Happy New Year! Well, it’s actually 12 days into the new year but this is my first post of 2014. Over the holiday break (which really wasn’t a break because human rights abusers don’t take holidays off), I got a chance to read several “end of the year” news stories and lists. Some recapped last year’s major events and headlines, others attempted to forecast this year’s headlines. It was all very entertaining until I began to focus on the top human rights headlines of 2013 and realized many of the “big” stories were about the suppression or regression of rights.
Thinking about all of this gave me a migraine (seriously), but it also gave me a topic idea for my first post of the year. So much attention is given to what’s wrong with the world, we often miss what’s right with it. I have the privilege of working with brave individuals and organizations around the world committed to the advancement of human rights, and it is time we shine a spotlight on them. To this end, I have compiled a list of 23 organizations that need, deserve and would be eternally grateful your support in 2014.
I could waste a paragraph or two, detailing how I came to settled upon the organizations listed below. But I’ve got other things to do today and I’m sure you do too. What I will say is that my list is comprised of both large and small, new and old, traditional and non-traditional human rights organizations. The list could have been twice as long and each additional name would have been justified and equally deserving of recognition. But don’t fret, in about 365 days I’ll pay tribute to 24 more organizations. Lastly, readers should know the numbers are intended only as counters, I intentionally did not rank or otherwise organize the list. So without further ado…”
★ My 24 for 2014 ★
1. The Malala Fund is an independent non-governmental organization established by Vital Voices to honor Malala Yousafzai, the 15 year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head and nearly killed by the Taliban when she tried to go to school on October 9, 2012. The Malala Fund provides funds and support for programs that work towards Malala’s mission to make sure all girls have access to the education they deserve. Worldwide, 66 million girls are not in school, and when girls are denied an education, society loses one of its greatest and most powerful resources. “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world,” Malala has said, and she’s right. Your donation can help deliver a high-quality education to disadvantaged communities around the world while amplifying the voices of those fighting for their right to an education.
2. Half the Sky Movement is cutting across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time. Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book of the same name, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide brings together video, websites, games, blogs and other educational tools to not only raise awareness of women’s issues, but to also provide concrete steps to fight these problems and empower women.
To date, supporters of the movement have donated more than $5 million to organizations helping women and girls; more than 1.1 million people have played the Facebook game; and more than 1,500 campus and community ambassadors have hosted screenings, held panel discussions, and educated members of their communities about the issues facing millions of women and girls and the inspiring individuals and organizations that are working for a fairer, freer world.
3. No More Tears is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization whose mission is to rescue victims of domestic violence. Somy Ali, the founder and president of No More Tears, witnessed domestic violence growing up in Pakistan and during her teenage years while working as an actress in India. After finishing her education, Somy formed No More Tears in 2006 to help victims of abuse that were brought to the U.S from various countries around the world. No More Tears has to date rescued over 365 abused adults and 685 children since its inception. The organization provides legal services, counseling, shelter, English classes, household items, groceries, and helps survivors find jobs to complete their empowerment.
4. Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, HRW gives a voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Their rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For more than 30 years, HRW has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.
5. The Jean R. Cadet Restavek Organization is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to ending child slavery in Haiti. The organization focuses on raising international awareness, conducting national sensitizing campaigns in Haiti and developing and implementing elementary and secondary school curriculum that empowers Haitian children to work together to end child slavery.
6. Fistula Foundation was founded in 2000 as an all volunteer organization to support the pioneering Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. Its success between 2004 and 2008 enabled its founders to dramatically expand the mission to fight fistula globally. As a result of this rapid expansion, the organization now supports fistula treatment in 19 countries at 38 sites on two continents, Africa and Asia. They support more obstetric fistula surgeries globally than any other organization in the world that is not taking government funding.
7. Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. Founded by civil rights lawyers Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. in 1971, the SPLC is internationally known for tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups. SPLC’s innovative Teaching Tolerance program produces and distributes – free of charge – documentary films, books, lesson plans and other materials that promote tolerance and respect in our nation’s schools.
8. One.Four.Ten The death penalty was re-instated in the United States in 1976. Since then, for every ten people that have been executed, one person has been exonerated and released from death row after spending an average of ten years in isolation. ‘One For Ten’ is an online series of films that were produced and broadcast over five weeks in April and May of 2013. During that time, a of four traveled the width of the US and interviewed ten individuals who have been freed from death row. Each of the films profiles a major issue in wrongful convictions highlighted through an individual case. ‘One for Ten’ is a completely new form of interactive film-making; each film was shot in a day, edited the next and uploaded that night.
9. Equal Justice Initiative is a private, nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system. They litigate on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders, people wrongly convicted or charged with violent crimes, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct. EJI works with communities that have been marginalized by poverty and discouraged by unequal treatment. EJI also prepares reports, newsletters, and manuals to assist advocates and policymakers in the critically important work of reforming the administration of criminal justice.
10. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. These rights include First Amendment rights, equal protection under the law, due process, and privacy. The ACLU also works to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including people of color; women; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people; prisoners; and people with disabilities.
11. Amnesty International is a global non-governmental organization (NGO) and a movement of more than 3 million supporters, members and activists in over 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights. Amnesty’s vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards. Amnesty’s headquarters are registered in England and Wales. But it is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion, and are funded mainly by our membership and public donations. In the field of international human rights organizations, Amnesty has the longest history and broadest name recognition, and is believed by many to set standards for the movement as a whole.
12. Human Rights Campaign is the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, the Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide — all committed to making HRC’s vision a reality. Founded in 1980, HRC advocates on behalf of LGBT Americans, mobilizes grassroots actions in diverse communities, invests strategically to elect fair-minded individuals to office and educates the public about LGBT issues.
13. Freedom House is an independent, non-governmental watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world. Today, as more than two billion people live under oppressive rule, Freedom House speaks out against the main threats to democracy and empowers citizens to exercise their fundamental rights. We analyze the challenges to freedom; advocate for greater political and civil liberties; and support frontline activists to defend human rights and promote democratic change. Founded in 1941, Freedom House was the first American organization to champion the advancement of freedom globally.
14. Environmental Defense Fund or EDF (formerly known as Environmental Defense) is a United States–based nonprofit environmental advocacy group. The group is known for its work on issues including global warming, ecosystem restoration, oceans, and human health, and advocates using sound science, economics and law to find environmental solutions that work. It is nonpartisan, and its work often advocates market-based solutions to environmental problems. The group’s headquarters are in New York City, with offices nationwide, and scientists and policy specialists working worldwide.
15. Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law organization dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. Earthjustice works through the courts on behalf of citizen groups, scientists, and other parties to ensure government agencies and private interests follow the law. On Capitol Hill, they work to protect and strengthen federal environmental laws and preserve special places, like the Arctic.
16. UltraViolet, Equality at a Higher Frequency is a new and rapidly growing community of women and men across the U.S. mobilized to fight sexism and expand women’s rights, from politics and government to media and pop culture. UltraViolet works on a range of issues, including health care, economic security, violence, and reproductive rights. UltraViolet combines innovative, cutting-edge organizing with grassroots, people-powered actions to fight for equality and progress.
17. Polaris Project is a leading organization in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Named after the North Star “Polaris” that guided slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project is transforming the way that individuals and communities respond to human trafficking, in the U.S. and globally. By successfully pushing for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888), conducting trainings, and providing vital services to victims of trafficking, Polaris Project creates long-term solutions that move our society closer to a world without slavery.
18. The Innocence Project is a non-profit legal clinic affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University and created by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld in 1992. The project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. As a clinic, law students handle case work while supervised by a team of attorneys and clinic staff. To date, there have been 312 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history.
19. Stahili Foundation was established to combat child labor and abuse of children living in rural Kenya. Stahili works to rescue and provide these children with the basic needs they deserve – a supportive and loving environment and the right to achieve their individual potential through education. Stahili currently provides assistance to 15 children, but they hope to double that number by 2016. Stahili focuses on quality over quantity. The Foundation holistically cares for and assists students through the entirety of their education.
20. Room to Read is an award-winning non-profit organization for improving literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world. Headquartered in San Francisco, California and founded on the belief that “World Change Starts With Educated Children,” the organization focuses on working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments. Room to Read develops literacy skills and the habit of reading among primary school children, and supports girls in completing secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond. Room to Read is serving communities in ten countries in Asia and Africa: South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
21. The Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the eradication of sex slavery and the empowerment of its survivors, led by the vision and life’s work of Cambodian survivor and activist Somaly Mam. Founded in 2007, the organization’s multilateral approach helps victims to escape their plight, empowers survivors with economic independence and as part of the solution, and engages governments, corporations, and individuals in the fight.
22. The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity was founded by Holocaust survivor, professor, writer and activist Elie Wiesel and his wife, Marion, soon after he was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Peace. The Foundation’s mission, rooted in the memory of the Holocaust, is to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogue and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality. The international conferences of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity serve as a catalyst for change and action. In the United States, the Foundation has for 25 years offered the Ethics Essay Contest which challenges college juniors and seniors to analyze the urgent ethical issues confronting them in today’s complex world.
23. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is a private, nonprofit corporation, founded in 1969, whose members are America’s public TV stations — noncommercial, educational licensees that operate more than 350 PBS member stations and serve all 50 states, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa. PBS’ mission is to create content that educates, informs and inspires. To do this, PBS offers programming that expands the minds of children, documentaries that open up new worlds, non-commercialized news programs that keep citizens informed on world events and cultures and programs that expose America to the worlds of music, theater, dance and art. PBS reaches 120 million people through television and over 29 million people online each month.