Welcome to the March 2020 issue of the Global Washington newsletter.
IN THIS ISSUE
- Letter from our Executive Director
- Issue Brief: Strategies for Ending Gender-based Violence Globally
- Organization Profile: Vital Voices Invests in Women Leaders, Empowering Them to Turn Their Bold Visions for Change Into Reality
- Goalmaker: Amanda Klasing, Human Rights Watch Acting Co-Director, Women’s Rights Division
- Welcome New Members
- GlobalWA Member Events
- Career Center
- GlobalWA Events
Letter from our Executive Director
To honor International Women’s Day, Global Washington has launched a month-long issue campaign to elevate the importance of ending gender-based violence. This month we are also celebrating the 25th anniversary of an historic gathering in Beijing that was a threshold moment for women’s rights – the Beijing Declaration, which set out specific goals to end violence against women globally.
Despite the tremendous progress that has been made since the Beijing Declaration, we still have a long way to go. The World Health Organization estimates that globally more than one in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence in her lifetime.
Today, numerous Global Washington members are part of a global movement to end gender-based violence. And it does feel like a movement. Some of the changes are happening at the grassroots community level, while others are focused on shifting national and international policy.
Please take the time to learn about the effective strategies that GlobalWA members are using to end gender-based violence around the world. In the articles below, we take an in-depth look at how the global network of Vital Voices elevates women leaders around the world to effect positive change. You will also find out how this month’s Goalmaker, Amanda Klasing from Human Rights Watch, became involved with the global women’s rights movement. And finally, I hope you will take the time to watch a video interview with Rikki Nathanson, a pioneering transgender activist from Zimbabwe, who is on the board of OutRight Action International.
Also this month, we have decided to host an event that will be online only to support social distancing in light of the Coronavirus in Washington state. Please join on March 18 for a virtual event on this topic. We will have speakers representing OutRight Action International, Rise Beyond the Reef, Seattle International Foundation, and CARE.
I hope you are staying healthy, and I also encourage you to stay connected online to the GlobalWA community.
Strategies for Ending Gender-based Violence Globally
By Joanne Lu
Twenty-five years ago, tens of thousands of women from around the world decided it was beyond time for women to have a seat at the table of their own wellbeing and advancement. On September 4, 1995, they traveled to Beijing, China to attend the U.N.’s Fourth World Conference on Women, a critical event that would later be recognized as a significant turning point for the global agenda for gender equality.
It was at that conference that then-First Lady of the United States Hilary Clinton delivered a famous speech in which she declared that, “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” Also at that meeting, 189 countries unanimously agreed to adopt an agenda that set out to achieve gender equality in 12 critical areas, including violence against women. Sixty-eight countries even made actionable commitments, such as a six-year, $1.5 billion program by the U.S. to fight domestic violence. Perhaps most importantly, some experts say the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action made violence against women a matter for public discussion, instead of just a private, family issue.
Although the Beijing Declaration continues to be celebrated as a major step forward for women, no country has achieved equality yet, and violence against women and girls, in particular, remains an alarming global problem.
Femicide Watch reports that in 2017, an estimated 87,000 women around the world were murdered – more than half of them (50,000) by an intimate partner or family member. This means that every single day, 137 women are being killed by their own family.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also estimates that more than one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate-partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner in their lifetime. But the estimates vary by region and in some countries, intimate-partner violence has affected up to 70 percent of women.
It’s true that gender-based violence (GBV) includes more than just domestic violence against women. CARE defines GBV as “a harmful act or threat based on a person’s sex or gender identity.” So, it certainly includes violence against men and boys, such as the targeted killing of men and boys in conflict or sexual violence against male refugees. However, GBV does disproportionately affect women, girls and other minorities (particularly LGBTIQ people), largely because they are disempowered by systemic gender inequality. And it can take on many different forms, including street harassment, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, child marriage, marital rape, honor killings, psychological bullying, and cyber harassment.
What’s more, GBV has serious repercussions on survivors. For example, the WHO found that women who have experienced intimate-partner violence report higher rates of depression, having an abortion and contracting HIV than women who have not. Many survivors also face social stigma.
