Posts Tagged ‘human rights of women’

International Women’s Day 2020: Council of Europe on gender equality

March 9, 2020

Let us all rise to the challenge of making a world where gender equality is a reality

For International Women’s Day 2020, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović issued the following statement: [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/09/council-of-europes-dunja-mijatovic-presents-her-first-annual-report/]

“.. it is saddening to note that most of the challenges identified 25 years ago are still present in Europe today. In some areas progress has stalled due to persistent structural obstacles and an increasing backlash, combined with the lack of a sufficient and robust state response.

Violence against women as a serious human rights violation remains a bitter reality for too many women in all Council of Europe member states. Notwithstanding the recent movements against sexual violence, huge challenges still lie along the path towards obtaining justice for women victims who have the courage to speak out. They may even face disbelief and stigmatisation by the very people who should be providing them with assistance and protection. With the rising popularity of social media platforms, sexist hate speech has acquired a worrying dimension, providing a new breeding ground for violence against women. Furthermore, the backlash against women’s rights, upheld by ultra-conservative movements, is particularly disturbing as it endangers the progress towards gender equality that has been achieved so far. This has a particularly negative impact on girls’ and women’s autonomous and informed decision-making about their bodies, health and sexuality and hinders their access to affordable, safe and good-quality reproductive health services. We have to remain vigilant to prevent any such rolling back of women’s rights. Special attention should also be given to the protection and promotion of the rights of girls and women who may experience multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination, such as women living in poverty, rural women, migrant women, Roma women, women with disabilities and LBTI women.

This dark picture is, however, brightened by the image of thousands of women of all ages and backgrounds who, regardless of the attacks, the threats and the harassment they may face, stand up against violence and for the full realisation of gender equality. Vigilance against stagnation and retrogression in women’s rights is ensured by their mobilisation as they peacefully demonstrate throughout Europe. I firmly stand by them and salute their courage and determination. In this respect, I reiterate the essential role played in the upholding of women’s rights by women human rights defenders, who are often at the core of such mobilisation. Not only do they provide assistance and shelter to victims of gender-based violence and combat discrimination against women, they also constantly monitor the situation, while holding authorities accountable for fulfilling their human rights obligations.

However, the fight for the realisation of women’s rights also relies on each of us. I invite society as a whole, from youth to the elderly, women and men, all acting together, to speak up against violence and discrimination. We all have a key role to play as agents of change.

Whilst I perceive society’s mobilisation as vital, we should not forget that citizens’ initiatives cannot in themselves remedy the continuous lack of a strong and official response by state authorities to the challenges currently affecting the full enjoyment of women’s rights. Council of Europe member states have the primary obligation to effectively uphold women’s rights. Against this background, I urge member states to support this civic mobilisation by taking concrete action. To this end they should: firstly, ensure the ratification and full and effective implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention); secondly, promote gender equality and combat sexism in all spheres of life; and thirdly, provide an enabling environment for all women human rights defenders by removing all obstacles to their work. We should all strongly advocate for the full realisation of women’s rights and rise to the challenge of making a world where gender equality is a reality. Fighting for women’s rights is fighting for everybody’s human rights and benefits society as a whole.

https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/let-us-all-rise-to-the-challenge-of-making-a-world-where-gender-equality-is-a-reality

International Women’s Day 2020: Lutheran leaders on gender justice

March 9, 2020

Gender Justice is “a matter of life or death”, so both men and women must work together “to break the silence” about gender-based violence and commit to work toward gender justice. Rev Elitha Moyo, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe and Rev. Dr Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation. Photo: LWF/A. Danielsson

Lutheran leaders say churches must continue to raise awareness, promote action and demand accountability from all their members around the crucial issue of gender justice. Speaking at the conclusion of a visit to Zimbabwe, Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary, Rev. Dr Martin Junge and Rev. Elitha Moyo, Gender Justice coordinator for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (ELCZ) underlined the urgency of this work by recalling the recent murder of a women’s rights activist in Madagascar. The 63-year-old theologian, Ms Hélène Ralivao, was assaulted and killed after she left a church on 23 February.

Calling on all Christians to break the silence, Junge said: “I want to see, and hope and pledge from my end, a much stronger participation of men in the quest for gender justice. This is not a women’s issue, this is an issue of men and women working together so that relationships are just, and that both men and women can flourish in their full potential and dignity that God has given them.” Paying tribute to the murdered mother and grandmother, Moyo said: “We will continue with our struggle for [….] gender justice in the church and in the community.” She noted that her own church has been working hard with pastors, with village chiefs and with school children to break the silence around gender-based violence.

