Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Numbers of Women in Government Declining

By Brigitte Weidlich
Namibia Finance Minister, Saara Kuugong
Credit: Brigitte Weidlich/IPS / Credit:Brigitte Weidlich

Namibia Finance Minister, Saara Kuugong Credit: Brigitte Weidlich/IPS
Credit:Brigitte Weidlich


Twenty years after independence, representation of women in senior government structures and in Parliament is declining in Namibia. According to the latest demographic survey results of August 2010, out of a population of around 2 million, women outnumber men 10:9. In 2001, the ratio was 94 males per 100 females.

In 2010 Namibia reformed its national gender policy in line with the United Nation’s millennium development goals (MDGs) and its own Vision 2030, a national development policy dissected into five-yearly development plans. It includes the increase of women in decision-making positions in government, the private sector, religious groups and community institutions.

However, following the 2009 November national elections women's representation in Parliament declined from 30.8 per cent to 20 per cent. Only 16 women are now Members in the National Assembly, which has 72 elected seats.

Fifteen of the women in Parliament are from the ruling South West Africa Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) party, among them five Cabinet ministers and four deputies. Only two women MPs are from opposition parties. The Deputy Speaker is a woman. Cabinet representation of women stands at 22.7 percent.

Namibia ratified the 2008 Protocol on Gender and Development of the 15- member regional blocking 2009, but only six other states followed suit.

While SADC already targeted 30 percent women in decision-making positions by 2005, the 2008 Protocol strives to achieve 50 percent of women in such positions in the public and private sector by 2015.

This target is in line with that of the African (AU) Union. At the current slow pace of gender transformation in the political arena, SADC might not reach this goal in five years.

The Protocol is only enforced once two-thirds of all the applicable countries ratify it. Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have deposited the instruments of ratification with the SADC Secretariat, while DRC and South Africa have almost completed the process.

At the annual SADC summit in the Namibian capital of Windhoek in August 2010, the communiqué issued afterwards said heads of states noted on the Gender Protocol "that the overall situation is generally varied with some member states recording improvement while others are regressing. The Summit urges member states to ratify and implement the Protocol."

Jo-Ann Coetzee, Gender Project Assistant at Women's Leadership Centre, wants more to be done. "I think here in Namibia women are still not given the value that they deserve. We are still overlooked and seen as unimportant," she says.

Namibia’s Gender Equality and Child Welfare Minister, Doreen Sioka, wants a speedy implementation of the Gender Protocol. "Our country started off well, but its women’s representation in parliament has gone down to 20 per cent. I am optimistic we can still reach the 50 per cent women’s representation goal in parliament and other public institutions come 2015" – which is when the next national elections in Namibia take place.

The ruling party’s Women’s Council has already demanded a 50:50 representation in the party’s hierarchy like the Politburo and its central committee come 2012 - the next Swapo congress.

Even Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba was disappointed with the under-representation of women on his Swapo party list for the November 2010 regional and local authority elections.

Veronica de Klerk, Executive Director of the local Women’s Action for Development (WAD) organisation sees the decline in women’s representation as stemming from political parties low listing of women candidates. "It should be made compulsory for all parties to introduce an alternate listing system of women on party lists with men, meaning a 50:50 share or zebra listing" says De Klerk.

In the Namibian Cabinet the ministers for justice, finance, gender equality/child welfare, home affairs and environment/tourism are women and four women are deputy ministers in the health, defence, gender equality and regional development portfolios.

But have they made their mark? Finance Mister Saara Kuugongelwa Amadhila- Kuugongelwa, who was appointed in 2003, reduced national debt and the budget deficit considerably during her term in office. The tax regime was also revised and the Financial Intelligence Act was drafted and promulgated to curb money laundering and fraud.

Dianne Hubbard of the Legal Assistance Centre's Gender Research & Advocacy Project in Namibia thinks major laws have been passed since independence twenty years ago.

The Local Authorities Act of 1992 requires that over 30 per cent of candidates on every party list for local elections must be women. "This law has worked very well with over 42 per cent of local council members being women," says Hubbard. Regional Councils, where there is no legal requirement for affirmative action, consist of only about 11 percent of women.

The Traditional Authorities Act of 1995 also requires traditional authorities to promote women to positions of leadership, Hubbard points out.

The Combating of Domestic Violence Act of 2003 was the result of strong advocacy by women’s groups. Some 250 people demanded a law on this issue at the opening of Parliament in 2003. "To help put these laws into action, Namibia has created 16 Women and Child Protection Units, covering every region in Namibia," she notes.

Before Independence, married women in Namibia were not allowed to buy or sell their own property, register land in their own names, take out a loan or be a director of a company or a trustee without the consent of their husbands.

The Married Persons Equality Act changed this in 1996 and wives now have the same rights as their husbands. 

source: ipsnews

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Getting Away Legally With Assaulting Women

By Rebecca Murray
On a Damascus street. / Credit:Rebecca Murray
On a Damascus street.
Credit:Rebecca Murray

Iman Wannouss was just 21 years old when she was married off to a close relative. For the next two decades she gave up her work and raised three children in a loveless and violent marriage.

"He beat me for no reason, just when he got stressed, and sometimes in front of the children," she says. Even when she landed in a hospital emergency room after he cut her face with a vase, she refused to tell the doctor what happened.

"It would make things much worse - they would take him to prison and then he would make more trouble. I was frightened of my husband. Also, it’s a kind of shame."

Wannouss finally filed for divorce in a Muslim court upon the urging of her children, but according to the law she had to relinquish all her rights and belongings. "Syrian society looks at divorce in a very negative way," she says. "Women get blamed all the time."

Her story is devastatingly common among women in Syria, governed by discriminatory laws and rules fundamental to family honour.

In 2002 Syria signed the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) with reservations.

These reservations include the Personal Status Law that administers family matters. First established in 1953 and rooted in Islamic law (Shari’a), the Personal Status Law encompasses issues from birth to death, and allows Muslim, Druze and Christian sects space to implement their own religious regulations for marriage, divorce and custody.

The rules vary according to religion; some enable 13-year-old girls to marry and men to take up to four wives, with the ability to divorce easily. For certain wives divorce is impossible, while for the majority divorce is exceedingly difficult and looked down upon. Inheritance and child custody matters favour men across sectarian lines.