Since the Beijing conference in 1995, governments, NGOs and intergovernmental organizations have adopted many strategies to fight gender-based violence and bring it to an end globally, all of which must work together to change societies that allow gender-based violence to continue.
To tackle a problem, one must first understand the scale and scope of the problem. But GBV is notoriously under-reported because of barriers like social stigma and limited access to services and resources. This lack of data means that it’s nearly impossible to accurately assess if global rates of GBV are increasing or decreasing over time. For this reason, there has been a push to collect more data. Researchers are finding better ways to collect information, like calling violence-against-women surveys “women’s health surveys” instead, and organizations, like Human Rights Watch, are compiling the data into reports for use in advocacy. OutRight Action International, an advocacy group that fights for the rights of LGBTIQ people around the world, also does a lot of work to fill the huge gaps in data regarding violence against sexual and gender minorities.
As a result of improved data collection and public conversations about GBV after Beijing, two-thirds of countries have adopted laws to stop domestic violence. But Every Woman Treaty wants to take it a step further by creating a legally binding global treaty that requires countries to prevent and address violence against women and girls. In the meantime, organizations like OutRight and Vital Voices are working with institutions on the ground to make sure that the laws are actually being enforced and that women, girls, and LGBTIQ individuals have access to the help and services they need.
But ending GBV is more than just a legal battle; it also requires resources, including financing. Although funding for gender equality and women’s empowerment is increasing, women’s rights organizations are still “significantly underfunded” compared with other development programs, according to the Equality Institute.
Ending GBV also requires a shift in cultural norms and attitudes toward gender. That’s why Breakthrough is using pop culture, media and technology to challenge gender-based norms in the U.S. and India and to help tackle violence. For example, their first campaign in India in 2008 was a series of TV ads called “Bell Bajao!” (or “Ring the Bell!”), which promoted the idea that violence is everyone’s business. So, if you witness your neighbor being violent toward his wife, you can help by creating an interruption, like ringing their doorbell. Breakthrough is also helping women in India realize for themselves that violence against them by their husbands is, in fact, a problem and should not be accepted.
To accelerate changes from the ground up, some organizations are focused on supporting grassroots activists. For example, the Seattle International Foundation (SIF) has been partnering with the U.S. Department of State for years on a program called Mujeres Adelante (or “Women Forward” in Spanish), which addresses GBV by hosting grassroots women leaders from Central America in the U.S. for two weeks of leadership training and exchanges. The goal, according to SIF, is to create a more organized and powerful network of change agents across the region who can support each other in their efforts to end GBV.
While women become more empowered to assert their rights, many organizations are also realizing the importance of engaging men and boys in the conversation in order to break the cycle of violence. After all, violence in many cases is learned behavior. In Lebanon, for example, a study found that men who had witnessed their fathers beating their mothers during childhood were three times more likely to perpetrate physical violence. However, CARE is helping men and boys redefine masculinity through family economic initiatives that teach couples how to run their households as equals, through male support groups that have open discussions about GBV and by facilitating conversations about GBV between male change agents and political and religious leaders. In patriarchal systems, it’s especially important for men to lead other men by example. That’s why Vital Voices, an organization that invests in women leaders, puts a big emphasis on male allies when they train police officers, lawyers, judges, and religious leaders – professions still dominated by men in many countries – on how to prevent and respond to violence against women.
Although there’s still a long road ahead in the fight to end GBV, experts are encouraged that at the very least, social change has been initiated. And as all of these strategies continue to work together to address the many facets of violence, changemakers are optimistic that the momentum will build: new generations of girls will grow up knowing that they have a right to safety, education, and decision-making about their own wellbeing, and new generations of boys will learn how to be allies. But making that a reality will require sustained efforts to actively change norms and uphold the rights of women, girls, and minorities everywhere.
The following Global Washington members are working to end gender-based violence around the world:
Awamaki partners with women’s artisan cooperatives to teach them to start and run their own businesses. Awamaki invests in women’s skills, connects them to markets and supports their empowerment. Through Awamaki’s programs, artisan women from marginalized and remote villages learn business and leadership skills so they can earn an income and gain a voice in their households and their communities. The organization’s trainings include gender-based violence awareness and women’s rights topics, and its income-generating programs allow women to build successful futures and create a better life for themselves and their children.