Supporting grass-roots movements, women’s human rights activists, and encouraging men to be more involved in gender equality work was also the focus of a meeting organized by the LWF in Geneva ahead of International Women’s Day. LWF staff and members of other organizations met at the Ecumenical Center for a discussion with a gender specialist from the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights. Highlighting ways of countering the current global pushback against women’s human rights, the discussion underscored the importance of education to challenge patriarchal attitudes and gender stereotypes which breed discrimination and violence.

A quarter of a century on from the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, it is vital to recreate the momentum of integrating a gender perspective into all aspects of legislation, policy and programs at national and international levels, remarked Rev. Judith Van Osdol, LWF Program Executive for Gender Justice and Women’s Empowerment.

We need to ask why there has not been another World Conference on Women for 25 years; to analyze and understand the global push-back on women’s human rights and gender justice will help us to formulate a strategy for moving forward” said the LWF Program Executive.This will empower us to raise awareness, call to action, and ensure accountability that will benefit and transform couples, family relationships, churches and society.

https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/mens-voices-vital-quest-gender-justice

 

International Women’s Day 2020: Joint Statement at 43rd session of UN Human Rights Council

March 9, 2020

Many organisations, especially NGOs, used the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020 to highlight work carried out by women human rights defenders. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/27/women-human-rights-defenders-in-focus-at-43rd-human-rights-council/. Here an example of how 18 NGOs came together for a Joint Statement during the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council

The speaker was: Paola Salwan Daher, Center for Reproductive Rights:

Women human rights defenders in focus at 43rd Human Rights Council

February 27, 2020

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bachelet, taking part in a panel discussion, held at the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday 25 February 2020, said that the Beijing Declaration should be celebrated but noted that the Plan of Action agreed at the event is still unfinished. According to Ms. Bachelet, the risks of setbacks to women’s rights are real, and growing. ….”Women’s rights are threatened and attacked” on many fronts, she warned, adding that there over this period there has been “a backlash and the resurgence of gender inequality narratives based on age-old discrimination”. Ms. Bachelet also welcomed the speech delivered to the Human Rights Council by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday. As part of his Call to Action for human rights [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/25/43rd-session-hrc-un-secretary-general-launches-call-to-action-on-human-rights/], He called on every country to “support policies and legislation that promote gender equality, to repeal discriminatory laws, to end violence against women and girls and to strive for equal representation and participation of women in all areas”.

Against this backdrop the NGO side eventWomen human rights defenders radically transforming a world in crisis” is most timely.

Wednesday 4 March 2020, 11:00 – 12:00, Room XXVII Palais des Nations, Geneva. This event is co-hosted by ISHR, Amnesty International, Global Fund for Women, Urgent Action Fund, Mesoamerican Initiative of women human rights defenders, and Just Associates (JASS).

Panellists:

  • Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders
  • Nazik Awad, Sudan
  • Aurelia Martin Arzu Rochez, Honduras
  • Luz Mary Rosero Garces, Colombia
  • Fatima Bentaleb, France
  • Hasmida Karim, Indonesia

Moderator:

  • Zephanie Repollo, Just Associates (JASS)

Arpilleras making a come back as’ blankets that protect’

February 22, 2020

The success of ‘Art For Resistance: Quilts Of Women Human Rights Defenders’ was a wake up call to do everything in our power to protect the human rights of women. (Photos courtesy of Protection International)

Under the title “The blanket that protects Yvonne Bohwongprasert in the Bangkok Post of 19 February 2020 writes about these quilts as an art form to address human rights and encourage society to stand up and collectively fight for a social cause that impacts people from all walks of life.

Art For Resistance: Quilts Of Women Human Rights Defenders” was one such event with a powerful social message: “Have I done anything today to protect the rights of women?” The social-awareness event, which was launched in 2018, had a record 54 participants — two of whom happened to be men — sharing their personal stories of fighting for human rights in various sectors of society on colourful quilts they stitched together on their own. Besides the exhibition, there was a panel discussion on the situation of women human-rights defenders in a pseudo-democratic Thailand.

The idea of quilts to raise awareness on the issue came from the colourful quilt squares Chilean women used to tell their stories of life under the Pinochet dictatorship, which routinely violated human rights. Despite the lives of these women having been darkened by poverty and oppression, their vibrant and visually captivating denouncements were a strong tool of resistance. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arpilleras/

Protection International (PI) Thailand and the Canadian embassy in Thailand, played a vital role in staging this year’s event. PI representative Pranom Somwong said: “Each quilt tells a story of injustice and the fire in each woman to overcome her struggles by acquiring a relentless spirit to seek justice for their families and communities“.

