‘The workshop was very inspiring and it made me feel as though I can make a difference’, said one workshop participant.
For almost three hours 30 students from five London Schools took part in highly interactive workshop on sexual violence in conflict. The workshop was delivered on Tuesday to coincide with ‘Youth Day’ for the Summit and designed to discuss the role of young people in tackling the complex challenges around this issue.
The workshop started by presenting a general overview of the role of UN WOMEN and IAWP in ending sexual violence in conflict. Alice Fookes representing UN WOMEN UK NC explained how UN Women is involved in ending sexual violence in conflict including mobile and legal aid clinics in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. While Julia Jaeger representing IAWP explained the mission of the Association and the crucial role of women police officers in reassuring female citizens that their specific needs are met, especially the survivors of sexual violence all over the world. Both speakers stressed the important role of establishing partnerships with a wide range of actors in order to most effectively target and deliver the sometimes complex help and support required to reach the most vulnerable women and girls.
Following the presentations the main interactive workshops started, led by Alice Fookes, Kimberley Green and Manju Nair. Firstly, the students were encouraged to explore key language and terms around sexual violence in conflict. Through exploring their meanings students got a chance to familiarise themselves with gender-sensitive language used by the organisations and institutions dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. While matching the terms and definition of the rape or child soldier seemed to be an easy task, terms such as grassroots, gender or policing proved more of a challenge to the students.
Given the stories of teenage survivors of the sexual violence in conflict-affected countries, students were asked to design an Action Plan on how to prevent and support the survivors of sexual violence, both at individual and community level. The students got a unique opportunity to discuss their ideas with women police officers visiting the Global Summit with the IAWP who are serving in countries such as Ghana, Bosnia, Albania, Uganda and USA.
This allowed them to debate their ideas with practitioners working on daily basis with the survivors of sexual violence all over the world. The intensive session culminated in formulation of seven action points which were presented to UN WOMEN UK NC and IAWP. The plans ranged from providing medical support to survivors, including immediate tests for HIV, pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, proper crime investigation led by adequately trained local people, translating national law into grassroot strategies, preventing the survivors from re-victimisation, to providing gender responsive training to the local communities on how to support survivors. All of the ideas proposed addressed the immediate, short-term and long-term support needed. The participants clearly agreed that ‘violence is not normal’ and must never be accepted as such.
The workshop concluded with the students giving their evaluation of the experience. The students found workshop very informative, eye-opening, especially being given an opportunity to discuss in depth and understand the global problem of sexual violence. One of the participants said: ‘thank you for the workshop, it has opened my eyes, it showed me how important and difficult it can be to help someone left traumatised due to rape or torture. I have learnt to see things from their point of view’. Both students and the teachers agreed ‘it would be great to do it again with lots more of our students!’, as Claire Hart, Barking Abbey School, said.
Workshop write-up and photos by Magdalena Randall-Schab
President, Jan Grasty, has received an OBE for her services to Women’s Rights; and:
Dr. Wendi Momen received an MBE for service to the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and to the community in Bedfordshire (Northill Bedfordshire).
Both Jan and Wendi have been active Trustees of the UK National committee since 2009 and were previously in the leadership of UNIFEM, one of UN Women’s forerunners.
Jan Grasty is President of the UK National Committee. She leads the direction of the National Committee and has worked tirelessly to establish it as the UK representative for UN Women, particularly in advocacy, through government connections including the All-Party Parliamentary Group, UN Women, GEO and DfiD; collaborating in civil society with other key NGOs; and creating connections in the corporate sector by sharing UN Women’s position on key gender issues and building commitment to gender equality in the workplace.
Jan is also the Government nominated representative at the ‘Commission on the Status of Women’ communicating the UK key messages to UN Women.
Jan said, “I am honoured to receive this award and pleased that work in gender equality is being recognised in this year’s Honours List. I remain committed to supporting long-term change and improvement to the lives of women and girls providing justice, gender equality and economic opportunities. I see the strategic role of UN Women coupled with its grassroots programmes as a major opportunity to bring about change.”
Dr. Wendi Momen is a member of the Board of UN Women UK, was National Secretary until 2012 and is a trusted advisor as her wisdom and experience are invaluable to the ongoing work of the organisation.
This Birthday Honours List has been referred to as the ‘gender-balanced awards’ and those honoured span 19 – 99 years old.]]>
So, we are holding a “Briefing” event on 26 June, at 6pm in the IPU room, Houses of Parliament. Toni Ann Brodber – UN Women’s Programme Director for Pacific Islands – is in London at that time and will also be joining us to present some of the recent UN Women programmes in her area.
This Briefing event is for members only. Please register with us if you would like to attend as places are limited. Email: email@example.com to confirm your attendance.
The postponed AGM will now take place on 24 September 2014 at 6:30 pm and we will confirm the venue in due course.]]>
On 26th April 2014, Charlie from The A21 Campaign and John from Standards Against Female Exploitation (SAFE) joined UN Women UKNC London Branch at the Francis Taylor Buildings, Inner Temple, and delivered powerful presentations on the world’s second fastest growing criminal industry – the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls.
The A21 Campaign focuses on the wider issue of abolishing modern slavery and injustice in the 21st century, with an estimated 27 – 30 million in bondage across the globe. It operates internationally through prevention, victim protection (through shelters run e.g. in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece), prosecution of violators, and building strategic partnerships; Charlie in her presentation focused on the problem of sex trafficking and its victims. Giving examples of people who have become sex slaves, she explained the circumstances in which women, children and men become victims, including poverty, homelessness, believing in false opportunities and dreams of better lives. She also described the long process of recovery of victims and their longing for hope again and for justice to be served.