Every Woman Treaty is a coalition of more than 1,700 women’s rights activists, including 840 organizations, in 128 nations working to advance a global binding norm on the elimination of violence against women and girls. The organization’s working group studied recommendations from the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and scholarly research on how to solve the problem of violence against women and girls, including trafficking and modern slavery, and found that a global treaty is the most powerful step the international community can take to address an issue of this magnitude.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) fights to end violence against women and girls, advance women’s right to health care, and promote women’s economic and social rights. HRW’s method is straightforward. The organization investigates violations of women’s rights, talking to the women and girls directly affected on the ground in countries around the world. HRW documents its findings in hard-hitting reports with detailed recommendations. Then HRW uses these reports—and targeted media outreach—to generate pressure for reform by the entities that perpetrate abuses against women. All HRW’s work is intersectional and is done in partnership with local organizations and activists. HRW researchers fight sexual harassment in the workplace and abuses in garment manufacturing to combatting human trafficking; work to end child marriage, and defending women’s access to land and the right to health, including sexual and reproductive health. HRW’s latest work is uncovering the new intersections between technology and gender-based violence, including digital stalking and on-line harassment, as it continues to document abuses and foster coalitions that protect, defend, and fight for women’s rights around the world.
Kati Collective improves systems across global development by providing experienced, strategic, and pragmatic action focused on three of the most important drivers of change: women, digital, and partnerships. In all of its engagements, Kati Collective applies a gender lens, thinking strategically about how to engage men and boys, while concurrently supporting women and girls in LMICs. Kati Collective’s work concentrates on culturally relevant technology for social impact, focusing on girls’ and women’s empowerment applications for effectively educating communities and maximizing outcomes for the underserved across the globe. Gender-based violence, which is faced by women globally, is not a female problem – it is a human problem, rooted in the attitudes, cultural norms, and behaviors of men worldwide. When men and boys are educated about ingrained sexist and systemic biases, they begin to see how they can partner in stopping these behaviors and practices from harming the next generation. Kati Collective approaches partnerships with the goal of aligning agendas regarding GBV and other female-centric issues forward collectively. Local and global perspectives must come together for impactful and lasting systemic change. Kati Collective provides its clients with perspective and experience, as well as the strategies and tools needed to improve outcomes for women on a global scale.
Landesa champions and works to secure land rights for millions of those living in poverty worldwide, primarily rural women and men, to promote social justice and provide opportunity. Evidence shows that women’s land rights can transform power dynamics within households and communities, improving women’s status and their own perceptions of their power. This empowerment forms the bedrock for greater economic opportunity for women, and can also contribute to better health outcomes, including potential reductions in gender-based violence, rates of HIV infection, and other threats to women’s safety. In West Bengal, India, Landesa is working with USAID and PepsiCo to raise awareness of issues related to GBV in agricultural supply chains. This work includes developing guidance documents for a project that is helping women farmers learn skills to participate in PepsiCo’s potato supply chain. Guidance has been tailored both for field staff who work directly with farmers and for management staff, including training materials developed in collaboration with a local CSO to help field staff address GBV. Across more than 50 countries, Landesa has helped strengthen land rights for more than 180 million families.
Mercy Corps is a global team of nearly 6,000 humanitarians working in more than 40 countries around the world. From Colombia to the Central African Republic, Mercy Corps partners with local communities to build strong, equitable, and protective societies in which women and girls can thrive. In order to combat Gender-Based Violence (GBV), Mercy Corps works to address the root causes of GBV and connect survivors with the vital resources and services they need. In Lebanon, Mercy Corps hosts a series of dialogue sessions for Syrian refugees in order to bring awareness to GBV and provides case management, connecting survivors to medical and legal services, psychological support and safe housing.