 

A quilt inspired by Buku FC, a Deep South female football club made largely of Muslim women and a few men and LGBT individuals. Rumman Waeteh, left, and Suhaida Kutha, right, created the work. YVONNE BOHWONGPRASERT

Rural women in South Africa win landmark case in court

January 30, 2020

Kim Harrisberg for the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported on 29 January 2020 that an elderly black women in South Africa won property rights in a landmark ruling. Two weeks ago I wrote about Sizani Ngubane and her struggle for land rights for women [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/07/more-about-mea-finalist-sizani-ngubane-from-south-africa/] and this is a similar case:

Facing destitution when her marriage broke down, 72-year-old Agnes Sithole went to court – with the help of the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) – to challenge a sexist law – and won not only a share of her husband’s property but a legal victory that will protect some 400,000 other black South African women. Under South African law, married couples own all their assets jointly and both must consent to major transactions.

But for black women married prior to 1988, the husband owned all matrimonial assets and could sell them without consulting his wife – until Sithole’s landmark High Court win this month which overturned the discriminatory law. “This is a major judgment for South African women,” said Aninka Claassens, a land rights expert at the University of Cape Town, responding to the ruling against sections of the Matrimonial Property Act of 1984 and amendments made in 1988. “If you haven’t got property rights as a woman, you are more vulnerable to stay in an abusive marriage. This case changes these rights,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Traditionally, women are regarded as inferior to men in Sithole’s KwaZulu-Natal province, said women’s land rights activist Sizani Ngubane, who has campaigned against evictions and abuse of women in rural areas for more than 40 years. Male-dominated tribal authorities hold great sway over rural communities, with the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini controlling 2.8 million hectares of land, an area the size of Belgium, under an entity called the Ingonyama Trust. Ngubane, nominated as one of three finalists in the 2020 Martin Ennals Award, said this month’s Durban court ruling was significant.

This will make a difference in terms of women’s land and property inheritance,” said Ngubane [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/26/breaking-news-mea-has-3-women-hrds-as-finalists-for-2020/]. Ngubane has gone to court to challenge the Ingonyama Trust, which she said only leases land under its control to men, with widows being evicted from their homes when their husbands die. Despite the legal victory, women’s rights experts were wary of celebrating too soon…….For Ngubane, such grassroots work is critical in improving the lives of rural South African women. “We know the courts can protect women,” she said. “The biggest challenge for us is changing attitudes of men on the ground who believe that women are children. We are so much more than that.”

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-safrica-land-women-trfn/elderly-black-women-in-south-africa-win-property-rights-in-landmark-ruling-idUSKBN1ZS1FV

Manusher Jonno Foundation honours 10 unsung rights defenders in Bangladesh

January 19, 2020

The Bangladesh Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) honoured 10 individuals who worked silently for protecting human rights, such as preventing child marriage and violence against women and marginalised communities, at different parts of the country. The organisation handed over the awards titled “Manusher Jonno Human Rights Awards 2020” at a ceremony in Dhaka.

The awardees are: Beli Begum of Gaibandha; Rehana Begum and Maloti Rani of Dinajpur; Saleha Begum, Halima Khatun and Nurjahan Begum of Kushtia; Khairuzzaman Monnu of Sirajganj; Anowara Begum of Kishoreganj; Hedayetul Aziz of Brahmanbaria and Chanchal Kanti Chakma of Khagrachhari. Rights activists urged the government to give more emphasis on protecting rights and ensuring justice for poor and marginalised communities. They also demanded more budget allocation in this sector, according to a press release.

About the awardees, MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam said these 10 individuals stood up for what is right. “They are working selflessly without any concern for recognition or rewards to build a just and humane society,” she and announced tshe will continue efforts to honour such unsung heroes. [for a previous event: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/28/young-human-rights-defenders-honored-by-awards-in-bangladesh/]

Judith Herbertson, country representative of DFID Bangladesh, said the struggle to protect, promote and strengthen human rights is real and constant. “Where human rights are not adequately protected, there follows a cycle of insecurity, instability, suffering, and poverty. Human rights are more than just principles enshrined in international law. They are the bedrock of successful and progressive societies,” she said.

