Living Her Motto

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Supriya Pillai, Global Fund for Women's newest and youngest board member.

“My personal motto is to live every day inspired; to be inspired and to be inspiring,” said 37-year-old Supriya Pillai, Global Fund for Women’s newest and youngest board member.

Supriya accepts the invitation to join Global Fund’s international board knowing her participation is more than just a fiduciary responsibility.

“We are amassed as a group of learners and advisors,” said Supriya. “It is such an honor to be asked, but also a responsibility as someone who cares about the women’s movement.”

This Is My Life

Supriya’s parents moved from India to Chicago before she was born. She visited her family in India often and when she turned 19, Supriya spent the summer in the Himalayas at a rural women’s cooperative.

“Whatever this is, working with these women, this is my life,” Supriya remembered saying to herself at 19. “Learning about their struggles and seeing how they organized really sparked something in me.”

When she moved to New York City in the late nineties, she became a writer for a hip-hop magazine and worked in politics. But her activism jumped to the next level when she met young people, whom she now calls her US comrades, organizing around police brutality issues.

Like a true human rights activist, she didn’t stop there. When she finished graduate school, she went to rural villages and cities in Guinea West Africa to work with women on economic rights and development.

“I’m very politically left, so I had theory up the wazoo about post-colonialism, but to put it in practice was another thing,” said Supriya. “I didn’t see [my role] as I was coming to help people; rather, how can I as an outsider work with folks in the global south?”

A Changing World

Supriya answers that very question every day as Senior Fellow and previous Executive Director of the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing, where she strengthens youth organizing and grassroots movements throughout the world.

“The world is changing and those most impacted by inequities are growing in numbers and they will be the largest voice,” said Supriya. “I hope that the many worlds I straddle will benefit the future of Global Fund for Women.”

 

Why Dr. Mukwege is Vital to the Women's Rights Movement

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Dr. Mukwege, Congolese gynecologist. Photo by African Press Organization.

By Muadi Mukenge, Regional Program Director for Sub Saharan Africa

The news was startling and saddening – Congolese gynecologist, Dr. Denis Mukwege, who has performed surgeries on countless women physically damaged by indescribable rape, was attacked and almost killed at his home on October 25.

Dr. Mukwege leads a team of doctors working in Congo’s embattled northeastern corridor, where rape is used by armed groups to traumatize communities in their quest for political power and control of lucrative minerals destined for eager international markets. The Global Fund for Women supports women’s organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo who liaise with Panzi Hospital, where Dr. Mukwege performs 2-4 restorative surgeries per woman.

Since 2006, Global Fund has supported over 52 groups in the Congo, with over $1 million in operating funds for essential services and programs that advance women’s rights. Essential services include counseling and healthcare for rape survivors, shelter for those thrown out of their homes by families casting blame, and skills training to help them get back on their feet and earn an income. It also includes support to accompany them to report the crimes to police, file court claims, and prepare them to testify in court against perpetrators. Dr. Mukwege’s work and that of women’s groups are intertwined – the physical and psychological reconstruction gives rape survivors hope that they can get back to being the indispensable members of society that they have always been.

These brave women and men cannot be taken for granted. Dr. Mukwege is part of the human rights movement that has risen up to put some teeth into Congo’s 2006 Sexual Violence Law, criminalizing violence against women. While perpetrators of rape and other types of violence rule with guns, human rights activists’ work via messages of peace, reconciliation and mutual respect. Because of their efforts, women are entering leadership positions that were once closed to them, demanding accountability in governance and the legal system, and demanding justice for women. Because of their efforts, U.N. reports naming the countries that support armed groups are getting international attention and calls to cut off development assistance. Because of their efforts, in February 2011, the world witnessed the first-ever conviction of an army officer who ordered his soldiers to rape. It was the testimony of rape survivors, who were prepared in part by Global Fund grantees that sealed the fate of the officer. Thanks to human rights activists, local groups are holding communities together in the absence of government-provided health services and schools. The price of 16 years of war is steep. Globally, Congo ranks #1 in hunger, and is among the worst in maternal mortality and unemployment. Yet, who is accountable? The arms flowing into the Congo are not made there. There was a time when these sexual crimes did not happen.

There are many “Dr. Mukwege’s” in Congo, individuals and community groups working without fanfare. You can be part of the solution by supporting this movement and standing with us to end the senseless violence once and for all.

For more information about Global Fund's work in the Congo, read the impact report.
 

We Delivered Your Signatures

(L-R) Miriam Freudenberg of WAVE, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Elizabeth Schaffer, CFO of Global Fund for Women.

(L-R) Miriam Freudenberg of WAVE, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Elizabeth Schaffer, CFO of Global Fund for Women.

We are very excited to share that Global Fund for Women, in partnership with Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE), delivered your signatures to Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Your signatures made it all the way to Strasbourg, as parliamentarians from 47 member states met for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. There, the Secretary General heard your call to member states to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention that provides a groundbreaking framework to prevent, stop, and sanction the crime of violence against women.

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“Thank you for showing your support! Keep calling on decision-makers to take action until the Istanbul Convention is fully implemented in Europe and beyond,” wrote Johanna Nelles, Programme Advisor for the Istanbul Convention.

As resource mobilizers for women's rights at the local, national, and international levels, Global Fund for Women and women’s funds in Europe are uniquely positioned to advocate for governments' firm commitment to allocating budgets and implementing the Convention.

"The Global Fund is a partner who is just as dedicated to ending violence against women as we at WAVE are," wrote Miriam Freudenberg of WAVE. "It is great to have such a strong and dedicated partner to work side by side with."

Because of your signature, we are much closer to a just, equitable world in which women and girls have voice, choice, and the resources to realize their full potential.

"Knowing we have the support of so many people around the world is as important to those women working on policies and promoting women’s rights every day, as it is to those whose lives will be directly affected by it," wrote Miriam.

 

The President of the United States Will Decide Women's Choice Globally

By Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO

During the first presidential debate, neither President Obama nor Governor Romney addressed the issue that affects half the world's population: women's reproductive rights. As the two square off on foreign policy, women's reproductive rights must be addressed because whomever becomes president will not only determine U.S. women's personal, economic and educational choices, but also those of women worldwide.

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Her WILD Adventure

by Michele Kumi Baer

“What do you think about women with disabilities?” asked Sarah, a Nigerian woman living with a visual disability.

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Disability rights activist, Julien from Zambia, and Global Fund's Michele Kumi Baer at MIUSA 2012.

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