"While women’s active participation in political decision-making positions in public life is being promoted, and equal access to education and health have greatly improved, the Personal Status Laws and the Penal Code prevent women from enjoying equal rights to men," the Euromed Gender Equality Programme reported from Syria this year.

Women’s rights organizations, activists and the governmental Syria Commission for Family Affairs successfully blocked a more conservative draft of the Personal Status Law in 2009. But the current law remains, and while the state is harsh on trafficking and prostitution, articles in the penal code assure near impunity for those who commit violence against women.

For instance, while rape or sexual assault on a victim under 12 can carry a conviction up to 21 years, if a man rapes an adult woman he can be absolved of the crime if the woman, often feeling shamed or pressured, agrees to marry him.

"Men can be exempted from punishment if they kill or hurt their spouse, sister, or any of their female ascendants, whom they unexpectedly discover committing adultery or out-of-wed sexual relations with another person, as well as in a doubtful situation with another person," says the Euromed report. "This provision leaves room for interpretation and is at the onset of widespread abuse."

In July 2009, days before the conservative revised draft of the Personal Status Law was shelved, President Bashar al-Assad increased the sentence for honour crimes under Article 548 to two years. However, activists say this does not go far enough, and recommend the abolition of related articles that can lessen or waive convictions.

Yahya Al-Aous is the editor of Al-Thara e-magazine, published by progressive printing house Etana Press. He says tracing honour killings is difficult because many of these are not registered as honour crimes, or made public. Al-Aous says he has monitored 52 so far, but they could run into the hundreds annually.

Al-Thara is run out of a basement in a crowded Damascus suburb and fills a critical gap offering a network of contacts for often desperate women seeking expert legal, religious and social counseling, or protection in shelters.

"Women are writing us emails telling their stories and asking us for help," Al- Aous tells IPS. "For example, I have a problem with my husband, I have a problem with the court, I can’t get a divorce, I have a problem with my father…"

Al Aous says Al-Thara needs to focus on a variety of fronts: "There is no law for domestic violence, nothing. Honour crimes carry a light sentence. The marriage age for girls needs to be raised. Women need to get equal inheritance… all these issues are intertwined."

"We are working step by step," says Sawsan Zakzak from the Syrian Women League, who along with activists and NGOs plays a crucial role lobbying the government to revise gender laws. "We are asking to have civil law for all Syrians. People could have the choice between religious law and civil law, but the official law should be civil."


Under the 1997 Constitution, women in the Gambia are accorded equal rights with men. Yet they continue to experience discrimination and inequality, largely because the patriarchal nature of Gambian society reinforces traditional roles of women. In addition, the country has a dual legal system that combines civil law (inspired by the British system) and Islamic Sharia. Provisions in Sharia are generally viewed to be discriminatory towards women, particularly in relation to marriage, divorce and inheritance.
Family Code: 
Women in the Gambia face many discriminations and inequalities in regard to family matters. The laws recognise four forms of marriage: Christian, civil, customary and Mohommedan (which are governed by Sharia). The 1997 Constitution states that all marriages shall be based on the free and full consent of the intended parties, except under customary law which still supports the tradition of child betrothal. More than 90 per cent of Gambian women are governed by customary and Sharia law vis-à-vis their family relationships. The Gambia has no minimum legal age for marriage and the incidence of early marriage is high: a 2004 United Nations report estimated that 39 per cent of girls in the Gambia between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed. Child marriage is not prohibited by law, and some girls are married off as young as the age of 12 years.
Polygamy is permissible under Sharia and is practised; Muslim men may take up to four wives. Wives whose husbands enter a second or subsequent marriage have the option to divorce, but they have no legal right to receive advance notice regarding the husband’s intentions or to give their approval.
Women also face discrimination in regard to parental authority. Sharia considers husbands to be the natural head of the family; as such, they have sole responsibility for matters concerning the raising of children.
Women’s rights with regard to inheritance depend on the law applied. Sharia provides for detailed and complex calculations of inheritance shares, whereby women may inherit from their father, mother, husband or children and, under certain conditions, from other family members. However, their shares are generally only half of that to which men are entitled. Christian women and female children can receive properties under the wills of their husbands or fathers, but may also find themselves disadvantaged. Their law of inheritance permits husbands, if they so choose, to will away all property and leave nothing for their wives and children. Gambian law offers no protection to women in such cases. Under customary law, wives are not entitled to the property of their husband unless – and until – they agree to let themselves be inherited by the husband’s family. In effect, such women are treated as a form of property to be inherited along with the rest of their husbands’ assets.

Physical Integrity: 
Protection for the physical integrity of Gambian women is weak. Violence against women, including domestic violence and abuse is rarely reported, but its occurrence is believed to be quite common. Even though wife-beating is a criminal offence (and constitutes grounds for divorce under civil law), the police typically consider such incidents to be domestic issues that lie beyond their jurisdiction. The Gambia does have laws prohibiting rape and assault, which are generally enforced. Spousal rape, however, is not specifically recognised.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is widespread, especially in the Gambian countryside. The practice of FGM is illegal under the Penal Code but, to date, there have been no prosecutions for violations. Previous data from the Demographic and Health Surveys indicated that virtually all Gambian women had undergone FGM. A more recent estimate from the CPTAFE (Cellule de coordination sur les pratiques traditionnelles affectant la femme et l’enfant), a local NGO dedicated to eradicating FGM and ritual scarring, suggests the figure to be 65 per cent to 75 per cent. The lower figure, if accurate, would represent a decline over recent years, largely due to efforts by women’s rights groups to raise awareness about the health risks associated with the practice.
The population sex ratio in the Gambia has been stable for the past 50 years, suggesting it is not a country of concern in relation to missing women.

Ownership Rights: 
Women in the Gambia have very few ownership rights. Concerning access to land, only a small proportion of women have titles to land property. The problem is especially acute in rural areas: traditional and cultural practices allow women to have the right to usufruct over land but forbid them from owning it. All women, whether married or single, have access to property other than land.
The law does not discriminate against women in the area of access to bank loans or credit facilities, but women in the Gambia face several obstacles in this area. For example, most financial institutions will not grant credit facilities unless the applicant has adequate security or collateral: in most cases, they will insist on property in the form of land. Since access to land is problematic for Gambian women, so is access to credit. Because of tradition and cultural practices, rural women are, strictly speaking, thereby effectively denied access to loans and credit.

Civil Liberties: 
Women in the Gambia have civil liberty. There are no restrictions on women’s freedom of movement or freedom of dress.
Afrol News (n.d.), Gender Profile: Gambia, www.afrol.com/Categories/Women/profiles/gambia_women.htm, accessed: May 2008.
CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) (2003), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Gambia, Combined First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/GMB/1-3, CEDAW, New York, NY.
CEDAW (2004a), Summary Record of the 645th Meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.645, CEDAW, New York, NY.
CEDAW (2004b), Summary Record of the 646th Meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.646, CEDAW, New York, NY.
ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council) (2003), Integration of the Human Rights of Wo¬men and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women, E/CN.4/2003/75/Add.1, UN, New York, NY.
Morison, L., C. Scherf, G. Ekpo, K. Paine, B. West, R. Coleman, G. Walraven (2001), “The Long-term Reproductive Health Consequences of Female Genital Cutting in Rural Gambia: A Community Based Survey”, Tropical Medicine and International Health, Vol. 6 No. 8, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 643-53.
UN (United Nations) (2004), World Fertility Report 2003, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY.
US Department of State (2007a), Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Gambia, The, US Depart¬ment of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC.
US Department of State (2007b), International Religious Freedom Report: Gambia, The, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC.

Saving Rural Mothers’ Lives

By Omer Redi
Five years ago, Nigist Abebe had difficulities winning the trust of mothers in her door-to-door services / Credit:Omer Redi Ahmed
Five years ago, Nigist Abebe had difficulities winning the trust of mothers in her door-to-door services
Credit:Omer Redi Ahmed

Nigist Abebe has grown in confidence over five years on the job. Today she is one of 34,000 rural health extension workers at the heart of Ethiopia's primary health care strategy.

One of her most important functions in Dengo Furda Kebele, the village she was born and raised in, is supporting women through pregnancy and childbirth.

"I counsel mothers in the village about maternal and child health, administer proper medication, prepare pregnant women for delivery. In general, I encourage them to get free medical services that would save their lives," she told IPS.

When Nigist started the job, she says, Dengo Furda was lost half a dozen mothers in childbirth each year, roughly in line with the national average. She says there has been a clear improvement.

"Last year, we recorded just two deaths," she said.

An estimated 94 percent of Ethiopian mothers give birth at home and in 2005, when the Health Extension program started, 720 mothers died per 100,000 live births.

Nigist, now 23, applied for the one-year training to become a health worker six years ago, immediately after she completed grade 10. Her friends advised her that it could be a good job opportunity.

She attended a technical and vocational training institute, where she studied 16 areas covering malaria, HIV, and maternal and child health.

She graduated in 2005 and became one of three new extension workers serving the thousand households of Dengo Furda.

In 2009, she was recruited for an additional month-long training on pre and post-natal care and safe delivery by the district health department.

Now she sees every pregnant woman in the village - volunteers alert her to every pregnancy in the kebele, so if they don't come to her, she goes to see them.

Before her training last year, she says she helped mothers during labour without proper knowledge of safety, appropriate medication and the warning signs of potential complications.

"We didn’t know the procedures. I now feel confident with the service I provide to these mothers and know when it is beyond my capacity," she said.

For example, she administers misoprostol tablets to control life-threatening bleeding after childbirth, which accounts for 22 percent of maternal deaths in Ethiopia.

Nigist readily identifies women who are at greater risk of bleeding: under-18 pregnant mothers and women who have had many children close together are the chief ones, she said.

When she comes across a mother with early indications of more serious complications, Nigist refers them to a better-equipped health centre ten kilometres away, where trained obstetricians who can help a woman deliver safely.

Nigist and her counterparts at other health posts evaluate every pregnant woman and decide if she should go to a health centre to labour if there are signs of complications. After childbirth, the extension workers visit mother and child at home, ensuring that a vaccination schedule is followed and monitoring children's nutrition.

Though statistics on maternal deaths are not available in East Shoa Zone where Nigist works, the scheme is believed to have reduced the maternal mortality rate.

"I can’t exactly state the rate of reduction, but I can tell you for sure maternal death has gone down," Diriba Degefa, head of health department at the zonal level, said.

The East Shoa Zone, with a population of 1.3 million people, has increased the number of health centres – like the ones Nigist refers risk-cases to – in its 13 districts from 12 to 52 in five years. The completion of four more, already under construction, will enable it to meet the government’s target of one health centre for every 25,000 people by June 2011. About 299 health posts with two health extension workers each have been set up throughout the zone. Each health post is responsible for every 5000 people (mostly a kebele population) and every five health posts are linked to health centre for referral as well administrative supervision.

When the health extension workers were first deployed, villagers in Dengo Furda and the wider Boset district didn't believe they had the necessary skills or knowledge to improve maternal health. The experience of the past five years has changed that.

Nigist seems to like what she does; her main desire is to improve her knowledge and skills.

"Though it is difficult here, I will still continue to work. But I would really be happy if we get further education and training," she said. "Saving the lives of mothers and children is really fulfilling."

And Justice for Few

By William Fisher

Poor defendants on death row, immigrants in unfair deportation proceedings, torture victims, domestic violence survivors and victims of racial discrimination - all these groups are consistently being denied access to justice while those responsible for the abuses are protected, according to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU Human Rights Programme, told IPS, "Access to justice is a fundamental human right and bedrock tenet of American democratic system - it was even codified by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the U.S. championed 62 years ago."

"Unfortunately, access to the courts and effective remedy have been severely curtailed over the last decade, especially for those who need it most," he said. "It is time for our government and judiciary to recommit to respecting and promoting this essential right."

According to the report, "Slamming the Courthouse Doors", the "actions of the executive, federal legislative, and judicial branches of the United States government have seriously restricted access to justice for victims of civil liberties and human rights violations, and have limited the availability of effective (or, in some cases, any) remedies for these violations."

For example, the report details how individuals convicted of capital crimes who seek to present newly found evidence of their innocence or claims of serious constitutional violations are being denied recourse in the courts.

