, in part, by how it protects the rights of its minorities. Societies are strongest when they deliver justice not just for the powerful, but also for the vulnerable.”

At Global Rights, we advance human rights for some of the most poor, marginalized and vulnerable people around the world.  We believe that empowering people to access justice is an effective mechanism to overcome power imbalances in society.   We open up a range of tools for individuals within formal and informal systems that best fit their context to challenge structures and practices that are barriers to human rights fulfillment. 

“Civil society is important everywhere, including in our countries. But nowhere is it more vital than in those states whose futures are unsure… We know that durable change is most likely to come from within, and that it takes everyone – journalists and activists, business people and teachers, religious leaders and labor leaders – pointing out the need for change, providing the ideas for change...”

What makes Global Rights unique among other human rights actors is that we just don’t “go in and fix the problem.” We believe systemic change to overcome barriers and to achieve full human rights begins with the individual and the community. We believe in the courage, passion and potential civil society has to be change makers in their societies.  That is why we work alongside local partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America and provide them with the tools, skills and education they need in order to make positive, sustainable change in their communities.  This approach works.

“It’s very true that many governments attempt to squeeze civil society in a steel vise, and we are seeing a particular movement against the LGBT community around the world, punishing people, harassing them, beating them, imprisoning them for who they are…”

LGBT rights are human rights. Global Rights’ LGBT Rights program in Sierra Leone is breaking the silence. Our partners, members and nonmembers of the LGBT community, know human rights are universal. They are ensuring that everybody –regardless of gender or sexual orientation— are entitled to the same rights.

“In many places we’re also working with USAID and other donors to help civil society actors build the skills they need to do their work effectively, documenting abuses, storing data, learning how to deal with the media.”

Burundi may look small on the map, but it is a country with big potential.  With our USAID-funded project, Global Rights helped establish the Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) Network on Transitional Justice to increase civil society’s understanding of, support for, and participation in the transitional justice process in Burundi.  To deliver justice, we’re helping civil society monitor and document human rights abuses and store them in a database—the first of its kind in the country.

“I personally have no doubt that if women everywhere were treated as equal to men in rights and dignity, we would see economic and political progress come to places that are now teetering on the edge.”

We believe in women. In all of our programs, Global Rights makes a deliberate effort to promote and protect women’s rights. We believe empowering women so that they can assert and protect their rights is critical in order for societies to thrive.  We work with amazing women day in and day out who are working as agents of positive change throughout the Maghreb region and beyond.

So, on this International Human Rights Day, I leave you with one last quote that I truly believe in and hope you do to:

“And if you are truly representing your citizens, you cannot do so effectively in the 21st century without recognizing that human rights must remain a central goal of those of us who believe in the dignity of every person.”


Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Making Women’s Rights Real, Not Virtual

Our partners in Morocco are truly revolutionary.  Led by and comprised of women, our ten local Moroccan NGO partners are standing up for all women across the country. They are spearheading efforts for a specific violence against women (VAW) law in Morocco. 

Global Rights' Moroccan Partners at the Chamber
of Councillors (Photo Credit:
Last Sunday, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, our partners kicked off four days of advocacy to gain support for legislation to stop violence against women.  Almost 12,000 text messages and 13,510 emails were sent across Morocco with the slogan, “Making our Constitutional Rights Real, not Virtual: Pass a Violence Against Women Law!”

Although the Moroccan constitution says women have equal rights, and the Moroccan government has taken steps to raise awareness about violence against women, women are still subject to discrimination and violence.

During their four days of advocacy, our partner NGOs met with members of the Moroccan Parliament to discuss the necessity of a VAW law.  Unfortunately, domestic violence is prevalent in Morocco and negatively effects family and society. The partners addressed the importance of fostering a human rights culture in Morocco and how specific legislation that criminalizes violence against women will further women’s rights in the country.

The partners also had the opportunity to observe the public Parliamentary session in the Second Chamber of Parliament (the Chamber of Councillors), which is equivalent to the United States Senate. To our surprise, the Vice President of the Chamber opened the session by asking everyone to thank and applaud the work of our local NGOs present advocating for a VAW law! 

This week, the Chamber of Parliament President even wrote about meeting with our partners during the Parliamentary session. Click here to read more. (Arabic)

For the past twelve years, Global Rights’ Maghreb team has been working alongside local women’s groups in Morocco to promote and protect women’s rights and push for gender equality.  They’ve provided partners with the tools and skills they need to make lasting change in their country. Thank you to the Embassy of the Netherlands in Rabat for making our work possible.

If the VAW law is passed, it would be the first of its kind in the Arab world. I look forward to keeping you updated on their progress!


PS: To read more about Global Rights’ work on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, click here.  (French)

Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth