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Pennsylvania Passes Anti-Human Trafficking Bill

Women Graduate-USA coalition partner, the Bucks County (PA) Coalition Against Trafficking, lobbied for this bill to pass. The press release on July 1, 2014 stated, “Currently, Pennsylvania is one of only two states in the country, the other being Colorado, that lacks a comprehensive legal definition of human trafficking. Senate Bill 75 will address this critical need, strengthen protections for victims of human trafficking, and will help to bring the perpetrators of this horrific crime to justice.”

The bill awaits the Governor’s signature.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Gender Status,Girls Issues,Global Women's Issues,Trafficking,Women and Violence

Minnesota Opens Shelter for Children Rescued from Trafficking

According to an article in MINN Post, the Safe and Sound Shelter is slated to open in St. Paul in August as one of several developments timed for late this summer and early fall to prepare for the implementation of Minnesota’s Safe Harbor Laws.

One of the leading advocates for rescuing and safe-guarding children caught up in sex trafficking is
Richard Gardell who has been dealing with child sex trafficking in the state in some form or another for more than a decade, first as assistant chief in the St. Paul Police Department and now as the CEO of 180 Degrees, a youth and adult services nonprofit. He’s watched trafficking victims, who average age 13 when they are first abused, fall back into the hands of their perpetrators when there’s nowhere for them to go.

Read the whole article here.

An earlier article at Minn Post describes the Safe Harbor Law.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Girls Issues,Trafficking,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG),Women and Violence

Violence Against Women Needs Your Support in Congress

I-VAWA The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) has been reintroduced in the Senate. It is time for Women Graduate-USA members to contact their own Senators to urge sponsorship of this Act.

To learn more about the Act, click here.

Filed under: Gender Status,Global Women's Issues,Trafficking,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

Add Your Voice for Action to Find the Nigerian Girls + updates

Women Graduates-USA has added its name to the petition to the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, to take concerted action to find the abducted girls who are apparently being sold into slavery as “wives” of the kidnappers.

This is WG-USA statement: WG-USA was founded on the basis that “100% of women and girls in the world achieve education beyond primary school” and one of WG-USA’s priorities is to work towards the elimination of violence against women and girls, therefore it is very important that our members are made aware of this situation and given an opportunity to sign this petition. Petitions have frequently resulted in positive outcomes in the past.

As an individual, you are urged to sign the petition as well. Go to one of the organizing sites, Walk Free, and read the information.

The US Congress, led by Senator Barbara Boxer, introduced a Congressional Resolution about this issue.

Senator Amy KLobuchar, a former Minnesota prosecutor who dealt with human trafficking cases added, “Let’s call this what it is, one of the most brazen and shocking signal incidents of human trafficking we’ve seen in recent memory. As Secretary of State John Kerry said this weekend, it’s not just an act of terrorism, it’s a massive human trafficking moment and it is grotesque. This heinous crime demands that we take action immediate to help bring these girls home to their families and bring their kidnappers to justice.”

UN Women have made a statement in regard to this situation, read it here.

Read this story from PBS Newshour about a mother’s struggle to get back her kidnapped daughter in 1996.

This is a statement by the US State Department about Boko Haram.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Girls Issues,Trafficking,US Congress,What's New at WG,Women and Violence

Learn about, Act on International Violence against Women

As this toolkit points out, “Everyone has a role to play in addressing violence against women.” If you don’t believe you know enough about this issue and the legislation, check out the website resource that has been produced by Amnesty International, and endorsed by Women Graduates-USA (see our logo included.)

Go to the site here.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Gender Status,Global Women's Issues,Trafficking,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

Taking Action, Advocating Change – You Can Do It!

The public policy impact and assistance to make the lives of women and girls better that Women Graduates-USA (WG-USA) member can have does not depend solely upon the national board or committees…it requires all members to take actions from where they are located. Without local branches/chapters to which we can belong (an intentional decision when WG-USA was founded), it requires much more individual initiative to become active. But that still does not mean you should have to work alone.

