Human Rights Watch and Humanitarian Work


The Sufi Women Organization is a humanitarian, non-political, non-sectarian organization that has  actively participated alone or together with other humanitarian organizations contributing towards the well being of our human family.

SWO has worked for and contributed towards the following causes (partial list):

  • Advocacy for care for children caught in refugee and migrant crises
  • Child survival; nutrition and food security focused in East Africa
  • Providing basic medicine and clean water in refugee areas (Ethiopia)
  • Providing educational scholarship
  • Ending HIV (working with other humanitarian organizations in Africa): help training local nurses, orphan care, health education, mobile health clinic; (California) medical case management, free testing, free syringes
  • Emergency relief (Haiti: food, shelter, clean drinking water and medical assistance)

Looking into the light

World AIDS Day 2016

Join UNAIDS for a special event to commemorate World AIDS Day and the commitment to move forward together to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The event Moving forward together: Leaving no one behind will also honour the leadership of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his legacy of leaving no one behind in the response to HIV. The UN Secretary General, President of the General Assembly, and celebrities will attend.

The event will take place on 30 November 1100-1200 in the Trusteeship Chamber, and will be open for attendance of member states, Civil society, UN entities and staff. Please download this PDF for more information. Also, see hamasehkianfar.com.

SWO Supports Hurricane Relief in Haiti

October, 2016 

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, SWO responded by sending a donation for basic supplies and rebuilding in Haiti. Funds from SWO are being used for direct assistance, for food, shelter, clean drinking water and medical assistance, for individuals and families who were directly affected by the Hurricane. SWO partnered with a local group who is hiring Haitian workers and purchasing supplies from local vendors to rebuild and restore basic needs and to help support the local economy. SWO has supported Haiti in other projects over recent years, including collecting basic supplies and toys, and sending a representative to Haiti to work in the orphanages in rural Haiti.

October 26, 2016 Report

The Chance to Dream has received SWO financial contribution towards Haiti Relief. The fund will be applied towards food/water, shelter, and medical care to the villagers in Belot and Nouvelle Terrain. We appreciate the works of The Chance to Dream, an organization that is working to make sure all funds serve as many people possible in this time of need.

Orange Day, June 2016

Action Plan for Orange Day, June 25, 2016Safe education for women and girls

Credit: Information taken from the Orange Day Action Plan for 25 June 2016 as issued by the UN Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women

 Background

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women has proclaimed the 25th of each month as “Orange Day”, a day to raise awareness and take action to end violence against women and girls. As a bright and optimistic colour, orange represents a future free from violence against women and girls, for the UNiTE Campaign. Orange Day calls upon activists, governments and UN partners to mobilize people and highlight issues relevant to preventing and ending violence against women and girls, not only once a year, on 25 November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), but every month.

In 2016, a new global development agenda was accepted by all countries and is applicable to all. Through its 17 goals and 169 targets, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an agenda for global action for the next 15 years, addresses the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental. The Agenda recognizes gender equality and the empowerment of women as a key priority and pledges that “no one will be left behind”. Goal 5 of the agenda aims to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and includes specific targets to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. All goals are integrated and indivisible, therefore their achievement is also fully dependent on ensuring parallel and interconnected implementation of the efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls. For this reason, throughout 2016, the UNiTE campaign through its Orange Days will highlight specific Sustainable Development Goals as they relate to violence against women and girls.

This Orange Day, June 25, the UNiTE campaign will highlight Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

Safe education for women and girls

Girls’ education is a tremendous force for social change, economic growth and social stability though many barriers remain in terms of ensuring all girls have access to safe education. Girls experience violence at the hands of fellow students, teachers, school administrators and others. They may face sexual harassment, bullying, cyber violence or may be asked for sexual favors in exchange for good grades or school fees. In some countries, the route to school may be unsafe. In others, girls are specifically targeted by violence simply for going to school to complete their education and for advocating for girls’ right to an education.

