“The Little Sisters” Peace over Justice in Northern Uganda

The Little Sisters could barely hear the sounds of the rebel army approaching the first night they were attacked. In Acholiland, after the sun sets, the country hums with a cacophony of insects and other nocturnal creatures. The heavy wooden door to the women’s dormitory was old, but thick and strong. After the war started the Sisters began securing it with a metal bar. This night, however the soldiers forced their way inside. Some of the Sistersjumped out of windows, fleeing the compound.  Follow the link below to learn more about the Little Sisters and their work. The multi-media project is the work of Ryan Kellman and William Potter, funded by the Chantal Paydar Foundation.

A Blog of Wisdom

A Blog of Wisdom

A Blog of Wisdom

A Blog of Wisdom

February 2016 Entry by Perth Rosen

Sitting in a busy café on a rainy Saturday in San Francisco I look around at the souls crammed into this cozy space. I see young people with parents, teenagers with friends, groups of seniors, couples of all kinds enjoying one another’s company; it’s a beautiful mix of class, age, ethnicity, culture, language and race. Embraced by the comfort of diversity I’m reminded of the conditions I expect for, and from, the human race. Embracing diversity strengthens an internal barometer tilted toward, creativity, elasticity in thinking, understanding, innovation and compassion.  And yet, the experiment of cultural diversity is consistently questioned and threatened.  I am reminded of this during the presidential campaign where messages flair concerns of ‘others’. Fear is the cheap fuel flaming these concerns of otherness so that we can in turn sustain a story of ‘safety’ through increased security actions.

This is never as apparent as in unfounded political rhetoric that demonizes immigration as a threat to American security and way of life. Worse, the media and politicians would have us believe that even Refugee’s and Asylum Seekers, the most vulnerable among us, are Trojan horses seeking to do us harm. Refugees and, Asylum Seekers, those seeking refugee status, have lost every shard of safety, security and sense of ‘home’. And instead of welcoming them, we subject them to nativist fueled rejection and in the case Asylum Seekers detention and likely deportation. This breaks my heart. Not only is the anti-immigrant story untrue but the United States is party to the Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, enshrining a responsibility to protect refugees. If we are willing to jeopardize due process by locking extremely vulnerable women and children in detention centers, and then deporting them back to possible death, how far will we go, a nation purportedly built on rules and laws to ‘protect’ the status quo.

The reality is the United States’ approach to immigration has oscillated from downright ethno-centric, such as a denial of entry for Chinese to religiously puritanical, as evidenced by The American Protective Association (APA) , indeed politics have exploited fear of immigrants throughout history. Even before America was colonized, Edward Said debated the creation of the other in the context of Europe’s ‘knowing’ of the East. The point is, this practice is not new. And yet, we somehow allow ourselves to be manipulated by the puppet-like manipulation of our most primal human emotion: Fear. The politics of fear is an oft deployed weapon of the powerful.

Faced with a shifting demography, and more diverse and complex global migration flows, rather than spew fear about other’s, our politicians would be wise to embrace policies such as the welcoming communities initiative, mainstream teachings of tolerance and lead through the adoption of progressive protection policies. Perhaps then we can capitalize on our comparative advantage and lead from the strength of our diversity, rather than the fear of it. 

April 2016 Entry by Thomas P. Valenti 

Reflections on Sarah Kincaid, 2015 Honorary Kayla Mueller-Chantal Paydar Foundation Fellow (George Mason University, Fairfax VA)  

“I found that youth are attempting to create unified and inclusive organizations by intentionally recruiting leaders who have a diverse backgrounds; by holding social events that will attract a wide variety of people; and by focusing on issues instead of positions. While the Western news seems to depict that Tunisians are widely divided on the issue of conservative vs. liberal Islam, I found something quite different.” – Sarah Kincaid

Sarah went to Tunis to interview young Tunisian leaders to better understand their role in creating continued social change, beyond the 2011 revolution. 

The Chantal Paydar Foundation was established to commemorate the life of Chantal Paydar and to continue her life’s calling towards establishing equality in the world. The foundation emphases the importance of establishing and fostering human connections amongst people of different backgrounds through education and multicultural exchange. The foundation seeks to establish a humanitarian approach towards addressing ethnic, gender, and political inequality in the world community.

The Chantal Paydar Foundation intends to establish an endowment to fund numerous Peace, Justice, and Conflict Resolution (PJCR) initiatives within the United States and abroad. The Foundation takes a three tiered approach towards building a better world and contributing to the global PJCR movement.  The Foundation's approach is through: Education, Relief, Advocacy (ERA)

 Sarah’s efforts speak to the core of the Mission of The Chantal Paydar Foundation.

Just as Chantal’s  interest in Peace Studies and International Development led her to obtain a Master's Degree in International Relations in 2005 from the University of San Salvador in Buenos Aires, Argentina as an esteemed Rotary World Peace Fellow, Sarah represents this same sprit and drive.

Just as Chantal continued her quest to gain knowledge of all cultures outside of her own by spending months and years working with Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), with grass root initiatives, in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Brazil, Sarah represents the next generation embarking on efforts to continue Chantal’s and now The Chantal Paydar Foundation’s Mission and Vision.

The Foundation, and specifically the yearly recognition of Fellows, such as Sarah, we hope, brings awareness to the important work being done by young leaders in the important area of human rights issues addressing ethnic, gender, and political inequality in the world community. We also hope to inspire and encourage the work of future young leaders and to be able to support their work through the assistance of members of society who believe, as we do, that our future, and the future of societies at large, lies in the hands of the younger generations who see hope rather than despair in future societies and dedicate themselves to sharing their lives to improve our future. 