Here are some of the group with which WG-USA has a working relationship, whether in coalition, or with those groups’ local members: Amnesty International, CEDAW Task Force, Friends of UN Population fund *UNFPA)American Association of University Women (AAUW), United Nations Association-USA and Chapters,Zonta International, UNCIEF, UN Women-USA, Virginia Gildersleeve (VGIF) InternationalFund, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), UN Foundation, International Network on Small Arms (IANSA), Religions for Peace, US Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, Nonviolent Peaceforce, The Advocates fo Human Rights, Women’s Actions for New Directions(WAND) and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWARAW) — to name just a few. surely, you will know others in your community with whom you could join forces in taking actions to support women and girls.

One of the latest actions by some members in Eastern Pennsylvania (led by WG-USA President, Louise McLeod), has been to become a coalition member of the Buck’s County Coalition on Trafficking. The WG-USA members contribute to the Coalition what we have learned about this issue, while our members gain more insight at the “hands-on” level.

Read about their work here. Particularly note the information that they post in regard to federal and state legislation.

Filed under: CEDAW Action,Equality & Human Rights,Girls and Education/UNGEI,Girls Issues,Global Women's Issues,Trafficking,What's New at WG,Women and Economics,Women and Education,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

Support “Safe Harbor” Act to Protect Trafficked Children

From the lead editorial from the StarTribuneMinnesota “Senator Amy Klobachar will introduce ‘major legislation’ that will take the Minnesota ‘Safe Harbor’ model national to help minors sold for sex avoid criminal charges and the help they need.” Women Graduates-USA learned about this Minnesota legislation when the Annual General Meetings was held in Minneapolis in September 2011.

Click here to read the entire editorial that also provides some current statistics on child trafficking such as, “…in 2008, the average age of girls coming through was 16, 17, and 18…now it is between 12 and 14 with some as young as 11.”

Urge your U.S. Senators to co-sponsor the legislation. When the number for the bill is recorded it will be posted on this site.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Girls Issues,Trafficking,US Congress

Summary of WG-USA Advocacy in 2010-2013 Triennium

The Women Graduates-USA (WG-USA) group was an active advocate throughout the triennium on many IFUW priorities. The Board votes to take action when the issue falls within the established program priority themes, and ordinarily has been recommended by the WG Advocacy Committee. In addition, action alerts are sent to all members to take individual actions, usually to make contact with their own Congressional Representative and Senators. During the Annual General meeting (AGM), specific issues in the form of Resolutions are voted upon for further direction for action.

Generally, WG-USA works together in networks with other NGOs on specific issues, although on occasion may work together with only one other organization.

Human Trafficking – WG-USA worked to inform US members and members of the public about the business of human trafficking, a serious and dangerous issue worldwide. Activities were undertaken to create visibility and information about the issue and its effects and presence in the United States, especially in localities where WG-USA members are active. Advocacy action was primarily conducted in coalition with other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). WG-USA signed on to the petition to pass the national Safe Harbor Act and ratification of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Children, as well as sending a petition to President Obama to support the Anti-Slavery Act. Through The United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework for Business and Human Rights, the United Nations Global Initiative to Combat Human Trafficking, and the United Nations Global Compact, there is worldwide acknowledgement that corporations are well-positioned to help prevent commercial sexual exploitation at such events. Therefore, WG-USA signed a letter and urged membership to send letters to Super Bowl sponsors and suppliers to stop sex and labor traffickers from plying their trade during that event, as major sporting events now frequently are the scene of human trafficking. They have done the same for organizers of the World Cup in Brazil.

Immigrants’ Access to Education – WG-USA also advocated for access to education by immigrant/refugee women, with a focus on opposing or supporting federal and state legislation that would deny children of undocumented immigrants access to funding for higher education (The Dream Act, which was defeated at the national level because one provision would have allowed eventual path to citizenship; since then 13 States have passed similar legislation); to promote the teaching of English to recently arrived immigrants and refugees, especially women and children; to encourage young women to pursue educational programs and careers in the international arena; and to promote the teaching of foreign languages in the schools.

