Blog: Gender Equality
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March 27, 2017
“What Islam, whose Islam?:
The struggle for women’s right to justice and equality in Muslim contexts”
A talk by Zainah Anwar, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Musawah
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Please join us for a talk by Zainah Anwar, of Musawah, who will speak on the challenges faced by women’s groups living in Muslim contexts and their struggle to reform laws and practices made in the name of Islam that discriminate against women. She will share the initiatives of activists and scholars who are engaged in the production of new feminist and rights-based knowledge in Islam, and their efforts at creating a public voice at the national and international levels, pushing for the possibility and necessity of reform to uphold the principles of equality and justice.
March 22, 2017
Tomorrow, March 23: A film screening and discussion of Palestinian women living under the occupation
March 23, 2017
Palestinian women living under the occupation
5:00- 7:00 p.m.
Please join us for a screening of “Speed Sisters,” followed by a panel on Palestinian women living under the occupation. This is part of an ongoing film series sponsored by Islamic Legal Studies: Law and Social Change on women, rights and activism in the Muslim world.
The Speed Sisters are the first all-woman race car driving team in the Middle East. Grabbing headlines and turning heads at improvised tracks across the West Bank, these five women have sped their way into the heart of the gritty, male-dominated Palestinian street car-racing scene. Independent, determined and always on the move, they have deftly charted their own course through the pressures of social expectations, family dynamics, community politics and an ongoing Israeli military occupation.
Following the screening, our panelists Zena Agha, Rana Wahbe, and Nour Soubani will take a closer look at the complexities and vulnerabilities of Palestinian women’s lives under the Israeli occupation, offering personal perspectives and first-hand accounts.
November 22, 2016
VIDEO: Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, speaks at joint conference on climate change displacement
We’re so pleased today to share coverage of our recent joint conference, “Climate Change Displacement: Finding Solutions to an Emerging Crisis,” which brought together experts from around the world to discuss the governance challenges that come with this critical issue. Thanks again to the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic for partnering with us on this conference, which was comprised of closed meetings and two public events.
Below, you’ll find the video of the first event: a conversation between Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and current UN special envoy on El Niño and climate change, and Dean Martha Minow. Harvard Law School has posted a summary of that talk, along with some excerpts, on the home page.
The Harvard Gazette also went in-depth with one of the conference attendees, Robin Bronen, a human rights attorney, senior research scientist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and co-founder and executive director of the Alaska Institute for Justice. Robin participated in the second public event, entitled “Addressing Climate Change Globally and Locally.” You’ll also find video of that event below.
Thanks to all of the conference participants, and to the many other scholars, advocates, and affected communities who are working so hard on this issue.
October 25, 2016
We’re very pleased to cross-post this piece by Emily Nagisa Keehne, Associate Director of HRP’s Academic Program, who argues in The Guardian that it’s vital the court of appeals uphold a ruling that makes South Africa’s gold mining industry accountable to women whose husbands died from silicosis. Emily co-authored the piece with her former colleague, Dean Peacock, Executive Director of Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa.
“Justice is long overdue for the widows of South African mineworkers”
For decades, women in rural South Africa have shouldered the burden of caring for mineworkers who return home with silicosis contracted in South Africa’s gold mines. These women do the back-breaking and emotionally taxing work of caring for men who are dying slow and painful deaths, their lungs irreparably scarred by the silica dust they breathe in underground.
Testimony from women in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province reveals the brutal toll silicosis has taken on families. “My husband was the sole breadwinner,” recalled one woman. “If we had money, he had sent it. During his last days, he lost his strength and his chest closed up. It was difficult for him to cover himself with blankets, so I would cover him up. He could not go outside to relieve himself, so he would do it right there in the bed. I would have to throw it away. On his last day his chest closed up completely. I am left with almost nothing.”
From village to village, such stories were a recurring refrain. “I used to carry [my husband] around,” said another woman. “I used to go from house to house asking for food, we had children going to school. At times I would get piece jobs so we could eat.”
Eventually, this woman’s husband became unable to breathe. He died before he could even get in a car to go to hospital.
These conditions are the predictable outcome of deliberate mining policies.
Starting in the 1880s, when gold was first discovered, gold mining houses colluded with British colonial governments to put in place a range of taxes and legislation that forced black men to leave their land to work in the mines.
Once there, these men were forced to do dangerous jobs. Their work exposed them to malnutrition, tuberculosis and dangerous levels of silica dust. Many developed silicosis, which scars the lungs, makes breathing difficult, increases vulnerability to tuberculosis and can ultimately cause asphyxiation.
Black women, on the other hand, were required to remain in rural areas, where they carried out the work of raising workers and, often, caring for them when they later returned home desperately ill.