Lesbians, bisexual women and transgender (LBT) people around the world often face violence and exclusion in many spheres of their lives, fueled by laws that criminalize same-sex relations and gender non-conformity and encouraged by governments who tolerate, endorse, or directly sponsor the violent clamp-down on those who do not follow prevailing societal norms. Often LBT people are excluded or driven away from needed services and social support, and violence often goes unreported. They are also often denied access to justice based on archaic laws that limit the definition of rape while also delegitimizing same-sex and queer intimacy. OutRight Action International works with grassroots partners in Asia and the Caribbean to ensure that the experiences of LBT people are included in anti-gender-based violence work. For example, in 2019, OutRight and its Caribbean partners launched the Frontline Alliance: Caribbean Partnerships Against Gender Based Violence project to engage first responders, local government officials and others with a focus on domestic violence, family violence and intimate partner violence and to advocate for improvement in policies and protocols through engagement in research, trainings and strategic campaigning. OutRight has also documented the violence and exclusion LBT women face in Asia, worked with grassroots partners to improve domestic violence protections for LGBT people in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, Myanmar and China, and is currently launching a regional platform of experts on SOGIE and GBV in Asia.
Oxfam America’s work to advance gender justice is multifaceted and tailored to the people Oxfam serves. In some countries, Oxfam is the largest and most prominent organization to take a stand for women and gender-diverse people, and alongside them, often supporting the infrastructures of burgeoning movements. In other countries, like Sri Lanka, Oxfam helps rethink entrenched systems and remap biases to shift attitudes and overcome barriers. In all places, Oxfam strives for sustainable change. Oxfam does so first by acknowledging women, girls, and feminist actors as effective social change agents who must have a hand in ensuring their own rights and in the development they most want to see – development that will transform their families, communities and countries. Oxfam’s gender-based violence (GBV) work is focused on working with women’s rights organizations and feminist movement actors in 30 countries to challenge and transform harmful social norms. Oxfam’s focus on ending GBV is on addressing changes in social norms that perpetrate violence against women in creative ways and engaging feminist activists a youth at the local level. Oxfam’s global, regional, and national GBV work includes: 1) innovative global and national campaigning activities, like the Enough campaign
Working with digital influencers to counter anti-rights actors; 2) engaging and supporting the agendas of women’s rights organizations and feminist movement actors; 3) collaboration with feminist funds to provide small, flexible grants to young feminist organizers running campaigns; and 4) supporting the mobilization of young people at regional level.
Seattle International Foundation (SIF) champions good governance and equity in Central America through support for rule of law and the strengthening of civil society. When security and rule of law deteriorate in the Northern Triangle of Central America, women face not only systemic violence from powerful gangs, impunity and government repression, but pervasive domestic and sexual violence as well. This has exacerbated the tendency to migrate, despite a high likelihood of facing additional violence en route and a slim likelihood of obtaining asylum in the United States. SIF has committed to addressing and mitigating this reality through its multi-prong approach and through its key initiatives: the Central America Donors Forum, Central America in Washington, D.C., Central America and Mexico Youth (CAMY) Fund, Centroamérica Adelante and the Independent Journalism Fund.
Vista Hermosa is a family foundation located in Pasco WA, established by Ralph and Cheryl Broetje in 1990 to invest in the growth of flourishing communities. Informed by teachings of servant leadership, healing centered engagement and empowered worldview, Vista Hermosa takes a holistic approach to understanding and reconciling people’s connections to self, others, God, and place (shalom). Vista Hermosa accompanies very marginalized groups of people to discover who they are, find their voice, and be the solutions to their own wellbeing and development. The foundation currently funds partners in Mexico, Haiti, India, and East Africa, as well as the U.S. One of its strategies to address gender-based violence is through supporting the adaptation of SASA! (originally developed in Uganda), a community-led awareness, education and action methodology. Vista Hermosa funded the adaptation for the Haitian context and most recently for Mexico/Central America. The foundation is currently assembling a group of funders to support a cohort of regional NGOs to implement this evidence-based curriculum that addresses power imbalances between women and men in communities. Vista Hermosa also supports a range of organizations working on child and sex trafficking, FGM, and new masculinities.
