I’m so inspired by the images of hundreds of thousands of people—including supporters of AJWS—who filled the streets of New York, D.C., Boston, Los Angeles and many other cities for the second annual Women’s March.
And while my spirits are lifted by this wellspring of support for women’s rights, I am more concerned than ever about the challenges women and girls face around the world: violence, hatred, sexual exploitation, hunger, discrimination, poverty and much more. One year into the discouraging presidency of Donald J. Trump, these problems have only grown worse because of this administration’s refusal to stand up for the rights of women.
That’s why I feel deeply grateful for the courage and creativity of the human rights activists AJWS supports around the world. They are working day in and day out to ensure that women in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean are treated with dignity. And they are insisting that women’s equality remains at the center of the global human rights agenda, exactly where it belongs.
As a Jewish feminist who oversees AJWS’s grants to more than 450 advocates in 19 countries, I am proud to lead a team that enables women and girls to step forward and fight the good fights, so they can live productive, healthy lives and take charge of their futures.
I’d like to share four snapshots of our work in support of women and girls over the past year:
- In India, the Supreme Court struck down “triple talaq,” a practice that had allowed Muslim men to divorce their wives by simply saying the word “talaq” (divorce) three times. This was a major victory for the Muslim women’s rights activists that AJWS supports in the country—particularly Hasina Khan, a longtime AJWS grantee. Khan’s organization, Bebaak Collective, successfully argued before the court that triple talaq was unconstitutional.
- In Mexico, our grantee Centro para los Derechos de la Mujer, Naaxwiin (Center for Women’s Rights) works to reduce violence against indigenous women and girls and promote women’s leadership. Several indigenous women candidates have won elections for city and state political positions with our grantee’s support—a major break-through in communities where women are typically excluded from political life and, therefore, from making fundamental change.
- In Uganda, our grantee Gulu Women’s Economic Development and Globalization (GWED-G) is supporting survivors of Uganda’s civil war by reaching thousands of girls through debate clubs, mentoring programs and discussion groups to help keep girls in school and reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancies and early marriage.
- And in Burma, where more than half a million Rohingya people have been forced to flee to refugee camps in Bangladesh because of ethnic persecution by the Burmese military, our grantees have ensured that Rohingya women and girls—including those who have been assaulted, raped and tortured—receive the psychosocial support they need to regain their dignity.
As President Trump begins his second year in office, I know we cannot count on him or his team to do right by women. I also know that my friends, colleagues and fellow activists at AJWS will continue to oppose the Trump administration’s anti-woman and anti-choice policies—such as the Global Gag Rule—and make sure that women and girls worldwide are able to not only survive, but thrive with the health and safety they deserve—no matter who they are or where they live.
Shari Turitz is the Vice President for Programs at AJWS, leading the Programs Division and overseeing AJWS’s grant making, domestic and international strategy. She brings with her more than 20 years of experience in human rights grantmaking, capacity building and advocacy, and 15 years of senior management and program development experience.