Federal legislation, most prominently the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), and Supreme Court decisions, has greatly limited access to federal review of state court death penalty convictions, the report says. It also charges that victims of rape, assault, religious rights violations and other serious abuses in prison are having their claims thrown out of court because of a restrictive federal law.

Immigrants who may have legitimate claims to remain in the U.S. are unknowingly waiving their opportunity to pursue these claims and are being swiftly deported because of unfair procedures, the report charges.

It also notes that victims of domestic violence are being denied the opportunity to seek civil remedy under the Violence Against Women Act because of recent court decisions.

Similarly, victims of torture and "extraordinary rendition" have been denied their day in court.

The administration of President Barack Obama has sought to extinguish lawsuits brought by torture survivors through use of "judicially-created doctrines such as the so-called 'state secrets' privilege and qualified immunity to dismiss civil suits alleging torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, forced disappearance, and arbitrary detention, without consideration on the merits," the report says.

It charges that by invoking the "state secrets" privilege, the Obama administration can not only restrict discovery but can quash an entire lawsuit - without demonstrating the validity of their claim to a judge. Immigrants also are systematically denied access to justice, as they face monumental obstacles to obtaining review of removal orders.

The U.S. government has claimed that there is no right to judicial review of diplomatic assurances when it has sought to transfer individuals to countries known to employ torture.

Federal immigration officials also have used a procedure known as stipulated removal to deport non-U.S. citizens without a hearing before an immigration judge. "There is a lack of meaningful safeguards to ensure people with mental disabilities facing possible deportation from the United States are afforded fair hearings. As a result, legal permanent residents and asylum seekers with a lawful basis for remaining in the United States may have been unfairly deported from the country because their mental disabilities made it impossible for them to effectively present their claims in court," the report says. The ACLU's recommends that Congress amend the habeas-related provisions of AEDPA so that federal courts are more accessible to prisoners asserting claims of constitutional violations. It also urges the creation of and adequate funding for state defender organisations that are independent of the judiciary and that have sufficient resources to provide quality representation to indigent capital defendants.

Congress should pass legislation that creates procedures to prevent the abuse of the state secrets privilege, and the Obama administration should prohibit the reliance on "diplomatic assurances" to deport or otherwise transfer persons from the United States.

The ACLU also urged Congress to enact the End Racial Profiling Act, which would ban racial profiling and provide for government monitoring and documentation of racial profiling.

Frances Boyle, a legal expert familiar with the report, told IPS, "Because of the deliberate U.S. federal court-packing scheme undertaken by the [Ronald] Reagan, [George] Bush Sr. and [George] Bush Jr. administrations, today about 60 percent of U.S. federal judges at all levels - up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court - have been members of the Federalist Society, and/or were vetted by the Federalist Society."

Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois, described this organisation as "right wing, racist, bigoted, reactionary, elitist, sexist, warmongering and totalitarian".

For example, he said, almost all of the lawyers involved in the Bush Jr. administration's torture scandal were and still are members of the Federalist Society. 

SOURCE: ipsnews

Rural Women, Success Stories and Exploitation

By Milagros Salazar
Peruvian peasant women working in the potato fields. 
 / Credit:Milagros  Salazar/IPS
Peruvian peasant women working in the potato fields.
Credit:Milagros Salazar/IPS

The traditional image of rural women in Latin America is shifting, from one of subsistence farmers raising their families to that of women playing a growing role in small- and large-scale commercial and productive activities. But behind that change lie both success stories and exploitation.

Gladis Vila, a Quechua farmer from a village in mountainous Huancavelica, Peru’s poorest region, is one of the women behind a movement that has driven the emergence of ecological farmers markets in 22 of the country’s 25 regions, which offer tangible proof that it is possible to produce food without destroying the environment.

"Indigenous women farmers are preservers of biodiversity; we do business respecting nature," Vila, who is the head of the National Organisation of Indigenous Andean and Amazonian Women of Peru (ONAMIAAP), told IPS.

Women produce between 60 and 80 percent of the food in most developing countries, with the proportion rising in relation to a country’s poverty level, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Rural activists, researchers and representatives of development organisations from different Latin American countries met early this month in Lima, in the seminar "Mujer rural: cambios y persistencias", in which they discussed the problems and needs of rural women in the broad range of situations they face in the region.

One of the participants, anthropologist Kirai de León, shared the success story of a group of women who grow aromatic and medicinal herbs in Uruguay.

The Calmañana Cooperative, currently made up of 17 women farmers, has been working for 25 years in the southern province of Canelones.

The members of the cooperative not only supply local supermarkets, but export their products to Europe and form part of the national certification board for organic products.

"They are highly respected" by people and businesses selling herbs and spices, and "have made quite a name for themselves," de León, who has supported the cooperative from the start, told IPS.

She explained that one of the medicinal herbs in greatest international demand is "marcela" (anchyrocline satureioides), which has antioxidant, cell-protective, anti- inflammatory and antiviral properties.

According to the World Health Organisation, 85 percent of the world population uses herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care.

These Uruguayan women help meet these needs, while growing their plants without the use of chemicals.

"We have to change the way we work: we have to not only take care of our husbands, but also the environment. That is an important shift," said Jeanine Anderson, an anthropologist who specialises in gender issues at the Pontificia Catholic University in Peru.

Caring for the environment is linked to the question of access to land. Bolivian activist Elizabeth López of the Latin American Network of Women Defenders of Social and Environmental Rights stressed the importance of this, in order for rural women to be economically independent.

But "The issue isn’t just access to land, but guaranteeing that women have effective control over water use, biodiversity, soil, and other natural resources," the Bolivian activist remarked to IPS. "Without that, their possibilities are limited."

López said the expansion of other economic activities, like mining, limit rural women’s right to land. And although women are the main producers of food, they own less than one percent of land in the world, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In the Andes mountains, mining coexists uneasily alongside farming and livestock raising, and has specific impacts on women. As the activity of mining corporations has grown in rural areas, "there has been a total lack of recognition of the value of women’s work as livestock farmers," said López, citing protests led by women against mining companies in Bolivia and other Andean countries.

Another growing phenomenon is the increasing participation of women as agricultural wage workers.

In Peru, for example, large-scale agriculture has drawn women from the Andes highlands to coastal areas. One illustration of this phenomenon is Gladys Campos, who used to work for the Sociedad Agrícola Virú, an asparagus producing agribusiness company that has benefited from the country’s agro-export boom.