Many girls, particularly the most marginalized, continue to be deprived of the right to education; they are more likely to have caring responsibilities within their families and when resources are short, the education of male siblings may be prioritized. The failure to ensure girls are able to access their right to education has profound effects on individuals as well as wider society. For girls, lack of education has lifelong consequences, such as increasing the likelihood they will enter into situations of economic dependence in which their vulnerability to violence may be increased. For society at large, the transformative potential of girls’ education is immense for the achievement of almost all development goals.

Remarkable progress has been made on increasing enrolment, but gaps still remain, particularly in the right to education for girls and education in emergency situations, where attending school can be a risky endeavor.  Because of the erosion of standard protection mechanisms caused by humanitarian emergencies, students and education personnel – particularly females – may face an increased risk of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation and abuse, abduction or attack while travelling to and from school.  Lack of supervisory staff increases the risk of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault occurring on school grounds by peers as well as teachers and other adults.

Suggested Orange Day Activities

  • Wear orange on 25 June to show your support for ending violence against women and girls.
  • Raise awareness within your community about gender-based violence risks and protective factors related to education. Engage men and boys, teachers and leaders in your community in these awareness-raising activities as agents of change.
  • Engage local decision and policy-makers and demand better and safer equipped schools (with private and sex-segregated dormitories, toilets and bathing facilities, adequate lighting and safety evacuation pathways).
  • If you are a teacher, engage in conversations with your students (girls and boys) to raise their awareness on gender equality and on what constitutes violence against women and girls.

Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) and IVAWA

Content reposted with permission from Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) at wand.org 

Women’s Action for New Directions supports the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), federal legislation that educates and empowers women and supports community efforts to combat violence against women in America.

The Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA), enacted in 1994 and drafted by then-Senator Joe Biden, is a life-saving and money-saving approach to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This landmark legislation provides tools for the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services as well as local, state, and federal law enforcement and judicial agencies to hold offenders accountable and keep communities safe while supporting victims. This legislation also includes funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, battered women’s shelters, civil legal assistance programs, and transitional housing. There are specific provisions, added in the 2005 reauthorization, for victims of domestic violence who are immigrants or victims of human trafficking.

Political jockeying has prevented VAWA from being reauthorized for the third time in 2012. Due to conservative objections to extending VAWA’s protections to same-sex couples and to provisions allowing battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, essential programs for all victims are now in desperate need.

In early 2013, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Michael Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 47, a strong, bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the VAWA and continue the education and training of those at risk and those who interact with victims.

International Violence Against Women Act

An estimated one out of every three women worldwide will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime—with rates reaching 70 percent in some countries. Violence against women and girls includes harmful practices that range from rape to domestic violence, to acid burnings and dowry deaths, and so-called “honor killings.” Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, a public health epidemic and a barrier to solving global challenges such as extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS and violent conflict.  It devastates the lives of millions of women and girls—in peacetime and in conflict—and knows no national or cultural barriers. Most importantly, it must end.

In August of 2012, the U.S. government released its first ever U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence (Strategy). The Strategy is largely derived from and has long been a core component of the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) and its release is a historic and unprecedented effort by the United States to address violence against women and girls globally.

In 2013-2014, the I-VAWA will direct the U.S. government to implement its Strategy to reduce violence against women and girls in at least five countries where it is severe. Enhanced data collection and transparency of results is a core component of the bill that ensures accountability and the continued use of best practices. The I-VAWA recognizes that violence intersects with nearly every facet of women’s lives and therefore supports health programs and survivor services, encourages legal accountability and a change of public attitudes, promotes access to economic opportunity projects and education, and addresses violence against women and girls in humanitarian situations. The I-VAWA also emphasizes support and capacity-building for local women’s organizations already working to stop violence against women and girls.

The I-VAWA makes ending violence against women and girls a top diplomatic priority. It permanently authorizes the Office of Global Women’s Issues in the State Department as well as the position of the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, who is responsible for coordinating activities, policies, programs, and funding relating to gender integration and women’s empowerment internationally, this includes those intended to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls.

More specifically, the I-VAWA would do the following:

Increase Legal and Judicial Protection to Address Violence Against Women and Girls.