Vital Voices is a global movement that invests in women leaders solving the world’s greatest challenges. Vital Voices understands that, in order for the world to embrace women’s full potential across industries and issues, gender-based violence (GBV) must be eliminated. Vital Voices works with women leaders and male allies to ensure that victims and survivors of GBV gain better access to services, protection and the justice they deserve. Vital Voices oversees key programs implemented in partnership with local leaders to deliver on this work. The Voices Against Violence Initiative champions innovative solutions to end GBV. Within Voices Against Violence, Vital Voices provides and administers Urgent Assistance Funds to survivors of extreme cases of GBV who do not have alternative means of support for immediate, short-term needs such as medical expenses, psychosocial counseling, emergency shelter and more. Also through Voices Against Violence, Vital Voices hosts Justice Institutes – interactive training programs that promote holistic response to violence and exploitation by convening judges, prosecutors, law enforcement and service providers and other stakeholders across the justice system to focus on victim safety and offender accountability. Vital Voices also oversees the Global Freedom Exchange, which provides a dynamic educational and mentoring experience for emerging and established women leaders who are on the forefront of global efforts to prevent and respond to the destructive crime of human trafficking. These programs support Vital Voices’ work protecting human rights so that everyone can enjoy the safety and security they deserve.
Vital Voices Invests in Women Leaders, Empowering Them to Turn Their Bold Visions for Change Into Reality
By Joanne Lu
Alyse Nelson was just a college student when she heard then-First Lady Hilary Clinton’s landmark speech on women’s rights at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995: “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
Little did she know that the fire that she felt in that moment would forever change her life, setting her on a quest “to use power to empower and to use voice to give voice.”
Just two years after the conference, Nelson worked with several other women, including Clinton, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Ambassador Swanee Hunt, to establish the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative, a State Department program which sought to promote women’s advancement as a U.S. foreign policy goal. By 1999, the program was ready to become an independent non-governmental organization, Vital Voices Global Partnership, a network-based organization on a mission to “invest in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges.” Vital Voices today supports women leaders through a myriad of programs – including fellowships, grants and training – such as individualized investment and activations through their international network to expand leaders’ skills, connections and visibility. Vital Voices works to turn women leaders’ daring vision for change into bold realities.
Today, Nelson is the president and CEO of Vital Voices, now a vast global network of more than 18,000 women leaders (and male allies) in 182 countries and territories. But their resounding impact is far greater as many women leaders are changing the lives of thousands and millions more, says Nicole Hauspurg, Vital Voices’ Director of Justice Initiatives on the Human Rights team. After all, she says, women are multipliers; often demonstrating a unique ability and willingness to pay forward their opportunities in order to have a broader impact on their communities. This attitude is exhibited even in the way that new women leaders connect with Vital Voices. While some women cold-call and others respond to open applications for fellowships or programs, the primary way Vital Voices identifies women leaders is through other women leaders in the network.
Specifically, Vital Voices supports women who are who are creating change in four key ways: they are boosting economic empowerment and entrepreneurship in their communities; they are promoting human rights and ending gender-based violence (GBV); they are making or influencing policy and serving as political leaders; or they’re confronting issues and want assistance advancing their own leadership as women. To correspond with these focus areas, Vital Voices has several teams that operate differently based on their mandate and the needs of the women they work with around the world.
For example, one of the many efforts Vital Voices’ human rights team oversees is an Urgent Assistance Program that provides emergency financial support to survivors of extreme GBV around the world. This program and others are made possible through the Voices Against Violence: The GBV Global Initiative, a public-private partnership between Vital Voices, the Department of State, and the Avon Foundation for Women. If an individual is experiencing an extreme form of GBV, they – or an organization or individual that is helping them – can contact Vital Voices’ GBV experts with linguistic support for short-term lifesaving assistance for their needs in the immediate aftermath or threat of extreme violence.
“The reality is we have varied and diverse program offerings because we realize that the needs of women leaders around the world are not one-size-fits-all,” says Hauspurg. “Women everywhere are blazing trails around solutions that are responsive to the local, national, regional and global challenges that impact them and the intersecting communities of which they are a part.”
Vital Voices’ program offerings have expanded to reflect what the women in their network have expressed they need support with. Most of the human rights teams’ work, therefore, focuses on domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking, harmful traditional practices, female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage. Although other teams engage with human rights advocates and defenders who promote a broader spectrum of human rights, the human rights team works exclusively on GBV.
“We realized that one in three women experience violence in their lifetime, so if we want women to advance in all areas of society – to get to be entrepreneurs, to get to be political leaders – fundamentally, we have to create an environment that’s free of violence and exploitation,” says Hauspurg.
