Posts Tagged ‘International Women of Courage Award’

Profile of Sri Lankan Marini de Livera: a lawyer and a ‘Woman Of Courage’

May 23, 2019

REBECCA ELLIS published a profile of Marini de Livera under the title “She’s A Lawyer … A Thespian … And Now A State Department ‘Woman Of Courage‘”

Marini de Livera’s plays are not for the faint of heart. In her home country of Sri Lanka, the pro bono lawyer has found that crimes against women and children often take place behind closed doors — in homes, orphanages and schools. With her traveling theater group, de Livera seeks to shed light on the human rights abuses in her country by putting the violence on stage, front and center. “There are beautiful laws in the law books,” she says. “But when I went out to the slums, to the rural areas, to conflict-ridden areas, I found what is in the law books is not a practical reality.”

A pro bono attorney with a degree in speech and drama from Trinity College London, de Livera has spent her career using theater to ensure that the lofty lessons she learned in law school can be used to assist Sri Lankans who are unlikely to ever see an attorney. Her dedication to helping women and child victims of crime has made her one of the 10 recipients of the 2019 International Women of Courage award [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/11/international-women-of-courage-awards-2019-given-out-at-the-us-state-department/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/one-journalist-who-did-not-get-the-women-of-courage-award-but-almost/].

De Livera has served as the chairperson of Sri Lanka’s child welfare agency, the National Child Protection Authority, and now runs Sisters at Law, an advocacy group for impoverished women and children. She spoke with NPR about her creative approach to addressing human rights in her country, and why she’s focusing on using her theater training to better the situation of children in Sri Lanka’s orphanages.

What are some of the legal issues that women and children in Sri Lanka need help with?

Women and children are denied justice if they’re uneducated, and if they live in rural areas. They don’t enjoy the same basket of human rights that privileged people have because they don’t have access to lawyers.

What needs to happen to accomplish that?

There has to be legal literacy. These women and children have to know what the laws in the country are and what their human rights are. If they are educated about their rights, they can go to court and demand them.

You’ve often used theater to promote this legal literacy in Sri Lanka. Can you give me an example of how this works?

One of my favorite plays I put on was about corporal punishment. I went to a Catholic school where a priest was hitting boys every day. I explained to the school that there are different forms of violence – cultural violence, psychological violence, physical violence. Then I asked the boys to make a play about their experiences with violence. And one of the boys reenacted what the priest had done to him. [It helped] these boys find an outlet to say, “We don’t want to kneel down when we come late to school. We don’t want to be beaten by a cane.”

How did you come to see theater as a way to educate the public on their legal rights?

I had been a lecturer in law [in Sri Lanka], and one of the things I had to teach was U.K. law principles. And the students were bored to death. So I said, these are the books, you read, then you tell me what the rule of law and separation of powers are through a performance. I realized if I could use this in the classroom, why not in the village to simplify the law?

What is your theater group working on now?

I’m working on a street theater [program] to create awareness for parents [and encourage them] not to send their children to orphanages. I’m going to show that family is the place for the child. In Sri Lanka, we have a lot of “social orphans” where they have both parents, but the children are suffering in orphanages.

Past reports have found that over 80 percent of the 20,000 children in Sri Lanka’s child-care institutions, including orphanages, have at least one parent. These parents are often unable to provide for their children or the child has a disability and requires extra care. And sometimes the children are sent to such an institution because of a criminal offense.

Orphanages should be the last resort. So I’m promoting alternative care. Some of the mothers are capable of looking after their children, but they’ve handed over their child to an overcrowded orphanage. I’m thinking of giving parenting skills training to these mothers and economically empowering them, finding them a nice home and settling the children with them.

You mentioned earlier that this prize is the first time in your life you felt appreciated for “walking in the opposite direction” from others in the law profession. Do you have hopes other attorneys will follow in your path?

I’m very unhappy to say each time I go to court people come up to me like a swarm of flies and say, “We don’t have a lawyer to appear on behalf of us.” I want to take all the country’s young attorneys and train them to be another Marini – to clone myself. Because I have to hand this on to the younger generation.

