Attacks Against Women's Rights Defenders

The Global Fund for Women expresses its serious concern and condemns the acts of violence committed against women's rights activists. We are deeply concerned by the recent attacks to our sister organization ASOCIACION DE MUJERES IXQIK in Guatemala, in particular the murder of women's human rights activist Maria Cristina Gómez and her son José Corado Gómez, as well as by the suspected sabotage of Mexican feminist Lydia Cacho's vehicle in what is feared was an attempt on her life.

The Global Fund for Women maintains close collaboration with brave women in different parts of the world. We have been witnesses to their struggle to build peace in their countries and globally and to protect women's human rights, and we have recognized these efforts through the mobilization of financial resources in support of their activities promoting a woman's right to live without violence. Maria Cristina and Lydia's work serves as an example, locally and internationally, of peace-building and as an effective response to the problem of violence against women and girls.

We urgent by call on the authorities of Guatemala and Mexico to carry out the pertinent investigations required to bring about justice in the murder of Maria Cristina Gómez, and her son José Corado Gómez, and in the suspected murder attempt against Lydia's life, as well as to protect the human rights of Lydia Cacho, the women who work with the Asociación Ixqik, their families and other persons involved in their activities, offering the protection necessary to safeguard their lives and physical integrity. We ask that the authorities work to prevent future acts of violence that may be attempted against the women of the organization, and against women in Guatemala and Mexico in general. We call on them also to ensure that the right of women to promote and defend Women's Human Rights is respected and guaranteed.

The Global Fund for Women continues to stand in solidarity with Lydia Cacho and Asociación Ixqik in their cause and to support their efforts to defend the human rights of women and girls.

Erika Guevara Rosas is the Global Fund's Program Officer for the Americas.

Nonprofits Object to Treasury's Broad Allegations of Ties to Terrorism

OMB Watch, Grantmakers Without Borders, the American Civil Liberties Union and several other charitable organizations sent a letter June 8 to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson objecting to the Department of the Treasury's continued broad allegations of ties between the nonprofit sector and criminal activity associated with terrorism.  The charities' letter pointed out that Treasury's allegations are based on overbroad and unsubstantiated statements, not hard facts.  The nonprofit sector as a whole has not and does not support criminal activity associated with terrorism.  In fact, the sector works tirelessly on the ground in war zones and countries plagued by violence, combating poverty, oppression and other root causes of terrorism.

The letter also noted that the government's claims inflict real, ongoing harm on nonprofit organizations, causing a loss of public confidence in the charitable sector as a whole.

The groups urged Paulson to make amends and support the sector.  "We call on you to issue a statement recognizing the importance of U.S. charities, both at home and abroad," the groups requested in the letter.

The full text of the letter and a detailed fact sheet on the issue are available.


Update from Lebanon

We just received this update from Najdeh, a grantee group working to improve the lives of Palestinian refugee women living in Lebanon's refugee camps. Nahr El Bared camp has been the site of recent fighting between the Lebanese Army and Fath-Islam. This month, the Global Fund gave an emergency grant to Najdeh to help support their work under the current difficult and dangerous conditions.

From Najdeh:

In the 20th of May 2007, clashes broke up between the Lebanese Army and Fath-Islam group. Army tanks shelled Nahr El Bared camp after militants from Fatah al-Islam took control of army posts at the camp's entrance slaughtering four army soldiers. The camp's electricity, phone lines and water were cut off.

The clashes continued with few days of unannounced ceasefire that allowed most of the camp'snajdeh inhabitants to be evacuated. The Lebanese Army is still forcing a strict blockade on the camp to restrict the movement of Fath-Islam combatants. Civilians are only allowed to exit the camp, no civilians are allowed to enter however, the Lebanese Army is giving permits to United Nations Relief and Works Agency, International Committee of the Red Cross, Palestinian Red Crescent Society and other NGOs to enter the camp to provide aid to the remaining civilians inside.

UNRWA, PRCS, ICRC and Najdeh have managed to enter a number of items to aid the trapped civilians inside the camp. These items mainly included bread, water, food kits, and medicines, cleaning materials, children's and infants' diapers. ICRC and the camp's popular committee have set up meeting points to which humanitarian aid will be delivered to. Yet, it has been reported that the popular committee inside the camp is facing difficulties in distributing the received items due to the continuous fighting.

PRCS and the Lebanese Red Cross continue to use their ambulances to evacuate as much wounded, disable, sick from the camp yet with extreme difficulties.

A number of diseases have spread throughout the camp mainly scabies and lice due to lack of water and spread of insects and rats due to lack of hygiene, uncollected garbage and spread of corps.

As for the consequences of the clash, it will be as followings:

  1. Almost all the camp, more than 80% of NBC, including Najdeh centers were completely destroyed.
  2. The recovery duration: re-build the camp, and the temporary settlement of the IDPs, that in case the construction started directly after the ceasefire, will need one year.
  3. Its not obvious or clear if the reconstruction will includes the edges of the camp. The previous experiences with such matter of destroyed camps and gatherings was bad since the government put restrictions on re-building the camps and gatherings, and didn't allowed to re build the edges of the camps and the gatherings. In addition, nobody was in charge to rebuild everything. As for the previous experience too, UNRWA took onto its responsibility to rebuild the whole infrastructure of the camps, rebuilding for the hardship families and compensate with limited amount for others.
  4. Its to be noted that the construction material are not allowed to enter NBC before the current situation. This procedure will be continued with more restrictions in the future, as well as the Lebanese check points at the entrances of the camp.
  5. The recovery period will be divided to two phases / levels; one on the reconstruction and rebuilding the camp, two on settling temporary the IDPs.
  6. The psychosocial intervention and activities should be run simultaneously with other recovery activities and for both children and women.
  7. It was obvious that the Lebanese army took random procedures and restrictions against Palestinians, mainly men, without respect to the humanitarian workers too. Three of Association Najdeh staff were arrested during the previous ten days by the Lebanese army. Two out of them were arrested during their trip to Baddawi camp, the third was arrested when he was coming back to his home in Tripoli from Baddawi (he is the photograph and montage instructor in Baddawi and working now in the emergency project there).
  8. The need assessment for the IDPs in Baddawi camp shows the following indicators and needs:
    • Mattresses: 3709
    • Food rations: 3441
    • Cloths: 4291
    • Medicine: 3891
    • Milk and child diaper: 1141
    • Diaper for elder people: 25
    • Kitchen kits: 445
    • Women Kit: 4500

