AJWS Bay Area: What’s Happening

May 2018

I was recently honored to join a group of Bay Area donors on an AJWS Study Tour to southern India. These trips are always powerful: there is no better way to understand the intricacies of AJWS’s strategy or to comprehend the intense struggles of our grantee partners than to meet these inspirational people face to face and see their work in person.

AJWS is deeply invested in India, having received very generous funding from the Kendeda Fund to stop early and forced marriage in a country where 48% of young women marry before the age of 18.

In addition to our focus on ending child marriage, we are working with our partners to empower women and girls across India. Last August, with support from AJWS’s grantee partners, the Supreme Court of India struck down “triple talaq,” a practice that had allowed Muslim men to divorce their wives by saying the word “talaq”—meaning “divorce”—three times. This was a major victory for the Muslim women’s rights activists that AJWS supports, particularly Hasina Khan, a longtime AJWS grantee. Khan’s organization, Bebaak Collective (in English, Fearless Collective) argued before the court that triple talaq was unconstitutional. We are proud to support her and overjoyed for the 90 million women in India whose lives will be impacted by this decision.

Here are a few reflections from Bay Area supporters who joined me on the Study Tour. We are all eager to tell you about this extraordinary experience!

“We recognize the power of having agency over one’s life. We remember the hope and passion of the women leaders we met and that of the women, youth, and disadvantaged communities that work with them. We are struck by the harsh realities many of these most disadvantaged people experience, and yet they are resilient, honest, hopeful, and while passionate, remarkably anger-free.” – Cathy Koshland

“I was moved and inspired by the strength and courage of the youth we visited at Samvada outside of Bangalore. This organization supports and mobilizes youth from disadvantaged backgrounds to challenge traditional forms of patriarchy, fundamentalism and social exclusion through education and youth centers. These inspiring young people are trained in livelihood opportunities, women’s wellness and justice, sustainable farming and journalism to make a future for themselves and their families. It gave me great hope in the power of the young to change our future for the better.” – Marci Dollinger

“We listened intently to Gita, a former sex worker in Bangalore, as she explained that no one should suffer the hunger, indignities, and violence that she did as a young girl.  Every day she fights for the rights of sex workers so that they too can pursue their dreams.  We, too, dream of such a world and pray that Gita’s work and AJWS’ support will turn dreams to realities.” – Daryl Messinger and Jim Heeger

Thank you for your support. This work is only made possible with the generosity of our donors. If you would like to hear more about what we do and how you can get involved, please email me and let’s meet in person.

Alon Shalev
AJWS Executive Director, San Francisco and the Western Region

Opportunities to Engage and Learn

Take a closer look at AJWS’s India Study Tour:

San Francisco AJWS supporter Carol Weitz’s personal reflection from the AJWS India Study Tour has been published in J. Weekly. Read it here.

Take action for the Rohingya:

Believing that “Never Again,” means no genocide against anyone, anywhere, AJWS and our grantees are working to stop the brutal atrocities being committed against Burma’s Rohingya people. When, in recent months, the Burmese army burned hundreds of villages, indiscriminately massacred men, women, and children, and sent nearly 700,000 people fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, AJWS intensified our long-term support in the region and began aiding Rohingya refugees. We will continue to address the underlying causes of the crisis and seek justice and a safe return for the Rohingya people.

You can help. Visit www.ajws.org/rohingya to support our humanitarian response and add your voice to our advocacy efforts. Right now, we are especially in need of Bay Area supporters. At the time of writing, Senator Harris has not signed on to support the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2018. Together, we can put an end to the violence and insecurity and restore the rights of the Rohingya people.