One way that Vital Voices is tackling human trafficking, for example, is through its Global Freedom Exchange, a two-week educational and mentoring program in partnership with Hilton that takes anti-trafficking advocates – many of whom identify as survivors of trafficking themselves – to three U.S. cities, each with their own unique challenges and best practices in preventing and responding to trafficking. The program is complemented by regional programming as well as competitive grants, which support participants as they adjust the models they observed to their own contexts. Among the program’s alumni are two Seattleites: Wendy Barnes, who is the program director of Dignity Health’s Human Trafficking Response Program and Alisa Bernard, the director of education and partnerships at the Organization for Prostitution Survivors.
Also through VAV, Vital Voices has conducted two dozen Justice Institutes on Gender-Based Violence in 14 countries. Justice Institutes train judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, advocates and other community leaders involved in the justice system on how to more effectively identify, investigate and prosecute GBV – and why it’s important to do so. Especially with the help of male allies, Justice Institutes are helping to shift societal attitudes and enforce laws and policies that either don’t exist or aren’t implemented to their full extent.
Brazil, for example, didn’t have a domestic violence law until 2006. When the law was finally introduced, it wasn’t enforced and many women had no idea they had rights. Says Hauspurg, “Sometimes laws need help keeping their promises.” That inspired interest in Justice Institutes in Brazil, of which there have been five implemented in partnership with Vital Voices and local stakeholders. Moreover, it inspired Panmela Castro, a graffiti artist who was a young bride and victim of domestic violence, to begin painting beautiful murals late at night that depicted women as survivors and educated them about their rights under the new law. But to really scale her impact, Panmela needed leverage, so Vital Voices connected her with other graffiti artists and helped her establish Artefeito, an organization that uses art to transform culture for social progress.
As we approach the 25th anniversary of the conference that sparked this journey for Alyse Nelson and the tens of thousands of women, like Panmela, who have been impacted by her work, Vital Voices is looking for ways to continue building on the momentum of the last 25 years. One way is by adding new and different types of actors to their already extensive list of multi-sectoral partners, which currently include the U.S. Department of State, CARE, Avon, Hilton, Uber, Promundo, and Global Fund for Women, among others. They’re also always looking for more ways to include more women, whether by seeking creative methods of outreach, ensuring that as much as possible programming and services can be delivered in local languages, providing different forms of transportation to their programs or using pseudonyms for survivors – because the more women leaders they can reach, the more those women can pay it forward. And that’s the power of empowering women.
Amanda Klasing, Human Rights Watch Acting Co-Director, Women’s Rights Division
By Penny Carothers
Growing up in South Texas close to a fluid border, Amanda Klasing saw deep inequality firsthand and wanted to do something about it from an early age. From a deeply religious family whose faith was informed by social justice, she always knew she’d have a career and a life that included service. What she didn’t realize then was that her life’s work would require her to face an inherent tension in her upbringing.
This tension was a fact of life in her childhood, streaming from the radio and from the front seat of the family car. On rides to and from baseball practice—on a team where she was the only girl—she heard messages like, “feminazis are going to ruin the world,” from the family’s favorite radio program, The Rush Limbaugh Show. “I grew up in a very conservative household where the worst thing that you could be was a feminist,” she explained. “At the same time, my dad also encouraged me to pursue anything that I wanted to, whether it was sports or leadership or a scholarship. Whatever it was, there was no distinction in the way that he saw my abilities and my opportunities and the way he saw my brother’s.”
Buoyed by her parents unflagging belief in her, Klasing excelled as a student and discovered human rights as a framework for understanding the social justice messages of her youth. While in law school and graduate school, she focused on human rights advocacy, which led her to Human Rights Watch (HRW) where she is now acting co-director of the women’s rights division.
Human Rights Watch’s Women’s Rights Division (WRD) has been protecting the rights of women and pushing for gender equity for 30 years. Their in-depth research and targeted advocacy have achieved impact around the world, from global treaties protecting the rights of women workers to national-level policy changes to advance reproductive rights, end child marriage, increase access to education, and protect women from violence.
At HRW Amanda has carried out research and advocacy on a number of human rights issues including the First Nations water crisis in Canada; sexual violence and other forms of violence against women displaced by conflict in Colombia; the relationship between women’s and girls’ human rights and access to good menstrual hygiene management; and the rights to water and sanitation in schools.
