“Change ripples outward.”
Those are the words of Felipe Fortines Yen, an activist from Reconoci.do, an AJWS grantee fighting for human rights in the Dominican Republic. Speaking with AJWS earlier this summer, he said: “We understand that our lives are all connected. So we start with the change we want to see in ourselves. And then our families, then communities, then our country and the world.”
We’re reminded of the ripple effect of activism every time we send you Stories of Hope — stories of the brave activists AJWS supports and how their impact expands to touch millions of lives. Each of these activists and AJWS partner organizations work in their own communities — from LGBTQI+ people and women and girls to Indigenous families and religious minorities — with the belief that the change they create will make waves. Ending social stigmas. Saving endangered ecosystems. Overturning oppressive laws. They’re fighting for their communities, but also for a better world for all of us.
In this edition of Stories of Hope, you’ll read about individuals and organizations fighting for change in Kenya, El Salvador and Thailand, and you’ll have an opportunity to join them by taking action below.
With the High Holidays around the corner, would you make your own ripples of change? You can multiply your impact this New Year by creating a personal fundraising page or creating a Facebook fundraiser to engage your friends and community to give tzedakah for justice with you.
Read on, get inspired — and help us change the world today.
— From your friends at AJWS
Around the World
The LGBTQI+ rights movement in Kenya is fighting to stop the harassment, stigma and criminalization that destroys lives. On the front lines are the lawyers, social workers, psychologists and activists of National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), an AJWS partner organization whose work touches every facet of LGBTQI+ life. From advocating against discriminatory laws to defending people abused by police, NGLHRC is there. And as they fight, they are also building a joyous, inclusive and caring community. Meet four of the activists fighting fear with joy.
Along El Salvador’s coast, fishing communities rely on mangrove ecosystems for their livelihood, and to protect local communities from being pummeled by annual hurricanes. So when this critical ecosystem came under attack by the sugarcane industry, AJWS grantee Unidad Ecológica Salvadoreña (UNES) stood up to say: “No more.” Read about this ongoing fight for the rights of local fishing communities and the survival of an essential ecosystem.
This piece will transport you to Kaboe Din, a small village in Northern Thailand where, with the support of AJWS grantee Center for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights (CPCR), villagers are bravely fighting against the construction of a coal mine in their backyard. You’ll learn how CPCR is learning from the Kaboe Din case to educate other communities to stand up for their rights, building an Indigenous movement that will not give up their fight.
What We’re Reading and Listening To
“Why Uganda’s Anti-LGBTQ Law Is Bad for Africa”
Newsweek: In this op-ed, three Kenyan LGBTQI+ activists offer a grave warning: Without strong international allies, the wave of vicious anti-LGBTQI+ hatred that engendered Uganda’s recent Anti-Homosexuality Act will continue to sweep across East Africa unchecked. Two of the authors hail from longtime AJWS grantee organizations in Kenya, where they are fighting for LGBTQI+ rights amid an increasingly hostile society. Read more >
“Transforming MENtalities: Decoding the Real Value of Engaging Men and Boys for Gender Equality”
UNESCO: In June, the Swedish Embassy in India brought together leaders of the country’s movement for gender equity — including AJWS’s own Manjima Bhattacharjya. In this piece, learn why leading activists believe that a key to achieving gender equity is engaging boys and young men to unlearn what they’ve been taught about masculinity and gender roles. Read more >
“The 100 Most Influential People of 2023: María Herrera Magdaleno”
TIME magazine: María Herrera Magdaleno is one of Mexico’s leading human rights activists — and also an AJWS grantee. She’s dedicated her life to the search for Mexico’s disappeared people. Today, over 11,000 have gone missing, casualties of decades of gang violence. Four of María’s children are among the disappeared, and her search led her to build a national movement of families. AJWS was one of María’s first funders — and now she’s one of TIME’s most influential people of the year. Read more >
“More Police Won’t Solve Haiti’s Crisis”
Foreign Policy: This personal piece by AJWS partner Pierre Espérance of Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network explores why Haiti’s police have failed to halt the pervasive gang violence and kidnappings plaguing his country. He argues that without a functioning interim government to help Haiti restore its democracy, any police action will simply be met with more violence. Dive into this deep analysis of a modern human rights crisis. Read more >
Take Action with AJWS
Around the world, LGBTQI+ communities face violence, discrimination and even jail time or the death penalty simply because of who they are or whom they love. With the Global Respect Act, the United States can send a powerful message to world leaders who violate human rights that LGBTQI+ discrimination will not be tolerated — and that they’ll be held accountable for their atrocities. The bill would prevent those who violate the human rights of LGBTQI+ people from entry into the U.S., impose sanctions against them and do more to track attacks on LGBTQI+ rights. Take a moment to sign AJWS’s open letter urging the Senate to introduce and pass this important bill.