Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
Women's Program
Staff attorneys Mary Ellingen and Rosalyn Park with staff from Centre Nadya in Russe, Bulgaria (July 2007)
Program Summary

The Women's Human Rights Program applies international human rights standards to advocate for women's rights in the United States and around the world.  Using research, education and advocacy, the program has partnered with local organizations overseas and in the United States to document domestic violence, rape, employment discrimination, sexual harassment in the workplace, and trafficking in women and girls for commercial sexual exploitation.


Since 1993, the Women's Human Rights Program has partnered with organizations in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Nepal, Mexico and Haiti, to document such violations of women's rights as domestic violence, rape, employment discrimination, sexual harassment in the workplace and trafficking in women and girls for commercial sexual exploitation.

The Women's Program uses traditional human rights fact-finding methods to document violations of women's human rights.  Staff and volunteers conduct in-country research through close collaboration with local women's non-governmental organizations. 

Minnesota Advocates' reports include an analysis of each country's legislation related to women's rights and of the local law enforcement system as well as recommendations on bringing laws and practice into conformity with international human rights obligations.

The Government Response to Domestic Violence Against Refugee and Immigrant Women in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area:  A Human Rights Report
On December 10, 2004, Minnesota Advocates released a report concerning the government response to battered refugee and immigrant women in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. The full text of this report is available here.  Although domestic violence is a serious problem for women of all backgrounds, refugee and immigrant women are particularly vulnerable to certain forms of abuse and face unique problems in gaining protection from violence. The Women's Program used the human rights methodology that it has used in other countries to investigate and document immigrant women's experiences in the Twin Cities in accessing legal, medical and other services and gaining protection from domestic abuse. The purpose of the project has been to identify both the barriers that battered immigrant women may encounter in seeking such protection, as well as models or programs that have been particularly effective in addressing the specific needs and concerns of immigrant women.

With a team of nine volunteer attorneys and other professionals, the Women's Program collected information about these issues through over 150 interviews with prosecutors, police, doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, lawyers, judges, government agencies, federal immigration authorities, shelter advocates, and community organizations.  The project's Steering Committee, composed of community members and domestic violence advocates, guided the report drafting process and review and provided feedback on the report. In conjunction with local advocates, the Women's Program plans to distribute the report to local and national community groups, legislators, advocates, and practitioners.  Minnesota Advocates looks forward to working together with community leaders to address the issues identified in the report and to improve our community’s response to battered immigrant women.


The Women's Program seeks to improve awareness of women's rights through educational programs such as community education programs, lectures at local universities, workshops and a monthly lecture series on women's human rights.  For the past twelve years, the Women's Program has organized an annual International Women's Day Celebration co-sponsored by local organizations working on various issues of women's rights. 

In a project that combines education and advocacy efforts, the Women's Program has developed an Internet distance learning and on-line mentoring site to address issues of violence against women.  The Stop Violence Against Women website is a resource for women's advocates working in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and addresses domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment and trafficking in women.  The website includes a resource library of best practices, training materials, an online mentoring program and a listserv for advocate discussions, as well as country pages which summarize developments related to efforts to combat violence against women in each of the countries of the CEE/FSU region.


The Women's Program advocates for the advancement of women's rights in every aspect of our work.  For example, the Women's Program reports serve as important advocacy tools for both international and local human rights organizations in the subject countries.  From these reports, staff and volunteers work with partner organizations to develop and deliver trainings for judges, lawyers, law enforcement agencies, direct service providers, journalists and others.  In the U.S., the reports also serve as support for asylum claims.


Women's Program House Party
Plan to join us September 6th, 2007 for our Fall House Party -- a fundraiser to benefit the Women's Human Rights Program.  5:30 - 7:30 in St. Paul.  Details here.

Women's Human Rights Speaker Series
Join us for this bi-monthly series of speakers dedicated to improving awareness of women's human rights issues, presented in partnership with Briggs and Morgan, P.A.  August 14th: Ethical Considerations in Working with Advocates When Representing Battered Women -- details here.

Journey to Safety
A Pangea World Theater/Minnesota Advocates collaboration

Read more about it here.

For a list of performances, click here.

Women's Human Rights Film Series
Our Women's Human Rights Film Series, a partnership with The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, will return in the fall with another exciting lineup of films for viewing and discussion.  Check back in August for details.

The Government Response to Domestic Violence Against Refugee and Immigrant Women in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area: A Human Rights Report
Executive Summary 

Full Text of Report and Appendices

Trainings and Presentations on the Report

The Law on Protection against Domestic Violence in Bulgaria: Insights and History
Click here for Genoveva Tisheva's article.