Equality Now

Equality Now is an international human rights advocacy organization, with offices in New York, Nairobi and London, committed to ending violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world. It was among the first international organizations to develop advocacy campaigns to protect the fundamental rights of women and girls.
May 12, 2010

AGLDF Update

Case Updates

Incest in Pakistan: N was the victim of brutal incest by her father, and with the support of her mother and her mother’s family, insisted on pursuing her case, even as the police tried to discourage her from making a statement. Currently, N is reunited and living with her mother and all of her siblings and has just finished her 9th grade board exams.

The case is now in trial and a number of hearings have taken place. Unfortunately, the previous Superintendent Police (SP), who was sympathetic to N’s case, was reassigned, and a new SP was appointed. Luckily, before leaving, the SP declared the perpetrator guilty in his final police report, and N’s lawyer is working towards getting this report admitted as evidence into the trial.

N’s aunt and uncle from her father‘s side and her teacher have also changed their testimony, which has hampered the trial. N’s lawyer predicts that this will be a long and slow trial, and Equality Now plans to visit Pakistan to continue to assist in the case, including by monitoring court proceedings.

FGM in Kenya: AGLDF was monitoring a case of a 10-year-old Maasai girl who bled to death after being subjected to FGM in Kenya. Her father and the circumciser were arrested but subsequently absconded. AGLDF and our local partner Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative (TNI) put pressure on the police to find the perpetrators, and they were finally arrested in February 2010. Both pled guilty to manslaughter, and on April 1, 2010 each was sentenced to ten years in prison. This case was important in demonstrating to the Maasai community that the Kenyan law enforcement system is serious about the implementation of the anti-FGM law. In addition, it helped raise awareness of the potentially deadly consequences of the practice.

During our intervention with the Kenyan police in this case, we realized that police officers responsible for implementing the anti-FGM law have limited knowledge of the law as well as of the harmful consequences of FGM. As a result, while the legal case has ended, Equality Now and its Kenyan partner TNI continue to follow up with the police in order to encourage them to hold training session on these matters.

Abduction and rape to force marriage in Ethiopia: Since friendly negotiations with the Ethiopian government have failed to produce a reasonable settlement for Woineshet, Equality Now is requesting that the African Commission declare the case admissible.

Oct 15, 2009

A visit with the staff at the Adolescent Girls' Legal Defense Fund

Leah Ambwaya is a professional evaluator working with Excelsior who is visiting and assessing a number of GlobalGiving projects in Kenya. On June 4th she visited Adolescent Girls' Legal Defense Fund. When asked what she would tell her friends about this project, Leah said: "Incredible: You need to see this!”

On the 4th of June 2009 we visited Equality Now offices in the upper market parts of Nairobi.

As we enter the office we are received by Mary, who exclaims, “you look familiar! Did I meet you in some office that deals with children?”

I quickly realize that when you are a rights activist you can not hide. So I admit. I am no longer working in the same office, but I am still working with children on issues of realizing their rights.

Apparently our host could hear the conversation form the next office. She comes out and introduces herself as Faiza Mohamed. She ushers our team into her office. She is soft spoken but portrays an “ON YOUR MARKS” stature, ready to respond, ready to move. I could only conclude that the issues that she deals with in her cause of duty demand a soldiers’ heart - ready all the time.

This office is striking in a special way, in that there are wall size hangings with messages on women and girls rights. I notice on the wall a message "stop FGM."

Faiza is so passionate about her work, she shares her experience right from inception of the organization and the journey that she has walked in advocating for the rights of women and girls in Africa. Faiza is so proud of her work that she does not dwell on the challenges that she has faced but rather how she has handled them. Words like communities, engagement, pushing, empowering dominate her speech - an indication that she appreciates partnerships. The cases of children in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia where landmark court rulings have been made in favor of girls criss-cross her lips behind a smile of “yes we did it again!” She is truly a marathon runner who has won several gold medals in the Olympics. She says, "Court rulings are not final. We must fight for compensation for these girls, so I have gone back to court for the girl in Ethiopia to be compensated and even given a job. We can’t stop at conviction alone.” This lady is in control of her work, she gives us a VCD to watch. “This is a documentary about all the work that we have done with GG related funds.” She give s us examples of work the organization has done in Uganda. After putting pressure on the government, a law was passed to recognize a woman as a co-owner of the family property. She says that best practices have been recorded in Marakwet, Kenya, where girls took their parents to court. Elsewhere in Narok, the body of a girl was exhumed and the parent charged with murder. In order not to destroy the community cultural fabric, community reconciliation meetings have been held in Narok. She cites the case of Tasaru, a girls' safe house in Narok which is something that can be replicated in other areas where FGM is being practiced. However she laments that although some Governments have been pressured and good laws have been passed, laws enforced in most countries have not changed the mind set, and so they are trying to focus more training for the police and paralegals.

