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JASS Movements Newsletter

April 2015

Dear Friends,

Four months in, 2015 has had its share of crises, but still somehow filled with extraordinary examples of courage and resilience.

First, let’s celebrate. In El Salvador, Guadalupe Vasquez, a rape survivor was pardoned and released from prison after serving 7 years of a 30 year sentence for having a miscarriage—giving us hope of a possible reversal of the 20 year sentence Purvi Patel received in Indiana, USA. Both cases reveal the transnational character of efforts to control women’s bodies and the equally transnational character of the feminist push back. In Mexico, Claudia Medina and Bettina Cruz won their cases after being detained on fabricated charges. In China, five feminists were released from prison after being arrested for performance art to protest domestic violence. And in Cambodia, ten land rights activists in jail since November 2014 were also released. Justice holds its ground.

These victories—all in tough contexts—demonstrate the power of women human rights defenders, persistent collective action and strong solidarity. But they also illustrate the growing trend of criminalizing activism. Often under the guise of security, governments are cracking down on activists who demand rights and challenge abuses of power. In many places, women defenders are doubly criminalized—by the state and by public opinion. When women step out of traditional gender norms they face slander, often painting them as prostitutes or even bad mothers. Indeed, challenging sexism, racism and homophobia are essential protection strategies to sustain women’s right to defend rights.

Finally, we want to give a special shout out to our African brothers and sisters. In recent weeks, crises around the world made international headlines but quickly faded. #BringBackOurGirls made an all too brief comeback as we marked the year anniversary of the 276 Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haram. In Kenya, the Garrissa University shooting left 147 students dead. In South Africa recent xenophobia attacks killed 8 and displaced thousands, and off the Libyan coast, hundreds of African migrants drowned in search of a better life. Crisis makes the news but never long enough to hold the international communities’ attention. Nor in a way that demonstrates Africans in the lead.

For this reason, our lead story is, African Women Stand Up to Big Coal, and is followed by similar stories of courage and organizing that make us hopeful and keep us moving forward together. 

As always, we thank you for your support and solidarity.

Lisa VeneKlasen & the JASS community

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African Women Stand Up to Big Coal

Nigeria Big Coal

by Maggie Hazvinei Mapondera


JASS Southern Africa sat down with two activists who are saying “No!” to Big Coal: Nomonde Nkosi, a young feminist activist from rural Mpumalanga, South Africa and Betty Abah a poet-environmentalist from Nigeria. Despite the distance that separates them and their contexts, their powerful stories illustrate women’s courage, leadership and organizing in standing up to multinational extractive corporations. These corporations—often backed by governments—are exploiting natural resources such as natural gas, oil and coal, while devastating women’s lives and the environment. Read more

Honduran Women Refused to be Silenced in Face of Yet Another Setback

by Catalina Ruiz-Navarro


Gladys Lanza, a long-time veteran Honduran feminist activist, was recently convicted of defamation for defending a woman who accused a Honduran government official of sexual harassment. The verdict—1 year and 6 months in prison—is aimed at sending a powerful message to all defenders of women’s rights in the country: “If you don’t want to be prosecuted, stay silent.” Regardless of her sentence, Lanza knows feminists will carry her voice to all corners. Even though laws may convict women, legitimacy envelops their work, their courage, [and] their resistance. Read more

Gladys Lanza Honduras
photo credit: Orlando Sierra/Getty

Myanmar: Women Activists Condemn Police Crackdown on Student Protests

Myanmar Student Protest
photo credit: Sui Zaw, The Irrawaddy

by Osang Langara


The attack on the unarmed demonstrators was a cowardly act on the part of the police,” says Yangon Youth Network’s Thinzar Shunlei Yi in response to the violent police crackdown on 200 students who were peacefully protesting against the new National Education Law on March 10, 2015. An estimated 127, including students and parents were arrested, and 24 injured—a clear sign of how little has changed since the famous 1988 student uprising against the military dictatorship. Responding the use of excessive force by the police, JASS Southeast Asia joined the Women’s League of Burma and 130 student unions and civil society organizations to issue a joint statement condemning the violence and the attempt to limit students’ freedom. Read more