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May Newsletter – Women and Genocide in Rwanda, 25 Years Later

Photo credit: Adam Jones, Ph.D.

Women and Genocide in Rwanda
25 Years Later

Twenty-five years ago, one of the largest and most brutal genocides in history was underway in Rwanda. Up to one million people, including an estimated 70% of the country’s Tutsi population as well as moderate Hutus, were slaughtered by the Interahamwe militias, Hutu gangs, and even their neighbors over the course of just 100 days. But it is not only the death toll that defines the legacy of the violence: the Rwandan genocide also serves as an important case study for the role of women in conflict.Women’s role in the conflict was complex and many faceted. Their bodies bore the brunt of the violence – between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the conflict. HIV was used as a weapon, and infection rates skyrocketed. While some women were victims of the conflict, other women actively participated in the killing and even orchestrated or participated in sexual violence.

The aftermath of the genocide has highlighted the importance of women’s rights. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was the first international criminal tribunal to define rape as an act of genocide and to find an individual guilty of genocide on this basis. For everyday Rwandans, the post-genocide society has seen a loosening of patriarchal norms, and the country today boasts the world’s highest percentage of women in politics.

In this month’s newsletter, take a deeper dive with us to learn more about the complex and paradoxical impacts of the genocide on Rwandan women.

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January Newsletter – Want Gender Equality? Conduct a Gender Audit

Want Gender Equality?
Conduct a Gender Audit

Lots of employers talk the talk when it comes to gender equality. But how many walk the walk? Plenty of women’s experiences – and studies – would suggest that true gender equity is all too rare. For those organizations that truly want to move the needle on gender issues in the workplace, there is a valuable tool available: a Gender Audit.

A Gender Audit is both a tool and an approach to assess an organization’s progress toward achieving gender equality. The Audit involves evaluating everything from whether an organization possesses the necessary technical capacity to implement practical changes to the impact of organizational culture.

Why are Gender Audits important?

Gender equality is a human right, but a gender-equal workplace also contributes to an organization’s bottom line. Research demonstrates that organizations with higher levels of gender equity perform better and experience less sexual misconduct. They tend to be more effective at leveraging collective intelligence, ensuring balanced perspectives, identifying barriers to women’s empowerment, and fostering inclusion and diversity of thought so that problems can be solved as a team. Really, what’s not to love?

The GameChangers 360 approach

Traditionally, findings from a Gender Audit are addressed by creating a gender equality policy, devising an organizational structure to support it, and developing enforcement mechanisms. But the traditional method gets things backward by prioritizing processes over people, who are both the cause of gender inequality and the solution.

The Game-Changing method flips this on its head, putting people at the center. First, a diverse group of stakeholders and experts is brought together in human-centered design sessions to explore organizational context, learn about relevant research and case studies, and consider practical, yet innovative, activities. Audit findings are then examined with an eye toward refining “gender equality” activities. Perhaps most importantly, by using a human-centered design approach, our clients continue to learn, experiment, and improve to maintain progress.

Ready to learn more? Read on to take an even deeper dive into the whys and what-fors of Gender Equality and Gender Audits.

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September Newsletter – Gender Equality Drives Innovation

Gender Equality Drives Innovation

Gender equality achieves so much. It improves the bottom line, guarantees more resources for children, and increases the chance of lasting peace in areas of conflict. But did you know that gender equality also drives innovation? Businesses and nonprofits around the world are finding that gender diversity in their staff encourages new ways of thinking, giving them an edge in their work. That’s what we call a win-win.

It shouldn’t be surprising that including women in male-dominated forums (aka the world as we know it…) would promote diversity of thought. But the idea that gender equality can drive innovation is only just starting to take hold. In this month’s newsletter, we’ll explore how exactly gender equality drives innovation and how to catalyze women’s participation in business and technology.

Mark Twain once said there is no such thing as a new idea. We think he might say otherwise if he had asked a few women.

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May Newsletter – Peace, Conflict and the Politics of Memory

Photo credit: britannica.com
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
– George Santayana
History teachers are fond of reminding their students that knowledge of the past acts as insurance against repeating it in the future. But when it comes to conflict how exactly is the past to be remembered? That’s where things get complicated. The politics of memory seem to be in the news a lot these days, from a national reckoning in the United States over Confederate monuments to questions about renewed tensions with Russia.

Looking back at the past is hardly a trivial affair. Large internal conflicts can completely transform societies, opening fissures in the social fabric that can take generations to repair. A collective remembrance of past wrongs can reunify a society, so long as victims and perpetrators all participate, but unqualified successes are few and far between. And strong, clashing opinions about the form and duration of collective atonement seem to abound. To unpack how different countries are dealing with these issues, this month’s newsletter circumnavigates the globe in search of lessons worth learning.

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January Newsletter – What’s Religion Got to Do with It? Peace in the Modern World
Photo credit: United Nations OHCHR

In June 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi led the so-called Islamic State to capture the Iraqi city of Mosul, launching the organization onto the world stage and quickly establishing a reputation for brutality toward minority groups and all who opposed its rule. Later that same year, Pope Francis played a critical role in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, cementing his reputation as a bridge builder and peacemaker. Though the two men come from different faiths, their examples demonstrate the divergent ways religion can inspire violence as well as peace. From the Spanish Inquisition to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Osama bin Laden to Muhammed Ali, and from the Rohingya crisis to the Dalai Lama, religion has been used to justify war and peace.

In a positive nod to the start of 2018—and to push back on the current fixation with the divisive role religion plays—our January newsletter focuses on how religion promotes peace. Indeed, even in the age of the Islamic State, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and Buddhist nationalism, religion can still serve as an effective peacemaking tool. Read on to learn more about the relationship between peace and religion, and meet some peace activists inspired by different faiths.

