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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

For companies, investing in women can mean better health, education — and business

But experts say there is still work to be done to translate good theories into results.
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Nepalese farmer Meena Maharjan works in a field in the village of Khokana on the outskirts of Kathmandu on March 3, 2014. Thirty-five year old Meena who has one daughter spends the majority of her time in the fields with her husband also a farmer. Waking up at 5am preparing food for the family then either working on the farm or selling her produce in the market, she averages a monthly income of Nepalese Rupees 5000 (USD 50). (PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Ishrat Hussain’s decision to enroll in a Nestle job-training program that would kick-start a career in the dairy industry set her neighbors in rural Pakistan talking. For one month, the 20-year-old learned how to increase milk production through proper livestock feeding and care before Nestle helped her launch a veterinary business to service many of the company’s local milk producers. Such dirty work, people in Hussain’s conservative village said, wasn’t “good” for a young woman. But she carried on, she later told Nestle, because “I knew it would help me and my family out of poverty.”

Hussain’s new business could accomplish much more than that. A growing body of research from leading global institutions, including UNICEF and the World Bank, suggests economically empowering women not only lifts families out of poverty and stimulates the economy, but also leads to better community education and health.

Fueled, in part, by such data, experts say women’s empowerment has emerged as one of the more popular areas for corporate philanthropic investments. The benefits of women’s economic participation have seized America’s heart and imagination to an extent that, “any consumer-facing brand would be foolish to ignore,” said Racheal Meiers, a gender expert at the corporate responsibility consultancy BSR.


In US, government hacking is '40 years ahead' of the language in privacy laws

And experts at a Harvard Berkman Center conference on the constitutional right to IT privacy say the key to dealing with this new reality, and protecting information, is reshaping legislation for new technologies.
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National Code Pink Coordinator Alli McCracken stands with giant glasses that read "Stop Spying" as she and other protesters prepare to stage a demonstration at the office of Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein as protesters from Code Pink hold a demonstration to "expose her two-faced stance on spying" in the Hart Senate Office Building on US Capitol in Washington, DC, March 12, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

CAMBRIDGE—By now it’s no secret: Governments are increasingly using their expanding capabilities to access people’s digital lives. Most information stored online, on digital devices or on cloud-based services can now be searched and manipulated in the name of national security.

But while hacking techniques advance, our legal definition of ‘privacy’ remains rooted in traditional, historical concepts that predate even the thought of our current digital age.

Unless the language in US legislation is adapted for new technologies, experts say people may remain largely defenseless in protecting their digital information.


In Venezuela, protests shed light on the extent of media censorship

Analysis: President Maduro had so far been both subtler and more brutal than Chávez, but studies say he enacted 93 new (not-so-subtle) restrictions between the start of protests in early February and March 20.
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Students sit on the pavement reading "Censorship is dictatorship" during an anti-government protest in Caracas on February 17, 2014. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday accused Washington of plotting with anti-government protesters and expelled three US diplomats in retaliation. (JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelans have never been less informed by traditional media than during the recent wave of protests that began in early February.

Newspapers don’t have access to the dollars they need for buying paper, because the government restricts the flux of dollars through a currency exchange control, so they have reduced their print editions virtually to newsletters.


Transgender people voted for the first time in El Salvador's history

With victory in tow, rights groups now push new president to end violence, corruption and discrimination.
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LGBT activists display their inked fingers after voting in the second round of the Salvadoran presidential elections, on March 9, 2014. in order to prove that a citizen has voted, fingers are dipped in semi-permanent ink after turning in the ballot. Third from left is Pati Hernandez, executive director of ASPIDH Arco Iris, and second from right is Karla Avelar, executive director of COMCAVIS trans. (Gloria Marisela Moran /GlobalPost)

SAN SALVADOR and NEW YORK—Rubi Navas is among the first transgender women in the history of El Salvador to be allowed to vote.

In previous years, Rubi and her peers were normally barred from voting, because their physical appearances don’t match the masculine birth names on their national identification cards. The few who were able to cast ballots were lucky; an unusually progressive election official had probably let them by.


In Kenya, major debate over government wages 'spiraling out of control'

In the nation’s public sector, there are huge disparities between the highest earners and the low. Now, Kenyans are fighting over who should take a cut.
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A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against Members of Parliament who have demanded higher wages, outside Parliament in Nairobi on May 14, 2013. The protestors had intended to occupy parliament but were dispersed, beaten by police and arrested. (SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya—Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta ignited a nationwide debate over government employee wages this month when he surprised the country by announcing he would reduce his own salary by 20 percent.

The move signaled the beginning of a fierce debate over government wages, which are rising out of control: This year, public sector salaries are expected to eat up 54 percent of all tax revenue and equal 13 percent of the nation’s GDP, according to cabinet secretary in charge of the Treasury, Henry Rotich.

Kenya currently pays out some 543.7 billion shillings, or $6.4 billion, per year in public salaries and benefits. But recently that figure has been rising at the rate of 21 percent per year, “well above (Kenya’s) nominal GDP growth of about 14 percent and population growth rate of about 3 percent,” said Rotich.

Kenya employs some 700,000 civil servants, making the public sector a sizeable employer in the country. But as wages continue to take up a greater share of the national budget, many fear Kenya will lack the funds necessary to invest in infrastructure and other development projects that are critical to supporting the country’s economic growth.