Campos left Cochabamba, her hometown in the highlands of the northwest region of La Libertad, to work for the company on the coast. But she was only employed there for two and a half years: in October 2004 she was sacked after she set up a union.

"We worked 17 hours a day for poverty wages," Campos told IPS. "They didn’t pay us overtime. They hire you and take you there from your hometown, with promises that they’ll help you, but then they make you work like a slave, and deduct the cost of your food and board from your wages. Then they throw you out."

Similar stories were described by other women at the seminar.

Campos is now secretary of the National Federation of Peasant, Artisan, Native and Wage Working Women of Peru (FEMUCARINAP).

When she worked for the Sociedad Agrícola Virú, one of Peru’s largest agro-exporters, she earned just 214 dollars a month. Women, she says, are not hired just as temporary workers during the January to April main harvest season, but work year-round, with no vacation time.

Peru’s agro-exports grew 28 percent from January to September this year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Non-traditional products, such as fresh asparagus, carmine - - a food colouring extracted from the cochineal beetle (Dactylopius coccus) -- grapes and mangos, represent 74 percent of the country’s agro-exports.

"Those who actually sustain the economy at the cost of long hours of work are the workers, not the companies," Campos said.

Anderson said it is important to study the impacts of women’s growing participation in different small- and large- scale agricultural activities.

In Colombia, women are displaced from their rural homes indefinitely, by decades of armed conflict.

Colombian social worker Flor Edilma Osorio said one of these displaced women told her that "In the countryside, you have hope." The remark, she said, reflects "the longing for the countryside felt by rural migrants caught up in urban poverty.

"In the countryside you can be poor, but you have food. In the city, however, if you don’t have money, you can’t survive. The loss is total," said the expert.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"More Women Peacekeepers Is Not the Solution"

Cléo Fatoorehchi interviews RADHIKA BALAKRISHNAN of the Centre for Women's Global Leadership
Radhika Balakrishnan / Credit:Courtesy of CWGL
Radhika Balakrishnan 
Credit:Courtesy of CWGL

For two decades, women around the world have marked "Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence", which fall between the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25 and International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

From Argentina to Ghana, and Japan to Georgia, this year, women's groups worldwide are focusing on the linkages between militarism and violence against women.

For example, the incidence of rape in conflict areas has only increased in the past few decades, from 200,000 rapes in Rwanda in the early 1990s to over 250,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2003. According to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), one out of three women has been raped, coerced into sex, beaten, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

IPS correspondent Cléo Fatoorehchi spoke with the executive director of the Centre for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL), Radhika Balakrishnan, who is also a gender and women's studies professor at Rutgers University in the United States.

Q: Regarding civilian women raped by armed forces, do you think that increasing the number of women in armed forces could have a positive impact? 

A: I think stopping rape is to stop the violence that the military is based in. So many of the women in the military have also been raped, so our advocating for increasing the number of women in the military might actually increase the number of women being raped. I think [the important thing] is to have a real education campaign amongst the men in the military about the impact of violence and the militaristic culture.

Q: Nevertheless, many argue that more women in peacekeeping and armed forces is the best solution. 

A: No, I don't think it would be. I think we should have more women in peacekeeping, that is not a bad idea, but I don't think having women there is going to stop violence. Actually, it depends on what kind of power they have, what kind of role they have, what the reason is for being there. If the reason for being there is to work with women's organisations, to try to make sure that there is attention brought to this, yes, but just having de facto women there doesn't mean it is going to change.

And I think there needs to be a reconstructive effort to do education on the impact of militarism on violence, and to talk to peacekeeping forces and educate them on what it means to be there, and also so they can expose the level of violence against women. One of the things our campaign is trying to do is to really bring attention to how much violence actually takes place. And very few people actually talk about it.

Q: When you speak about education, what structures do you refer to? 

A: I think everywhere. One of the problems with militarism is that it is a violent culture that is perpetuated, so we need to oppose militarism in the first place, because it is that culture that creates violence, but we also need to really bring much more attention to the issues of violence. I think it has to be in the school system, I think we need to really bring it out at a very local level.

Q: What do you think about quota systems, both in the economic and political spheres? 

A: In India, there is a policy system in Parliament. On one level it works, but on the other level, it depends on how trained women are to participate politically, and not just sort of bring women for the sake of having more numbers. But there is a lot of education, training and empowerment, so that they can hold those political places, and have a voice and power, so that they can reinforce policies.

Just because women are in politics doesn't mean that they are going to do the right thing, they have to be the right women in politics, with the right ideas or education on where to go.

Q: What do you expect from the 55th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, taking place next February? 

A: It is hard to say. The focus is on science, technology and education, and we are going to be very involved. One of the issues that we are looking at is the new agency, U.N. Women, and trying to really talk to that agency and influence what kind of issues they are going to work on. We want them to have a very strong part of U.N. Women to look at economic policy overall, and so that's one of the things we are going to be advocating for this session.

It is not just women being economically independent, but for women to be able to talk about economic policy. Not individual women, but that we can talk about macro policy, monetary and fiscal policy, the IMF [International Monetary Fund], we can talk about all the current international economic policies, which women are often left out of. 

More Economic Woes, More Violence At Home

Japan’s prolonged economic woes seem to have helped worsen the country’s problem with domestic violence.

Sociologists and other experts say that what was once considered an issue stemming largely from gender inequality has gained yet another horrific dimension as they note an increasing number of cases of violence against children and the elderly. 

In effect, the traditional picture of domestic violence is changing from that of battered wives into a scenario that calls for new and diverse approaches. 

"Our research shows that today, more children and older people face daily abuse or are at risk of such violence," says sociologist Rika Inamura, a professor at Kogoshima International University in Kyushu, Japan’s main island in the south. 

The country’s economic recession, which began in the 1990s and continues to bedevil the Japanese, is largely to blame, she says. This has increased poverty among Japanese households and has led to a breakdown of local community kinships, she says. 

These, along with the rising demands of an ageing population on younger, struggling family members, are the most pressing reasons for the growing number of domestic violence cases, asserts Inamura. 

"Many older people and children need support mechanisms," she says. "The expansion of the domestic violence issue means addressing poverty, social breakdown, and…also developing programmes to help perpetrators." 