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November Newsletter – Sticks and Stones: the Role of Language in Conflict and Peacebuilding
Photo credit: Reuters

What do government crackdowns in Cameroon, the Rohingya refugee crisis, and a referendum in Catalonia have in common? At each conflict’s heart are two groups divided by language. Every country on the planet has a multilingual population to some degree – and the conflicts to go with it. Even the United States, one of the most monolingual countries on earth, has its own history of these clashes: decades of efforts to wipe out Native American languages, marginalization of French-speaking Cajuns, and contemporary quarrels over the prevalence of Spanish are prime examples.

Why is language such a sensitive subject? Not only is language a way to express group identity, it can also be the key to economic inclusion in a literacy-driven world. Add to that the tendency of authoritarian states to ban languages in attempts to control minority groups, and you can see why linguistic differences and conflict often seem to go together. If your curiosity is piqued, check out our recommended readings below to learn more about the nature of language and conflict – and the ways to set about resolving it.

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September Newsletter – Women’s Health + Bad Policy + Conflict = Suffering

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Photo credit: unfpa.org

Pregnant women in the United States are b-u-s-y. They have supplements to take and medical appointments to go to. Nurseries to decorate. Hospital bags to pack. In conflict-affected countries, pregnant women and women of reproductive age live in stark contrast to the Western experience. These women often lose critical medical care, including access to contraceptives, safe abortion and delivery services, and antenatal and postpartum care. The result of this situation is a maternal mortality ratio in conflict and post-conflict countries that is 60% greater than the global ratio.

Although sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) were affirmed as a fundamental human right in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development, political interference consistently undermines initiatives to promote SRHR. Case in point, in January of this year, the Trump administration reinstated the Global Gag Rule—a policy that effectively denies women and girls their SRHR as well as their bodily autonomy. Continue reading to learn about the implications of denying women these rights.

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July Newsletter – Are Human Rights a “Western” Concept?
Photo credit: Repeating Islands
Some claim that human rights are a tool created and used by Western imperialists to impose Western values worldwide. We’d like to challenge this notion by sharing a little bit of background about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the document developed to present a universal concept of human rights.

Why? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights came about as a result of the atrocities of WWI and WWII. Small countries and humanitarian and religious organizations wanted the Allied powers to live up to their war rhetoric and provide assurances that nations would never again allow massive atrocities to occur as they had during the past wars.

When and Who? In January 1947, the UN Human Rights Commission was established and included members from 18 nations: Australia, Belgium, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR), Chile, China, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Lebanon, Panama, Philippine Republic, United Kingdom, United States of America, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Uruguay and Yugoslavia. The Commission created a drafting committee, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, and tasked with drafting an “international bill of rights.” This committee included men and women from eight (8) countries: Australia, Chile, China, France, Lebanon, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States.

What and How? As part of the drafting process, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) formed a committee that included leading intellectuals, philosophers and political scientists to study the theoretical basis for human rights. A questionnaire was sent out to politicians and scholars soliciting their opinions on the idea of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The questionnaire asked for reflections on human rights from Confucianism, Islamic, Hindu, and customary law perspectives as well as from American, European, and socialist points of view. Replies came from Mohandas Gandhi, French Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce, and Brave New World author Aldous Huxley.

In addition to UNESCO’s questionnaire, drafting committee staff studied all the world’s existing constitutions and rights instruments as well as suggestions sent to the Secretariat from members of the Human Rights Commission as well as those from outside organizations and individuals.

A list of 48 items that represented the common core of all of these documents and proposals was drawn up.  This list was essentially a distillation of nearly two hundred years of efforts to articulate the most basic human values in terms of rights.

In sum, it’s a stretch to claim that human rights are a Western concept considering the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was shaped by:

  • officials from 18 nations representing Asia (East and West), Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America and a wide assortment of non-UN organizations and individuals;
  • reflections on Confucianism, Islamic, Hindu, customary law, constitutional law and various political views; and
  • studies by intellectuals, philosophers and political scientists to study the theoretical basis for human rights.

Want the full story about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the history of human rights as well as news about some human rights organizations that are walking the talk? Keep reading!

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May Newsletter- Men and Gender Equality: Who’s Doing What?

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. And, yes, dear readers there are men who not only recognize the benefits of gender equality, but also actively promote it.

Too often gender equality is seen as a women’s issue. The term “gender” is used interchangeably with “women.” Gender equality programs often simply “add women and stir.” Gender justice becomes synonymous with women’s rights. To clarify this misunderstanding, we sought the assistance of Wikipedia (the fount of all wisdom…). According to Wikipedia, gender equality “is the state of equal access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender.”

Now that everything is crystal clear, keep reading to learn about some very impressive (and inspiring) initiatives where men and boys take the lead in promoting gender equality. They’re the GameChangers we love to see!

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March Newsletter – Food security and conflict
Photo credit: dailykos.com

Think violent conflict occurs because of clashing ideologies? A weak economy? Too much corruption? Yes, it can. But it can also result from food insecurity. Remember when your high-school history teacher discussed how bread riots contributed to the French Revolution? Well that’s not just ancient history. Food insecurity still contributes to political instability and violent conflict today.

So, what is “food security”? According to the World Food Programme, people are considered food secure when they have availability and adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. You’ll learn much more about food security — and insecurity — by perusing our recommended reads. The first one is a Boston Globe article that was actually published in 2015 Yes, it’s a bit dated, but we’re sharing it first since it’s a quick read that tells a good — albeit distressing — story about how food insecurity drove a revolution. For our readers who — like the GC360 team — really like quick reads, but also appreciate the deep thinking evident in academic papers and research reports, we’re also sharing two reports that dig into this month’s topic of food insecurity and its relationship to conflict.

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