Grassroots International

Salena Tramel, Author at Grassroots International

  • Land and Ocean Grabs Not the Solution to Climate Change

    When Hiba Al-Jibeihi stepped off her flight in Paris in early December, it was her first time outside the occupied Palestinian territories where she had lived all of her 24 years. She wasn't quite sure how she would relate to her fellow international social movement delegates in parallel meetings to the climate negotiations taking place during the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21). The daughter of a sheep breeder and teacher, Hiba works as an advocacy officer for the Union of Agricultural Works Committees, a well-organized group of small-scale farmers in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

  • Gaza Redux: Déjà vu in Occupied Palestinian Territory

    The names of four children jutted out from my computer’s screen like daggers on the list of the dead by name as I refreshed it. Memories of children laughing while flying kites on a beach in Gaza flooded my mind. Are these the same Bakr children I knew, and are they now among the 211 dead in Gaza?

    Of course it doesn’t matter if I heard the laughter of Ahed (10), Zakaria (10), Mohammed (11), and Ismail (9) when I spent time with the Bakr family known so well in Gaza’s fishing community. It matters that their parents and loved ones knew their laughter by heart, and will likely spend a lifetime trying to recall the innocent ring of it.

  • Small-Scale Fishing Industry Washed Ashore in Gaza

    The tiny motorboat’s engine coughs a couple of miles offshore and whirls to a stop. Gazing out over the aquamarine Mediterranean waters, I feel high from the fumes of cheap Egyptian diesel and the smell of sea salt. “Let’s get in,” says Mahfouz Kabariti, a fisherman, stripping down to swim trunks and diving overboard. A Palestinian friend who is a medical student also came along for the ride. We eye each other cautiously. She winks, and we both jump in the water, fully dressed, our long pants weighing us down. It’s a perfect Friday afternoon. From out here, the ubiquitous bullet holes in buildings are invisible and Gaza City looks like a coastal resort town.

  • Voices from International Women’s Day

    Waiting for my visa interview on a dusty embroidered couch at the Afghan Embassy in Cairo, minutes turned into hours. I had recently decided to spend International Women’s Day in the countryside outside of Kabul, to learn from women there as they work towards a better Afghanistan. My mind wandered as I prepared for the journey, and I found myself reflecting on the meaning of a day set aside to celebrate women. Memories drifted through the past few years where I had spent International Women’s Day with Grassroots International’s partners in Palestine and Haiti. Years apart and worlds away, the experiences were bound by song.

    Gaza Strip, 2009

  • A Global Alliance Emerges in West Africa

    Selingué, Mali—Early morning on day one of the first peasant-organized international conference to stop land grabbing held in Nyéléni, Mali, delegates from more than 30 countries took their seats for the opening ceremony. Many fumbled with the bulky and crackling radios that would provide simultaneous translation, while a small group of women from across Africa gathered in the center of the open-air conference hall, their feet sinking into the sand. In a long-standing tradition of the Via Campesina, the global peasant movement, the women kicked off the events with a mistica—a ceremony intended to depict socio-political struggles and incite debate.

  • Gaza’s Human Rights Guru

    The first time I shared a meal with Raji Sourani was at a seaside restaurant in Gaza City. A lawyer and longtime director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), a Grassroots International partner, Sourani is well known throughout Palestine for his quick and sound judgment—which showed when he ordered some of the best shellfish in the Strip for both of us before I had even finished scanning the menu.   “You can’t visit Gaza without eating this shrimp,” he said when our dish arrived. Plumes of shisha smoke billowed around us, and classical Lebanese chords interchanged with lively Egyptian tunes. He was right: the food was nearly as enjoyable as his company.

  • Reimagining Israel’s Negev

    Down south in the Negev desert, the sounds of jets fill wide-open spaces. Increasing militarization is constant -- at least 80% of the land there is used for military training purposes, including weaponry development. The Negev also contains the largest petrochemical processing center in the Middle East and Israel’s nuclear facilities. Bedouin communities who call the remaining land home are routinely -- and forcibly -- displaced.

  • Working to Keep Hope Alive in Haiti’s Forgotten Frontiers

    Nestled between Haiti’s turquoise Caribbean waters and the foothills of the northern mountains, is a large plot of land close to the town of Limonade. Here at the height of planting season a group of peasants is hard at work. Claudelle Sensmyr, 36, quietly sprinkles handfuls of seeds down row after row of prepped soil. "I just started farming a few months ago," she told me, brushing off her hands and looking up. "I’m from Port-au-Prince," she added shyly and then motioned to the other farmers, "Many of us are."

    In the wake of the earthquake that left most of urban Haiti in shambles six months ago, more than 500,000 survivors fled cities like Port-au-Prince and Jacmel to rural areas like Limonade.

  • Has Gaza’s Blockade been eased?

    Safa Joudeh, formerly Grassroots International’s consultant, who lives there, doesn’t think so. In her Al Jazeera op-ed, Safa explains the emotional and socio-economic trauma and stress of living under lockdown.

    The Israeli government, facing increased international condemnation in the wake of last month’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla, announced earlier that they would make “adjustments” in their land blockade—while keeping their sea blockade intact.

  • “Generation 3.0” of Intervention in Haiti: What Is Bill Clinton Doing on the Island Anyways?

    Below is a blog by Salena Tramel, Grassroots International Program Coordinator for the Middle East and Haiti. It originally appeared on Huffington Post.

    Here in Haiti, a country all too often characterized by internal instability, the biggest scandals of all have external origins. Just ask the Haitians.

  • Documenting Abuses – and Recovery – in Gaza


    The human rights framework is vital to moving forward in Gaza six months after the end of the 22-day military assault. Grassroots International’s partner the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) has been at the forefront of documentation and human rights defense during extreme times in Gaza. Their attention to detail has earned them newfound respect in the international human rights community.   PCHR was totally dedicated to documenting the war – especially as international journalists and human rights workers were not allowed into Gaza during the offensive.

  • Time for a New “New Deal” on Human Rights

    Sixty years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we at Grassroots International recognize that more often than not the reality has failed the vision put forth in that document.  Our commitment to defending land, water, and food as the most basic of human rights is reflected throughout the 30-article treaty.  Globally, people in all corners of the world currently experience a quadruple crisis that includes food, finance, energy, and the environment.  From Latin America to the Middle East, our partners and allies are facing serious threats to their lives and livelihoods.  Policies and actions of governments and corporations represent the grave violations of the core principles of the treat