Jessie Brunner

14 March, 2017

This blog first appeared on the IntLawGrrls blog.

Around the world on 8 March, thousands took action in various forms to highlight the ongoing struggle for gender equality while marking the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. These demonstrations in recognition of International Women’s Day served as one positive indication of the sustained collective action that will be necessary to define, build, and carry on the legacy of January’s Women’s March on Washington. Let us not forget that just two months ago three to four million people, about one percent of the U.S. population, participated in the largest demonstration in American history. We are a new and growing one percent, defined not by the power we derive from material wealth, but from the power of the people, of democracy in action.


As evidenced during the International Women’s Day marches, many have continued to use protests and demonstrations as a core method for promoting a progressive agenda that upholds core American tenets of equality, freedom, and human dignity, views we see in direct contrast to the priorities of our 45th President. Despite this very active form of engagement, a growing disaffection is palpable among a subset of this population, which struggles to articulate a platform beyond mere “resistance.” After all, we have seen other young movements languish when they were unable to articulate an action-oriented platform motivated by specific policy goals. MORE

Malayah Harper

7 March, 2017

I often reflect on the tremendous organising energy that came from the 1994 clarion call “women’s rights are human rights”. Yet despite more than 20 years of progressive international commitments for gender equality, in the last five years, the space for civil society engaged in gender equality and women’s empowerment has been shrinking. This diminishing space has been most profound for those civil society organisations (CSOs) working to secure the most basic right of all – control of our own bodies and destinies.

Every woman, adolescent, and girl, has the right to decide whether, with whom, and at what moment to have children. We have the right to choose whether and whom to marry.  This is the central pre-condition to reduce unintended pregnancies, end child marriage, keep girls in school and expand opportunities for young women, not just to survive but to thrive.  This is the corner stone for gender equality, women’s empowerment and Planet 50:50.

Credit: World YWCA

It is often said that change takes a long time, but change can also be sudden, severe, and profound: on 23 January, just two days after ½ million women and men marched on Washington in support of Women’s rights, and after only three days in office, US President Donald Trump reinstated and expanded the Mexico City policy, also referred to as a global gag rule (GGR).

The GGR stops any and all US government funds to international organisations that provide abortion counselling, referrals or services or education on reproductive choices. The US is the biggest funder of reproductive health across the globe, and this backtrack on women’s rights will lead to an immediate loss of USD$575 million annually in funding, and threatens up to USD$9.5 billion as it extends to other US global health programs such as those working on Zika virus, HIV, etc.  It is predicted that the cut will lead to an alarming increase of 4.8 million unintended pregnancies, 1.7 million unsafe abortions, and 20,000 maternal deaths annually.  The global gag rule has used women’s reproductive rights as a bargaining chip in US politics for years, and is put in place with each Republican administration and removed with each Democratic one. The Trump administration, however, has expanded the GGR’s reach to all global health funding, with the impact hitting almost exclusively civil society organisations and the greatest consequences falling upon the most marginalised women in poor countries. MORE

Talia Kaufman

28 February, 2017

At Skateistan I have the privilege of working in collaboration with some of the brightest young people, creating after school programming for an extremely diverse participant base. Skateistan is an award­-winning international non-­profit organisation that uses skateboarding and education for youth empowerment. Over 1600 children and youth, aged 5­-17, attend our Skate Schools in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. Through our innovative programmes, Skate and Create, Back­-To-­School and Youth Leadership, we aim to give youth the opportunity to become leaders for a better world. Together we create curriculum across cultures, language barriers and a generation gap. Results are always surprising and fun, and the best lessons and ideas come forward when Skateistan Educators start creating together, and as a programme’s director, I step back. This process is an exercise in making space for youth participation in civil society. Trust, training, technological platforms and a strong educational model can all play a role in making sure we make space in our programme design process for the voices of youth themselves – achieving real youth participation. This becomes especially significant for making authentic space for the voices and contributions of girls and young women, who are frequently excluded from decision making and from public life in general.


Burkhard Gnärig

21 February, 2017

This blog first appeared on OpenDemocracy.

More than 20 years ago I had a lively discussion with a leading German politician who complained that Terre Des Hommes, the child rights organisation I was leading at the time, interfered with national politics. He abhorred our advocacy and campaigns and demanded that we “leave politics to the politicians”. This politician’s perspective was firmly rooted in a traditional understanding of democracy shaped in the 19th and early 20th centuries: once every four or five years people would undertake the often arduous journey to a polling station, cast their votes and return home, most of them leaving politics to the politicians until the next election.

Since that conversation, the growth of digital communications means that politicians have lost their monopoly on politics. Representative democracy as we know it is under enormous pressure everywhere. Globally, a power struggle between governments and “their” citizens or, from my perspective, between citizens and their governments, is underway. The Internet has provided each individual with more and better means to inform themselves, to control politicians, to voice their opinion, to seek the support of others and to form powerful political alliances. The space for civic participation has grown enormously and power has shifted away from traditional political structures and actors. MORE

Chase Strangio

14 February, 2017

Over the coming weeks, Disrupt&Innovate is looking at relevant, practical actions being taken against the rise in hatred across the globe. This article first appeared on ACLU’s Speak Freely blog.

Across the country [USA], before state legislative sessions have even convened, lawmakers are making clear that transgender people will again be the relentless targets of discriminatory legislation.

Last year, lawmakers introduced more than 200 anti-LGBT bills in 34 states. At least 50 of those bills targeted transgender people specifically. We were able to defeat the overwhelming majority of these proposed laws.