Amanda began documenting and elevating the experiences and the voices of those impacted by human rights violations, and she’s always learned from the people she meets. During research and advocacy work in Colombia, Amanda met Angélica Bello, a woman who was targeted by paramilitary successor groups in Colombia for her activism. Angélica and her daughters were victims of sexual violence. Rather than stay silent, she used her voice to call for an end to impunity for perpetrators. Angélica was a tireless advocate for survivors, helping them pursue justice for rape or assault and for increased access to protection and medical help. Despite threats against her life, Angélica kept highlighting the issue of sexual violence and the protections victims needed from the government. For her work, she was harassed and threatened relentlessly. Angélica died never receiving the psychosocial support she needed and was advocating to make available to all survivors. A year after Angélica’s death, a bill protecting the rights of survivors of sexual violence passed into law.
Several years later Amanda met Carol, a young mother in Brazil. Carol’s second daughter, Gabi, was born with congenital Zika syndrome. “Carol knew that something deeply wrong had happened, that there were so many government failures leading up to the Zika outbreak and afterward, and that her child and family have a right to receive services,” Klasing explained. Amanda worked with Carol to tell the stories of women and babies affected by Zika in northeastern Brazil and to create an HRW report on the issue. Amanda says, “I saw amazing growth in Carol and in her work with us and her community—the change that she will continue to have with other children and families is phenomenal and exponential.”
As Amanda emerged as a leader in the women’s rights movement , she continued to grapple with a tension she sees in her work with women like Carol and Angélica: incredible human rights violations juxtaposed with the strength she sees in survivors as they persevere and demand respect for their rights even while facing daily indignities and atrocities. This is what is at the heart of the human rights movement: survivors seeking justice and to be seen as having the same inherent dignity as all human beings. It’s one of the reasons she was drawn to and keeps doing the work. “The brave women and girls who I have spoken to throughout my career continue to motivate me and in particular the leaders that rise out of movements at the grassroots level. I have felt very fortunate to work with women’s rights advocates and I am amazed by their fortitude and their ability to hope for a different world.”
Despite the difficulties, Amanda is encouraged by advances in centering human rights conversations on impacted populations. HRW has always strived to promote a connected, outspoken, and effective global women’s rights movement that is intersectional and inclusive. She says, “My personal and professional goal is to see human rights organizations adapt to be in service to a movement and to the leaders of directly impacted populations. There’s so much space for innovation and opportunity to bring our research methodologies and unique strengths to partner for new approaches…My colleagues at HRW are always willing to evolve and be influenced by our partners.”
You can say the same about Klasing. Though she prefers to talk about her work and the strength of grassroots leaders rather than herself, it is striking that in her role at HRW Klasing broadcasts a different kind of story than the one she grew up listening to on the radio. The tension between the messages she heard as a child and those she shares now may be strong, but the connection is undeniable. She summed it up best herself in a 2017 article for Women’s eNews when she said, “My father exposed me to what the world thinks of women who fight too hard for equality, but also raised me to be strong enough to be one of those women.”
Welcome New Members
Please welcome our newest Global Washington members. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with their work and consider opportunities for support and collaboration!
Fanikia Foundation provides support to underprivileged individuals and communities in Tanzania and the United States through education, training, and information. Its main goal is to eliminate poverty and to empower individuals in specific communities. Different strategies are needed to tackle these issues. The foundation partners with like-minded organizations to eliminate poverty and illiteracy. Currently Fanikia Foundation is focusing on two programs: “Educate a Girl,” a program based in Tanzania and “Drive to Higher Education,” based in the United States. fanikiafoundation.org
Vital Voices is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. Guided by the belief that women are essential to progress in their communities, Vital Voices identifies women with a daring vision for change and invests in them to make their vision a reality. Through long-term investments that expand each leader’s skills, connections, and visibility, Vital Voices accelerates and scales their impact. vitalvoices.org
Many member events in March have been cancelled or are now being held virtually. You can find out about upcoming events on our Community Calendar.
Check out the GlobalWA Job Board for the latest openings.
March 18: (Virtual Event) Proven strategies for stopping gender-based violence