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/03/08/701212104/shes-a-lawyer-a-thespian-and-now-a-state-department-woman-of-courage

US State Department gives out International Women of Courage Awards 2016

April 8, 2016

Missing in action: Wheelchair-bound human rights advocate Ni Yulan failed to attend the awarding ceremony in the U.S. She told the BBC that her passport was withheld.Photo U.S. Department of State/Flickr

Human rights lawyer and activist Ni Yulan became one of the 2016 recipients of the International Women of Courage Awards conferred by the U.S. Department of State on 29 March. The wheelchair-bound human rights lawyer Ni Yulan from China was not present; she he told the BBC that her passport was withheld.  Yulan Ni won the Dutch Human Rights Tulip in 2011.[https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/chinese-human-rights-defender-ni-yulan-freed/]

She shares the 2016 recognition from the USA with 13 other women: Read the rest of this entry »

Saudi Arabia: Arrest and release of human rights defender Samar Badawi

January 13, 2016

 

US First Lady Michelle Obama (left) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (right) pose with Samar Badawi (centre) as she receives the 2012 International Women of Courage Award

Having just posted a lot about China, I would be amiss not to report the action by another serial offender, Saoudi Arabia:  Samar Badawi, an internationally known human rights defender was arrested by Saudi Arabia police on Tuesday, 12 January 2016, according to a report by Amnesty International. Later on she was transferred to Dhaban prison. And just now (13 January) Human Rights Watch reports that after questioning she has been released from Saudi custody.[http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/sister-jailed-saudi-blogger-raif-badawi-released-rights-group-1434471164#sthash.ThiFt7xz.dpuf]

In 2012, she was given an International Women of Courage Award. In December 2014, a Saudi Arabian judge imposed a travel ban on Samar. “Samar Badawi’s arrest today is yet another alarming setback for human rights in Saudi Arabia and demonstrates the extreme lengths to which the authorities are prepared to go in their relentless campaign to harass and intimidate human rights defenders into silent submission,” said Philip Luther, AI’S Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. “Just weeks after Saudi Arabia shocked the world by executing 47 people in a single day, including the Shi’a Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, it has once again demonstrated its utter disregard for human rights. Samar Badawi has been arrested purely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression, she must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

According to AFP, Raif Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada as a refugee said in her Twitter account that her sister-in-law was arrested on the charge of directing a Twitter account named “the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia @WaleedAbulkhair.

Samar is the sister of Raif Badawi, a well-known blogger who was awarded the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/saudi-blogger-raif-badawi-awarded-europes-sakharov-prize/). Moreover, Waleed Abulkhair, who is Samar’s ex-husband, is also serving a 15-year jail sentence.

 

4 Human Rights Defenders kidnapped in Douma, Syria

December 13, 2013

On 9 December 2013, 4 human rights defenders [Ms Razan Zaitouna, Mr Wael Hamada, Mr Nazem Hamaadi and Ms Samira Khalil] were abducted by masked armed men and taken to unknown whereabouts in Syria. They were kidnapped from the offices of the Center for Documenting Human Rights Violations in Syria, located in Douma. Razan Zaitouna is an award-winning human rights defender who worked on the rights of political prisoners in Syria before the revolution, and continued her activities throughout the peaceful uprising in 2011, founding the ‘local coordination committees’. In 2011, she received the Anna Politkovskaya award “RAW (Reach All Women) in WAR” and in 2013 the International Women of Courage Award. Wael Hamada is an active human rights defender who had been kidnapped by the authorities in 2011 for his legitimate work in the defence of human rights in Syria, and Nazem Hamaadi is a well-known lawyer and poet, respected for his defence of detainees who were arrested in Damascus during the revolution. Samira Khalil is a human rights activist and a member of a peaceful political opposition party in Syria.Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

US State Department sets out its actions to support Human Rights Defenders

March 10, 2013

On 8 March 2013 – probably timed to coincide with the debate in the UN Human Rights Council – the U.S. Department of  State published an overview of it support for Human Rights Defenders. It reads in part:

Protecting and supporting human rights defenders is a key priority of U.S. foreign policy. The Department’s objective is to enable human rights defenders to promote and defend human rights without hindrance or undue restriction and free from fear of retribution against them or their families. The work of these brave individuals and groups is an integral part of a vibrant civil society, and our investment in and support of them is likewise an investment in and support of the rule of law and democracy. Every day, around the world, many in civil society turn to us for assistance in emergency situations and to help them achieve longer-term goals that will make their countries more just and democratic.

After a short description of who are considered Human Rights Defenders and a quote from Hillary Rodham Clinton (as U.S. Secretary of State Krakow, Poland on July 3, 2010): When NGOs come under threat, we should provide protection where we can, and amplify the voices of activists by meeting with them publicly at home and abroad, and citing their work in what we say and do.” The webpage sets out the way in which the State Department protects and supports human rights defenders, including:
Read the rest of this entry »