Interactive web forum with 3 leading Arab women human rights defenders Nov. 20

On Thursday, 20 November at 4 pm GMT (11 am ET), Front Line Defenders, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) and the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC) will present a live interactive web forum featuring three leading Arab women human rights defenders (WHRDs). The forum will feature leading Arab women human rights defenders Alaa Murabit (Libya), Sally Zohney (Egypt) and Atiaf Al-Wazir (Yemen).


Join the conversation at the Arab WHRDs event page:


unnamed-2Alaa Murabit (Libya) – Founder, The Voice of Libyan Women, and Advisor to UN Women, at age 21 Alaa was – in the midst of the Libyan Revolution – listed by the Gaddafi regime as one of the “most wanted” women due to her activities. The Voice of Libyan Women organized the first ever International Women’s Conference in Libya.

unnamedSally Zohney (Egypt) – Founding member of Baheya Ya Masr, an Egyptian women’s rights movement, Sally has been a active participant in Egyptian social movements since before 2011. Sally organises anti-sexual harrassment rallies and protests in Cairo, and was featured in a recent Front Line Defenders documentary on gender-based violence and harassment against Egyptian WHRDs.

unnamed-3Atiaf Al-Wazir (Yemen) – Co-Founder of the media advocacy group SupportYemen, Atiaf is a researcher and writer focusing on social movements in Yemen, gender dynamics, and the role of regional and international policy. Since the end of January 2011, she chronicled the Yemeni revolution on her blog with commentaries, videos, and photographs.

Viewers will be able to post questions to the panelists throughout the event. Following the broadcast, the video link will be available on the Front Line Defenders website (

20 Years of VAWA

Twenty years ago, on September 13, 1994, President Clinton signed into law a bill that included the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Act afforded greater protections to victims, brought the issue out of the private sphere and into the public domain, and resulted in a 64% drop in the intimate partner violence rate. Yet, recent news reports have once again thrust the issue front and center here in the United States, where domestic violence accounts for 0ver 20% of all violent crime.

The occasion of the twentieth anniversary of this vital legislation provides an opportune time to consider these sobering global statistics:

Legislation like VAWA is a powerful tool for combating violence against women domestically, and organizations working to prevent this violence and address root causes also effect change. International treaties including the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Comabating Violence Against Women, which entered into force just last month on August 1, the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, and numerous other documents together evidence the depth and breadth of the global support regarding the right for women and girls to live without violence. Change happens slowly, but with all these instruments at our disposal, we have reason to believe it will happen.

The World Cup Spotlight (Concluding Thoughts): A Woman’s Game?

Last month, thirty-two soccer teams began their quest to win the World Cup. Some results worth noting:

►Chile lost in the round of 16 to Brazil.

►Brazil, host of the tournament, lost in the semi-finals to Germany.

►Argentina lost in the final game to Germany.

►Germany won it all.

What do these counties have in common, other than a love for soccer and a desire to win it all?

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff  (photo credit)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff
(photo credit)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (photo credit)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (photo credit)

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner (photo credit)

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner
(photo credit)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (photo credit)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
(photo credit)

Their heads of state are female: Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Angela Merkel (Germany) and Cristina Kirchner (Argentina).

According to the Centre for Women and Democracy, there are currently eighteen women around the world who occupy the position of president or prime minister. This means that over 20% of them were represented at the Cup, and that the final game pitted two countries with female leaders against each other, in a country also governed by a female leader.

Looks like women were the real winners here – Parabéns! Felicitaciones! Glückwunsch!

Every Mother Counts

WHOJust in time for Mother’s Day in the United States, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released updated statistics showing that maternal mortality rates are dropping worldwide. In fact, maternal deaths have fallen 45% since 1990, a statistic that should be cause for optimism about the future.  Yet, the actual number of women who die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth every year translates into a mind-boggling one death every two minutes. Here are some relevant statistics:

►The vast majority of maternal deaths (90%) occur in the developing world, though the WHO report notes that maternal mortality rates in the United States have increased since 1990.

Every Mother Counts, an organization that addresses the barriers to maternal health worldwide, states that two women die every day in the United States from pregnancy or childbirth complications and that the U.S. ranks 50th in the world in terms of maternal health.Every-Mother-Counts-logo

►India (17%) and Nigeria (14%) together account for one-third of maternal deaths worldwide.

►Eleven countries are considered to be “on track” to meet the Millennium Development Goal regarding maternal mortality by 2015: Maldives, Bhutan, Cambodia, Equatorial Guinea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Romania, Timor Leste, Cabo Verde, Eritrea, Nepal, and Rwanda.

You can access the full report here.

Go On! Hague Academy ‘Rights of Women and Elimination of Discrimination’ applications due March 28

The Hague Academy of International Law Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations presents “The Rights of Women and Elimination of Discrimination” from Aug. 18 to Sept. 15, 2014.

