CWGL is pleased to welcome our new Visiting Global Associate Shalmali Guttal! Shalmali is the Coordinator of the Defending the Commons Programme at Focus on the Global South (Focus) in Bangkok, Thailand. Since 1991, she has been researching and writing on economic development, trade-investment, and ecological and social justice issues in Asia – especially the Mekong region and India -- with emphasis on local peoples’ and women’s rights. Focus’ Commons programme seeks to strengthen efforts by social movements, local/national civil society, legislators and policy makers to stop the privatization and commodification of the commons and build alternative systems of use and governance. Focus is committed to ecological and climate justice, food sovereignty, and securing land and resource rights for local communities. In addition to research and writing, Shalmali organizes educational programmes for students, civil society organizations, policymakers and representatives of local communities, municipal boards and other public bodies on economic policy, investment, food and land rights, and climate justice. Shalmali has also been working with social movements and civil society actors to develop campaigns linking human rights with trade, investment and development issues.
To learn more about the Visiting Global Associates program, visit http://iwl.rutgers.edu/programs_vsp_gassociate.html.
Remarks on the occasion of the establishment of the Charlotte Bunch Women’s Human Rights Defender Award at the Global Fund for Women 25th Anniversary Gala ~ New York City, April 17, 2013
by Charlotte Bunch
Thank you Secretary Clinton for your generous remarks and for your lifetime of commitment to the rights of Women and Girls, and especially for taking these issues of the unfinished revolution to “the Big Boys” Club.
Thank you Musimbi Kanyoro of the GFW, the Board and staff as well as the GFW founders - for your visionary investment in women’s leadership and women’s movements - as the key strategic players who are turning these ideas into action for social change and human rights for all in the 21st century.
I accept this honor as part of the global women’s movement that links the work of grass roots activism to global policy making and the United Nations.
This is the 20th anniversary of the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993 and I would like to dedicate the award to the core group of feminists from all regions – South and North – who took the Global Campaign for Women’s Human Rights to where we first gained UN international recognition that “women’s rights are human rights.”
I wish I could name them all as they are the ones who believed that this paradigm change was possible and dared to work across many geographic and cultural divisions that we were told we could not cross, in order to make it happen.
Personally I want to highlight 2 women in this group who have been my closest partners and collaborators:
Sunila Abeysekera from Sri Lanka – who you saw in the video questioning “what I was doing in Latin America teaching feminism” and then became one of my closest friends. She is now fighting cancer, even as she lives in exile for her human rights work in her own country. I hold her up tonight as a leading women’s human rights defender.
And I want to acknowledge and thank Roxanna Carrillo from Peru, who is now my legal Spouse and is here with us tonight. Of course, she is mostly why I was in Latin America and has been my partner personally and politically in this work for 3 decades – I could not have done this work without her.
I am very pleased that this award specifically honors Women’s Human Rights Defenders as I have come to believe that we can only realize the changes we seek in the world when we defend the defenders – those activists on the front lines who are experiencing the back lash that comes with any progress toward change.
As women claim our human rights and seek to influence all aspects of society – resistance is inevitable. It can be subtle forms of exclusion and shunning or overt violence, hate crimes, and murder.
Violence is particularly intense against those affirming women’s sexual and reproductive rights. But sexual violence is also used to seek to silence activists who work for peace and against war, or on economic inequality or climate change, or even who just seek to move freely in the public sphere.
All of us in this room and beyond - play a vital role that contributes to what I call the “symphony of liberations” that women are leading today to create a more just and compassionate world.
This symphony requires not only the brave defenders that you are about to meet, but also a persistent commitment to defend them and to support the women led movements for change that are transforming these ideas on the ground every day. And that is where the GFW works.
I am pleased to introduce the video of the 3 inspirational women defenders receiving this award that bears my name. They are illustrative, as are many of the GFW grantees – of our belief that change is possible. Their collective action is truly making a difference in the world. I know you will share my pride in their courage and commitment.