To fulfill our mission to end poverty and advance human rights in the developing world, AJWS makes grants to nearly 500 social change organizations focused in 19 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. In making grants and supporting our grantees, AJWS employs three inter-related strategies:
We fund grassroots, regional, national and international organizations to conduct advocacy with the goal of addressing the root causes and consequences of poverty, oppression and inequality. These organizations work to influence individuals and institutions that have the power to change policies, laws, social norms and behaviors in order to advance the human rights of women and girls, LGBTQI+ people, indigenous communities, religious and ethnic minorities, and others.
For example, our grantees mobilize local people at the community level to press for changes in municipal by-laws, provide legal aid to individuals and document human rights abuses. They also educate local and religious leaders to understand and respect human rights. At the national level, our grantees advocate for changes in government policy and constitutional law, litigate precedent-setting court cases, and negotiate peaceful resolutions to violent conflicts. By working to change minds, laws and policies, our grantees are building societies that will honor the human rights of people for generations to come.
In addition to funding these efforts, AJWS orchestrates new advocacy opportunities to help our grantees advance their causes. For example, we secure meetings for them with U.S. legislators and the U.S. Department of State and we support their participation in international forums such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the International AIDS Conference.
AJWS also conducts its own advocacy—urging American lawmakers, public figures and powerful global institutions and donors to support legislation, policies and funding that will advance our human rights goals. For example, the same year our grantees in Uganda successfully overturned an egregious homophobic law in their country, AJWS was advocating for the United States to appoint its first ever special envoy for LGBTQI+ rights. And in 2018, while our grantees provided humanitarian aid to Rohingya refugees who fled mass atrocities in Burma, AJWS was pushing our government and world powers to stop the bloodshed and achieve justice for the Rohingya. Thanks to these efforts, in 2018 the U.S. issued sanctions against Burmese officials to pressure the military to stop the attacks and increased its aid to Rohingya refugees.
To ensure that each of our grantees is able to be maximally effective in its work to promote human rights, AJWS champions and strengthens their organizations to become fiscally and institutionally stable and benefit from knowledge and resources that AJWS and other human rights organizations have to offer. We do this in two ways: First, our staff and consultants who work in the countries where we make grants provide strategic guidance and support directly to our grantees. And second, in each country and on each issue, we make grants to established organizations that provide technical assistance to the more nascent organizations in our portfolio.
For example, in Sri Lanka, we helped strengthen a network of organizations called Trincomalee District Women’s Network (TDWN)—which was fighting for the rights of women in war-torn communities. AJWS provided trainings on counselling and advocacy and connected TDWN with lawyers, diplomats and other allies who helped them work more effectively and spread their message. TDWN then shared its new skills with activists in a neighboring district, empowering them to form their own network. Today, both collectives are leading initiatives to end violence against women throughout their country.
We believe that our grantees and their allies are greater than the sum of their parts, and so we support their engagement in social movements that advance widespread collective action toward social change. We encourage our grantees to join together into coalitions and networks to define problems, shape goals and strategies, and take the lead in building a broad base of support necessary for increasing the impact of their collective action.
To maximize the influence social movements can wield in their communities and around the globe, we fund grantees at many levels in society—from nascent local groups to large national and international organizations. And we bring these organizations together regularly to learn from each other and strategize to advance common goals. For instance, at a meeting convened by AJWS in Senegal in 2015, a diverse group of AJWS grantees formed an alliance to collaboratively lead the peace movement in Senegal’s Casamance region. And in 2017, we brought together grantees from El Salvador who had achieved a mining ban in their country with grantees in Haiti who were beginning to mobilize a similar resistance movement against mining themselves.
AJWS strives for the voices and concerns of the most oppressed or marginalized people to be at the forefront of social movements. For example, we often urge both organizations and the movements they are part of to elevate women to leadership positions. By doing so, we guarantee that social movements truly represent the communities they speak for and model what it means to become a more just society.