In 2011, our 412 grantees in the developing world—and the 394 volunteers that we sent to support their work—inspired us with their tireless efforts to fight poverty and promote human rights. In particular, these 11 accomplishments and milestones (arranged by theme) made us proud:
1. An AJWS grantee won the Nobel Peace Prize. Leymah Gbowee, director of AJWS grantee Women Peace and Security Network - Africa, earned the Nobel Peace Prize in the fall of 2011 for her pivotal role in bringing an end to Liberia's devastating civil war. Together with other activists, Leymah mobilized Liberia's women to demand peace. She also fought to ensure that women are able to participate in politics and in rebuilding their country; helped Ellen Johnson Sirleaf become the first elected woman head of an African state; and is now heading a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the President.
2. South Sudan became an independent nation. In January 2011, the people of South Sudan voted to secede, concluding more than 20 years of civil war. But in the months leading up to the official split, the peace process was threatened by violent skirmishes in contested border regions. As a leader in the U.S Sudan advocacy community, AJWS advocated to keep the process on track. With our allies, we urged the U.S. to pressure Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir to stop perpetrating the attacks. We were invited to brief Senate staff, hand-delivered ads to Congress, met with members of Congress and U.S. ambassadors to Sudan and mobilized American Jews to send letters to President Obama. In the end, secession took place in relative peace in July 2011. While the new country is still immersed in struggles with the North and atrocities in Darfur and other parts of Sudan continue, the formation of the new state is a major milestone that we hope will help bring lasting peace to the region.
3. Haitian organizations secured aid accountability. In 2011, AJWS helped bring nine Haitian grassroots organizations to Washington to advocate for better accountability for how American aid dollars are spent in Haiti. The Haitian groups met with over 34 government offices and at least six members of Congress—and they were heard! A month later, a bill that would force the U.S. government to be accountable and transparent about its aid to Haiti passed in the House and has been successfully passed out of committee in the Senate.
4. Burma's doors began to open. 2011 brought hard-won progress in Burma, whose people are struggling to overcome more than half a century of brutal authoritarian rule. The work of our 30 grantees and other civil society organizations has finally broken cracks in the Burmese regime's campaign of atrocities, with the establishment of a parliament, the release of political prisoners and the first democratic elections in more than a decade. While the future looks brighter, human rights abuses persist, and our grantees are continuing to provide humanitarian aid to refugees, document atrocities and pursue the full expression of democracy and peace. They were helped in this work in 2011 by 12 AJWS volunteers who served at organizations on the Thai-Burma border. To learn about AJWS’s role in bringing about these changes, read our Impact Report.
5. Grantees defended their community from destruction. In 2011 AJWS grantees around the world mobilized to protest the building of large-scale development projects that harm poor communities. In one success story AJWS grantee Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT) waged a campaign against the Gibe 3 dam in Ethiopia, which will destroy the livelihoods of people living downstream if it gets built. In 2011 FoLT's advocacy gained international attention and caused several major backers of the dam to pull their support, putting the project's future in question. In recognition, AJWS nominated FoLT's director, Ikal Angelei, for the the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize—and she won!
6. Indians gained water rights. In February 2011, after years of work by AJWS grantee Global Resistance and other Indian civil society organizations, India's state legislature in Kerala passed a law allowing people whose water supply had been polluted and dried up by Coca-Cola's factories to seek compensation. The law was celebrated throughout India and is an important step toward holding multinational corporations accountable for their actions in the developing world.
7. Peru passed a landmark land rights law. Until this year, companies could drill, mine and pollute land in the Peruvian Amazon without the consent of the indigenous people whose lives and livelihoods were impacted. AJWS grantee Inter-Ethnic Association for Development in the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP), the leader of Peru's Amazonian indigenous movement, organized 1,400 communities to advocate for their rights. In August 2011, after joining forces with Peru's Andean indigenous movement, AIDESEP achieved a major victory when Peru's Congress passed a law that guarantees indigenous people the right to prior and informed consent for any projects affecting them and their lands.
8. African communities swore off female genital cutting. AJWS's longtime grantee Tostan was featured on the front page of The New York Times in October for its leadership in dramatically reducing the incidence of female genital cutting in Senegal. Thanks to Tostan, more than 5,000 Senegalese communities have sworn off this previously ubiquitous practice. AJWS was one of Tostan's first funders over 15 years ago and has sent more than 70 volunteers to assist its work. With our support and that of others, it has built a powerful movement that has saved lives and spared countless girls from pain and suffering.
9. Ugandans fought the anti-homosexuality bill. Throughout 2011 AJWS continued to fight a discriminatory Ugandan bill would impose draconian penalties—in some cases, the death penalty—for same-sex relations. While the bill remains a threat today, our grantees and their allies have managed to keep it from passing for more than two years. They have persevered despite threats and violence and are making inroads in gaining inclusion of LGBTI people in Ugandan society. In October 2011, Kasha Jacqueline, director of Freedom and Roam Uganda, was presented the 2011 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in recognition of her courageous activism.
10. The Obama administration committed to promoting LGBTI rights. AJWS has long worked to rectify the dearth of funding for LGBTI rights in the developing world. We currently fund 34 organizations working on this issue and our support in this area is growing. In December, AJWS attended Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's historic Human Rights Day speech in Geneva, and were overjoyed when she declared that "gay rights are human rights" and announced the creation of multi-million dollar Global Equality Fund to support civil society organizations promoting the human rights of LGBT people. Following Clinton's lead, the U.S. State Department gave the prestigious 2011 Human Rights Defenders Award to the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a coalition in which several AJWS grantees play an important role. This is the first time the honor has gone to LGBTI activists!
11. Women's rights organizations spoke out at the United Nations. In March, 2011, AJWS's grantees made their voices heard at the UN. Thirty-six representatives of 17 AJWS grantees from around the world attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York. They led sessions and spoke to world leaders, gaining support for their initiatives and bringing the perspectives of grassroots women leaders to the international stage.
Inspired by Judaism's commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.
This is a Web-only annual report. No paper, period! This change saved AJWS thousands of dollars that we can now spend fighting poverty and defending human rights. Going online also saved 30 tons of wood and 206,173 gallons of water. It prevented 18,575 lbs of greenhouse gases from polluting our air and kept 23,443 lbs of solid waste out of our landfills! Now that's savings we're proud of.
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