Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Education: The Most Powerful Tool

It’s that time of year again! School children are getting out for summer vacation and graduation season is in full swing. I’ve been thinking a lot about education and how it is at the core of Global Rights’ philosophy and approach to human rights. 

Global Rights educates women in Afghanistan on family law
Just last week, a donor made a generous donation to Global Rights in honor of her son’s middle
school teachers, acknowledging the extraordinary work they do each day.  The Global Rights team knows the power of education.  How can individuals advocate for their rights if they don’t know they have them? How can civil society use international mechanisms to protect their rights if groups and individuals don’t know how to use them?

I invite you to join this donor and follow her example, honoring teachers who have had an impact on your life or those in your family by making a tribute gift in their names.

Global Rights transforms lives in Africa, Afghanistan and Latin America by providing activists with the most powerful tool known— education.  We work with our local partners in some of the toughest areas to help vulnerable and marginalized populations discover and exercise their voices to demand their rights.
  • We provide Law and Shar’ia university students in Afghanistan with a hands-on, practical education on human rights and international law, an invaluable course that is not offered in the standard curriculum. These students are the vanguard of a new generation of lawyers who will defend human rights in Afghanistan.
  • We educate women’s groups in Morocco about effective advocacy strategies to secure specific violence against women legislation.  They are now using these strategies to advocate for the passage of a violence against women law.
  • We train paralegals in Nigeria and Uganda to educate the most underserved communities about their rights and to provide need paralegal services to ensure those rights are respected and protected.

By conveying knowledge, we convey power. We are creating skilled and successful rights advocates who bring positive, sustainable change to their societies.


Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth

Friday, May 17, 2013

LGBTI Rights are Human Rights

This week, Global Rights and our local partners in Sierra Leone, Dignity Association and Pride Equality, crossed a milestone. Together, we released the first ever published report on the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals in Sierra Leone, Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Access to Health Care and Violence/Bias: A Sierra Leone Case Study

Report Cover
We celebrated this achievement with a special launch event on Thursday in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  It was very rewarding to see the unified support from the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Coalition for Civil society for Health Rights and Accountability, the Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (SLANGO), and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone.

The Honorable Michael S. Owen, Ambassador of the United States to Sierra Leone, and Paula Schriefer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, highlighted the report’s significance both for Sierra Leone and for the greater African context in their opening remarks.

Ambassador Owen mentioned that it is “inspiring to a lot of people and this [the report] will do a lot to improve the situation of LGBTI people in Sierra Leone.”

Ambassador Owen with Global Rights' Partner, George Freeman
The report is the compilation of two research projects initiated in 2012 as part of our project to strengthen Sierra Leonean LGBTI civil society organizations' monitoring and documentation of human rights violations. In addition to presenting the problem of discrimination against the LGBTI community, the report also offers concrete recommendations to the government, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, local police and the international community to better protect the rights of the Sierra Leonean LGBTI community.

We have provided activists in Sierra Leone with an essential tool for increased advocacy work on policy and laws to influence critical structural and behavioral changes in the country— something that is essential for the fulfillment of human rights. 

As Ms. Shallac Sony Davies from SLANGO said during the launch, “we don’t want the government or other stakeholders to look at the report as a tool to accuse them for wrongdoings, but, to look at it as an eye opener on the issue of violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity issues, a topic that has never been formally addressed.”

I hope this report encourages other LGBTI communities – in Africa and beyond – to hold their governments accountable for upholding international human rights norms and standards so that all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are entitled to their inherent human rights.


Global Rights would like to thank the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) for making this work possible.

Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth