BY LAUREN HARRIS – Each year, for as long as Garima KC can remember, signs for the diversity visa lottery appeared in shop windows all throughout Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city, the fall registration period often coinciding with the Hindu festival Dashain. During the festival in 2017, KC and her mother walked the busy streets—saturated with Nepali men and women shopping for gifts—and saw a sign posted inside a nearby photo…
BY MIRA SEYAL – Lien Glankler, born in Laos and raised in Vietnam, held a focus group of potential customers in the summer of 2017 to test her new business plan: a nail salon in Sacramento, California that would break with the increasing dependence on human trafficking to supply workers in the nail salon industry. The reaction to that plan was an unpleasant surprise. The potential customers didn’t find the…
BY MIRNA ALSHARIF – Amina asked her husband of three years for a divorce in Cairo in 2012. He refused. What followed was a process Amina, 35, described as time-consuming, unfair, and humiliating. “My ex and I sat down with the patriarchs of our families and a ma’zun [religious notary] who tried to convince me not to go through with the divorce,” said Amina, who asked that her last name…
BY RONNIE LI – Japanese student Arika Matsu said the unwanted touching of her breasts at a business meeting two years ago led to her mission to empower women. Matsui has always dreamed of being a contestant a beauty pageant ever since she was young. A full-time student at Trinity College Dublin, Matsui competed in Japan for Miss Universe during her summer break. Always passionate about enhancing gender equality, Matsui…
BY GIULIA MCDONNELL NIETO DEL RIO – Mujeres que no se dejan. Women who don’t give up. That’s the name of the community radio program that reaches an estimated 4 million people across Peru. First started in January of 2019 as a way to fight violence against women in the Villa El Salvador district of Lima, the capital, the radio program now reaches eight other districts in southern Peru. Every other Thursday, the radio hosts…
BY JOY Y. T. CHANG – Khaoula Ben Haj Frej knows what being a minority is like. Ben Haj Frej is one of the only two Muslim students at her university. Born and raised in the United States, she said she had encountered classmates who often were not sensitive to her culture and identity. A neuroscience major and pre-med student who graduated in Trinity College-Hartford, Ben Haj Frej recalled fellow…
BY YILUN CHENG – Muna Luqman, a Yemeni human rights activist, has been assisting local women since rebel Houthis took over her city, Taiz, in 2014. Years of advocacy work against war and violence have taught her how dangerous it is for women to take part in peace building. But that does not stop her. “Women are most affected by the war, so we take the most risks,” she said….
Both bills were controversial from their creation, but despite the huge effect that they had in the weeks following their passage, sex work advertisements seem to have bounced back online in recent months. They’re much more expensive, however, Robinson notes, and they’re not congregated on a single platform, as they used to be.
BY JORDAN KISSANE – The walls of Gema Sanchez’ small home in Miami are decorated with crosses and Catholic rosaries, and on this day, Sanchez was thinking of another house in Cuba years ago when she spent Sunday mornings in church and Sunday afternoons cooking arroz con frijoles with her Abuela, or grandmother. They always sang Celia Cruz songs, she said. “She was like today’s Beyoncè,” Sanchez laughed, remembering the…
BY LAUREN HARRIS – Salah Kamal, a 30-year old Syrian refugee, has a love-hate relationship with the public bus of his hometown, Grand Rapids, Mich. When he was resettled in 2016 in Grand Rapids, a mid-size Michigan city, the local bus system was his only connection to food, healthcare, work and important immigration appointments. Though riding the bus made such things possible, Kamal says, it didn’t necessarily make them easy….
