Chicago Jewish activists urge Congress to pass International Violence Against Women Act

In the wake of the kidnapping of more than 250 schoolgirls in Nigeria and following the introduction last Thursday of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) in the U.S. Senate, four Greater Chicago Area residents met with their Members of Congress to implore them to strengthen policies aimed at ending the global wave of violence against women and girls and pass IVAWA. The Chicago delegation included:

  • Rabbi Alison Abrams, Highland Park
  • Rabbi Sam Feinsmith, Evanston
  • Etty Hasak, Chicago
  • Yael Reynolds, Highland Park

The Chicago delegation was among 150 supporters of American Jewish World Service on Capitol Hill. AJWS is the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization.

ajws womens delegation

The delegation of 150 on Capitol Hill.

The Chicago delegation met with staff from the offices of Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL-10) and Congressman Michael Quigley (D-IL-5) to discuss how IVAWA, if passed, would improve the lives of the millions of women and girls who suffer from violence and abuse worldwide at no cost to U.S. taxpayers.

“The time to pass the International Violence Against Women Act is now,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “How many more devastating stories must we hear before we act? As Jews, we understand the horrible consequences of people remaining silent in the face of violence and injustice. We cannot and will not stand idly by as women and girls are attacked by extremists aiming to strip them of their rights and dignity.

“Our government has made great strides in protecting women and girls in this country, as evidenced by the recently released guidelines for colleges in the U.S. to address sexual assaults on campus and last year’s passage of the domestic Violence Against Women Act. But we must do more to tackle the epidemic of violence against women and girls on a global scale. The Obama Administration took the first step by launching the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally in 2012. Now, it is time for Congress to act.

“We thank Senators Boxer, Menendez, Kirk, Collins and Shaheen for introducing the bill in the Senate, and Congresswomen Schakowsky, Lowey, Wasserman Schultz and Congressmen Engel, Gibson and Hanna for introducing it in the House last year. Now, we need Congress to make the passage of the International Violence Against Women Act a top priority. Taking steps to ensure that women and girls live free of violence and fear is not only right but is strong foreign policy,” Messinger said.

Today’s Lobby Day marks the culmination of AJWS’s Policy Summit, which is a part of We Believe, AJWS’s national advocacy campaign. We Believe, which launched last year, aims to help end violence against women and girls, stop hate crimes against LGBT people and empower girls to end child marriage. The first initiative of We Believe is to advocate for the passage of IVAWA. IVAWA would, for the first time, put the full power of the U.S. government behind the fight to end violence against women and girls internationally.

If passed, IVAWA would:

  • Direct the U.S. government to implement its strategy to reduce violence against women and girls in at least five countries
  • Make ending violence against women and girls a top diplomatic priority, and make the Office of Global Women’s Issues in the State Department permanent
  • Promote legal protection for women and girls who survive violence
  • Increase the capacity of the health care sector worldwide to address violence against women and girls by integrating such care into existing health programs
  • Promote public awareness campaigns to change the attitudes that perpetuate violence against women and girls
  • Support programs to reduce women and girls’ vulnerability to violence by improving their economic status and educational opportunities


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