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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

America's domestic workers, mostly female immigrants, 'undervalued and underpaid'

A new study finds that over 90 percent of the United States' domestic workers are women, and they're living in poverty.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

A new study of the United States’ domestic worker industry shows a disproportionate number of laborers are women —predominantly immigrants — many of whom have trouble "making ends meet." The report, published Nov. 26, documents the economic instability and lack of legal protections for domestic workers.

Here is a closer look:


US support builds for passing International Violence Against Women Act

IVAWA was reintroduced to Congress on November 21, an effort to make women's rights a permanent part of US foreign policy.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

Rights groups say the passage of a recently revived bill would boost efforts to end gender-based violence around the world, potentially inspiring similar commitments from other countries.

The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) is garnering renewed support since being re-introduced to the House of Representatives last week by Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Nita Lowey (D-NY). IVAWA would make violence against women prevention and response a permanent foreign policy priority through the Office for Women’s Issues at the State Department.

Currently, the office exists only when a presidential administration wants it to exist, according to rights group Women Thrive Worldwide, and if Congress passes the bipartisan bill into law it cannot be disbanded based on presidential terms.

The last time IVAWA was introduced to Congress and the Senate, in February 2010, the bill never made it to a vote. American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger, in a press conference hosted by the AJWS, said the United States could lead the change in how the international community responds to violence against women  if the bill were passed.

"We are, as the United States, the largest donor compared to other Western nations—Canada, Australia and Western Europe—that gives money and that makes it particularly important for us to target our aid to sensitive issues," she said. "If we say women's empowerment—action against violence against women—is important before a government can receive full funding, then countries will adopt similar policies."

Congresswoman Schakowsky added that passing the bill is not only imperative from a humanitarian standpoint; it is also important to US national security.

“It is no coincidence that the most dangerous places to be a woman are some of the most unstable places in the world," she said in Thursday afternoon's press conference. "Studies have proven that investing in women, protecting their fundamental rights strengthens entire communities. Combating violence against women is a critical step toward promoting regional and global stability.”


Nelson Mandela, Elder of the global village (1918—2013)

A look at Nelson Mandela's unconventional human rights group, The Elders, upon his passing at the age of 95.
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A boy accompanying his mother, member of the Conscience and Dignity Foundation, holds balloons with an image of former South African President Nelson Mandela during an event to mark Nelson Mandela International Day at Independence Angel square in Mexico City on July 18, 2013. (Yuri Cortez/Getty Images)

The widely adored South African leader Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid icon and former president of the 'Rainbow Nation,' died Thursday at the age of 95, leaving behind a rich legacy promoting equality and human rights worldwide. A lesser-known part of his legacy is his founding of an international group known as The Elders.

Several years ago Peter Gabriel of the rock group Genesis and entrepreneur Richard Branson approached Mandela with an idea. That idea swiftly grew into a conversation.

The notion was simple: “many communities look to their elders for guidance, or to help resolve disputes. In an increasingly interdependent world—a ‘global village’—could a small, dedicated group of individuals use their collective experience and influence to help tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the world today?”

The Elders were formally established in Johannesburg in July of 2007.


Seeking the will to prosecute modern-day slavery

Human trafficking remains a massive global undertaking with a surprising number of cases in the US. Though prosecution is exceedingly rare, a London gathering celebrated those who are fighting to change that.
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An alleged Indian human trafficking victim (R) is hugged by her sister after being rescued from a village in Karnal around 100 kilometers from New Delhi on September 16, 2013. In India, mostly women are trafficked or tricked into different forms of slavery ranging from domestic service to prostitution. Desperately poor parents also sell their children who are then forced into begging rackets and manual labor. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, some 38,000 children were kidnapped last year in India compared with 33,000 the year before. Child rights groups say the actual number is probably much higher. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — From the global underworld of human trafficking came stories of modern-day slavery: prostitutes from Eastern Europe with barcodes tattooed to their arms to signify ownership by pimps in New York; Nepalese men kept inside storage containers and forced to work as bonded labor in Dubai; and Indian girls, some as young as eight, trapped in a labyrinth of brothels with padlocked cages in Mumbai.


16 Days of Action: The burden of gender-based violence on women's health

With just under a week remaining in the campaign to end violence against women, GlobalPost spoke with the World Health Organization on how violence impacts wellness.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

There are six days left in the United Nations Secretary General’s 16-day campaign, UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, and in just the last week a number of staggering statistics have gone viral on the Web, exposing the international community to facts that, activists hope, will have lasting effects on the minds of many.

By now, certain essential data provided by the World Health Organization’s mid-June report on violence against women are known well among those following the 16 Days campaign:

A third of women worldwide have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by a partner or stranger; women who have experienced abuse at the hands of a loved one are twice as likely to suffer from depression than women who do not; children who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners as adults.

The WHO’s global review of violence against women has become an integral piece of UNiTE’s campaign, but it has done more than simply uncover the numbers behind a vast spectrum of human rights abuses against women that spans beyond geographical boundaries, political or religious landscapes—it has revealed a “public health problem of epidemic proportions.”