The latest statistics released by the Cabinet Office show a record 73,000 people reporting some forms of violence in 2009. The figure is an increase from the 68,000 cases reported in 2008; it is also more than double the number recorded in 2002, when Japan enacted its first laws against domestic violence. 

The latest numbers were issued on Nov. 25, which marked the international campaign day against domestic violence. 

Women made up more than 80 percent of domestic violence victims in 2009, and their most popular means of seeking help was telephone consultation. The types of abuse reported were physical injuries, while one in three victims had suffered regular verbal and psychological abuse. 

Police also carried more than 25,000 investigations under Japan’s revised 2002 Domestic Violence Prevention Law, which expanded protection from physical violence and threats (including harassment, such as stalking) from current and former spouses to partners and their children. 

While complaints from senior citizens currently make up just around 300 cases of the 2009 total of reported domestic violence cases, counsellors working with the abused say they are dealing with an increasing number of elderly victims, indicating that the group is growing more vulnerable to abuse. 

Among the most recent cases in Mimosa Association, which is a leader in its support for anti-domestic violence programmes, involve two couples in their seventies who sought help after enduring many years of physical harassment from their children, with whom they lived. 

Child abuse cases have also soared to almost 45,000 consultations in 2009, according to the Health and Welfare Ministry. Counsellors say the abuses range from physical to sexual ones, and also include verbal assaults and neglect, such as non-giving of food. 

Sociologists and counsellors say, though, that domestic violence may be even more serious than the statistics indicate, because the issue is still seen a private one by many Japanese. 

Gender expert Junko Fukazawa of the non-profit group Human Service Centre in fact notes that up until the mid- 1980s, "domestic violence" was a phrase absent in the consciousness of Japanese government officials. 

"Instead," she has said, "people talked about middle-aged divorce or depression rates among married women. Nobody really linked these issues to violence against wives in the family." 

That domestic violence came to fore at all beginning in the 1990s was due to "international pressure on Japan" and the steadfast push by Japanese feminists to bring the issue into light, Fukazawa has also said. 

At the very least, these days, there seems to be growing social support for women to stand up against violence, says Chie Matsumoto of the organisation Purple Parade, which works with other groups to raise public awareness about domestic violence. 

Matsumoto says "the public is aware of domestic violence", a significant trend in a country like Japan where gender equality is low. "There is sympathy for the victim. Still there is a need now to start education on domestic violence at schools, universities, and hospitals to spread the message of support." 

Mimosa Association head Hisako Yasuda meanwhile says that addressing the root causes of domestic violence is necessary to bring about a long-term solution to the problem. 

But she says practical steps, such as new housing allowances for domestic violence survivors, are as important since these help victims restart their lives. 

Such allowances are now being given in Tottori prefecture in western Japan, where Mimosa is based. The local government there pays the rent for apartments for domestic violence survivors for up to six months to help them get back on their feet. 

Yasuda says that the gesture boosts the confidence of domestic violence victims who need time to collect themselves after years of abuse. She points out, "Women, especially those over 60 years, need this financial support as many of them have not held steady jobs when they escape from their abusive husbands." 

Mimosa itself has helped more than 1,000 victims of abuse since it began operations five years ago. A counselling group, it supports anti-domestic violence programmes such as the setting up of shelters and funds for education.

By Suvendrini Kakuchi
source: ipsnews

Violence, Exploitation Fail to Dissuade Female Migrants

Domestic work: essential yet undervalued... / Credit: Ray Mungoshi
Domestic work: essential yet undervalued... 
Credit: Ray Mungoshi

By Ray Mungoshi

Since arriving in Cape Town five years ago, Erina Manyene (not her real name) has eked out a meagre living picking up shifts doing laundry and cleaning other people’s homes in the city’s leafy southern suburbs.

Manyene (28) left her young son, then only seven months old, in the care of her common law husband in her native Zimbabwe, crossed the crocodile-infested Limpopo River and crawled under thick layers of barbed wire to enter South Africa at an unauthorised crossing point.

"There has been a reversal of roles since the Zimbabwean crisis started. Because the type of work available in foreign countries is more suited to women, husbands are remaining behind to take care of the children while we venture out," said Erina, a former school teacher in Harare.

International aid agencies estimate that between one and three million Zimbabweans have fled the country in the last decade to escape political repression and spreading poverty.

Many of the reluctant migrants are highly trained professionals – teachers, lawyers, journalists, engineers, doctors and nurses –forced to downsize their trades in their adopted countries to cobble together a frugal life on the fringes of South Africa’s main economy.

An escape from poverty?

Traditionally, domestic work provides an entry point into the South African job market for new arrivals and is a crucial employment area for both in-country and transnational female migrant workers. The Zimbabwean women beef up an expanding legion of domestic workers from Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and Mozambique, spread across South Africa.

Statistics South Africa indicate that 42 per cent of black women from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who lived in the Johannesburg area in 2001 worked in private households, although they represented only 4.9 per cent of women working in this atypical sector in the precinct.

Their remittances contribute to shoring up ailing economies in their home countries. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says globally, migrant worker remittances rose from US$60 billion worldwide in 1990 to US$328 billion in 2008, contributing over 10 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 22 countries in 2006.

World Bank figures show that $1, 2 billion was sent out of South Africa last year, the bulk of it to surrounding countries.

On average, migrant domestic workers earn between R1200 and R2 000 (about US$170 to US$300) a month, which they use to pay rent, buy food and send to their families at home. Beatrice, a retired Zimbabwean police officer and single mother of three, says she sends at least R2 000 home quarterly to pay for her children’s education and meet their daily needs.

Many migrants in low paying jobs rely on informal channels, dubbed omalayitsha, to send money and household goods home. "If I had not left Zimbabwe, my children would be out of school by now because the pay I got as an inspector was not enough to meet all our needs," said Beatrice.

Isolated and without fundamental rights

However, findings of an ongoing study being conducted by the Domestic Workers Research Project (DWRP) at the University of the Western Cape confirm that migrant domestic workers suffer arduous working conditions for low wages and are often sequestered behind their employers’ high walls, cut off from family and friends for long periods.

"The regulations that they lay down for you is not to bring anyone on the premises. I felt sometimes like I was in a prison cell," said Hester Stephens, president of the South African Domestic Workers and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU).

