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JASS Movements Newsletter

December 2011

Dear Friends,

As 2011 comes to a close, we reflect on a year of despair and hope. Despair (and anger) at the continuing economic violence inflicted by global financial institutions and their elected comrades in arms; at the discrimination and violence perpetrated against friends and colleagues based on who they are and what they do; and the seemingly endless assault on livelihoods, safety nets, and the environment. But in 2011 especially we find hope in the resilience, courage, and ingenuity of the many that are rising up against injustice, inequality and violence. From the No More Blood campaign in Mexico to the ever-multiplying “Occupy” movement, from the courageous Egyptians who’ve returned to Tahrir Square to demand real democracy to the Indians fighting against corruption – people are fed up, asking big questions and seeking saner, fairer, more sustainable alternatives.

Given the media coverage, you might ask, “Where are the women?” While often invisible in the broader story, women are on the frontlines and the rearguard of all of these mobilizations, in addition to waging the endless fight for their own freedom, rights, and safety. And that’s why JASS and its global community of women activists and their allies are so important: to keep women’s voices, issues and organizing efforts visible and central to any human rights and equality agenda. As these stories illustrate, women are front and center, and especially young women. Joining the global campaign of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, women from Zimbabwe to Cambodia and Guatemala want to be free from violence.

Thank you for your continued support of JASS’ and our efforts to amplify women’s voice, visibility and collective organizing power.

Wishing you a happy holiday and a peaceful new year,

Lisa VeneKlasen, on behalf of the JASS team.

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Women Occupy Boston - Daily Free Press
photo credit: Saba Hamedy/DFP

51% are part of the 99%: JASS Weighs In on Occupy

Women involved in JASS’ movement-building everywhere are connecting with and buzzing about the US-driven Occupy Movements. Inspired by and learning lessons from the tactics and strategies the organizers are using, JASS nevertheless looks for the voices and inequality agendas of women in all their diversity. In her piece in OpenDemocracy about old, new and contradictory forms of movement organizing against injustice and inequality Lisa VeneKlasen, JASS ED, asks, “How is it that the whole world is seemingly mobilizing against inequality and injustice at the same time that the global consensus about women’s equality is cracking and a steady rollback of women’s rights is underway?” She argues that women’s movements are not only vital to the 99%, but have lessons to share with Occupy about surviving cooptation and backlash. Read more.

Southern Africa: It's All about Sex

“The urgency and need to support and harness young women’s agency in women’s movements cannot be over-emphasized,” says JASS Southern Africa (SNA) Coordinator Shereen Essof, about the Southern African Young Women’s Festival, held in Lusaka, Zambia in October. And when global donor cutbacks mean fewer resources to fight HIV/AIDS, the opportunity for young women to build alliances that push women’s agendas into HIV/AIDS politics is that much more urgent. In sub-Saharan Africa, young women are three times more likely to be HIV+ than young men. One big reason women are more vulnerable to HIV is that they have difficulty negotiating safe sex. During the festival, JASS SNA facilitated a two-day training with 30 young activists on movement-building, putting sex and sexuality out in the open, and thinking up innovative political strategies for getting the realities of sex onto the decisionmaking table.

Southern Africa Young Women's Festival -
photo credit:

Southeast Asia: One Workshop, Many Loud Voices

JASS SEA communication workshops

Twenty-four young activists spent five days at JASS Southeast Asia’s communications’ workshop in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in December 2011. The Association for Progressive Communicators’ (APC) Cheekay, feminist techie extraordinaire, put the emphasis on political strategy. “Technology will change,” she says. “The political thinking is always more important than the tools.” Enormous preparation for this training was linked to the global campaign of 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women. In Cambodia, for example, a day of dialogue and dramatizations drew 300 young men and women – and one monk. During their week with JASS SEA in Yogyakarta – December 4-11 – participants focused on ways to use new skills in their own languages and activism when they get back to Cambodia, Malaysia, East Timor, Philippines and other parts of Indonesia. Anne Beatrice Jacob will report back to the indigenous women she organizes in rural Malaysia. “I’m here to learn social media that will work for grassroots women. They have a lot to tell the rest of the world.”

Mesoamerica: Amplifying the Voices of Indigenous and Rural Activists

JASS Meso - indigenous & rual women activists

Mesoamerican indigenous and rural women activists are mastering and ramping up their use of community radio and blogging to mobilize their communities against violence and for their own protection. In November, more than 30 indigenous and rural women activists from 7 countries in Mesoamerica participated in the 2nd Regional Communications Workshop – Women and the Media: Communicate to Transform. Co-convened with Guatemalan partner Sinergia No’j, this innovative training offered a space to share and develop radio and other media strategies linked to women’s organizing against violence and for economic justice. The women produced a radio spot about women’s rights activism in Honduras which is a key component of the ongoing regional indigenous and rural women leaders’ campaign, Uniting Our Voices begun last year at the first workshop.

What’s New? Economic Democracy!

As the Occupy Movement reminds us, at the heart of economic inequality and deepening poverty is a democracy deficit. JASS draws on its work with unions and justice groups to focus on women’s economic organizing. Check out JASS’ new resource page on economic democracy.