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Austin Activist Guide

womens rights






Genealogy of Activist Categories
Alphabetized Activist List
Bibliography


An Internet search for “women’s human rights” organizations in greater Austin would likely yield few results; local groups often define their mission in the realm of social justice, or in specific topics such as immigrant rights, prisoner rights, or worker rights. Community groups might not describe their work as human rights for a variety of reasons. “Universal” human rights have been critiqued as a hegemonic, normative framework that privileges Western secular values.1 In the United States, human rights violations have often been used to criticize countries without the same level of economic or political clout,2 and they have increasingly been employed to justify military humanitarian intervention.3 Community organizations might also not define their mission as human rights because it tends to locate their activism within the legalistic realm, and many consider the law limited in its ability to foster transformative change.4 Given the many critiques of the human rights, local groups might determine that employing this framework could prove counterproductive in efforts to build grassroots movements.

However, despite the “dark sides”5 of rights-based advocacy, universal human rights has created an institutional mechanism with which to effect important change and to save persons from harm. For these reasons, the Embrey Women’s Human Rights Initiative (EWHRI) maintains human rights can remain a useful framework when:

1) international human actors seek to build collaborative dialogue with local groups and persons most affected by violations,

2) activists reflect upon their own positioning in relation to the those they seek to assist, and

3) they recognize how gender, race, class, and ethnicity often intersect in the creation of various rights violations.6


The Guide

The EWHRI Guide to Local Activism on Women, Gender, and Human Rights contains descriptions of Austin-based organizations that have instituted a vision of rights-based advocacy that the EWHRI upholds. While EWHRI endorses the activist methods employed by these organizations, it also continues to learn from them how to work for more equitable and safer communities. The groups listed in this guide demonstrate that EWHRI envisions a broad definition of advocacy that addresses women, gender, and human rights. To help readers navigate the list, the guide includes categories that describe how the EWHRI sees these organizations as working on these issues, and a description of how the categories have been determined. The guide also lists the organizations in alphabetical order and includes a bibliography of texts that support a critical engagement with rights-based advocacy.


Feedback

EWHRI created this guide as part of its continuous efforts to bridge academia with activism and to assist faculty and students in engaging in the contradictions often embedded in this type of work. As this guide continues to evolve, we welcome feedback and recommendations of community groups to add to the list. If you have a comment regarding the guide, please contact Dr. Susan Heinzelman, Director, Center for Women's & Gender Studies, at sheinz@austin.utexas.edu



1 David Kennedy, The Dark Side of Virtue (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2004) 18

2 Kennedy, The Dark Side of Virtue, 20

3 Karen Engle, “Calling in the Troops: The Uneasy Relationship among Women’s Rights, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Intervention,” Harvard Human Rights Journal 20 (2007) 189-226

4 Wendy Brown, Left Legalism/Left Critique (Durham and London: Duke University Press: 2002) 422

5 Kennedy, The Dark Sides of Virtue, 3

6 Combahee River Collective, “The Combahee River Collective Statement,” in This Bridge Called My Back edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, (New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1981) 210-8



Genealogy of Activist Categories

The categories listed below on women, gender, and human rights activism draw inspiration from several key documents. One important text has been the Convention On The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979 and is often described as the "international bill of rights for women." The Austin Activist Guide also considers documents drafted at the four United Nations-sponsored conferences on women that include Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985), and Beijing (1995). Finally the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (2007) have been employed in conceptualizing categories that define activism on women, gender, and human rights.

EWHRI has relied upon these documents because of their importance in shaping an understanding of women, gender, and human rights advocacy in the international human rights community. However, the initiative recognizes that many other resources could be employed to help define these categories.

Categories

Community                         Media                                   Science & Technology

Education                           Migration                              Shelter

Environment                       Race and Ethnicity                 Work

Health                                Religion

Law                                   Sexualities (LGBTQ)

Download Categorized Activist List (pdf)

Documents

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. "Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women - Convention." Last modified 2007. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/convention.htm.

The United Nations. "Outcomes on Gender and Equality." Last modified 2007. www.un.org/en/development/devagenda/gender.shtml.

The Yogakarta Principles. "The Yogakarta Principles: The Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity." Last modified 2006. www.yogyakartaprinciples.org


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Alphabetized Activist List

ADAPT of Austin

ADAPT is a grassroots organization that advocates for the rights of people living with disabilities and for more accessible communities. The organization conducts advocacy and research on a number of issues including the American Disabilities Act, affordable and accessible housing, community access for the disabled, and increased pay for attendant care providers. ADAPT is a member of the National ADAPT community.
Volunteer Opportunities:

ADAPT welcomes community members to contact the organization to learn more about how to get involved.