BY RAISA OSTAPENKO – K is one of a handful of refugees from Chechnya’s persecuted LGBTQI+ community who has been bold enough to talk publicly after fleeing the wave of persecution directed against the marginalized group. Some survivors detail abuses endured at the hands of authorities in the Caucasian republic, while others relate the struggles and joys of integrating into the new societies that have granted them asylum. K…
BY YILUN CHENG – The Ali family finally received news after 16 years of staying illegally in Nairobi that their resettlement applications had been approved. Refugees from Somalia, they faced more than seven months of intensive interviews that had paid off at last. They now had a flight to Buffalo, an American city that they had never heard of. Mustafa Ali, now 28 and the lead case manager of Buffalo’s…
BY TAMARA SAADE – On a warm Friday evening in Damascus in early February 2019, the Al Nahlawi family celebrated a daughter’s engagement with a festive dinner with the fiancé’s family. Far away in New York, through a few family selfies and pictures shared on WhatsApp, Ahmad Al Nahlawi, the father of the soon-to-be bride, could almost pretend he was with them. Having obtained asylum in the U.S., the 55-year-old…
BY RONNIE LI – Biao Teng, a Chinese human rights lawyer, was walking on a street near his home one day eight years ago when someone came up behind him suddenly, took off his shirt and covered his eyes with it, and then forced him into a car before he could make a sound. Teng was taken into custody and held for about 10 weeks in solitary confinement in retaliation…
People gather at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in 2012 / Photo by Mikel Oibar is licensed by CC BY-NC-ND 2.0BY JOY Y. T. CHANG – Muamer Lihic was once close enough to hear the sound of an incoming grenade just as it was about to explode; it was the sound of death. “When a grenade is shot – you can hear it when they shoot it – the sound is faster…
BY YEJI LEE – Canada has received international attention for an innovative program that has brought 56,800 Syrian refugees into the country by pairing one refugee family with five volunteer Canadian sponsors for a year. Now, in early 2019, close to 25,000 of those refugees are eligible to apply for citizenship. For those refugees looking to become Canadians, however, more obstacles lie ahead. “I would say around 90 percent…
BY MIRNA ALSHARIF – Karina Ambartsoumian Clough was just three years old when her parents started preparing her and her little sister for what was going to be a long trip. “I remember my mother putting multiple layers on us to minimize packing,” said 30-year-old Clough, a Philadelphia resident. “I also distinctly remember a train, a plane, and a boat. The train took us to Germany, where my dad…
Reshad landed a job with the U.S. government as a quality control manager. His job required him to travel around remote areas in Afghanistan and oversee the quality of U.S. development projects. Although the job allowed him to support his family financially, it risked attracting Taliban attention.
Kawthar Abdullah was 19 when she fled her home country of Yemen in July of 2015. She left with her sister, who was 15 at the time, on a boat from Aden, a port city on the southern end of the red sea, to Djibouti, a country on the horn of Africa. Her parents, who were in New York, payed $3,000 to smuggle their daughters out of Yemen. Abdullah is 22 now. “We were really on the verge of drowning,” Abdullah said softly in a cafe in downtown Manhattan, while a top 40 pop song played on the speakers behind her. “People took their entire livelihood with them on that boat.”
BY KATHERINE NOEL — Bluts Iyassu Zeru is one of thousands of African migrants living in Israel illegally who have been at the center of national debate since the beginning of the year, when the government declared that all “infiltrators” must leave the country by March 31 or face imprisonment. Though the highest Israeli court halted the deportation plan in mid-March after human rights organizations widely criticized it, the Israeli government has remained unwavering in its push to force the African migrant population out. An estimated 38,000 African migrants have crossed into Israel through Egypt’s Sinai desert in the last 5-10 years, fleeing persecution and ongoing conflict. The vast majority of these migrants arrived from Eritrea and Sudan before 2013, when the Israeli government completed construction of a 152-mile border fence.
Christian Colon When she is not selling tomatoes and kale around her hometown of Kakuma, Kenya, Jane Indeche is working as a housekeeper cleaning and cooking for additional income to take home for her five-month old baby girl. The 5,000 extra Kenyan Shillings, about $50 U.S Dollars, were not enough to compensate the pain Indeche would feel after one of her male employers groped and verbally harassed her for over…
BY MONIQUE LeBRUN — In Haiti, children from poor families become restaveks, which means to stay with in both French and Creole, because their parents can’t afford to take care of them or send them to school. Often families from rural parts of Haiti send their children to live in the city with a distant relative, family friend or a stranger. Families agree to take care of restaveks and pay for their education. But the agreement is almost never kept, according to Haitian activists, NGOs and former restaveks. The estimated 300,000 children are turned into domestic servants and abused, a situation some have compared to slavery.
BY CRISTINA SARNOFF — On a hot, humid, summer afternoon four years ago in the village of Apopa in El Salvador, a middle school teacher arrived home after classes to find her teenage daughter’s body draped across her front door with 13 bullet holes. This was the mark of a notorious and deadly gang. “I never thought this could happen to me,” the schoolteacher said in tears recently. “I’ve witnessed families losing a child to gang crimes before but somehow thought I was immune to it. I’m a schoolteacher and combat nurse. Some of my students even belong to the gangs. God help my children.”
BY MARIE PAULINE GENTRIC — It’s only 3 p.m. but Mary Limonta knows exactly what she and her daughter, Ann, will eat tonight – rice and vegetables. Yesterday, it was the same, and tomorrow, and even after tomorrow, it will be the same too. It’s been like that for a while. Since 2013, Venezuelans like Limonta have been trying to survive the most severe recession and food crisis in the country history. National production and imports have plunged and supermarket shelves are almost always empty. Prices rose 6,147 percent in the 12 months ending in February, according to estimates by the country’s opposition-led National Assembly. In this crisis, women are the ones looking for food. They spend between eight and 14 hours a week in line to get food, according to the report “Mujeres Al Limite,” released by four Venezuelan NGOs in 2017.
BY JUSTIN MAFFETT — In February 2011, Abdul Rahman, then a longtime employee of an American food company operating in Afghanistan, was abducted, tortured, and held for 20 days at the bottom of a well by the Taliban, which had grown suspicious of Rahman’s ties to the United States. After his abduction and eventual release, Rahman was granted asylum in the United States. Today he lives in West Haven, Conn. with his wife and two young children. He was placed here in 2014 with the help of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, better known as IRIS, a non-profit resettlement agency based in New Haven, affiliated with the Episcopal Migration Ministries. Now a safe distance from the dangers of Afghanistan, Rahman is comfortable to reflect on his ordeal as a hostage of the Taliban seven years ago.
BY NICOLE LAFOND — For 66-year-old Uganda widow Pasculina Oming, the quest for farmland that is rightfully hers has cost her an arm. Two, in fact. A widow since 2014 in the Lira District of northern Uganda, Oming has been caring for herself, her seven sons and one mentally disabled daughter by farming the land she inherited from her husband. While federal law in Uganda recognizes Oming as the owner of the acreage, the customs of her local tribe, Iceme, dictate that the land belongs to her late husband’s family. In the spring of 2014, Oming was walking home from the market with her nieces when her brother-in-law attacked her with a “panga” machete, attempting to kill her for what was culturally perceived as arrogance for staking her claim over the land. Oming has received no justice from local courts for the attack, but a Ugandan legal team called Barefoot Law that is working to help rural women gain access to land in remote parts of the country has picked up Oming’s case.
BY CHRISTIAN COLON — “Fue la gota que derramó el vaso,” Spanish for the drop that overflowed the cup. That is how Mauricio Jaramillo described the morning he was kidnapped a year and a half ago on the freeway, heading to his job in Caracas, Venezuela. He parked and made a quick pit stop on the side of road. Company pickup truck still running, Jaramillo opened the driver seat door and headed for the woods. Barely two steps out of his car, two armed men ambushed him, threatened and forced him back inside and took control of his truck. “Inside, that is where it all began,” he said. Jaramillo, clueless to where they were going, arrived to his destination after they drove for what felt like hours. While captured, he was interrogated and extorted. The abduction was the final push Jaramillo needed to leave his native country and seek asylum in the United States.