The two most sweeping anti-LGBT bills to torbakhopper via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0become law, HB 1523 in Mississippi and HB 2 in North Carolina, we promptly challenged in court. In North Carolina, the passage of HB 2 has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue to the state, costly litigation, and former Gov. Pat McCrory’s defeat at the ballot in November.

But it seems lawmakers are not heeding the lessons of North Carolina. MORE

Zeynep Serinkaya

7 February, 2017

Over the coming weeks, Disrupt&Innovate is looking at relevant, practical actions being taken against the rise in hatred across the globe.

In a social environment defined by the absence of equal rights, downright discrimination and repressive cultural norms, representation is all the more crucial for LGBTQI+ individuals. The LGBTQI+ movement is growing stronger in Turkey. From the academic production of knowledge to representation in political arena, from demanding an end to ethnic discrimination to calling for new laws regarding sex workers, the LGBTQI+ movement is indeed active in all aspects of daily life. Its strength lies in its power to revert stereotypical imagery back to its beholder, most particularly through methods of creative resistance. This is exactly why we, LGBTI News Turkey, come together as an active group of volunteers to translate news on
LGBTQI+ life in Turkey into English.

eringobro via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0eringobro via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

While working for political representation in municipalities, at the National Assembly and all levels of governance, the LGBTQI+ movement mobilises its efforts to produce its own cultural representations and images against the discursive and symbolic violence, two aspects of heteronormativity and sexism ever so sinister and so deeply engraved in our lives.

Melissa Sonnino

31 January, 2017

Over the coming weeks, Disrupt&Innovate is looking at relevant, practical actions being taken against the rise in hatred across the globe.

What is hate crime and why should we all be concerned about it? Defining the problem is a first step towards understanding a phenomenon which affects our society as a whole. Hate crime is commonly defined as a criminal act with a bias motivation, where bias is a type of prejudice against a person, or a group, because of their real or presumed identity.

Although probably not morally correct, the “could be you” argument is usually a winning argument when it comes to explaining to people why hate crime is not only for civil society organisations (CSOs), targeted groups and police. In fact, to not belong to any of the groups at risk in society doesn’t mean you cannot be a victim of hate crime. The perpetrators’ assumption about someone’s identity is the only decisive factor. Passing by a gay bar with a friend or reading a copy of the Quran at the bus stop could lead a perpetrator to the assumption you are gay or Muslim, even if you are not, and to commit a hate crime motivated by homophobic or anti-Muslim sentiments. MORE

Kyle Khandikian

24 January, 2017

Over the coming weeks, Disrupt&Innovate is looking at relevant, practical actions being taken against the rise in hatred across the globe.

Online networks in Armenia were abuzz as the country welcomed the New Year over a seemingly harmless photograph of a mixed-race family – an Armenian woman, a black man, and their mixed-race child – in traditional Armenian garb. The photograph, taken and posted on Facebook by a popular photo studio specialising in vintage photos, sounded the alarm bells for racists and ultranationalists, who decried the defiling of the “Armenian gene”, customs and nation. The photograph, later taken down by the studio after relentless threats against them and their families, ignited a debate over mixed marriages, anti-black racism in Armenian society, and national values.

Gay pride 2011 à Toulouse

Fear and intolerance for all things otar – “other”, “foreign”, “not Armenian” – do not come to us from a vacuum; they are symptoms of our long and painful history of violence, displacement and genocide. The question today is whether we give in to the fear of that which is different, forgoing all reason and conscious in the name of dogma and ideology, or, protect ourselves and others whose lives and dignity are equal to our own, but who are unable to realise the full potential of that dignity. MORE

Menno Ettema

17 January, 2017

Over the coming weeks, Disrupt&Innovate is looking at relevant, practical actions being taken against the rise in hatred across the globe.

The internet gives us new opportunities to enjoy our rights to express our opinions and to assembly, even internationally, free from practical burdens such as travel costs or visa regimes. It gives us the opportunity to be truly inclusive and work together towards a better future for everyone. To ensure the longevity of this space, coordinated efforts are needed to counter the threat of online hate speech through awareness raising, human rights education, promoting alternative messages, and legislation._MG_3863

The Council of Europe’s recommendation on human rights for internet users reconfirms that the internet has a public service value. States have the obligation to secure human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Legislation to address hate speech is often opposed on the grounds that it will restrict our right to free expression. Such risks are real, and therefore monitored by the Council of Europe, who published a study on state practices regarding filtering, blocking and taking down of illegal content in 2016. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

10 January, 2017

“We urgently need to come together in a powerful global movement to defend tolerance against the intolerant, pluralism and the rule of law against authoritarianism, and our future as a global community against chauvinism and xenophobia.” This appeal at the end of my most recent post demands action – and it demands a plan: What do we have to do?

  1. We need to take the rise of xenophobia, ultra-nationalism, and authoritarian government seriously

For years, a small number of individuals and organisations have warned of rising intolerance and shrinking civic space, but still too many of us think that this worrying trend will not affect us directly, eventually passing by. I recently discussed this phenomenon with a friend who is part of the German political establishment. His comments: “This is democracy. There is not much we can do. It will turn worse before it gets better”. I don’t think we can afford such fatalism. We have seen democracies turning into nasty dictatorships before, Germany being a case in point. We have left the stable political environment where two or three moderate parties replaced each other in government from time to time and arrived at a point where intolerance, racism, chauvinism, and authoritarian leadership are entering the mainstream. Democracy allows us to elect representatives of these nasty ideologies – but will we have enough democracy left to kick them out once we recognise that they are doing a terrible job? If we truly value democracy, pluralism, and the rule of law, we must act now, and with determination.

A Jones CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr