Equality Now Turns 20!

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February 2012

Equality Now has big plans for 2012 - including a refreshed focus and strategy - and we hope you will join us on our journey. Here’s your first look at the year (and years) ahead:

Happy Birthday to Us!
Twenty years ago Equality Now was founded in New York by lawyers Feryal Gharahi, Jessica Neuwirth and Navanethem (Navi) Pillay to address the human rights violations against women that were not on the agenda of the international human rights movement - rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking and reproductive rights among others. At a time when most human rights organizations didn’t recognize women’s rights as human rights and didn’t understand the potential of grassroots partnerships and coordinated global action, a small group of dedicated volunteers, selling t-shirts on the street to support startup costs, created an organization that now sets the standard in the field of human rights activism. Our work was launched with a 1992 Action focused on reproductive rights in Poland and over the last 20 years has expanded to include campaigns on nearly every continent in the world addressing topics ranging from gender-based claims to political asylum in Canada, to mass rape and murder in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, to female genital mutilation in Mali, to sex trafficking in the United States and everything in between. By the end of our first year, our pioneering Women’s Action Network consisted of nearly 1000 groups and individuals in 25 countries; today, it has grown to more than 35,000 members in 160 countries collectively raising their voices to stop human rights abuses against women and girls. 

As we approach our 20th anniversary in April, we are so thankful to you, our partners, for your continued advocacy and support. For those of you who are new to Equality Now or have been away from us for a while, we hope that this will be the year you join with us and take action to create a world where women and girls are able to fully enjoy and exercise their human rights.

Save the Date for our 20th Anniversary Celebration!
On Thursday, April 19, Equality Now will celebrate 20 years of advocacy and action with a performance and reception at the Asia Society in New York City. We’re putting together an intimate evening encompassing the past, present and future of the organization that will feature celebrity performers, an exciting auction and a performance by talented singer songwriter Natalie Merchant. Tickets will go on sale in a few weeks, so make sure to visit our website later this month for details!

In conjunction with our event, we are excited to launch our $20K in 2012 fundraising drive on Crowdrise.com. We are hopeful that funds raised from this campaign will allow us to take on additional cases for our Adolescent Girls’ Legal Defense Fund (AGLDF). Please take part in the campaign and help us spread to word so that we can reach our goal!

Our Program Goals
Read on to learn more about the focus and strategies that will be employed in each of our program areas:

DISCRIMINATION IN LAW

SEXUAL VIOLENCE

  • continue to press for access to justice for adolescent girls, including removing barriers to reporting and moving cases through legal systems through our AGLDF initiative
  • pursue existing AGLDF cases in order to enact laws on child marriage in Yemen & Saudi Arabia; abduction, rape and forced marriage in Ethiopia; teacher rape (“defilement”) in Zambia; incest in Pakistan and Uganda; and rape in the Sudan, Kenya and Pakistan
  • advocate for the passage of a child marriage bill in the U.S.
  • continue to call on the Kyrgyz government to implement and strengthen its bride-kidnapping law and to increase services for its victims

FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (FGM)

  • raise awareness of and reporting on the anti-FGM campaign in the African media
  • promote strong legal frameworks to accelerate an end to FGM with a focus on Kenya, Liberia, Mali and Niger
  • mobilize the public to urge elected officials in Congress to pass legislation to close the “vacation provision” loophole, thereby strengthening U.S anti-FGM laws
  • spearhead a prevalence study on FGM in the UK as well as foster strategic partnerships with the health, educational and social service sectors to protect girls at risk of FGM
  • lobby the UN to promote and support the work of grassroots anti-FGM groups while at the same time building up their capacity to prevent FGM

TRAFFICKING

  • advocate for the passage and implementation of laws and policies that criminalize the buying of commercial sex without penalizing its victims
  • build on existing campaigns in Brazil, the Philippines and the U.S. focused on creating institutional change to address demand for commercial sex and the provision of justice and support for trafficking victims
  • conduct strategic litigation and advocacy on sex tourism in Kenya and North Africa
  • map trafficking cases in West Africa, Europe and the Middle East in order to strategize on future interventions in these regions

Equality Now Selected for International Anti-FGM Grant
The Trustees of UK-based charity Comic Relief have approved a grant to Equality Now of £988,444 over five years to support the anti-FGM work of our African partners in Kenya, Liberia and Mali. The project’s human rights, legal and child protection focus and framework will enhance the critical advocacy being done in communities to secure behavior change for the abandonment of FGM. Comic Relief funding support will help to enhance the visibility of the issue through work with the media, and most importantly, will assist in strengthening idea sharing and capacity building for grassroots activists through networking and shared learning.

Office News

  • We are pleased to welcome our newest staffers: New York Office Director Tzili Mor, Nairobi Discrimination in Law Program Officer Alexandriah Muhanji and New York Legal Fellow Maya Ibars. 
  • Our London and New York offices are on the move this month. The New York office will remain in the same building but is moving floors to Suite 1720. The PO Box remains the same. The London office can now be reached at:

Equality Now
1 Birdcage Walk
London SW1H 9JJ
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7304 6902
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7973 1292

  • Lastly, we’d also like to express a heartfelt thank you and best wishes to our invaluable 2011 and 2012 interns: London - Laura Clarke; New York - Nadia Abramson, Niat Amare, Milan Bien-Aimé, Aude Coquatrix, Selemawit Tesfaye Gebremehdin, Caitlin Gullickson, Carmen Hawker, Tina Millburn, Irene Rajarigam, Lauren Shohat, Makda Mikre Tessema and Sarah Vincent. Lastly, farewell and good luck to our 2010-2011 London Office Legal Fellow Maeve O’Rourke.

Tell Us. Share It. Make It Happen.
There’s still time to take part in our “What Does Equality Mean to You?” PSA campaign! You have until March 20 to grab a camera, your phone, or your laptop and tell us: what does gender equality mean to you? Selected videos are featured on equalitynow.org/me and our social media sites. Please take part in our anniversary campaign: watch the PSA, share your own video, and spread the word to your friends. You can also join the conversation by posting your thoughts on our Facebook page or tweet with the hashtag #E2M.

As you can see, the principles and ideals that we were founded on remain at the core of our work. We are proud of Equality Now’s contributions to the advancement of women’s rights as an integral part of the human rights agenda and we are hopeful that you will remain on the journey with us for our next 20 years.