After the award-giving ceremony,  several discussions on various topics — including global context of human rights and inclusion of marginalised people in national politics — were held. Distinguished personalities, researchers, NGO officials, politicians and several hundred rights activists from across the country took part in the discussions, added the press release.

https://www.thedailystar.net/city/news/mjf-honours-10-unsung-rights-defenders-1854313

4th Annual Global Women’s March is on 18 January 2020

January 1, 2020

2020 women's march BELatina

On January 21st of 2017, millions of women and allies around the world took to the streets to make themselves seen and heard, demonstrating to advance women’s human rights. Now, nearly three years later, the Women’s March movement has announced that on 18 January, 2020, feminists and women’s human rights defenders will march yet again in the 4th Annual Global Women’s March.

Common Dreams also reported that women and men alike marched in France, Spain, Uganda, and other countries in November 2019 to demand that their elected officials work to end violence against women. In Spain, tens of thousands of people marched to recognize the day. But as the New York Times reported, the country’s far-right Vox Party—which, though still a minority party, doubled its representation in Parliament in recent elections—used the opportunity to affirm its opposition to a law aimed at protecting women from gender-based violence. Women gathered at City Hall in Madrid shouted, “This is shameful!” as Vox secretary-general Javier Ortega Smith spoke out against the law and called for national attention to men who are killed by their partners.

Women during a protest on the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Nantes, France, on November 25, 2019. (Photo: Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Women during a protest on the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Nantes, France, on November 25, 2019. (Photo: Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

As part of the global effort, the International Labor Organization (ILO) called for ratification of its new Convention, adopted in June, to recognize the right of all people to be free from harassment and violence in their workplaces. “This commitment now needs to be turned into concrete, practical action,” the ILO wrote. “Violence and harassment in the world of work has enormous human, social and economic costs. Violence and harassment constitutes one of the greatest threats to decent work. No more excuses. Let’s work together and make the promise of Convention No. 190 a reality for all.”

It’s Official! The 4th Annual Global Women’s March is in January of 2020

Annual reports 2019: the women in the Arab world

December 30, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

And another end of year reflection, this one by the Collective for Research and Training on Development Action (CRTDA).

This is a Lebanon-based non-governmental organization started in July 1999. CRTDA works with partner civil society organizations in Lebanon and across the Arab World primarily in Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria.

..For the Lebanese, everything that has happened this year has been overshadowed by the last
two months. These months have represented unprecedented empowerment, as we have seen a
mass uprising that cuts across sectarian lines aimed at ousting the political elite that have
propagated corruption, division, and inequality for many years. The unity felt in the streets has
been led by women, who have constantly showcased their bravery and leadership capacity
throughout this uprising.
Of course, this popular movement has also led to fresh challenges as the economic crisis
engendered by decades of mismanagement causes unemployment to spike, increasing poverty
among the most vulnerable populations and causing tension and polarization between
communities. In this context, of opportunity for women’s empowerment and challenge to peace
and stability between Lebanon’s communities, the work of CRTD.A both comes to fruition and
becomes increasingly important. At this cross-roads for Lebanon, we share with you some of
our highlights from the past year, and some of our hopes for the future.
This year, we saw women standing up to oppression and demanding change all over the
world. In Lebanon, women were at the forefront of the revolution: organizing, protesting, and
showing their bravery. They formed barriers with their bodies to keep the peace, and the icon of
the Lebanese protests was a woman, whose kick to a security officer became the symbolic image
of the revolution. Women’s rights, such as the right of women to pass on their nationality, have
taken a huge place in the protests, as women say enough is enough. What we have seen in
Lebanon has also been true for many countries across the world. In Sudan and Hong Kong,
women have become the icons of revolution, displaying their power to lead and to fight.
Women’s marches have also played a huge role in Chile’s demands for an end to a corrupt
system.
We have also seen women taking control of the narrative of environmental degradation, with
young icons such as Greta Thunberg showing that neither youth nor gender can get in the way
of determination and a powerful message. It is key for both our future and for empowerment
for women and girls to take initiative and make their voices heard to force the global elite to
face up to the biggest threat to our planet and our species. Women across the world have been
taking this initiative, from the Pacific Islands to the Amazon Rainforest.

