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JASS Movements Newsletter

September 2011

Dear Friends,

We join with many thousands the world over to mourn the loss of Wangari Maathai and to reflect on the rich legacy of this mighty African activist, scientist and Nobel Peace Prize winner. At JASS, we were fortunate to work with Wangari Maathai through the Nobel Women’s Initiative, our close ally, where she joined sister peace laureates to amplify women’s rights agendas. Her life and political work embody much of what we aspire to at JASS. She built the Green Belt Movement in the 1970s and 80s by organizing women to address a basic need: firewood for cooking and clean water. As an advocate, organizer and professor, she was always clear that the hard work of women’s empowerment, real democracy, sustainable development, and a healthy planet are all wrapped up together and that you can’t have one without the other. She was a fearless local activist while always a global voice for justice. And like many activists today, her demands for justice were met with violence. As she wisely said,

"Every person who has ever achieved anything has been knocked down many times. But all of them picked themselves up and kept going, and that is what I have always tried to do."

What can we do to honor the life of Wangari Maathai? Keep organizing and mobilizing women and all people to fight for equality, justice and peace. And plant a tree.


Lisa VeneKlasen, on behalf of the JASS team.

What’s New?

JASS is pleased to share our 2010 Annual Report – a vivid snapshot of the thinking, strategies, alliances, and women driving our work to strengthen and mobilize women’s collective organizing power for justice and equality in Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, Mesoamerica, and internationally.

“Take Back the Tech” in Southern Africa

How to use new technology and media to amplify women’s voices for rights? This challenge drew activists from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to a regional Feminist Tech Exchange (FTX) in July. “I am only a grassroots woman but now I have the power of technology skills, especially the use of the Blogs, Facebook, twitters, and Flickr,” said Malawian organizer, Mirriam Msewa. A joint initiative by JASS Southern Africa and Women’sNet, the 4-day adventure unleashed exciting ideas and political strategies, as women learned new tools for organizing by creating a Facebook page, blog, and video. Read more.

Young Women Push Back in Southeast Asia

Across Southeast Asia, governments and conservative, religious forces are rolling back rights – from the intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and civil society groups in Cambodia, to efforts to legalize female genital mutilation in Indonesia. But young JASS organizers are taking action to resist the backlash. In Cambodia, the Cambodian Young Women’s Empowerment Network (CYWEN) is supporting students to speak up and get involved in politics, while the JASS group in Timor L’este is working to increase the number of women in parliament in advance of 2012 elections. In Malaysia, 42 young indigenous women came together in June to learn more about their civil and political rights in order to strategize effectively in that risky context. Read more.

Mesoamerica: Women Activists Under Threat

Respected Mexican activist and defender of sex workers’ rights, Morelia Carmela Elisarraráz Méndez, was found dead at her hotel in Michoacán, Mexico on August 28. Days later, Ana Maria Marcela Yarce Viveros and Rocio Gonzalez Trapaga, two women journalists, were brutally murdered in Mexico City, bringing the number of incidents in the country to seven women human rights defenders and three journalists since 2010. Responding to the needs and specific forms of violence faced by women activists, more than 30 women defenders from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama and Costa Rica met in August in Nicaragua for the first regional training on protection, security and self care. “The increasingly dangerous violent reality that is plaguing our countries’ demands, more than ever, new resources, strategies and alliances to guarantee the security and self-care of women defenders and their activism.” ~ Orfe Castillo Osorio, Mexican HR defender. Read more