BY NICOLE LAFOND — Katia Marie Ramos is experiencing depression for the first time in her life. It’s not been fueled by the loss of her home, which, last she saw it, stood in the suburbs of San Juan, Puerto Rico, with nothing left but a few upright walls, loose wires and a tangled tarp for a roof. It wasn’t ignited by the panic she experienced while she rode out Category Four Hurricane Maria in her friend’s home, clutching her four-year-old daughter to her chest. It’s not because she lost her job after the building where she worked as a security guard was destroyed in the storm, or the fact that she had to sell all of her belongings, including her car, in order to purchase a plane ticket to evacuate to the mainland after the storm. Ramos is one of 4,000 Puerto Rican families being put up in hotels in 41 states by the federal government after their homes were destroyed or deemed unlivable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) when Hurricane Maria struck on September 20. She and her daughter are also one of hundreds of families who will be further displaced when FEMA cuts off their federal transitional assistance next month.
BY CECILIA BUTINI — Each Sunday, in a co-working space just a few blocks from the Capitol in Washington, DC, half a dozen men and women from Egypt meet to discuss the current state of their country and to brainstorm ideas to make an impact from afar, or to help their fellow citizens there. Mostafa Bassim, a 28-year-old with thick curly hair, lounged on a couch in the wood-floored space on a Sunday afternoon, a grave expression on his face as he started to recount the day his life changed. In November 2013, as Egypt transitioned from Mohammad Morsi’s brief presidency to the military rule of general Abdel Fattah El Sisi after a coup, Mostafa was in the middle of a protest in Alexandria, on Egypt’s coast. He wasn’t there to protest, but to take photos for a national publication named Veto. As he got closer to take photos of two police officers arresting and beating a protester, one officer turned to Bassim and started beating him too, he said.
BY MARIE CENTRIC — It’s been 26 years since Osman Chowdhury was almost killed by a gang in Bangladesh and fled to the United States. Chowdhury said he is still scared of being killed when he goes back to his native country. Chowdhury was 24 in 1991, when seven young men attacked him in Chittagong, in Southern Bangladesh, surprising him in second floor government office. They broke his nose and tried strangle him with his tie, he said. Chowdhury managed to escape, ran out to the streets and made it to a police station. “I had to save my life,” Chowdhury, now 52, said with a trembling voice. But the seven attackers pursued him inside the precinct, and officers were afraid of them and refused to press charges, Chowdhury said.
BY JINJIN LONG — Former CNN war correspondent Maria Ressa has been a target of vicious online harassment for the past two years. Following the publication of a feature series mapping the corrosive impact of organized political “cyber troops” in the Philippines; she received an average of 90 hate messages an hour for a whole month.
BY SHIBANI GOKHALE — Twenty-five years after Bhanwari Devi reported that five men raped her to deter her activism, she still awaits justice. Though the attack prompted nationwide protests in India and led to the enactment of a new legislation protecting women from sexual assault in the workplace, Devi’s attackers are yet to be punished.
BY HANIYA JAVED — Among 41 nations, the U.S. is an outlier when it comes to paid parental leave, according to the research compiled by OCED. The International Labour Organisation recommends women be given paid maternal leave. Countries like Sweden, Canada and Norway provide at least 26 weeks of paid leave.
BY DANIEL BEREZOWSKY — “When people talk about things like forced marriage or genital cutting, they like to believe that it is many miles away. They don’t realize that these things happen every day, in their own backyard.”
BY ALISON GONDOSCH — When Canada launched an investigation into the crisis of violence against Indigenous women and girls last year, activists applauded the move. But they say more needs to be done.
BY KYLEE TSURU — Like the community where South Bronx United is based, the club’s demographics are diverse. Players come from 23 countries, nearly all from Latin America or West Africa— and frequently need legal assistance to navigate immigration laws in the United States.