To end hunger, global policy can't be 'business as usual'

Analysis: As the UN leader on the right to food steps down, he urges policymakers to think about sustainability. Will a new model for food security arise?
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UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter speaks during a press conference on April 5, 2012 in Nairobi following a meeting of more than 45 food experts in the Kenyan capital Nairobi that discussed food security in Africa. De Schutter said that incorporation of a right to food in national constitutions was a necessity in the fight against food insecurity in Africa. "Food insecurity is not only due to climatic events that have increasingly affected the region adversly in the last decade", he said adding that it is also due to lack of accountability of governments, and the inability of non-governmental or parliamentary controls that governments put in place to reduce food insecurity." (TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)

International food prices have fallen since 2008, when agricultural commodity prices doubled, pushing millions around the world from bare subsistence to hunger and raising the number of food insecure people to nearly one billion

Is the crisis over, then? Far from it, according to Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. As he told the UN Human Rights Council earlier this month, global policymakers have yet to address the structural causes of the crisis. In particular, they have failed to recognize that industrial agriculture is not the ultimate solution to global hunger — and that it is, instead, part of the problem.

In part, De Schutter drew his conclusions from his official mission to Malawi last year. As I toured the country last month, it was easy to see what he saw: the promise and allure of hybrid seeds and synthetic fertilizer, as well as their limits.


Concerns about China's media censorship abound as the Republic faces UN review

As China goes before the UN for Wednesday's human rights review, rights groups question how the country will defend its continued crackdowns on the press and activists.
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Protesters display a large banner during a rally to support press freedom in Hong Kong on March 2, 2014. The rally was staged following the attack of a former editor of local liberal newspaper which comes at a time of growing unease over freedom of the press in the southern Chinese city, with mounting concerns that Beijing is seeking to tighten control over the semi-autonomous region. (PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s new administration made its people hopeful when in 2013 it introduced the idea of reform by promoting the “Chinese Dream.”

But the Dream—a set of ideals often said to be achieving the “Two 100s”: China’s becoming a “moderately well off society” by 2021 (100 years after the founding of the Communist Party), and a fully developed nation by 2049 (on the centennial anniversary of the People's Republic of China)—has excluded an important goal that many have dreamed of: loosening censorship over Chinese media.

As the Republic prepares to go before the United Nations’ Human Rights Council for its Universal Periodic Review on Wednesday, March 19, rights groups wonder how authorities will defend the country’s “dubious claims to respect rights.”


Turkey's restrictions on press freedoms just got tighter

A new law targeting independent and social media can now make dissent disappear so discreetly that users may not even notice.
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Demonstrators wearing black ribbon over their mouths hold up posters as journalists demanding freedom for the media take part in a protest against Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara on February 15, 2014. Signs read: "Journalism is asking questions, not keeping silent" (L) and "Press freedom also means people's freedom to access information." (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — When voice recordings leaked on YouTube recently, allegedly featuring Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayipp Erdogan instructing his son to dispose of large sums of money last year on the heels of a corruption investigation, Turkey’s mainstream press outlets were initially silent. But, the news raced through social media, building political pressure.


Doctors Without Borders still excluded from Myanmar's Rakhine state

The government has said restrictions on the organization are a result of a broken agreement with the capital. A leaked document suggests there is more to the story.
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Displaced Rohingya Muslims carrying bags of aid after they collected from a humanitarian center at a camp on the outskirts of Sittwe in Rakhine state, western Myanmar on February 26, 2014. For Muslim communities eking out an existence in segregated camps in Myanmar's Rakhine State, aid groups provide a lifeline but their work is coming under threat from Buddhist nationalist campaigns that have pushed the government to eject Doctors Without Borders (MSF) from the region. (SOE THAN WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

YANGON, Myanmar — Last month’s decision by the government of Myanmar to suspend the operations of the medical aid charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) prompted widespread concerns about the impact the organization’s withdrawal would have on the tens of thousands reliant on the support they provide.

Since that time, the temporary ban has been revised, and now only covers Rakhine state, on the country’s western coast.

In the wake of the announcement, government spokespersons stressed that the chief reasons for this decision were that MSF had breached the terms of a memorandum of understanding with Naypyidaw—the capital city of Myanmar—and had shown favour unduly toward one ethnic group in Rakhine.

However, documentary evidence and testimony obtained by GlobalPost appears to contradict this publicly stated rationale and instead suggests that the action may be punitive, linked to MSF’s response to a massacre that occurred at the end of January in northern Rakhine state—the same area where the charity's ability to operate remains frozen.


Stories from Mexico's Casa de Migrantes: Journey to the US border

For thousands of South and Central American migrants who have paid coyotes to get them to the United States, the Casa is the last safe house before the Mexico-US border.
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The urban landscape of Tijuana, Mexico ends abruptly at the US-Mexico on April 3, 2008 in the Otay Mountain Wilderness Area southeast of Chula Vista, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

SALTILLO, Mexico — La Casa de Migrantes is the last safe house before the Mexico-US border for thousands of migrants heading north toward the United States. Flanked by the glorious Zapalinamé Mountains, which are part of the Sierra Madres, the house was founded by Father Pedro Pantoja and two nuns more than a decade ago, offering legal and psychological help and campaigning for migrant rights.