16 Human Rights Causes to Support in 2016

Happy New Year!

May 2016 bring you health, happiness, prosperity and a renewed sense of purpose.

Today’s post continues a tradition I started two years ago, whereby I dedicate the first post of the new year to noteworthy organizations, causes, and individuals committed to the advancement of human rights or the protection of Mother Earth. The criteria for this year’s list is the same as it was last year. Keep in mind that the numbers are intended only as placeholders and counters. I do not rank or otherwise organize the list because I think they’re all great!

Of course, the list below could be twice as long and each additional entry would be completely justified and equally deserving of recognition. But don’t fret, in about 365 days I’ll pay tribute to 17 more organizations. Feel free to leave a comment if you work for or know about an organization or person that deserves recognition. Now, and without further ado…

My 16 for 2016
Yazda1. Yazda, an International Yazidi Organization, is a US-based, 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, established to support the Yazidi ethno-religious minority group in the United States and the Yazidi homeland in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria. Yazda’s mission is to support the Yazidi community in the aftermath of the August 2014 genocide, committed by the so-called “Islamic State”, that resulted in the death of three to five thousand civilians; abduction of five to seven thousand, mostly women and children; and the displacement of 400,000 people from the Yazidi homelands in Sinjar, the Nineveh plain, and Syria.


Better Shelter2. Better Shelter is a social enterprise that develops and provides innovative housing solutions for persons displaced by armed conflicts and natural disasters. It is the result of a unique collaboration between the IKEA Foundation and the UNHCR, which placed an order for 10,000 units. Better Shelter was developed by the Housing for All Foundation, a non-profit foundation established by the IKEA Foundation. With a safe and functional temporary shelter delivered in flat packs, Better Shelter together with the UNHCR and the IKEA Foundation wants to bring dignity and safety to the millions of refugees fleeing violence, armed conflict, persecution and natural disasters. This unique partnership has introduced an innovative approach to designing for refugees and putting their needs at the heart of the development process.


Access Now 23. Access Now is an international non-profit, human rights, public policy, and advocacy group dedicated to an open and free Internet. It defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world by combining innovative policy, user engagement, and direct technical support. They fight for open and secure communications for all. The nonprofit focuses on five areas of concerns: (1) Business & Human Rights (urges companies to make their practices more transparent, accountable, and rights-respecting), (2) Digital Security (work to ensure that your online activities are private, safe, and secure), (3) Freedom of Expression (fight for your right to speak freely, which is critical for demonstrating dissent, guaranteeing a free press, and defending human rights), (4) Net Discrimination (fight for a free and open internet, advocating for the Net Neutrality principle that internet access should be offered to everyone on a nondiscriminatory basis, without favoring certain websites, applications, or services), and (5) Privacy (defend your right to privacy, the cornerstone for human rights in the digital age).


Lucky Iron Fish

4. The Lucky Iron Fish Project was created in 2008 by Canadian health workers in Cambodia to provide dietary supplementation of iron to individuals living in poverty affected by iron-deficiency anaemia. The fish-shaped cast iron ingots are placed in a pot of boiling water to leach elemental iron into the water and food. The project became a company in 2012 to develop the iron fish on a larger scale, promote them among rural areas, and distribute them to non-governmental organization partners. It is a carefully formulated health innovation that has been shown to substantially reduce instances of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia. As a certified B-Corp, Lucky Fish Iron is committed to doing business in a socially responsible way.


Pencils of Promise5. Pencils of Promise, also known as PoP for short, is a nonprofit organization that builds schools and increases educational opportunities in the developing world. Pencils of Promise was founded by Adam Braun in October 2008. It is a 501(c)(3) organization with education programs in Laos, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Ghana. The name comes from an incident in India when Braun was visiting the country. He asked a poor street child what he wished to have most of all. The boy answered: “a pencil”, so Braun gave him his pen, hence the name of the charity. Realizing how important education was in many developing countries, Braun visited more than 50 countries distributing pencils to children wherever he went. In October 2008, he established the charity with the aim of providing quality education to children in some of the most underserved countries around the world. As of January 2015, the charity has served over 31,000 students, built 266 schools and has provided 24.3 million education hours. PoP believes every child should have access to quality education. They create schools, programs and global communities around the common goal of education for all. 100% of online donations go to PoP programs.