This exploitation remained entrenched for most of the 20th century. The mining industry corrupted the medical examination boards ostensibly in charge of mineworkers’ health. The boards then underreported cases of silicosis, decreasing workers’ eligibility for compensation. Together with the apartheid government, the industry set up a distinct and difficult to use compensation scheme. One study by Deloitte found that less than 1.5% of claims had been paid out to eligible miners.
The consequences of this arrangement were predictable. A 2009 report revealed that almost all miners interviewed in the former republic of Transkei, the largest provider of mining labour, had symptoms of respiratory illness. None were formally employed. About 92% said they went without food or experienced hunger on a monthly basis.
South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution has allowed human rights lawyers and mineworkers to begin to hold mines accountable.
In 2011, South Africa’s constitutional court issued a landmark ruling allowing Thembekile Mankayi, who had contracted silicosis working underground, to sue AngloGold Ashanti for full loss of wages, damages and medical expenses, regardless of what was already available to him under the miner-specific compensation scheme.
Human rights lawyers subsequently petitioned the courts to allow a class action lawsuit; potentially, hundreds of thousands of miners would join together to sue for as much as 20-40bn rand (roughly £1.2bn-£2.3bn).
Two South African NGOs – the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), an Aids activist group, and Sonke Gender Justice, a gender equality organisation – applied to join the case as amici curiae (impartial advisers to the court), introducing evidence on the social costs of silicosis.
TAC drew attention to the relationship between silicosis and TB. Sonke offered evidence on the gendered impact of silicosis, particularly the financial, emotional and physical burden borne by women and girls who care for sick mineworkers when they return home, often foregoing their own income and education. The amici argued for the authorisation of the class action, and the transmission of claims to widows and dependents.
Despite opposition by the mining houses, the court admitted them as amici. Sonke’s affidavit on the gendered impact of silicosis was also admitted into the proceedings.
In May this year, the Johannesburg high court granted its historic ruling. It amended existing common law to allow general damages to be transmitted to the widows and dependents of miners who died in the early stages of litigation. Prior to this ruling, if plaintiffs died before pleadings had closed their claims would become void.
The ruling sets an important precedent that affirms women’s rights and the imperative to remedy the gendered harms imposed by the mining industry. The mining companies are appealing the decision, however.
As the case unfolds, it is critical to remember what is at stake. A century of damage caused by the South African gold mining industry requires remedy. The mining companies must pay long overdue compensation to the workers, widows, children, and communities they impoverished.
September 20, 2016
Posted by Cara Solomon
Now that we’re in the rhythm of the semester, it’s time to introduce some new faces in the International Human Rights Clinic. We’re thrilled to welcome five new clinical advocacy fellows, all accomplished lawyers with different expertise and experiences. They’re leading clinical projects this semester on a range of new topics, from human rights protection in investment treaties to armed conflict and the environment.
In alphabetical order, here they are:
Fola Adeleke is a South African-trained lawyer who specializes in international economic law and human rights, corporate transparency, open government and accountability within the extractives industry. This semester, his projects focus on human rights protection in investment treaties and reconfiguring the licensing process of mining to include more consultation with communities.
Rebecca Agule, an alumna of the Clinic, is an American lawyer who specializes in the impact of conflict and violence upon individuals, communities, and the environment. This semester, her project focuses on armed conflict and the environment, with a focus on victim assistance.
Juan Pablo Calderón-Meza, a former Visiting Fellow with the Human Rights Program, is a Colombian attorney whose practice specializes in international law and human rights advocacy and litigation. This semester, his project focuses on accountability for corporations and executives that facilitated human rights abuses and atrocity crimes.
Yee Htun is the Director of the Myanmar Program for Justice Trust, a legal non-profit that partners with lawyers and activists to strengthen communities fighting for justice and human rights. Born in Myanmar and trained as a lawyer in Canada, Yee specializes in gender justice and working on behalf of refugee and migrant communities. This semester, her project focuses on women advocates in Myanmar.
Salma Waheedi is an attorney who specializes in international human rights law, Islamic law, gender justice, family law, comparative constitutional law, and refugee and asylum law. Born in Bahrain and trained as a lawyer in the U.S., Salma currently holds a joint appointment with Harvard Law School’s Islamic Legal Studies Program, where she focuses on family relations in Islamic jurisprudence. This semester, her project focuses on gender justice under Islam.
We’re so pleased to have the fellows as part of our community this semester. Please swing by at some point to introduce yourself and say hello.