Obama warns of 'dangerous and growing inequality' in America

President Obama pledged to devote the remainder of his term to increasing opportunities for Americans, acknowledging that this is a time of unprecedented inequality.
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US President Barack Obama speaks on economic themes at the Center for American Progress December 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama spoke at the think tank about economic inequality and a lack of upward mobility. (Aude Guerrucci/AFP/Getty Images)

After weeks dominated by the dysfunctional launch of his most important piece of legislation reforming the national health care system, Barack Obama on Wednesday tried to nudge the national spotlight on a deeper issue: the still growing gaps in income and opportunity between the richest Americans and the rest of the country.

Citing the words and deeds of presidents past — Democrats and Republicans alike — Obama equated income disparity as measured by an array of economic statistics as the “defining challenge of our time.”


The start of winter brings new dangers for Syrian refugees in Jordan

As the year ends, residents of Za'atari refugee camp face increasing needs and another shortfall of funds.
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A young Syrian refugee boy sells canned tuna and other food items in the Zaatari refugee camp, located close to the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on September 4, 2013. (KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)

ZA’ATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan — The conflict in Syria is only eight miles away from the residents of Za’atari, the second largest refugee camp in the world. They can sometimes hear the explosions, according to one humanitarian aid worker, who noted that the proximity to the border and the conflict adds to the insecurity in the camp.

“Za’atari is the tip of the iceberg of the Syrian crisis,” said Kilian Kleinschmidt, the camp manager.

Za’atari is laid out on a stark five square miles of barren rocky desert with tents and caravans as far as the eye can see. There is not a single tree or bush or plant anywhere, nothing to break the view except coiled barbed wire around certain parts of the compounds. Conditions have improved considerably, according to those who have visited the camp in the past; however the landscape and the challenges remain daunting.

Originally set up for 10,000 people, Za’atari currently houses over 80,000 and at times has held as many as 150,000. The camp is now the fourth largest “city” in Jordan, one of the places I recently worked on a field mission for Refugees International to meet with Syrian refugees.

“We walked three days in the dark, at night, afraid, carrying our two children,” said one young man, who travelled with his wife and three-year old son and one-year old daughter, trying to avoid the fighting. They finally got a ride and arrived at Za’atari, but he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to support his family.


LGBT rights a late casualty of Northern Ireland’s Troubles

As the rest of the British Isles moves forward on LGBT rights, the North’s ruling party is fighting tooth-and-nail to preserve the status quo.
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Loyalists protesters wearing masks demonstrate in front of Belfast City Hall to mark the first anniversary of the restrictions on the British union flag flying over Belfast city hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on November 30, 2013. Belfast City Council voted to fly the union flag at city hall only on designated days on December 3 2012. (PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images)

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Julie-Ann Corr, 25, was inspired to take up politics last year when a controversy erupted over flying the Union Jack atop Belfast City Hall. But she encountered an unexpected dilemma: her sexual preference meant there wasn’t room for her in Northern Ireland’s ruling Democratic Unionist Party, which has twice blocked marriage equality bills in parliament.

“We’re both loyalists,” said Corr, a lesbian with a girlfriend she wanted to marry. “But we had no political representation. The only people we could look to for support were the LGBT groups or Sinn Fein.”

Fifteen years after the Troubles — the 30 years of violence between mostly Catholic supporters of a united Ireland and mostly Protestant advocates of Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom — LGBT rights have become a surprising casualty of a conflict that left Northern Ireland with a government vehemently opposed to change and a society where fixation on the unionist-nationalist divide has left little room for other aspects of identity to gain recognition.

In every other corner of the British Isles LGBT rights are on the march, but Northern Ireland has distinguished itself from its neighbors by digging in against change.

Last month, Scotland’s national parliament overwhelmingly approved, in principle, a same-sex marriage bill. Also in November, the government of the Republic of Ireland approved a marriage referendum for 2015. In England and Wales marriage equality is law, and same-sex couples will be able to marry next year. In Northern Ireland, zilch.


Putting religious differences aside, Tanzanians craft new constitution

From a society split between Muslims and Christians comes a model for peaceful political change.
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Maria Kashonda pages through her copy of the proposed constitution she helped draft as a member of the Constitutional Review Commission. She says People are putting aside their religious differences to fight for guarantees of rights like education and health, which she says are universal. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania – Political divisions in this East African nation are so profound that to achieve some sort of unity may, paradoxically, require dividing the country even further—into as many as three governments within a single state.

That’s the proposal put forth by a group of politicians drafting a new constitution intended to usher in prosperity for all Tanzania’s people, urban and rural, rich and poor. That task appears even more daunting given that Tanzanians are further divided by religion, split between Christians and Muslims and those who are animist or practice local religions.

And yet the one thing nearly everyone in Tanzania agrees on is that religion should have little or nothing to do with the constitutional process.

“Wherever you are, you want good education, health services—these things are universal,” said Maria Kashonda, member of the Constitutional Review Commission. “People are putting aside their religious differences for these.”


The UN's 16-day campaign to end violence against women

The world is mobilizing for women's rights on day two of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign, which began on Nov. 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and goes through Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

Say NO - UNiTE's global campaign to end violence against women has already garnered quite a following. By the organization's count, 5,621,051 online actions have already been taken toward bringing awareness to gender violence. 


Many of those actions have been shared on Twitter, where Say NO is asking participants to tweet their activities and experiences under the hashtags "#orangeurworld," for this year's theme color, and "#16days."