AJWS Bay Area: What’s Happening

March 2018

We live in a time when the news flashes before our eyes—a rollercoaster ride of stories that appear and vanish almost hourly. In this landscape, many critical struggles for human rights never make the front page. We don’t always hear about people fighting for women’s rights in India or indigenous communities in Central America rising up courageously to protect their land and water from environmental harm.

That’s why I’m very proud to share with you three powerful achievements the activists we support accomplished this year, as they worked to fight injustice and build a more just and equitable society:

    1. 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.
    2. And continents away in El Salvador, our grantees won another major victory. Mining companies have poisoned the water supply of the six million people who live in El Salvador. Cyanide and iron from gold mines leeched into the water, and the number of cases of cancer and other deadly illnesses spiked. Determined to reverse this deadly disaster, twelve local groups of farmers, with the support of AJWS, mobilized tens of thousands of people and convinced the government to ban all mining nation-wide. El Salvador is the first country in the world to ever do that.
    3. In Kenya, we supported the indigenous Ogiek people to achieve a ground-breaking legal victory this year. After years of fighting the Kenyan government to stop the destruction of their forests and the confiscation of their land, the African Court of Human and People’s Rights ordered the government to stop loggers from evicting indigenous people from the land they have lived on for generations.

These are three successes on three different continents, but they share a strategic similarity. AJWS supports and empowers 457 social change organizations like these that tackle pressing problems in their communities. Our staff trains the leadership of our grantees and helps them build stronger and more effective institutions. We also connect them with each other. This enables them to share best practices, make their voices heard at the highest levels of government, and build powerful social movements that can change laws and shape more just societies. Together, they are affecting millions of lives.

This work is being led by Tracey Gurd, AJWS’s Senior Director of Civil and Political Rights & Advocacy, whom you might have seen recently on Al Jazeera discussing the Rohingya refugee crisis. Tracey will be in the Bay Area in a few weeks to address our Global Circle (young professionals) community, and we welcome all young professionals to join us to learn more about the challenges facing the Rohingya people.

The work of our grantee-partners is impressive, but when they come together to change oppressive laws, insist on accountability by their governments and protect their rights, the results are exhilarating. Thank you for making this work possible. We simply could not do this without your help.

I hope to see you soon at one of our upcoming events described below.


Alon Shalev
Executive Director, San Francisco and Western Region

AJWS Bay Area Upcoming Events


A Taste of AJWS

Wednesday, March 21
6:30 p.m.

The Box SF
We invite young professionals to join Global Circle San Francisco for our annual Taste of AJWS event. You’ll experience AJWS by sampling flavors from around the globe and meeting fellow young leaders committed to building a more just and equitable world. AJWS’s Senior Director of Civil and Political Rights and Advocacy, Tracey Gurd, will talk about our power as activists—from stopping the Rohingya crisis in Burma to advancing other struggles for democracy and human rights. Tracey will share unforgettable stories from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and the latest updates from AJWS’s brave grantees around the world. For more information, please contact Stephanie Sheehan at 415.593.3283 or ssheehan@ajws.org.

Books Beyond Borders Marin

Tuesday, May 8
6:30 p.m.
Osher Marin JCC
We will watch a segment about India from Girl Rising, an evocative film that tells the stories of girls who struggle to overcome societal and cultural barriers around the world. We will then explore author Somini Sengupta’s The End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India’s Young—a narrative about ambitious young people living in modern-day India. Thwarted at every step by state and society, these active visionaries are making new demands for equality of opportunity, dignity for girls, and civil liberties.

Opportunities to Engage and Learn


Bring AJWS to Your Seder

To bring social justice to your Seder this year, download our Social Justice Hagaddah: Next Year in a Just World, or our reading on the Rohingya crisis, An Exodus in our Time. If you would like printed copies, contact Alon at ashalev@ajws.org.

Take Action for the Rohingya

Believing that “Never Again,” means no genocide, against anyone, ever again, AJWS and our grantees are working to stop the brutal murder and atrocities being committed against Burma’s Rohingya people. When the army burned hundreds of villages, indiscriminately massacred men, women, and children, and sent nearly 700,000 people fleeing across the border in recent weeks, AJWS intensified our long-term support in the region and began aiding refugees in Bangladesh. 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, you can take action: Urge your Senators to support the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2017. Together, we can put an end to the violence and insecurity, and restore the rights of the Rohingya people.