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      Artwork © March 2016 Nicolette Nunez

Artwork © March 2016 Nicolette Nunez

July 2016 ENTRY BY Paul Bancroft 

"Human relations were laid bare and the strengths and weaknesses in relationships came sharply into focus.  Thus, socially isolated women became more isolated, domestic violence increased, and the core of relationships with family, friends and spouses were exposed" - written in response to a major flood in Australia (Dobson, 1994, p. 11).

Racism. Sexism. Classism. Immigration status. Violence against LGBTQ communities.  These are just a few of the various forms of oppression that the mainstream sexual and relational violence (SRV) movements have taken a deeper approach to when addressing intersectionality and SRV.  However, one piece that I believe is critical to address is the intersection of climate change and SRV. 

So what is the connection between climate change and SRV?  There is an increasing amount of research that connects gender disparities and climate change yet not a lot of research that directly connects SRV and climate change.  What we do know is that climate change affects women differently than men whether it is through displacement, crop failure, employment, food, water and fuel shortages, access to health care or the effects of increased armed conflicts and civil wars. Women and girls are disadvantaged and at a higher risk of health and general safety concerns as a result of the aforementioned challenges. However, are girls and women and at a higher risk of sexual and or relational violence as well? As the effects of Climate Change increase globally, will SRV service providers be tasked with providing more services while competing with funding and resources that are being diverted to disasters?

According to Dr. Elain Enarson, author of “Women Confronting Natural Disasters: From Vulnerability to Resilience”, the disasters and major weather events that occur in the social worlds we live in "disadvantage women as a social group more than men, especially women who are already isolated or disenfranchised. Disaster homelessness and overcrowding in damaged homes, reduced income, health problems, lack of transportation, disrupted social services, and other disaster effects impact women disproportionately, exacerbating preexisting power imbalances between women and men" (Enarson 80). A result of the exacerbated power imbalance is sexual and or relational violence.

“Mega storms” like intensified hurricanes for example can displace hundreds of thousands of people.  Thousands of families are forced to live and stay in make-shift camps, FEMA trailer parks and with extended families and friends. Women who were considering fleeing may feel compelled and or coerced into staying with the abusive partner during disasters. Children are also at risk and vulnerable to sexual abuse during that time. People who utilize abuse to enforce their power and control may feel total powerlessness during a climate-related disaster due to job loss, food insecurities and familial tensions. However, they may be in a position to exert even more power and control in the form of abuse over bodies that are smaller or more vulnerable.  Additionally, what happens to the registered sex offenders who are displaced during disasters and major weather events?

 According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 12 Domestic Violence Shelters were forced to close during Hurricane Sandy.   What happens to those shelter residents? Many move in to other shelters out of the area if they are able, others end up in the disaster relief housing and some return to their homes, often to the abusers.  Here in California we have experienced a multi-year drought coupled with extended and more dangerous wildfire seasons.  With wildfires come increased levels of stress, displacement, vulnerability, shifting and limited access to resources.  All of these factors could lead to increased sexual and relational violence or at least increase families vulnerability to violence during or directly following catastrophic wildfires.

Climate Change and Armed Conflict

Another cause for concern is that there is more research on the correlation between an increase in armed conflicts and uprisings as a result of rising global temperatures. For example, studies of sub Saharan Africa indicate an increase in civil wars as a result of an increase in the global temperature.  Violence increases as food and water become scarce, drought and or flooding increase and states become increasingly destabilized.  In high conflict zones, once again women and children are extremely vulnerable to violence as it is well documented that the use of rape has been seen in most armed conflicts.  

Sexual and Relational Violence is also a side effect of armed conflict.  A quick google search on “Domestic Violence and U.S. Vets” brings up over 1 million search results.  Most of the vets being referenced in the articles are vets of geopolitically based invasions of oil rich countries or destabilized terrorist influenced states fighting for access to oil.  Domestically speaking, sexual assault was essentially introduced as a colonizing tactic by the invasion of Europeans and the ensuing colonialism. As the Cheyenne proverb goes:  "A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors or strong its weapons". 

In terms of increased migration and climate change, according to the Royal United Services Institute, “as temperatures rise and precipitation patterns change over the course of the next century, climate too will increasingly become a driver of both internal and international migration in Mexico.”  - See more at:

So if climate change is an impetus in increased migration, we can expect so see an increase in migrants experiencing sexual assault considering that some figures posit that well over half of all women migrating are victims of attempted and or completed sexual assault while crossing into the US.   

There is a connection in our society to men’s entitlement to women’s bodies and men’s entitlement to destroying the planet (in the name of progress ie capital). Environmental destruction in the name of "progress" is in large part an effort to maintain our privilege, our way of life; our ability to have tomatoes year round and smart phones and other fancy gadgetry at the expense of mineral extraction, deforestation, fossil fuel consumption, dams and mountain top removal.  It is my belief that maintaining our way of life is accelerating climate change which is leading to increased sexual and relational violence.

What can we do? How can heal our communities as well as the planet? How can our prevention efforts incorporate environmental justice? We need to start with movement-wide dialogue that includes climate change in our many conversations. Perhaps we can expand our understanding of “rape culture” to include the assault on the planet and how men disregard and disrespect not only the female body but also the female spirit. Additionally, to paraphrase author and activist Wilma Mankiller, we need to model for and teach youth how to live in synchronicity with their community as well as the planet. We need to reach out and learn from and share and partner with the environmental justice and immigrant’s rights movements to solidify our prevention and intervention efforts at the intersections of our work.  We must listen and learn from the communities who already know how to live in relationship with the land. In the meantime we need to be prepared for an increase in Sexual and Relational Violence as the effects of climate change become more pronounced and more communities are adversely affected.