While some of their South African counterparts have made notable headway towards claiming labour rights such as minimum conditions of employment, minimum wages and leave pay, most migrant domestic workers are denied access to trade unions and are resigned to their situation.

"You see here in South Africa, most of the people they under rate us… In our workplace most of the people they want to pay us low money. Maybe they will say R50 a day, because they know us Zimbabweans we are stranded and desperate people, and we do not have money," said a migrant domestic worker in Cape Town.

The immigration laws relating to workers from other parts of Africa present make it very difficult to implement policies that would ensure their fundamental rights and dignity.

"Foreigners" may only be issued with a quota work permit if they fall within a specific professional category; a general work permit and exceptional skills permit if their skills are deemed beneficial to South African development.

Evidently, domestic workers are not eligible for the various categories of work permits and would struggle to obtain permanent residence status, which is earned after more than five years of continuous legal residency in South Africa.

In practice, the only basis on which non-South Africans who do not possess the requisite "qualifications or skills and experience" can obtain the right to work is if they qualify for refugee status, a daunting task for most potential refugees.

Threat of violence, deportation

Migrants also face xenophobic resistance both at work and in society at large. They suffer silently for fear of approaching law enforcement agencies because anti-migrant tendencies run deep within the police force and in government departments.

The world was shocked by the violence that swept the country in 2008 when locals attacked mainly black people from other African countries. The "makwerekwere" (foreigners), the attackers alleged, were "stealing" locals’ jobs, women, houses and were a drain on scarce resources.

Analysts attributed the violence to a number of factors but the main factor appeared to be local leadership, either encouraging xenophobia or failing to prevent it.

Following a fresh episode of xenophobic violence that flared up in October 2009 when an estimated 2,000 Zimbabwean migrant farm workers were forced out of their shacks at De Doorns, some 140 km northeast of Cape Town by bands of locals, an African National Congress councilor for the area was fingered for fanning the attacks.

Isolated incidents of violence against black Africans have been reported countrywide since the end of the football World Cup in July. The government has vehemently refused to acknowledge that the violence was inspired by xenophobia, arguing instead that it was the handiwork of common criminals.

This is cold comfort though to migrants like Grace Matenhese who was chased out of her corrugated iron and board shack along with her infant child in the dead of night at De Doorns. "Being a single mother in a foreign country is not easy at the best of times, but it is even harder now that we have been deprived of our livelihood."

Like the majority of aspiring African migrants seeking low-skilled work, Matenhese failed at the first hurdle in her attempts to acquire a work permit. Consequently, she lives under the perpetual threat of deportation, violence and exploitation because of her status as an "illegal foreigner".

Yet these hurdles have failed to dissuade women migrants from streaming into the country to seek work.

*Ray Mungoshi is a Research Assistant with the Domestic Workers Research Project, Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape.

