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Monday, February 9, 2009

UN Expert Hears Moving Testimony from Hmong Families on Grave Desecrations in Thailand

PaChia Yang reports on the consultation with United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, James Anaya and the gripping testimonies given by local Hmong residents affected by the exhumation of their relative’s graves at Wat Tham Krabok in Thailand.

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Grief Renewed for Hmong

Reporter Jean Hopfensperger writes on the hearing presented before the UN expert, James Anaya, addressing the exhumed graves of local Hmong family members in Thailand. This special hearing was prompted by a complaint written by the Human Rights Program on behalf of the Hmong families.

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Minnesotans Play a role in Obama's ban on Torture

Reporter Sharon Schmickle writes about the role of Minnesotans, including the Center for Victims of Torture and the Human Rights Program, and their work to ban torture and to repair the credibility of international law as a means to promote human rights.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Child Protection International (CPI) Becomes a Class Project

Undergraduate students in the Human Rights Internship class in the Institute for Global Studies are working to
address and prevent child abduction in South Sudan. The 28 students in the class have are working closely with
board members of Child Protection International, an NGO created in 2008 after their experience on the “Save Yar

The focus of the work this semester is to encourage universal birth registration in South Sudan. Birth registration
is the first legal acknowledgment of a child’s existence and provides access to immunization, health care, and education. Having a legitimate birth certificate ensures a child’s identity, nationality and name and also protects children
from sexual, economic, and military exploitation. The right to birth register is guaranteed in Article 7 of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is a fundamental step toward protecting children from disappearing
without a trace, as too often happens through inter-tribal abduction and/or enforced military recruitment of children.

Students in the human rights class, under the direction of Professor Barbara Frey, have begun to map out their
strategy for putting the birth registration campaign into action. The class has decided to use the strategies of research
and advocacy to bring attention to the issue of child abduction and the importance of having wide spread
birth registration. The class has split into three working groups where they will be researching the work of other
NGO’s as potential allies on birth registration, UN mechanisms, and the role of the governments of South Sudan
and the United States in guaranteeing that all children are registered. By bringing awareness and making an effort
to get international involvement and support CPI and the class hopes to continue and expand the work and mission
of protecting children everywhere.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Join Us in Celebrating the 14th Annual International Women's Day on March 14th, 2009

"Peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men, and with development…If women are to play an equal part in securing and maintaining peace, they must be empowered politically and economically and represented adequately at all levels of decision-making." (from Summary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action)

Inspired by the 1995 U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, our 14th Annual International Women’s Day event is designed to celebrate the diversity of Minnesota women and increase understanding and tolerance in our community; to encourage activism; and to highlight human rights issues that affect women and girls locally, nationally and internationally. This year’s event includes a focus on women and war – how armed conflict impacts women’s lives and how women play a critical role in advancing peace around the world. We welcome University of Minnesota Law School Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, who will provide a global perspective on international policies and practices on women in conflict and post-conflict situations, and Fahima Vorgetts, long-time activist on behalf of women in her home country, Afghanistan, and director of the Afghan Women’s Fund. Their presentation will include a discussion of the effectiveness of UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) as they relate to women, war, sexual violence, and peace-building.


Fahima Vorgetts in Afghanistan

Our 2009 theme, Transforming the World through Women’s Voices, highlights the critical role women play in creating a world of equality, non-violence and justice for all. We will raise our voices in song with two local musicians as we begin the day and continue to speak out in the many workshops addressing human rights issues of women and girls. At the end of the day, we will view a segment of “We Will Harbor You,� a locally-produced film that portrays the activism of Minnesota women who broke the silence around domestic violence and gave birth to the battered women’s shelter movement.
Some of the workshops include:
Women’s Activism in the Muslim World
The typical image of the Muslim woman in Western media is veiled, quiet, married very early in life, and lacking decision-making power. The media concentrate stories on the veil and female genital cutting, but not on the diversity of views that Muslim women hold on these topics. Women’s agency in many Muslim societies often goes under-reported. However, there are a number of women’s organizations in Muslim countries that seek to place women’s rights on the public agenda. This workshop seeks to contrast the Western media portrayal of women in the Muslim world with the varying forms of activism which currently exist.
Dr. Leila DeVriese, Hamline University
A New Era for Reproductive Rights Here and Abroad:
The Obama Administration, the Supreme Court and Health Care Reform
Lifting the global gag rule, reinstating $235 million in family planning funding to the UNFPA, and moving forward with stem cell research are just a few reversals with the change from the Bush to the Obama administrations. But in light of the current make up of the Supreme Court, do we still need to be concerned about the future of Roe v. Wade? A huge population of young women uses family planning clinics as their primary care provider in lieu of a personal or family doctor. Where do these young women and their reproductive health fit into the new models of health care reform? This workshop will take an overall look locally, nationally and internationally at the new future of reproductive health.
Sarah Craven, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Tim Stanley, Planned Parenthood of MN, ND, SD
Representative Erin Murphy, Minnesota House Health & Human Services Committee
Kathleen Murphy, Midwest Health Center for Women
¡Ubícate! Engaging Young Latinas in Leadership
This workshop, presented by Casa de Esperanza’s Latina Youth Peer Educators, is an opportunity for organizations that work with Latina youths or are interested in creating a peer education program for Latino youth to learn firsthand the issues affecting young Latinas in Minnesota and the impact that participation in this program has had on Latina youth. The Peer Education Initiative is a tool to encourage the self-development of Latina youth through peer education by enhancing their abilities to identify their own strengths and talents and to use them in educating other youths about topics important to Latino youth, including healthy relationships, teen dating violence, self-esteem and body image and gender roles in the media.
Lumarie Orozco and peer educators Kimberly Cedillo, Jessica Limontitla, Alejandra Mejia, Alejandra Ortiz, Chelsea Spellerberg and Erika Vasquez, Casa de Esperanza

Here’s Where We Start: How Men Can Help Prevent Sexual and Domestic Violence.

This workshop will explore the environment in which sexual and domestic violence flourishes and identify five social norms which support it. Using a public health model of primary prevention, the presentation will provide participants with opportunities for action and suggestions for solutions. It will also explain how the Minnestoa Men’s Action Network is working statewide to involve men in this effort.
Frank Jewell, Men as Peacemakers, and Chuck Derry, Gender Violence Institute
Sex Trafficking in Minnesota: Past, Present and Future
This interactive session will discuss historical and recent responses to prostitution and what we now call sex trafficking in Minnesota by comparing and contrasting responses at the federal and state levels. It will also explore current grassroots and legislative advocacy on this issue in Minnesota. Presenters will equip participants with tools to dispel myths about sex trafficking and prostitution, to raise awareness of the needs of trafficked and prostituted persons, and to prevent this grave human rights violation.
Mary C. Ellison, The Advocates for Human Rights, and Angela Bortel, The Bortel Firm, LLC
Join us as we celebrate the many signs of hope and strength that women’s voices bring to a world yearning for peace and justice.
Saturday, March 14th 2009
Coffman Memorial Union – University of Minnesota
300 Washington Avenue SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455