No Kid Hungry6. The No Kid Hungry campaign connects kids in need with nutritious food and teaches their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The campaign also engages the public to make ending child hunger a national priority. How do they do it? By connecting kids to effective nutrition programs like school breakfast and summer meals using a network made up of private citizens, government officials, business leaders, and others providing innovative hunger solutions in their communities. These partners work together, implementing solutions that break down the barriers that keep kids from healthy food.

Through its Cooking Matters program, the No Kid Hungry campaign educates and empowers low-income families to stretch their food budgets so their kids get healthy meals at home. Cooking Matters participants learn to shop strategically, use nutrition information to make healthier food choices, and cook delicious, affordable meals.

The No Kid Hungry campaign works to shine a national spotlight on the crisis of child hunger in America, creating a powerful movement of individuals committed to bold action.


Jobs with Justice7. Jobs with Justice (JWJ) believes that all workers should have collective bargaining rights, employment security, and a decent standard of living within an economy that works for everyone. It brings together labor, community, student, and faith voices at the national and local levels to win improvements in people’s lives and shape the public discourse on workers’ rights and the economy. JWJ are leading the fight for workers’ rights and an economy that benefits everyone. It is the only nonprofit of our kind, leading strategic campaigns and shaping the public discourse on every front to build power for working people. Jobs With Justice is committed to working nationally and locally, on the ground and online. They win real change for workers by combining innovative communications strategies and solid research and policy advocacy with grassroots action and mobilization.


Meathead Movers8. Meathead Movers is California-based moving company that partners with local women’s shelters programs to make sure victims of domestic violence relocate in safety and receive the support they need beyond moving day. Since the launch of this partnership, Meathead Movers has built relationships with six more domestic violence shelters to offer free moving services to victims around central and southern California. The partnering shelters will screen victims who request a move, protect victims’ private information and collaborate with law enforcement when additional safety measures are needed.

“The moving services that Meathead Movers is providing these women and children – both fleeing from an abusive situation and helping them move out on their own for the first time since being abused – is extremely valuable,” Genelle Taylor Kumpe, Executive Director of partner organization Marjaree Mason Center.


WITNESS9. WITNESS is an international organization that trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights. The majority of the world’s population now has a camera in their pocket. People everywhere are turning to video to document and tell stories of abuse. But all too often, they are not filming safely or effectively, and their videos don’t make a difference. WITNESS helps citizen activists around the world use video safely, ethically, and effectively to expose human rights abuse and fight for human rights change. WITNESS develops award-winning tools and apps to keep people safer; advocates to technology companies to create change at the systems level; and curates and help draw attention to citizen footage of under-reported stories.


HCZ10. Harlem Children’s Zone®, also known as HCZ, is a New York charity that aims to provide comprehensive, critical support to children and families by reweaving the very fabric of community life. The HCZ Project began as a one-block pilot in the 1990s. Building on the success of the first initiative, HCZ launched a 10-year strategic plan in 2000, steadily and systematically expanding the depth and breadth of our programming to encompass 24 blocks, then 60 blocks, and ultimately 97 blocks. Today, the Children’s Zone serves more than 11,000 youth and over 8,000 adults. The organization as a whole serves over 13,000 youth and 13,800 adults.

With 70% of children in the Zone engaged in their pipeline of programs each year and thousands of youth well on their way to achieving the ultimate goal of college graduation, HCZ has not only reached the tipping point, but also have become a national model and thought leader in the fields of education, youth and community development, and the fight against poverty. It has earned several accolades, including from President Obama, and helped land 93 percent of its students in college in 2015.


Project 562a11. Project 562 is the brainchild of Native American photographer Matika Wilbur, who sold all of her worldly possession in 2012 and set out on the road with one goal in mind: photograph citizens of each federally recognized tribe in the United States (there are now 566). Project 562 creatively addresses and remedies historical inaccuracies, stereotypical representations, and the absence of Native American images and voices in mass media and national conversation. Wilbur’s aim is to humanize the otherwise “vanishing race” and share stories that her people want to be told. Conversations about tribal sovereignty, self-determination, wellness, recovery from historical trauma, and revitalization of culture accompany her photos in caption, video, and audio recordings.  Wilbur’s says it best: “The time of sharing, building cultural bridges, abolishing racism, and honoring the legacy that this country is built on is among us. Project 562 is that platform.”