Directors of Studies:

English-speaking section: Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg, Professor at Uppsala University, Member of The Hague Academy Curatorium;

Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg


French-speaking section: Hélène Tigroudja, Professor at Aix-Marseille University.

Venue: The Hague Academy of International Law – Peace Palace, The Hague, The Netherlands

Hélène Tigroudja

Fees: no registration fees, each participant receives a daily allowance of 35 euros according to the length of the stay and the reimbursement of half of the travel expenses, up to a maximum of 910 euros.

Deadline to apply: March 28th 2014, 23hrs59 (GMT+1).

For more information, please visit

Best and Worst Places for Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean

Women selling in market (IITA Image Library)

Women selling in market
(IITA Image Library)

The Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (IDB/MIF) has issued a study which ranks Latin American and Caribbean countries based on risks to and support for women entrepreneurs. Highlights of the study presented in this slideshow rank the countries from first to twentieth place in this slideshow.

Jamaica, my country of origin, was ranked 20th. To persons who are familiar with the prevalence of women in all areas of Jamaican business and society, this low ranking will seem surprising. Women, for example, comprise 70% of the country’s university students and 50% of its workforce; they occupy management positions at various levels of society, including a female Prime Minister who is serving for the second time.

So, if visibility of women is not enough to secure top ranking, what are the other factors that the study authors considered? I have divided them into three categories:

Category 1: Societal Conditions

  • Overall strength of the economy, as measured by fiscal conditions, level of investor confidence,
  • Political factors, such as degree of political and institutional stability and the presence of good governance
  • Degree of corruption

Category 2: Support for Micro & Small Entrepreneurs

The majority of women entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean (indeed developing and emerging countries as a whole) operate micro and small to medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and so the availability of the following factors can play a huge role in determining success:

  • Ability of MSMEs to access credit
  • Access to technology and to technical support by MSMEs
  • Favorability of tax rates for MSMEs
  • Legal structure supporting MSMEs
  • Costs of starting and expanding a business

Category 3: Support for Women in Business

The following factors can speak volumes about the level of support that exists for women entrepreneurs:

  • Extent of access to business associations and enterprises
  • Levels of female enrolment in vocational programs
  • Extent of crime and security risks
  • Extension of property rights to women
  • Access to and/or level of spending on social services, i.e. child support and for taking care of the elderly

While a country need not have all of these factors in place to be ranked highly as a good place for women entrepreneurs, it must be able to provide evidence of societal support across all three categories. This was clearly evident in Chile, which ranked #1 for the following reasons: (1) good fiscal conditions, political and institutional stability, strong investor confidence, and perceptions of good governance; (2)  high access to technology; and (3) good security conditions and adequate access to social services.

Reinterpreting Human Rights through Global Media: A Case Study of Al Jazeera English

The Canadian Journal of Human Rights has just published an article I wrote examining Al Jazeera English. One of the characteristics of globalization is the migration of people and the emergence of “virtual states” uniting people in different geographic territoritories via the internet and global media. In response to the transnational identities of diaspora and cosmopolitan audiences, the global media increasingly illuminates human rights issues. Human rights are described as providing an emancipatative vocabulary in order to facilitate the creation of spaces for agency or autonomy of individuals and groups in relation to the state. Ideally, the media promotes “dialogue, debate, and democratic pluralism”, thus, its purpose has an intrinsic tie to human rights. The article explores the way in which Al Jazeera English utilizes human rights as a frame. I analyze Al Jazeera English reports on the right to food, freedom of expression, and women’s rights, demonstrating how the reports reveal multiple causes of hunger, censorship, and gender discrimination and violence. It also invites consideration of possible solutions involving legal or judicial reform and disseminates the output of international and regional human rights institutions. It may well be considered as promoting peace journalism, as it seeks to provide voice to marginalized groups and achieve conflict resolution. It legitimizes universal human rights discourses by presenting their audience with an alternative voice. There is a need for further research as to impact of the media on our understaning of the enjoyment of human rights in the world. The link to the article is available here.

‘Nuff said

Image Opponents have a point when they note that ratifying [CEDAW] has not prevented some countries from being the most egregious violators of women’s rights. When the most powerful country in the world does not support women’s rights, it gives permission for other countries to dismiss their commitment to improving the status of women. With the United States behind it, CEDAW would have even more clout than it does.

– Professor Lisa Baldez, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College, and author ofImage the forthcoming book “Defying Convention: The United States, the United Nations, and the Treaty on Women’s Rights” to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. The quotation above is from Baldez’s recent CNN op-ed, in which she argues, contrary to conservative critics, that CEDAW does reflect American values of equality and women’s rights by raising them to the level of global norms.