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Activist, Green Party Candidate to Speak at Middle East forum on Wednesday

Environmental and social rights activist Medea Benjamin will present the fifth in a series of spring forums on the Middle East at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Student Union Room 312 at Fresno State.

Her topic is “Beyond Afghanistan: How Do We Create True Security?” Benjamin, founding director of Global Exchange, has recently returned from Afghanistan, leading a group of four Americans who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 terrorism to meet with Afghans who lost relatives during the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.

The forum is free and open to the public. Benjamin will be available for media interviews from 3-3:30 p.m., following her speech.

MEDEA BENJAMIN -- BIOGRAPHY

Medea Benjamin is Founding Director of Global Exchange. For over 20 years, she has supported human rights and social justice struggles around the world.

Medea recently accompanied four Americans who lost loved ones in the September 11th terrorist attacks on a trip to Afghanistan to meet people there who lost relatives during the US bombing of Afghanistan. Their extraordinary journey has received such International attention that the US Government is being pressured to discuss civilian casualties and to create a compensation fund for Afghan victims.

In November of 2001, Medea led a women's delegation to Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to investigate the humanitarian situation there among the refugee population, to assess the consequences of US bombing, and to talk to women's groups about what role they would like to play in a transition government. Medea is currently galvanizing grassroots support to promote rebuilding the region.

For much of 2001, Medea focused on California's energy crisis, fighting the market manipulation by the big energy companies and rate hikes that cause hardship for low-income ratepayers and small businesses. She headed a powerful coalition of consumer, environmental, union and business leaders working for clean and affordable power under public control.

Medea was the Green Party candidate for US Senate from California in 2000. Her run for U.S. Senate succeeded in mobilizing thousands of Californians around platform issues such as living wage, schools-not-prisons, and universal healthcare.

Medea's previous work has focused on improving the labor and environmental practices of US multinational corporations, and the policies of international institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. During the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in December 1999, Medea's organization, Global Exchange, helped fix world attention on the need to place labor and environmental concerns over corporate profits.

While critical of unfair global trade policies, Medea has promoted "fair trade" alternatives that are beneficial to both producer and consumer. She helped form a national network of retailer and wholesalers in support of fair trade and was instrumental in pressuring coffee retailers such as Starbucks to start carrying fair trade coffee.

Medea is a key figure in the anti-sweatshop movement, having spearheaded campaigns against the giant sports shoe company Nike and clothing companies such as the GAP. In 1999 Medea helped expose the problem of indentured servitude among garment workers in the US territory of Saipan (the Marianas Islands), which led to a billion-dollar lawsuit against 17 US retailers.

After several fact-finding visits to China, Medea co-sponsored with the International Labor Rights Fund an initiative to improve the labor and environmental practices of US multinationals in China. The ensuring Human Rights Principles for US Businesses in China have been endorsed by major companies such as Cisco, Intel, Reebok, Levi Strauss and Mattel.

In 1999, San Francisco Magazine named Medea to their "Power List" as one of the "60 Players Who Rule the Bay Area." She serves on the board or advisory council of numerous organizations, including the United National Development Program, the Interhemispheric Resource Center, the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness and Green Empowerment.

Medea helped build US support for the movement to oust General Suharto in Indonesia and for the right of self-determination for the people of East Timor. She supported the Peace Process between the Zapatista rebels and the Mexican government, fought to lift the embargoes against Cuba and Iraq, and was active in cutting US military aid to repressive regimes in Central America. She has been an election observer and led fact-finding delegations to dozens of countries.

She is author of eight books, including "Bridging the Global Gap, The Peace Corps and More," and the award-winning book "Don't Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart." She helped produce various TV documentaries such as the anti-sweatshop video Sweating for a T-Shirt.

Medea received a Masters degree in Public Health from Columbia University and a Masters degree in Economics from the New School for Social Research. She worked for ten years as an economist and nutritionist in Latin America and Africa for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the Swedish International Development Agency, and the Institute for Food and Development Policy.

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For photos and news articles covering Medea Benjamin and the delegations she

has led to Afghanistan see relevant postings at:

http://www.globalexchange.org/september11/update.html

 

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