The I-VAWA focuses on establishing and supporting laws and legal structures that help prevent and appropriately respond to all forms of violence against women and girls. Emphasis is placed on promoting political, legal, and institutional reforms that recognize violence against women and girls as a crime and train police and the judiciary to hold violators accountable and to respond to the needs of victims. This includes helping women and girls access the justice sector and ensuring that they are safe and supported throughout the legal process.

Increase Health Sector Capacity to Address Violence Against Women and Girls.

The I-VAWA will integrate programs to address violence against women and girls into already existing health programs focused on child survival, women’s health, and HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment. It takes a holistic “systems” approach and emphasizes enhancing the capacity of the health sector to assess the impact of violence on a woman and girl’s health and help her protect herself from violence.

Change Social Norms to End Violence Against Women and Girls.

The I-VAWA focuses on preventing violence by changing community norms and attitudes about the acceptability of violence against women and girls. It will support public awareness programs to change attitudes that condone and at times encourage violence against women and girls, and will emphasize community-based solutions. For instance, activities supported by the I-VAWA could include programs that organize women and girls who are survivors of violence to speak out publicly or work with male leaders to help other men and boys become more supportive of respectful and non-violent relationships.

Increase Women’s Economic Opportunity and Education.

The I-VAWA focuses on reducing women and girls’ vulnerability to violence by improving their economic status and educational opportunities. Emphasis is placed on ensuring women’s access to job training and employment opportunities and increasing their right to own land and property. This would allow them to potentially support themselves and their children. The legislation also addresses the rights of women and girls to work and go to school free of sexual coercion and assault.

The Complete Gender-Based Violence Coalition Toolkit on IVAWA. 

CEDAW: The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Content reposted with permission from Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) at wand.org 

What is the Treaty for the Rights of Women?

  • The Treaty for the Rights of Women (formally known as CEDAW, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination) is often described as an international “Bill of Rights” for women. It is the first and only international instrument that comprehensively addresses women’s rights within political, cultural, economic, social, and family life.
  • As of July 2002, 170 countries have ratified the Treaty. The United States is among a small minority of countries – including Afghanistan, Iran, and Sudan – and is the only industrialized democracy that has not ratified the Treaty for the Rights of Women.

How has the Treaty helped women around the world?

*The Treaty for the Rights of Women calls on governments to remove barriers to substantive equality. This requires countries to examine the actual conditions of life for women and girls and to report on structures and customs that discriminate, and on actions taken to eliminate those barriers. As a result of the Treaty, hundreds of laws have been put in place that improve the basic human rights of women around the world. These laws include:

  • Stopping violence against women: In Colombia, the courts ruled in 1992 that the absence of legal recourse then available to a female victim of domestic violence violated her human rights to life and personal security. The state now ensures protection for all such women.
  • Promoting girls’ education: Slovenia and Switzerland have changed their school admission policies to benefit girls.
  • Improving health care: Australia launched efforts to promote awareness and prevention of breast and cervical cancer, including postcards reminding 3 million women to get pap smears.
  • Ensuring women’s legal rights: Laws to advance women’s political participation have been adopted in 22 of the 168 countries that have ratified the Treaty.
  • Improving women’s lives at work: Germany, Guatemala, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom are among the countries that have improved maternity leave and child care for working women in accord with Treaty provisions.

* The Treaty requires regular progress reports from ratifying countries but it does not impose any changes in existing laws or require new laws of countries ratifying the treaty. It lays out models for achieving equality but contains no enforcement authority.

Why is it important that the United States ratify the Treaty for the Rights of Women?

  • As long as it remains one of the few nations that have failed to ratify CEDAW, the United States compromises its credibility as a world leader in human rights.
  • Women around the world need the United States to speak loudly and clearly in support of the Treaty, so that it becomes a stronger instrument in support of their struggles. Without U.S. ratification, some other governments feel free to ignore the principles laid out in the Treaty.

For more information about the Treaty for the Rights of Women:

The CEDAW Working Group | www.womenstreaty.org

Women’s Action for New Directions | www.wand.org

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