BY ALISON GONDOSCH — In 2016, several Iranian publications were either closed or suspended along with the imprisonment of eight Iranian journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Most of these journalists were charged with propaganda against the state.
BY TANYA NYATHI — In Zimbabwe, 72 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day. Biting hunger, cash shortages, tight liquidity, and collective layoffs are common. According to International Labour Organization, over 80 percent of the population is unemployed. In many families, arranging a marriage for a daughter reduces the number of mouths to feed.
BY KYLEE TSURU — “When people are on the move, or really fleeing, they enter a new environment that is busy and different. It is especially hard for that individual and family to cope if a disability is involved,” said Mica Bevington of Handicap International, an organization that provides aid to people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations living in conflict and disaster zones.
BY HANIYA JAVED — There are as many 5000 Ahmadi Muslims living in the tristate area of New York. Seventy percent of them are Pakistanis, according to Ahmadiyya Muslim Communtiy, USA. The highest numbers of asylum seekers are from Pakistan because of the anti Ahmadi laws and constitutional amendments introduced in 1974 that declared the community non Muslims and made it a criminal offence for them to pose as Muslims.
BY SHIBANI GOKHALE — Although India is home to over 300,000 refugees, it is not a signatory to the United Nation’s Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and has not enacted a law specifically protecting their rights.
BY DANIEL BEREZOWSKY — In a country with an 80 percent Muslim population, homosexuality is considered by many to be dishonorable. But in 1990s, when Sayid was growing up, it was also a crime. As a newly independent state, Kyrgyzstan kept many of the laws of the Soviet Union, including the sodomy prohibition that penalized homosexual acts with up to two years of prison.
BY SUMMER LIN — In Msinga, like many other places in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, fewer than six in 10 women give birth with any trained professional, such as a midwife or doctor in attendance. When complications arise, no one is there to help treat the woman, leading to injuries like fistula or even death.
BY DAVID JEANS — Since 2013, smugglers and human traffickers have lured almost 300,000 Ethiopian and Somali refugees to cross the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden with promises of security and economic opportunities. More than 400 people have died during the journey since 2013, according to the United Nations. But the inflow of refugees poses a complicated exigency for humanitarian efforts working to stabilize the country — as Yemeni’s flee their own country in the opposite direction toward the Horn of Africa.
BY LOUIS BAUDOIN-LAARMAN — For the past two months the Rohingya refugee community in Bangladesh has been anxious and unsettled after the country’s prime minister restated Bangladesh’s intention to relocate the refugees to the barren 30,000-hectare island of Thengar Char in the Bay of Bengal.
BY MARIA MARTINEZ — Samer woke early each morning to go to work, like most people. But each day, Samer feared that he might be killed on his way to his job at the Arab bank in the rebel-held section of Damascus. Each day, Samer was stopped at six government checkpoints. At each stop, the fear of death hung low over his head. It was a long journey to work.
BY SUMMER LIN — Mohamed, a former chef from Syria, can still remember the moment he received the call from the UN telling him that he and his family had been approved to move to the United States. “They said ready or not, you’re going to America tomorrow,” he said in Arabic, through a translator.
BY TANYA NYATHI — Evan Mawarire remembers receiving a harrowing call in May of last year. The person on the other end of the phone spoke in Shona, a dominant dialect among Zimbabweans. “Do you know that that very flag that you have around your neck could strangle you to death?”
BY CHRIS GELARDI — Money from loved ones working abroad has helped many Yemeni families survive a civil war that has left their country on the brink of famine. But without peace, the future looks bleak
BY CAROLINE SPIVACK & ASWINI PERIYASAMY At the UN’s 2016 Commission on the Status of Women, Joyce Kilipo, Mary Jack and Yolette Etienne discuss the difficult reality of being women first responders during times of crisis. For more on women first responders go to Women As First Responders and Women As First Responders in Humanitarian Action. Music C/O Podington Bear