Contact:      Phone: (512) 442.0252

                   Email: adapt@adapt.org 

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allgo: a statewide queer people of color organization

www.allgo.org

Austin, Texas

allgo works to build a statewide network that supports queer people of color organizations and activists in Texas. The organization originated in Austin in 1985 when a group of Latina/o lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists grew frustrated with gay rights organizations that did not to consider issues related to farm worker rights, racism, and police brutality in their advocacy. allgo has developed a number of initiatives focusing on the cultural arts, community health, and advocacy.

Volunteer Opportunities:

allogo offers numerous opportunities for community members to get involved that include event planning, computer work, writing the newsletter, providing DJ services, designing publicity materials, and facilitating workshops.

Contact:        Phone: (512) 472.2001

                    Email: allgo@allgo.org

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Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition

www.austinirc.org

Austin, Texas

The Austin Immigration Rights Coalition (AIRC) was founded in April 2006 in response to the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, which sought to increase penalties for undocumented workers. The AIRC involves an alliance of community groups, immigrants, and activists organizing around issues related to immigrants and their families. Some of the issues AIRC focuses on include detention, worker’s rights, the Texas-Mexico border, and raids by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Volunteer Opportunities:

AIRC welcomes interested community members to contact the office to learn about the numerous ways to get involved in immigrant rights advocacy. 

Contact:     Phone: (512) 524.2012

                  Email: info@austin.irc.org 

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Casa Marianella

www.casamarianella.org

Austin, Texas

The Austin Interfaith Task Force for Central America created Casa Marianella in 1986 to support refugees fleeing from Central America. Since then the shelter has welcomed immigrants from around the world, although the majority of its clients still hail from Central America and priority is given to political refugees. As well as providing beds, the shelter’s Adult House offers food, clothing, and English classes to clients. In 2003, the Casa Marianella staff opened Posada Esperanza, which provides emergency shelter and services to immigrant women and their children.

Volunteer Opportunities:

Casa Marianella offers multiple opportunities for volunteers to get involved in both its shelters that include teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) or computer classes, cooking dinner, offering childcare services, conducting house maintenance projects, sorting clothes, interviewing clients about their experiences, or conducting office work.

Contact:        Email: info@casamarianella.org

                    Phone: (512) 385.5571

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Conspire Theatre

conspiretheatre.wordpress.com

Austin, Texas

Conspire Theatre is a sponsored project of the non-profit organization, Austin Circle of Theatres. The group teaches theatre and writing to women who have been involved with the criminal justice system. It aims to help these women recover from trauma, to build self-confidence, foster creativity, develop communication skills and teamwork. A main achievement of the group has involved running a five-week workshop in the Travis County Correctional Facility (Del Valle, Texas) with women inmates. The workshops incorporate games, creative writing, acting, and dance.

Volunteer Opportunities:

Conspire Theatre seeks volunteers to help with a number of projects including grant writing, fundraising, business planning, networking, and graphic design of logos, poster, and programs.

Contact:     Email: conspiretheatre@gmail.com 

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Mamas of Color Rising

mamasofcolorrising.wordpress.com

Austin, Texas

Mamas of Color Rising is an all-volunteer group of women of color seeking to improve their communities. The group works on myriad issues including access to health care resources for pregnant women, welfare reform, affordable childcare, education, safety, and affordable housing. Mamas of Color Rising runs “Yo Mamas Catering Co-Op,” where the grouop members offer their cooking services at events in order to raise money for their initiatives. The group also co-publishes a blog called “Revolutionary Motherhood” with Young Women United, a group working on health issues in New Mexico. The blog can be found on the organization's website (below).

Volunteer Opportunities:

Contact:      Email: mamas of colorrising@gmail.com 

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Mother’s Milk Bank

www.milkbank.org

Austin, Texas

Mothers’ Milk Bank mission is to provide donor human milk to every preterm or otherwise fragile baby with a medical need. Human milk is dependent on the generous sharing of time from volunteers.

