Frequently Asked Questions
What are human rights and what gives the human rights framework power?
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever their nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible."
But not only are human rights fundamental and universal, possessed by individuals simply by being human. Human rights can also provide us with a purpose and a framework for action, a vocabulary for talking about the need for structural change and a system of accountability. Human rights allow activists to get away from fragmentation, nationalism, fundamentalist dogmas, and an over-reliance on the courts and on judicial remedies. The human rights framework helps us to connect to counterparts around the world, facilitating collaboration and broad-based movement building. Most importantly, since the human rights framework is holistic, it allows connection across issue areas and out of "silos", and to address underlying root causes of injustice. Not only are human rights universal, they are also inalienable, indivisible and interdependent.
The human rights framework is articulated in several key documents --conventions, treaties and resolutions -- which have the force of international law and provide the scaffolding for much of the work the Channel Foundation supports:
-1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
-Core international human rights instruments and their monitoring bodies
-1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
-1995 Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA)
-2000 UN Security Council Resolution 1325
-Subsequent accompanying resolutions on women, peace and security: SCR1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122
Why do you focus on funding women's human rights?
The movement to raise awareness that "women's rights are human rights" recognizes that women around the globe suffer disproportionately from certain human rights abuses that are not always treated as such: for instance, domestic violence and rape during times of war and conflict. This movement has sounded the call for all governments to not only protect their citizens from these kinds of violations but also to demonstrate concrete progress towards the implementation and enforcement of the fulfillment of these rights - and to ensure that private actors and corporations also respect these rights. Women's human rights include the full complement of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights but also include the recognition that freedom from violence and exploitation also includes reproductive rights, and that women have the right to equal access to health care, education, and job training.
Channel believes that only when women themselves articulate solutions to the problems they, their families, communities and countries face, will we be able to tackle the intertwined nature of oppressions and the disempowerment of marginalization.
Channel focuses on funding in women's human rights because we believe it is a key leverage point for social change and because it is an area where we believe we can make a difference. Women's human rights are greatly underfunded. While it is difficult to find disaggregated data on how much foundation giving goes towards global women's human rights specifically, it is safe to surmise that the percentage is not enormous. According to research from the Women's Funding Network, foundations earmark just 7% of grants over $10,000 for women and girls. While the field of women's human rights has grown steadily, we need to continue to fight marginalization and the perception that those fights are "over" or no longer relevant.
Why are women's human rights so important right now?
Women debate strategy at the AWID Forum in Cape Town, South Africa, Nov. 2008.
The movement for women's human rights is strong and growing and yet vulnerable to shifts in funding priorities and dependent on aid from governments. The focus on gender mainstreaming and on poverty frameworks and outcomes has meant, as AWID has documented with their "Where is the Money for Women's Rights?" Initiative on Resourcing Women's Rights that many women's human rights organizations have lost and lost out on funding in the past decade.
The gap between rhetoric and reality has still not been bridged. Many years after the UN Conference on Women at Beijing in 1995 and the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights in 1994 and its rousing declaration that "women's rights are human rights" emphasizing that women's rights are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights, activists are fighting to hold on to the gains they made.
After a flowering of civil society groups focused on women's issues, with women at the helm, and after a shower of attention towards issues like violence against women and rape as a war crime, world attention, especially mainstream media attention has moved away from these issues and towards frameworks like human security that may or may not take women's human rights as necessary.
Security Council Resolution 1325 which addresses the inordinate impact war and conflict has on women, called for women's inclusion and leadership at all levels during the conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes has yet to be truly implemented on the ground even as ethnic conflict, and wars over territory and resources escalate and the nuclear arms race expands.
Women and their concerns, continue to be marginalized at all levels but the struggle for women's human rights goes on - via legal strategies, grassroots activism, research and publications that seek to raise awareness - and needs support more than ever.
Why do you support leadership promotion and movement building?
Channel recognizes that women have often been excluded from positions of leadership in public life and supports women who demonstrate change and embody outstanding models of cutting edge work. We support non-traditional leaders who are using imaginative methodologies.
We support movement building because, as our grantee partner JASS/Just Associates puts it, "women are on the forefront of change around the world. Yet women’s rights are embattled and, in many places, the very safety of women activists is at risk. [Movement-building'] strategies equip these women and build their organizations so they can better navigate and challenge shifting political dynamics. By strengthening women’s collective organizing power, we help increase their political influence while ensuring their safety as activists as they advance rights and justice for everyone in a risky world."
Why do you focus on funding grassroots groups?
With the knowledge that the best solutions to longstanding issues often reside with local grassroots groups that are working to overcome traditional hierarchies, exclusions and injustices, Channel is committed to supporting groups grounded in the needs of their own communities, who recognize that their issues are shared with other marginalized communities around the globe.
"We should not allow women to be treated like a special issue."
- Dorothy Q. Thomas, Founder of Human Rights Watch Women's Rights Division and philanthropic consultant
Photos courtesy of the Channel Foundation.