Peace – WG-USA monitors federal government on the US State Department Plan of Action designed to implement the UN Resolutions on women, peace and security (SCR 1325 et al). Along with 35 other national NGOs, WG-USA also advocated in Congress for a law that would codify the Plan of Action instead of only being an administration policy which could be eliminated by a new President’s administration. A further focus was given to the implementation strategy of “unarmed civilian peacekeeping” (UCP), a successfully proven model of professionally-trained teams of men and women primarily protecting women and children. UCP is used in internecine conflicts in such places as Sri Lanka, Philippines, South Sudan, South Caucasus and Kyrgyzstan. WG-USA also signed on to a Call to Include Gender in the Arms Trade Treaty drafted by Amnesty International and supported by the Peace Network in which WG-USA is represented.

CEDAW – United States law requires that the US Senate ratify UN Conventions such as the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that was signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Since that time, there has only been two instances when ratification could have been possible, an occurrence that happens when the President and the majority in the Senate are of the same party. Currently, this situation exists, therefore, WG-USA signed on to the Global Solutions petition urging the US Senate to ratify CEDAW.

Violence Against Women – At the invitation of the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women Campaign, WG-USA signed on to the UN Women Say NO UNiTE to End Violence against Women petition in support of Malala Yousufzai’s campaign for education for all girls. With the re-introduction in 2013 of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a message was forwarded to WG-USA members urging them to individually contact their Representatives to agree and vote on a Senate version of the VAWA. It passed. The focus for WG-USA is now on the International VAWA agreement.

UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) – Activity was intense at the CSW in 2013, where WG-USA signed statements, sponsored events and joined other events. WG-USA hosted an NGO Side Event on Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping. The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) and Women Graduates-USA sponsored an NGO Side Event on Non-State Torture Victimization, which includes the violence of rape, and is too often not prosecuted and punished. Approximately twenty WG-USA members attended the following events: Ending Violence Against Women and Girls: Effective Practices, sponsored by IFUW; Untying the Knot: Preventing violence against women and girls by ending early marriage, sponsored by Girls Not Brides and World Vision; Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment in Schools, sponsored by American Association of University Women and Working Group on Girls; and Global Perspectives on Violence Against Women, sponsored by Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund along with Zonta International and the Huairou Commission.

Partner NGOs – In addition to those mentioned above, these include Friends of UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Amnesty International, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), Women’s Network, Religions for Peace, US Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, Nonviolent Peaceforce, and The Advocates for Human Rights. WG-USA also collaborates with the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, the CEDAW Task Force, the United Nations Association/USA and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific).

Filed under: Trafficking,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG),What's New at WG,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

Solving Violence by Addressing it is as a Social Disease

‘While essential, it is not enough to support victims’ shelters and services and encourage the abused to seek help. We must increase focus on the men who are the perpetrators and the social context in which they act.’ This was written by Cheryl Thomas of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights.

Cheryl shares her perspective of dealing with violence against women in this article from MinnPost.

Filed under: Gender Status,Global Women's Issues,Trafficking,Women and Violence

South Sudanese Fathers Marry Off Their Daughters for Cows

Girls in South Sudan are seen as a source of wealth by their families by marrying them off in exchange for cows, often as young as 12. Even though South Sudan’s Child Act 2008 sets the minimum age of marriage at 18, and says that anyone contravening this law faces up to seven years in prison, theMinister of Gender and Child Affairs Agnes Kwaje Losuba admitted that it is not enforced.
Murle-629x419
Women of the Murle ethnic group in South Sudan. The practice of child marriage is still supported in many South Sudanese communities, where girls are seen as a source of wealth because of the bride price families are paid.
Credit: Jared Ferrie/IPS

One father stated he supports child marriage because “he fears his daughters will fall pregnant out of wedlock – something that is abhorred by local cultures here…If her first child is born out of wedlock, whoever marries her later will pay only a few cows.”

For the full story, read it at the InterPress Service website.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Gender Status,Girls Issues,Global Women's Issues,Trafficking,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG)

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