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June 1, 2017

Word from our ED

Dear Friends,

First, a message of solidarity to the families and friends of those injured and killed in the recent Manchester bombing and to all those throughout the Middle East who continue to suffer from ceaseless wars. This sustained violence feeds on and fuels fear, anger and hatred—the key ingredients that serve to legitimize more weapons and more restrictions on basic rights. As we mourn, we must also untangle and change the policies and politics of inequality, discrimination, and dislocation that spark this violence.

2017 is a year of outrage and inspiration. From Brazil to South Africa, and the Philippines, the anti-democratic maneuvers of reckless and corrupt political leaders enrage all of us who care about dignity, human rights and the planet. In equal measure, the steadily growing mobilizations for justice are the promise for the future. Some commentators downplay the importance of protests and direct action. But, history shows that, in moments like the present, when the established channels for shaping policy aren’t functioning or don’t exist, these tactics are a vital part of the civic action toolbox that enable us to join together and to turn up the heat on public and private power. Amidst the negative are many stories of hope, like the recent French and Iranian elections, the Salvadoran victory against mining, and the recent policy victory for the LGBTQ community in Thailand.

This moment has sparked a political awakening with creative forms of resistance, unexpected alliances and uprisings that give us a daily dose of hope. Power and movements (and dare we say, feminism?) have re-entered the public vocabulary in ways that allow us to build new connections for a bigger voice. The Women’s March on Washington, a march that unexpectedly mobilized millions across the globe and reminded the world that women are the first responders to crisis; and the recent #NotInMyName march in South Africa are just a few examples of the energetic mobilizations of 2017. Sometimes, we are just holding the line against further restrictions on our rights and the destruction of the earth. Women’s rights advocates are experts at holding the line given the steady assaults on women’s reproductive rights and basic freedoms. As you will see below, the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule by the Trump administration reveals the global ambitions of the right-wing agenda against women’s health.

The renewed recognition of the importance of activism and movements in sustaining democracy has generated even more interest in our newly launched online learning platform—We Rise: Movement Building Reimagined. Our experience in accompanying activists confronting hostile contexts gives JASS an opportunity to bring this expertise to important conversations  that help redirect resources to better equip activists to be stronger and safer. Even more exciting is our renewed and growing connections with US-based activists and networks with whom we are constructing exchanges and the possibilities of new local-to-global linkages of solidarity and political power for the future. Clearly, the intersections of power have given us a common cause and we must rise to the occasion.

We can do this, together! Thanks for all the ways you are building the future.

Peace, Lisa VeneKlasen & the JASS community

What We Have Been Up To

This year began with the loss of Maria Mustika, a beloved and fearless activist from our Southeast Asia community. Maria had infectious energy and hope every time she spoke. Read some of JASS staff’s tribute to her.

March 2, marked the 2-year loss of feminist environmental leader and activist, Berta Cáceres; we joined many around the world in honoring her. Check out our ED’s tribute: Berta Vive! Lessons from Honduras on resistance.

Check out some highlights from the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

We are so proud! Our Activist Toolkit, ICTs for Feminist Movement Building was nominated for the World Summit on the Information Society 2017 Prize.

JASS and AWID received special mention in the latest report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders.

Check out JASS Mesoamerica Co-Director, Patricia Ardon's article, Guatemala: the democratic challenge

Alda Facio, long-time JASS Advisor & Chair of UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice writes about why it's important  for women on the frontlines to recognize themselves as human rights defenders.

The year so far in pictures

Check us out among thousands during the Women’s March on Washington and People’s Climate March.

What is Behind the Global Gag Rule?

By Winnet Shamuyarira & Adelaide Mazwarira

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The headlines are in. Yet again, women’s bodies are the battleground for conservative agendas in the US and abroad. The latest reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule by U.S. President Donald Trump has far-reaching impacts, especially for women in the Global South. The policy blocks nearly US$9 billion of US funding to foreign organizations that even mention ‘abortion’ in the services they provide, and now also to those working on HIV/AIDS, malaria, and maternal and child health. Evidence shows that the policy actually increases unsafe abortions and jeopardizes women’s health by reinforcing barriers and stigma in accessing reproductive healthcare and undermining women’s control of their own bodies. For many activists and JASS allies, these headlines miss two questions—whose interests does this policy serve and how are women organizing in response? JASS has much to share on how women are organizing to reclaim their bodies and health, and using creative strategies to challenge the hidden agendas threatening them. Read More

Rethinking Activists’ Safety at a Time of Escalating Risk

By Adelaide Mazwarira & Alexa Bradley

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On May 7, a group of armed men barged into Miriam Elizabeth Rodriguez Martinez’s home in Mexico and killed her. Miles away in Nicaragua, police arrested and beat Aydil del Carmen Urbina Noguer. In Marange area in Zimbabwe, police and military are using violence to silence women who speak out against mining companies that have occupied the area. This is just a glimpse into the reality that women activists are facing everywhere. Unfortunately, despite considerable effort, institutional and conventional responses to this violence are coming up short—as evident in the escalating risk for women activists. Given the urgency of the situation, JASS and allies are questioning the underlying assumptions guiding activists' safety, and bringing a feminist and movement building perspective to rethinking the approach. We are drawing on knowledge from our long-standing collaborative work in the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative and with other protective networks and strategies of women activists in that region and beyond. To deepen our learning and analysis and better inform practices, we are convening a series of dialogues and joint strategic spaces with human rights organizations, donors, frontline activists, and UN human rights officials that contribute towards building a shared understanding and joint solutions that can effectively address this growing violence against women activists. Read More

Standing Up When Everything Is at Stake

By Mikas Matsuzawa

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With President Donald Trump poised to pull the US out the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, a hard-won global commitment to reduce carbon emissions, many fear the consequences for vulnerable communities and those already experiencing climate change related challenges. According to Global Witness, indigenous and rural women are not only some of the most impacted by climate change but also among the most targeted activists for defending their land, forests and rivers against unregulated destructive industries such as mining, logging and hydropower. In Southeast Asia, defending the environment (including land rights and water) is one of the most dangerous forms of activism. In the following blog, Mikas demonstrates why as she interviews activists from Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, who despite the risks they face, continue defend their territories, livelihoods, and rights. Read More

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