Coalitions have been formed in program areas like Tanzania, and Uganda. In Eritrea, more focus has been put on the youth as the drivers for change. These young people have formed anti-FGM clubs in school. In Zambia, a girl who had been raped sued both the government and the teacher who had raped her. A landmark ruling again was made by the courts in favor of the girl and an award of 14,000 USD equivalents was given to the girl. In the ruling, the ministry of education was ordered to put systems for the protection of girls in schools. This case brought out the responsibility of the state very clearly in Zambia.

Mary spoke of the first case of a girl taken to the African commission in Ethiopia, but she cautions that she can not discuss the case, since it is pending before the African commission.

We inquire on the level of community partnerships, and she is upbeat about it. “For substance in our work, communities must be engaged at all levels. Formations of coalitions in most of the countries have borne a lot of positive fruit. Professionals have given their services pro-bono.” This woman believes in the strength of numbers to be able to achieve results.


After, we talk to Mary Ciuru who is the administration and Liaison officer about her role in achieving the goals of the organization. She upbeat about it, saying, “I have to understand programmes in order to link them with the funds. When my colleagues come back from the field, I must be able to understand the dynamics of community needs and link them to funds and also just to be sure that funds are being put to good use. I must understand why sometimes I have to process a travel arrangement on short notice; all these dynamics dictate that I must understand the work of programs to some level."

As I leave that office, I conclude one thing, this organization has a team of strong willed women, who will stop at nothing in the realization of women and girls rights, and they are a formidable team, they are achievers.

Jul 13, 2009

AGLDF Update

Zambia In July 2008, the Attorney General of Zambia filed a notice of appeal in R.M.’s case, but no brief on the grounds for appeal has been filed. The AGLDF continues to monitor this situation and will provide legal support should the government appeal move forward.

In 2008, the AGLDF’s Zambian consultant convened a coalition of Zambian organizations (the “Coalition”) working to address human rights abuses against girls and respond strategically to R.M.’s case. This experience illustrated to Coalition members the need for effective solutions to prevent other cases like R.M.’s, educate the public, provide girls with services, and empower them to claim their rights. Accordingly, the Coalition members pledged to strengthen and coordinate their efforts and created a work plan that they are in the process of implementing. Additional progress made includes the Ministry of Education asking Equality Now/AGLDF and Coalition members to help in drafting guidelines to prevent violence against girls in school.

Ethiopia Our second case addresses the practice of abduction and rape to coerce marriage in Ethiopia. Typically, a girl is abducted by a group of young men and raped by the man who wants to marry her, who may be someone she knows or a total stranger, which is what happened to Woineshet Zebene Negash at age 13. Luckily, her father supported her through the ordeal, and she was not forced to stay with her abductor; but in many cases, the family consents to a marriage because a girl who has lost her virginity is socially unacceptable to another man.

In 2003, Woineshet’s rapist was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment and his accomplices sentenced to eight years for abduction, but all were subsequently released on appeal. Woineshet further appealed to no avail and the file was closed by the Cassation Bench of the Oromia Supreme Court in December 2005. Advocacy efforts by the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), supported by an international Equality Now campaign begun in 2002, led to Ethiopia abolishing the law in 2005 that provided for exemption from punishment in cases of abduction and rape if the rapist subsequently married his victim.

The AGLDF and EWLA, continue to aid Woineshet in her pursuit of justice. In 2007, we filed a complaint with the African Commission on behalf of Woineshet arguing that the Ethiopian government’s failure to punish Woineshet’s rapist is a violation of its obligations under the African Charter. Currently, at the request of the Ethiopian government, we are negotiating an amicable settlement on Woineshet’s behalf with the Ethiopian government.

FGM in Kenya Finally, the AGLDF is monitoring the case of a young Maasai girl who bled to death after being subjected to FGM in Kenya. The circumciser and the girl’s father were arrested and are facing manslaughter charges. This may be one of the first prosecutions of a circumciser and a parent in the Maasai community. The AGLDF retained a lawyer to help the prosecution bring a successful case (public prosecutors in Kenya are often not lawyers themselves), and we will follow the case until a judgement is rendered. It will become an AGLDF case if there is an acquittal of the parent and the circumciser because the girl indisputably died as a result of undergoing FGM, and an acquittal would show that the FGM law is not being properly implemented and enforced and the case would continue to appeal.

Potential New Cases Equality Now is actively looking into violations of girls’ rights and potential cases for the AGLDF in the following countries: • FGM in Mali • Intimidation and violence in Swat, Pakistan and denial of right to education • Incest in Yemen and incest in Pakistan

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