August 22, 2016
Posted by Gerald Neuman
Today I have the honor of announcing an exciting new appointment at the Human Rights Program. Emily Nagisa Keehn has joined HRP as Associate Director for the Academic Program. Emily is a dynamic and skillful human rights lawyer, who will bring leadership and experience to the work of the Academic Program, and who looks forward to developing strong relationships with our students. She will also act as an important liaison between the HRP Academic Program and other parts of the Law School and the University.
Emily joins the Human Rights Program from Sonke Gender Justice in Cape Town, where she was the head of policy development and advocacy. In this role, she directed strategic litigation, research, parliamentary engagement, and advocacy pertaining to human rights, gender, and HIV. She primarily focuses on human rights issues at the intersection of criminal justice, gender, and health.
Previously, Emily worked for UCLA School of Law, where she developed and ran a post-graduate legal fellowship for Southern African public interest lawyers, culminating in an LL.M. and a one-year work placement with a human rights organization. Emily’s experience spans Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, Israel and the U.S. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, San Diego, and a J.D. from UCLA School of Law.
At HRP, Emily will play a substantive and managerial role in innovating and implementing academic activities, including the speaker series, conferences, and the Academic Program’s various fellowships.
We welcome her warmly and look forward to your meeting her soon.
May 20, 2016
Posted by Cara Solomon and Tyler Giannini
The International Human Rights Clinic had the great honor last month of hosting a three-day workshop in Yangon for some of the leading women advocates in Myanmar- all of them pioneers in their various fields, and all of them pushing for change. The training, facilitated by The Op-Ed Project, focused on voice and messaging in the media’s opinion sections, where women’s bylines are too rarely found.
The title of the workshop: “Write to Change the World.” Below, some images from those three days, with thanks and appreciation for what these women have done to strengthen the world already, and what they will surely do in the decades to come.
January 26, 2016
Posted by Mindy Roseman
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
After ten years as Academic Director at the Human Rights Program, and many years before that as a collaborator at the Harvard School of Public Health, I write to let you know that I am leaving HRP, effective February 5, 2016. I will be joining Yale Law School as Director of both its International Programs and its Gruber Program on Global Justice and Women’s Rights. This was not an easy decision, especially since it means I will be warming the bench from the other side of the basketball court.
There are many communities at Harvard Law School that are dear to me, but I cherish HRP – its work, staff, faculty, students, alumni – perhaps above all. I’ll still be on campus this semester (teaching a seminar), and my email will be active through June.
I hope to stay in touch and wish you all the best of luck.
March 13, 2014
As we round the corner on Friday, here are two events we think are definitely worth your time tomorrow.
The first, “Legal Feminism in Latin America,” is a breakfast talk by Professors Cristina Jaramillo and Paola Bergallo, who will discuss challenges the region faces with regard to reproductive rights. The talk is being organized by the SJD Association and the Harvard Women’s Law Association.
Later that day, at noon, HLS has organized a panel, “In Honor of Nelson Mandela,” which will explore the question of when, if ever, violence is justified in the fight for social change. Our very own Susan Farbstein will be on the panel, which Prof. Charles Ogletree is moderating. Details of both events below.
“Legal Feminism in Latin America”
The SJD Association and the Women’s Law Association invite you to an informal breakfast talk by Professors Cristina Jaramillo and Paola Bergallo about legal feminism in Latin America and the challenges the region faces with regard to reproductive rights. Professor Jaramillo is an HLS alumnae and has been called upon as an expert by the Colombian Senate on issues of women’s political participation, divorce, and gender discrimination. Professor Bergallo is currently a visiting fellow at HLS and has been called as an expert by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Breakfast will be served. Please contact Regina Larrea if you are interested in attending.
“In Honor of Nelson Mandela”
Please join Harvard Law School for a discussion about when, if ever, violence is justifiable in struggles for political or social change. Panelists: Mekonnen Firew Ayano, SJD Candidate; Randall Kennedy, HLS Michael R. Klein Professor of Law; Kerry Chance, American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellow, Harvard University Anthropology Department; Aminu Gamawa, SJD Candidate; and Susan Farbstein, HLS Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Co-Director of the International Human Rights Clinic. Moderator: Charles Ogletree, HLS Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice.
February 27, 2014
“Trangender Identity, Mental Health, and Human Rights: The DSM V and Beyond”
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Light lunch will be served
Please join us for a discussion with panelists: Sara Kimmel, staff psychologist at Harvard University Student Mental Health Services; Eszter Kismödi, international human rights lawyer on sexual and reproductive health law, policy, and research; Zack Paakkonen, staff attorney with GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project; and moderator Mindy Roseman, Academic Director of the Human Rights Program and Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School.
This event is being co-sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute, HLS Lambda, and the Petrie-Flom Center
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