Matika Wilbur is a member of the Tulalip and Swinomish Tribes in Washington State. She graduated from La Conner high school, studied photography at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Montana, and received her bachelor’s degree from Brooks Institute of Photography in California. She has exhibited extensively, including venues such as the Royal British Columbia Museum of Fine Arts, the Nantes Museum of Fine Arts in France, the Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, and the Kittredge Gallery at the University of Puget Sound.


The Advocates for Human Rights12. Advocates for Human Rights is an independent, nonpartisan nonprofit organization founded in 1983. The organization creates and maintains lasting, comprehensive, and holistic change on a local, national, and global scale. Volunteers, partners, supporters, board members, and staff implement international human rights standards to promote civil society and reinforce the rule of law. For more than 30 years, the Advocate’s innovative programming has changed the lives of refugees and immigrants, women, ethnic and religious minorities, children, and other marginalized communities. The organization investigate and expose human rights violations, represent immigrants and refugees seeking asylum, train and assist groups that protect human rights, engage the public, policy-makers, and children; and push for legal reform and advocates for sound policy.


OWAAT13. OWAAT (One Woman At A Time) – Cyprus is a community-court collaboration in the Republic of Cyprus which creates positive social change toward “Zero Tolerance of Abuse Against Women” through human rights education, pooling resources and volunteer services provided by local leaders, community schools, churches, NGOs, and conducting communications with legislators and courts to ensure and secure human rights protection through new laws and court rules. OWAAT Complaint Centers aims at empowering all abused women to know their human rights and obtain free one-on-one and online guidance how to self-help as self-represented litigants who can place the law in their hands, gain access to court and obtain emergency civil no contact protection orders against their abuser. OWAAT outreach endeavors to provide human rights information for predominantly poor women in isolated Island villages who cannot afford to hire attorneys or wait for police and legal aid to get emergency civil protections necessary to prevent the likelihood of harm from abuse. For more information, please visit OWAAT or Thee Art of Law (blog). Contact U.S. Fulbright Scholar Patricia M. Martin, Esq. via OWAAT (Contact Form) or LinkedIn to learn how you can contribute or otherwise support this unique organization.


Grameen Foundation14. The Grameen Foundation helps the world’s poorest people reach their full potential, connecting their determination and skills with the resources they need. It provides access to essential financial services and information on agriculture and health, assistance that can have wide-scale impact by addressing the specific needs of poor households and communities. Rather than directly administering microfinance programs, Grameen Foundation provides funds and technical assistance to local and regional microfinance institutions (MFIs) and other poverty-focused organizations.

The Foundation was founded in 1997 to facilitate the expansion of banks modeled after the Grameen Bank beyond the borders of Bangladesh and increase the access of poor people to microfinance by millions worldwide. Muhammad Yunus, the founder and managing director of Grameen Bank, sat on the Board of Directors for 12 years and is now a director emeritus. Alex Counts is a founder and the current President & CEO.


HRIC 215. Human Rights in China (HRIC) is a Chinese non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in March 1989 by overseas Chinese students and scientists. HRIC is actively engaged in case and policy advocacy, media and press work, and capacity building. Through its original publications and extensive translation work, HRIC provides bridges and uncensored platforms for diverse Chinese voices.  The organization’s activities promote fundamental rights and freedoms and provide solidarity for rights defenders and their families by supporting citizens’ efforts to effectively communicate, as well as organize and participate in rights defense activities. HRIC raises international awareness of and support for the diverse and expanding civil society activism in China via its media and advocacy work. It has an international office in New York and a China office in Hong Kong. Given China’s unprecedented crackdown on civil lawyers, HRIC’s work may be important than ever.


ICRC16. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the largest humanitarian network in the world with 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide. Its mission is to alleviate human suffering, protect life and health, and uphold human dignity especially during armed conflicts and other emergencies. It is present in every country and supported by millions of volunteers. The “Movement” is made up of the following components: the International Committee of the Red Cross, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Previous Years:
✤ 2015
✤ 2014

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