The need assessment also showed that out of the 4727 IDP families, there are 1698 considered hardship families (according to UNRWA criteria), 417 widowed, 64 divorced, and 156 separated women. This indicates that the rate of the families headed by women and the bread winner among those reaches to 13%.

The Chance to be Free

India is enjoying widespread recognition for its impressive economic growth rates, its thousands of computer engineers, and hundreds of new billionaires. Yet, this country with a rich history and extraordinary potential is also home to the worst forms of poverty and devastating manifestations of human intolerance and cruelty. To be born a girl into an Indian family is to have the decks heavily stacked against you.

India is one of the few countries where males significantly outnumber females, an imbalance that has increased over time. The birth of a girl is viewed as a misfortune, and son-preference leads to a frightening pattern of neglect and active discrimination. Ironically, the increased prosperity of the Indian middle class has only deepened the trend as ultrasound technology is used to perform sex-selective abortions. The deaths of young girls in India exceed those of young boys by over 300,000 each year, and every sixth infant death results specifically from gender discrimination. Of the 15 million girls born in India each year, nearly 25 percent will not live to see their 15th birthday.

If a girl does survive her childhood, the low status she holds in her family and in society makes her among those most vulnerable to abuse. Journalist Lisa Ling's investigation into the lives of young girls sold into domestic servitude and sexual slavery is a searing exposé of India's harsh reality.

As someone who grew up in India with educated middle class parents, I know how glaring contradictions exist side-by-side in modern India. While the daughters of the newly prosperous wear designer jeans, and prepare to compete for admissions into Harvard and Yale, many of them have grown up in homes where girls spend their entire lives in service to the affluent. These girls are either sold by their parents or choose to flee the desperate poverty of their villages for the economic opportunities of large cities. For many girls the chance to eat twice a day, wear better clothes, and work to support themselves and their families, comes at a brutally high price.

Yet in the midst of this despair, local community-based organizations, often led by women who were once victims themselves, are shining a powerful ray of hope and possibility. At the Global Fund for Women, we have witnessed young women and girls stand up for their own rights, demanding a voice in critical decisions that affect their lives. Since 1987 the Global Fund has granted more than $3 million to hundreds of organizations working to end trafficking in 71 countries around the world.

Our grants to associations of domestic workers in Southern India help young girls like those interviewed in "Slave Girls of India" get their first chance at an education and provide free legal assistance.

In Nepal, where more than 100,000 young girls have been sold into India, I recently attended a historic gathering of over 500 young women and girls - all of them former victims of trafficking. The organizing group, Shakti Samukta, used a grant from the Global Fund to build a network among former victims to raise awareness about the conditions that force their families to sell their daughters. At the meeting in Kathmandu, the former sex slaves succeeded in getting senior ministers, law enforcement officials, and the media to attend their forum.

They have found their voice and seized their chance to be free. Can they count on you and me to stand with them?

Kavita N. Ramdas is the President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women.


Grantmakers Without Borders

Grantmakers Without Borders ("Gw/oB"), a philanthropic network of 130 organizations all dedicated to providing humanitarian support to the Global South, strongly urges the Department of the Treasury to withdraw the "U.S. Department of the Treasury Anti-Terrorist Financing Guidelines: Voluntary Best Practices for U.S.-Based Charities" ("Guidelines") released in the October 31, 2006 Federal Register. Despite the Department of the Treasury's repeated efforts to improve the Guidelines (this 2006 release marks the third version of the Guidelines), many within the philanthropic sector find the Guidelines unrealistic and counterproductive. In fact, Gw/oB's letter to the Department of the Treasury is in addition to a similar letter sent by a coalition of 40 charitable sector organizations, lead by the Council on Foundations.

The Guidelines were released to assist charities in preventing the diversion of charitable funds to terrorism. Instead, "[the Guidelines] often chill the valuable work of international grantmakers, including Gw/oB's member organizations. Thus, philanthropic money that funds, for example, farming projects or support for tsunami victims is delayed or discontinued. This chilling effect is especially troubling since the Department of the Treasury has failed to provide real, non-anecdotal evidence that charitable funds are unintentionally being diverted for terrorist purposes."

Gw/oB's members fund international projects of hope and opportunity in vulnerable communities. Dedicated to the eradication of poverty and the promotion of social justice, Gw/oB's member organizations often support grantees that act as positive counter-points to terrorist influences. However, the suggested practices within the Guidelines would force Gw/oB's members to divert their limited financial and personnel resources from proven best practices in due diligence and instead engage in unproductive information gathering that ultimately distracts from their philanthropic mission. At the end of the day, the Guidelines ultimately fail to further their stated purpose, "to assist charities that attempt in good faith to protect themselves from terrorist abuse" and should be withdrawn.

The Global Fund for Women is a member of Grantmakers Without Borders.

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