For more information about their work, please check out the annual report via: https://bit.ly/378pQIY

THE THREE WOMEN: audio from AfricanDefenders

December 1, 2019

AfricanDefenders & DefendDefenders launched on 29 November 2019 their audio campaign about African women human rights defenders and courage, simply called THE THREE WOMEN”. The story by Gentrix Barasa and beautiful Illustrations by Primordial M. Here is the first episode (https://twitter.com/hashtag/IAmTheThreeWomen) in the context of the 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Based Violence:

THE STORY OF MARTHA. A woman could be heard screaming from a distance in the town square. The distinct sound of a whip hitting her body could be heard reverberating throughout the town. A small crowd of onlookers were gathering around quietly, curious to see what was going on and to find out why this woman was being beaten. Nuru was rushing home so she could prepare lunch when she spotted the crowd of onlookers. Despite being aware that she would get in trouble with her father if she was late, she was drawn towards the woman.

“What is going on?” she asked the man standing beside her.

“Oh, Martha started with her nonsense again. They should beat that devil out of her.”

The men in the town, especially the elders, did not appreciate when women challenged societal norms. In their mind, Martha was turning their wives and daughters against them with all this talk of women’s rights and liberation. They had complained to the mayor of the town, Mr. Tapiwa, when they caught wind of the women’s march that Martha was organising.

“This one is from Tapiwa,” one of the policemen said before hitting Martha.

“I heard she is secretly a man,” Nuru heard a woman whisper, “why else would she behave like this? This is not how women are supposed to behave.”

“I heard she is just trying to break our marriages, so we are miserable and alone like her,” another whispered.

“She is a witch. She does not even have children and she is trying to tell us how to bring up our daughters.”

“I heard she is a prostitute. She is just trying to corrupt us,” the whispers continued.

“I feel bad for her, but she should know that activism is not the work of a woman,” a man chimed in.

The police eventually stopped harassing and beating Martha, before taking off. The crowd slowly dispersed, without offering her any help. Eventually, Nuru was the only one left.

She looked around nervously as if trying to make sure no one was looking. As much as she felt sorry for her, she was scared to go against the people of the town. She did not want to be an outcast like Martha. When she was sure no one was looking, she reached out for Martha’s hand helping her to her feet.

“Why did they do this to you?” Nuru asked, while watching the older woman wince in pain as she started walking.

“I was fighting for your rights.”

“What do you mean my rights?”

Martha gestured at a nearby bench for them to sit on.

“Don’t you want to live in a world where you have choices?” Martha asked.

“I do have choices. I make choices every day,” Nuru said defensively.

Martha looked at Nuru, slightly raising an eyebrow. “Did you know you could own property, get an education, be equal to your father and brothers?” Martha continued.

Nuru stared into the distance with a look of longing. She had always wanted more for herself, but she had come to accept her life. Also, she was too scared to go against her father. “My father would never allow it, “she finally said.

Martha reached into her bag and retrieved a card. “This organisation can help you to learn more about your rights and can find you a good school. It is not his place to allow it. It is your right.”

Nuru hesitantly took the card and quickly pocketed it, afraid someone would see.

“I heard you are organising a march tomorrow.”

Martha nodded and handed her a flier with all the information about the march. “You don’t have to come to this if you don’t want to, but at least think about what I told you.”

Nuru nodded while gathering her things. She was still not quite sure if she would dare to go against her father, after all, who would take care of the house? “You are really nice,” Nuru said. She felt like Martha needed to hear some kind words. Then, Nuru took off.

Despite a restless night and the pain from the beating, Martha got up early the next morning to get ready for the march. The beating was the worst she had gotten since she started being outspoken about women’s rights. She had received calls and text messages all morning from people backing out of her march. It had worked – the beating had served as a warning to anyone planning to participate. Martha felt ashamed to admit it to herself, but they were really close to breaking her. She had tried so hard to not let them win, but that beating might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

She held out hope that at least one other person would show up, but she had been standing there for an hour. At that point, it was apparent that the march was a complete failure. In that moment, it was hard to remember why she was fighting so hard for this. As she sat down on the side of the road, with the sign Don’t tell me how to dress – tell them not to rape, next to her, a single teardrop ran down her face. With a sigh she reached out for the sign, resigning to go home. Instead of feeling the wooden base of the sign, she felt a hand touching hers. She looked up in panic, expecting to see the policemen from the previous day. Instead, it was Nuru.

“What are you doing here?” Martha asked in a confused tone, quickly drying her tears.

“We want to fight for our rights.”

“We?” asked Martha, even more confused. She then saw a group of women behind Nuru.

“We came to stand with you and all the women and girls in town,” Nuru said.

Martha smiled. She stood up grabbing the rest of the signs and handing them out to the group. They started chanting the slogans on the signs, marching towards Mr. Tapiwa’s office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE THREE WOMEN