Fund for Global Human Rights, Women's Rights Fund
The Women's Rights Fund enables the Fund for Global Human Rights to highlight the work of more than eighty women’s rights grantees; underscore the connection between legal, economic and social discrimination against women throughout the world; and attract new financial resources to the Fund—enabling us to expand our grant-making on the range of critical human rights issues affecting women’s everyday lives.
The Fund for Global Human Rights is founded on the belief
that securing basic freedoms worldwide requires effective, frontline
organizations challenging abuse wherever it occurs. Thus the Fund for
Global Human Rights works to ensure a strong, effective human rights
community worldwide. Grants are awarded through a competitive and
transparent grants process in areas strategically chosen to maximize
the impact of funders' dollars and advancement of human rights
Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral (SOFEPADI)
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a 2002 peace agreement did not put an end to widespread sexual violence committed by the Mai-Mai, Laurent Nkunda’s militia, former Interhamwes and members of the DRC military. Every day women are raped, often when they fetch water or work the land, and rarely do they seek justice given the fear of family rejection and a lack of trust in the justice system. The scope and nature of sexual violence is shocking: UN sources estimate that hundreds of thousands of women have been raped and horrifically maimed as part of this violence.
SOFEPADI operates along the border between North Kivu and Ituri—a particularly volatile area where armed groups are still rampaging. SOFEPADI seeks to break the culture of silence, challenge the social stigma attached to rape victims, and promote justice reform. SOFEPADI and other women’s rights organizations in the DRC obtained a major victory in 2006 when parliament passed a law that broadens the definition of sexual violence and increases penalties for perpetrators. As a result of SOFEPADI’s awareness campaign, traditional chiefs in ten villages surrounding Béni and Bunia have been reporting rape cases to the police instead of arranging marriages between rapists and their victims as “compensation” to the victim’s family. SOFEPADI provides documentation and facilitates meetings between rape survivors and international organizations that focus media attention on sexual violence in DRC, and it was instrumental in organizing the visit of UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Yakin Ertürk, to the region. Under very difficult conditions, SOFEPADI has transformed resigned victims of sexual violence into active participants seeking justice.
Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia
Women in Liberia are subject to pervasive social and economic discrimination and sexual and gender-based violence, and face many obstacles in accessing justice. During Liberia’s civil war, rape was used as a weapon to subdue and control populations -- and the end of fighting in 2003 did not bring an end to such crimes. As a result of years of advocacy by the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) and others, in 2005 the Liberian Congress passed a rape law that increases penalties for perpetrators, raises the age of consent to eighteen, and corrects language in older legislation that made it extremely difficult to prosecute sexual assault cases other than gang rape. Last year, the first two convictions of rapists under the new law were handed down.
AFELL is representing dozens of women from across the country in rape cases. These prosecutions are a critically important step in establishing the rule of law and holding perpetrators accountable. AFELL is conducting broad public education around the cases to send the message that rapists will be prosecuted under the new law. AFELL has organized workshops in Monrovia and rural areas to train police officers, court officials, town chiefs and elders, and women’s groups to implement the rape law. AFELL recently signed an agreement with the national police director to design and implement a training program for police officers on how to investigate rape cases. AFELL also has provided legal education to community-based organizations in rural Grand Gedeh and Grand Bassa counties; this outreach led to a sharp increase in demand for legal aid – a sign that women, once resigned to rape as a part of life, are beginning to believe that change is possible.
AFELL is the most prominent women-led human rights organization in Liberia, yet the Fund’s grant is its only source of general support funding – and the only funds it can use to respond to requests for legal aid from community-based organizations.
In the economically-deprived, volatile Karamoja region in northeast Uganda, prevailing laws and customs severely limit women’s ability to own property and compel girls to drop out of school at a young age. Road ambushes and raids between ethnic groups are common, and in 2006, the Ugandan army began a disarmament operation, detaining people indiscriminately and using excessive force. Operations by the army were less violent in 2007 but an atmosphere of instability and violence still prevails.
Founded in 1989 by a small group of rural women, Action for Women and Awakening in Rural Environment-Uganda (AWARE-Uganda) now has sixty legal aid volunteers actively campaigning against domestic violence and for the promotion of women’s rights in the districts of Kaabong, Abim, and Kotido. AWARE provides free legal services to women, and in the last year AWARE helped twelve victims of sexual and domestic violence successfully file their cases in court, where each of the alleged perpetrators was found guilty. Remarkably, as a result of a training session on inheritance rights for clan leaders organized by AWARE, widows in Kalapata, Karenga, Kapoth and Kathile (four main towns in Karamoja) are now able to take possession of their late husbands’ property. In addition, with the help of AWARE, thirty women were able to obtain official documents from their district offices showing their ownership and entitlement to their land. In 2008, AWARE will continue a campaign to promote girls’ access to primary and secondary education.
Key victories in 2007
- In April, LAW-Uganda convinced the Ugandan Constitutional Court to overturn unequal inheritance laws that limited widow’s rights to property and guardianship of their children. These laws, the Court agreed, treated women as second class citizens, in violation of equal treatment guarantees in Uganda’s Constitution.
- In Sierra Leone, Fund grantees LAWYERS and FAWE successfully pressed the country’s parliament to pass a new law in June that provides equal protection and rights to women in marriage, criminalizes forced and early marriage, and grants women the right to inherit property.
- In Baja California, Mexico, Centro Mujeres pressed state officials to adopt new protections against discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, ethnicity, age, and disability. The law, which went into effect in July, is the first of its kind in the country and can serve as a model for human rights organizations challenging discrimination in other Mexican states.
- In Tlaxcala, Mexico, Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Julián Garcés coordinated a successful campaign to challenge trafficking in women and children from rural areas to Mexico City to be sex workers, drug smugglers and laborers. This prompted voters in September 2007 to approve reforms to the state penal code that criminalize trafficking. The project now will press for implementation of the new law by urging the state to train law enforcement to detect and prosecute traffickers.
- In Chihuahua, Mexico, the Center for Women’s Rights won two precedent-setting legal victories. In August 2007, Center lawyers convinced a judge to approve the request of a twelve-year-old rape victim and her family to terminate the pregnancy that resulted from the assault—the first time a Chihuahua court has approved an abortion in the case of rape. Also in August, Center lawyers successfully used Mexico's new General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence and CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) to win a second violence suit. This is the first time in Mexico that these instruments have been used successfully in the prosecution of violence against women.
- In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, two of the Fund’s grantees succeeded in overturning rulings by traditional courts that were inconsistent with national laws. In October 2007, Arche de Alliance won an appellate decision stating that it is illegal to force a widow to marry her husband’s brother to keep her land and property. Grantee Haki Za Binadamu Maniema won an appeal of a similar case in which a widow was being forced to return her dowry to her in-laws unless she married her deceased husband’s brother.
- In January 2007, after a campaign by the Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (ADFM), the legislature passed a bill giving women the right to pass on their Moroccan nationality to their children, even if the father is not Moroccan. As a result, thousands of children will be able to acquire Moroccan citizenship and thus have access to public schools. In 2008, ADFM will focus on the implementation of this new law through public awareness campaigns.