Volunteer Opportunities:

Lab Assistants: Volunteers in the lab participate in pouring of milk from individual containers into flasks for nutritional and microbiological testing, and pouring from flasks into bottles for pasteurizing and dispensing. These two functions are necessary on a daily basis, including many Saturdays, in order to have a steady supply of donor human milk available for our hospitals and outpatients. Labwork may also include logging incoming milk – linking milk deposits with specific approved donors, and estimating the volume of milk. Time periods most available are Mondays and Fridays from 10am through 2pm.

Office Assistants: Volunteers in the milk bank office engage in a variety of paperwork and database entry activities. Screening and recognition mailings are prepared and sent to all of our donors, and data from our donors are entered into both Access and Excel programs in order to track the milk. Office work may also involve calling donors for updates, and filing paperwork.

Contact:       Kim Updegrove, Executive Director

                   Email: kim@milkbank.org

                   Phone: (512) 494.0800

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PODER-People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources

www.poder-texas.org

Austin, Texas

PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources) was formed in 1991 by East Austin, Chicana/o activists and community leaders. The grassroots organization seeks to build advocacy in communities of color on concerns surrounding the environment, economic development, and social justice. PODER has worked on issues specifically relating to transportation, and has sought to raise awareness about the environmental and public health records of industries attempting to locate to East Austin.

Volunteer Opportunities:

None listed on website

Contact:         Phone: (512) 472-9921

                     Email: poder.austin@gmail.com

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SafePlace

www.safeplace.org

Austin, Texas

Safeplace has more than 35-years experience working with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in Austin/Travis County. It provides an emergency shelter, transitional services, hospital advocacy for rape survivors, counseling, prevention and education programs. SafePlace also engages the community in changing attitudes, behaviors and policies to impact our understanding and responses to sexual and domestic violence.

Volunteer Opportunities:

40-Hour Volunteer Training: Volunteer Trainings are held three times per year, in February, June and October.  The cohort meets Tuesday and Thursday from 6pm to 9pm and on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm.  After that volunteers can sign up for specialized training to volunteer with different departments (ex. hospital advocacy, legal advocacy, community education, development).

Community Engagement Volunteers:  Volunteers who are interested in either volunteering for one-day SafePlace community engagement events or creating community engagement events through the Community Alliance Project can work with the SafePlace Community Organizer.  Community Engagement Volunteers do not need to attend the 40 hour training.

There are several one time events and work nights to support larger events that are available to volunteers.  Denim Day is an excellent example of a one day event: www.SafePlace.org/denimday.

The Community Alliance Project is a portfolio of events and campaigns designed for individuals to implement in their communities. CAP volunteers will work with the SafePlace Community Organizer to create a strategy for their events. 

Contact:         CommunityEducation@SafePlace.org

                     Phone: (512) 267.7233

                     Email: info@SafePlace.org

*Please indicate that this is meant for the Community Organizer in your subject line.

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Texas After Violence Project

www.texasafterviolence.org

Austin, Texas

The Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) is a non-profit organization that is working to build an oral history archive that documents the effects of murder and capital punishment in Texas and serves as a resource for public dialogue on alternative ways to prevent and respond to violence.

Volunteer Opportunities:

The Texas After Violence Project requires that all interns/volunteers undergo multi-session trainings. The organization offers numerous opportunities for interns/volunteers to conduct oral history interviews, to videotape interviews, to transcribe, and to conduct administrative duties. TAVP also invites volunteers/interns to undertake their own research projects. 

Contact:      Email: info@texasafterviolence.org

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Theatre Action Project

www.theatreactionproject.org

Austin, Texas

Theatre Action Project is a team of professionally trained artists and educators that works in partnership with schools and communities to lead unique and engaging arts programs which allow young people to learn critical life skills, gain tools for creative expression and have successful experiences that build self-esteem and confidence.

Volunteer Opportunities:

TAP After School Program: TAP has volunteer opportunities each semester with our after school program assisting our teaching artists in creative classes Monday-Friday. This is a once-a-week commitment for a full semester between 3pm to 6pm. Contact Elizabeth at elizabeth@theatreactionproject.org, to schedule an orientation.

TAP in the Community: TAP has one-time volunteer opportunities with TAP events and Project-Based opportunities (check out our event calendar ). Email sarahgarza@theatreactionproject.org to get on board with an opportunity or sign up here to be added to our volunteer email list.

TAP Volunteer Project Leader program: In collaboration with United Way Hands on Central Texas, TAP trains Volunteer Project Leaders with the goal that they will make a difference in their communities.