Statement from the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition

*Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition*
On the occasion of the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders on November 29 and the 10^th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) critically reflects on /Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women/, the theme of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence for 2010. The experience of discrimination, intimidation and attack of women human rights defenders lies at the intersection of their gender identity and their position as dissenters in their societies, particularly when working on women's or sexual rights.
The Coalition identifies militarism, an ideology that subordinates all 
other interests to those of the military and militarisation, as one of 
the underlying contexts that heighten the vulnerability of women human rights defenders. Militarism is the process whereby the structural, ideological and behavioural patterns of the state are determined by military values, ideology and institutions. Militarism creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, and promotes the use of military means to solve conflicts and enforce economic and political interests. Militaristic environments that result in all forms of repression lead to human rights violations, violence against women, and impunity that endanger the lives of human rights defenders. In the process of militarisation, governments rely more and more on security forces and coercive power to ensure stability. In climates of militarism, cultures of violence are normalised and violence against women is facilitated .
The ideology of militarism, which underpins the governments' enforcement of counter-terrorism measures, also extends to the use of state coercive power to restrict human rights activism, including mobilisation for women's human rights. On November 25, Algerian associations organised an International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Algiers with participants invited from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, France, Spain, and Italy. Preparations were made six months before the event and competent authorities were notified. On the eve of November 24, the authorities cancelled permission verbally, enough to scare the hotel manager to cancel the event.
In the context of militarisation, particularly in situations of armed 
conflict, control over women's bodies and sexuality becomes central to maintaining social order and pursuing military objectives. Different political interests forcibly manipulate women's bodies and sexuality in many ways -- either to mark political identities, control organisation of communities, or generate legitimacy for political agendas. Parties to the conflict impose discipline and control by enforcing gendered codes of conduct such as rigid stereotyping of gender roles, prescribed dress codes and/or gendered restrictions on movement and access to public spaces. These restrictions are justified in the name of culture, tradition or religion, even though they may in fact be newly imposed measures. Women human rights defenders who resist these forms of militarisation are considered transgressors and punished arbitrarily, as they are not only seen as violating prevailing state norms, but also supposedly fixed cultural values.
*Heightened risks for women human rights defenders in situations of 
   armed conflict. *Women human rights defenders find themselves caught in the crossfire in situations of armed conflict. Those actively brokering 
for peace are accused as traitors by opposing forces or branded as 
terrorists by the State. In many instances, they are abducted or suffer human rights violations in the hands of paramilitary units who try to break their spirit, impose social control and persecute women human rights defenders who comprise the leadership of many of the 
organisations of disappeared and initiatives to assist displaced 
people. "Women are abducted, killed, intimidated and harassed because they dare to make the paramilitaries accountable in a country with a long history of disappearances and where we have the second largest number of displaced persons next to Sudan", said women human rights defenders from Colombia.
The 'war against terror' has further legitimised the militaristic 
crackdown on the exercise of fundamental human rights and freedoms worldwide. Under the cloak of the 'war against terror', governments have resorted to declaring a state of emergency/ /or twisted the legal system to legitimise the issuance of counter-terrorism measures or the application of existing national security acts that criminalise political dissent. As a result, women and other human rights defenders have been labelled as threats to national security and continue to be persecuted by government forces. State violence has intensified and become more serious. Increasingly, marginalised groups, particularly  sexual minorities, and their defenders that question homogeneous social constructs face brutality from state agents, are forcibly displaced, evicted, stracised or further marginalised.
Armed conflict further foments the rise of religious and other forms of extremism that backlash on women. In these situations, non-state actors challenge the power of the state to enforce due diligence, making it difficult to make perpetrators of violence against women and human rights violations accountable. Fundamentalist armed groups, operating under the discourses of religion, ethnicity or culture, along with other extremist forces are, in many instances, able to wrest control and advance the agenda of the extreme right by repressing the human rights of women and minorities. Women are pushed out of public life making it dangerous for women human rights defenders to exercise their activism. This has been the case under Taliban-led Afghanistan, yet even with the supposed implementation of democratic processes, women human rights 
defenders face huge challenges in exercising their rights to assembly 
and freedom of expression. Similarly, in Iran, women human rights 
defenders can be charged with violations of state-imposed dress codes as a pretext to curtail their peaceful defence of human rights. And after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, new fundamentalist trends have been aggressively imposed by militias and armed private groups purporting to uphold religious laws that push women out of public life and make it dangerous for women human rights defenders to exercise their activism.
*Recognition of women human rights defenders and their contribution in formal and informal peace-building processes. *Seldom invited in formal peace processes, women human rights defenders create or invent their own opportunities to participate in peace-building. An Isis International study on /Cultural Politics of Conflict, Peace and the UNSCR 1325/ concludes that for women who live in situations of armed conflict, their participation in peace processes are "less formal, non-conventional and happen more in their everyday lives". They volunteer during evacuation services; facilitate inter-faith relations; organise neighbours to meet basic needs; teach or give training on values of peace and diversity; 
participate, to the extent that they can, in community meetings. Gender discrimination and the gender bias in existing political structures that favour men have excluded them from formal peace processes, but more significantly, account for making their "informal, less conventional" contributions to peace-building devalued and invisible. It is therefore important in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to support not only women's role in formal venues of peace-building, but as further mandated by the Resolution, create more opportunities for 
"local women's peace initiatives" to prosper and validate the 
contributions that women human rights defenders make in their everyday lives to foster peace and security. *A broader understanding of 'security'. *Full protection for women human rights defenders requires revising the prevailing concept of 'security'. Narrowly limited within the state's notion of 'national security', an ideology of militarism underpins the existing definition, giving primacy to the use of force or exertion of military might to ensure security. Responses to defenders at risk that overemphasise addressing physical threats or anchor the definition of defenders on the basis of the risk they face mirror this masculinist valorisation implicit in this definition of security. Women human rights defenders insist that an integrated concept centred on human security and responsive to gender-specific needs is essential in sustaining activism for women's human rights.
A broader understanding of security recognises that defenders are 
rights-holders and frames their needs for security and protection as 
corresponding obligations to be met by the State. It seeks to enforce 
the international human rights standards with which to comply with these obligations. It acknowledges the principle of universality and 
centrality of gender equality and non-discrimination, ensuring that the defence of human rights is not at the expense of women's human rights and practicing an equitable balance in the treatment of defenders based not on a sameness approach, but on substantive equality that introduces measures to correct differences between defenders because of gender. It underscores responding to immediate as well as underlying and structural causes of violence and discrimination against women and generating an enabling environment for the realisation of women's human rights. The 
aim is not only to keep the women human rights defenders safe, but 
ultimately to sustain their organisations and movements in changing the situation that put them at risk.
*Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition*
Amnesty International (AI)
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia)
Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)
Baobab for Women's Human Rights
Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR)
Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL)
Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL)
Front Line International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights 
Defenders (Front Line)
Human Rights First
Information Monitor (Inform)
International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP)
Isis International
ISIS-Women's International Cross-Cultural Exchange (ISIS-WICCE)
The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's 
Rights (CLADEM)
MADRE (International Women's Rights Organisation)
Peace Brigades International (PBI)
Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights (UAF)
Women's Initiative for Gender Justice (WIGJ)
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)
World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Join the WGNRR Campaign to Recognise Reproductive Rights & Organise for Reproductive Justice

Join the WGNRR Campaign to Recognise Reproductive Rights &Organise for Reproductive Justice... With the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence being marked around the world, and the efforts of women human rights defenders being commemorated internationally,the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights http://www.wgnrr.org/ invites you to join us in our new multi-year campaign: "Recognise Reproductive Rights, Organise for Reproductive Justice!", launched in collaboration with the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/ Regionalised information about this campaign is posted online: www.wgnrr.org or campaigns http://www.wgnrr.org/campaigns

In the year ahead, WGNRR's campaign work will particularly address two specific demands related to the recognition and defense of sexual and reproductive rights as indivisible human rights: 1. Access to Safe, Legal, Affordable Abortion, free of stigmatisation and criminalisation  2. An end to forced sterilisation and coercive abortion programmes, such as those targeted at marginalised populations.  Mobilise for Reproductive Justice Around the World - within communities and across borders! Take action on:  4 February - African Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health Day 8 March - International Women's Day  28 May - International Day of Action for Women's Health  4 September - World Sexual Health Day  26 September - World Day for Universal Access to Contraceptives 28 September -Day of Action to Decriminalise Abortion in Latin America  and the Caribbean  29 November - Women's Human Rights Defenders Day  30 November - South Asian Women's Day for Human Rights
Actions You Can Take Include   * Organising public forums, meetings and actions to raise the profile  of your local demands for reproductive justice.   * Documenting violations of sexual and reproductive rights, and  sharing experiences about personal, family and community struggles for reproductive justice.  * Joining the WGNRR 2011 RJMob (Reproductive Justice Mobilisation)  Creative Campaign Challenge! Interested in receiving regular updates about the progress of the  campaign? Email: tanya@wgnrr.org WGNRR's website is being updated with new campaign resources. If you  are able to translate any of the material into your local language, we  would welcome your contribution. Please email: tanya@wgnrr.org Tanya Roberts-Davis, Campaigns Officer Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) Red Mundial de Mujeres por los Derechos Reproductivos R?seau Mondial de Femmes por les Droits Reproductifs 13 Dao Street, Project 3 Barangay Quirino 3-A Quezon City, 1102 Philippines T: + 63 (2) 913 6708 F: + 63 (2) 911 8293 www.wgnrr.org <http://www.wgnrr.org/
source: 16days_discussions

Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.