Contact:      Megan Fullen, Community Relations Manager

                  Phone: (512) 442.8773

                  Email: megan@theatreactionproject.org

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Urban Roots

www.youthlaunch.org

Austin, Texas

Urban Roots is a youth development program that uses sustainable agriculture as a means to transform the lives of young people and increase the access of healthy food in Austin. Urban Roots provides paid internships to Austin youth, age 14-17, to work on our 3.5 acre urban farm in East Austin. During the 25 week spring and summer program, Urban Roots youth strives to teach youth essential life and job skills while growing food for the community. 40 percent of the produce is donated to local soup kitchens and food pantries and the rest is sold at farmers' markets and farm stands in Austin. Urban Youth also provides youth with a variety of workshops on food, agriculture, and serving their communities.

Volunteer Opportunities:

Urban Roots relies on community volunteers to help maintain the farm and to grow vegetables.

The most volunteer opportunities are available in the fall and spring when youth work limited hours on the farm. Farm volunteers help with planting, harvesting, and preparing produce for market.
Community Volunteer Saturdays: Community Volunteer Saturdays are held in the late spring and summer and typically last about four hours. Urban Roots' youth Farm Interns lead volunteers through the tasks for the day and talk about their experience in the program. Space is limited at Community Volunteer Saturdays and you must RSVP to attend.
Service Learning Opportunities: Urban Roots welcomes inquiries regarding service learning opportunities for university students. We have many ways to involve people, which vary depending on the time of year.

Contact:      Shirene Garcia, Volunteer Coordinator

                  Phone: (512) 342.0424, x113.

                  Email: sgarcia@youthlaunch.org 

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Worker’s Defense Project

workersdefense.org

Austin, Texas 

The Worker’s Defense Project (WDP) was founded in 2002 by employees and volunteers from Casa Marianella (see above for more information).WDP is a worker center that aims to defend the rights of day laborers and low-wage workers. The group fights unsafe working conditions and issues of employee abuse. WDP also trains workers on their rights, seeks to recover wages that employers have refused to pay their employees, and advocates for policies that promote fair working conditions in the legislature.

Volunteer Opportunities:

WDP offers many opportunities for volunteers to get involved with helping workers and families defend their rights in the workplace. The group requires that all community members interested in volunteering fill out an application that is available on the website.

Contact:      Phone: (512) 391-2305

                  E-mail: info@workersdefense.org

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Women’s Storybook Project of Texas

www.storybookproject.org

Austin, Texas 

The Women’s Storybook Project is a volunteer organization that seeks to improve the lives of children whose mothers are imprisoned at Gatesville prisons. The project attempts to build relationships between mothers and their children through recording the mothers reading stories to their children. The group also leads workshops with the incarcerated women to talk about the challenges of being a mother in prison.

Volunteer Opportunities:

The organization offers volunteers opportunities to participate in recording the women reading stories to their children. All volunteers must obtain permission from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to participate in the program. Volunteers must also fill out an application for the Women’s Storybook Project that can be found on the organization’s website.

Contact:     Judy Fox, Volunteer Chairman

                  Phone: (512) 292.4115

                  Email: jzfox@austin.rr.com

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Bibliography


1.     Brown, Wendy, and Janet Halley eds. Left Legalism/Left Critique Durham and London: Duke University Press, 200

2.     Bunch, Charlotte and Samantha Frost, “Women’s Human Rights: An Introduction,” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women’s Issues and Knowledge    London and Routledge, 2000.

3.    Engle, Karen. "Calling in the Troops: The Uneasy Relationship Among Women's Rights, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Intervention," Harvard Human Rights Journal 189 (2007): 189-226

4.     Hale, Charles R. “Activist Research v. Cultural Critique: Indigenous Land Rights and the Contradictions of Politically Engaged Anthropology,” Cultural Anthropology 21 (2006) 96-120

5.     Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider Berkeley and Toronto: Crossing Press, 1984.

6.     Kennedy, David. The Dark Side of Virtue Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

7.     Massad, Joseph. “Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World, Public Culture 14 (2002): 361-385.

8.     Meckled-Garcia, Saladin, and Basak Cali eds. The Legalization of Human Rights: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Human Rights and Human Rights Law London and New York: Routledge, 2006.

9.     Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003

10.  Sandoval, Chela. The Methodology of the Oppressed. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

11.  Warner, Michael. The Trouble With Normal: Sex Politics and the Ethics of Queer Life New York: Free Press, 1999.

12.  Moraga, Cherrie, and Gloria Anzaldua, eds. This Bridge Called My Back. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1981.

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