Backed up by data, Charlie made it clear that human trafficking is our problem, as it happens on our door step. The key destination for victims of human trafficking is Europe. Every 30 seconds someone becomes a victim of human trafficking, the majority of the victims being women and girls. In the European Union trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most prevalent form of trafficking. The average age of trafficking victims is just 12 years old. Only 1-2% of victims in Europe are ever rescued with only 1 in 100,000 Europeans involved in trafficking being convicted.
John, introduced SAFE and their efforts to end human trafficking in the sex industry including the use and abuse of children and teenagers through structural prevention and proactive investigation of information generated through mechanisms such as the 24/7 reporting hotline ‘RedlineUK’. The organisation led by an ex-policeman, with his detailed knowledge of the sex industry, aims at ‘changing the rules of the game’ and is focused on tackling ‘sale of women’ rather than the ‘sale of sex’, which for some might be a controversial approach. This includes a voluntary audit backed by regular independent examination to create traffic free zones. Support for the working women on issues such as domestic violence, addictive behaviours, debt management and exiting prostitution further add to the creation of a culture of harm reduction within this all too hostile environment.
Through graphic examples he explained the mechanism which traffickers used to target and manipulate potential victims by exploiting their vulnerabilities or taking advantage of their weaknesses or innocence. In the long run, victims are left without hope and maybe even the conviction that they have but two alternatives – accept their continuing exploitation or committing suicide.
Representing different approaches, top-down and bottom up approach, both speakers had the clear message, as John said ‘the problem requires urgent attention, right now’ but warned of the unintended consequences of ill-conceived legislation reminding all present that trafficking and child sexual exploitation don’t need to be any more illegal they just need to be stopped. In order to achieve that end institutional and structural solutions are needed, and the culture which prevails within the sex industry needs to be powerfully steered towards a harm reduction agenda.
Charlie’s call that ‘One cannot do everything, but everyone can do something’ underpinned the discussion following presentations. Both individual and institutional opportunities to tackle the problem were debated along with how the UN Women UKNC could assist this cause as the eradication of violence against women and girls is one of the main goals of UN Women.
For further information please refer to their websites: A21 Campaign http://www.thea21campaign.org/ and SAFE http://www.safe.uk.net/ Brunch write up by Magdalena Randall-Schab]]>
28 Too Many is an international charity working to end female genital mutilation (FGM). Their specific focus is ending FGM in the 28 African countries where it is practised. While there are pan-African statistics on FGM, detailed information about different countries was found to be patchy. Consequently, since 2010 the organisation has begun to profile each country and has completed four profiles to date, for Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The profiles are designed to give policy makers, NGOs, governments and campaigners the evidence they need to properly understand this complex issue and inform the appropriate projects and campaigns. 28 Too Many’s aim is to reduce FGM by 10% in 10 African countries in 10 years.
There is a large variation within countries on the practice of FGM and therefore different strategies need to be in place in different regions to effectively address the needs in that area. The research has helped to identify and link organisations who are undertaking similar work. For example, in Kenya, 28 Too Many identified 157 organisations working to end FGM, largely without knowing of the existence of others they were unable to link, collaborate, share experience and resources.
The first four country profiles have shown that while FGM is decreasing overall across the countries there are still some locations where the numbers are rising. Girls are getting cut at a younger age, which may be as a result of laws against the practice being enforced sending FGM more underground. The prevalence rate is higher in rural and poorer areas.
Education of mothers has been shown to make a difference; if a girl has completed secondary education then she is less likely to have her daughters cut. Faith has also been identified as playing an important role. Bishops in Tanzania have been including information about FGM as part of Sunday school and they have been advocating and campaigning against it.
To access the country profiles and for further information please visit www.28toomany.org.
Dr Comfort Momoh is Founder of the first FGM clinic in the UK at Guy’s and St Thomas’. Comfort spoke about the complexity of FGM and the issue of prosecution. The police feel that getting the first prosecution for FGM will set an important example but the responsibility is placing health professionals in a difficult position to report women who have undergone FGM. The fear of prosecution may prevent some women coming forward for help. In France, prosecution has been carried out under neglect so that the child does not have to testify as part of the trial.
FGM has become part of the curriculum in Islington and this is an important step to reach children at the age when they are most at risk; between 5 and 12 years of age. It is also important to educate GPs as there is currently a lack of knowledge. A large number of women from West Africa who have had type I or II FGM do not realise that they have been cut. It is therefore very important for health professionals to raise the topic in a sensitive manner and provide support when necessary.
There has recently been a lot of media attention given to this issue which has helped to raise the profile and bring further funding. It is also helping to engage young people who can now more openly ask their parents about this practice and question it.
Comfort recently visited UN Women’s Headquarters in New York and heard firsthand about some of the work that is being done to eradicate FGM and support women who have been affected.
Brunch write up by Sam Bailey.]]>
“Without proper security and policing the poorest women and girls in society will be unable to take advantage of improved schooling, training, healthcare and development programmes designed to empower and move them out of poverty.”
- Jan Grasty, President UN Women National Committee, UK
The International Association of Women Police (IAWP) and the United Nations Women National Committee UK (NC UK) are collaborating in a joint panel discussion to be held on March 12, in parallel with the United Nation’s 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) which will take place at nearby UN Headquarters. The panel will discuss the important issue of gender sensitivity and neutrality in policing, including mixed-gender international policing in Afghanistan and Iraq and the impact of empowering policewomen in Kosovo.
Jan Grasty, President of UN Women NC UK, said: “Recognition of gender-responsive policing and security deserves to be given a high priority. Our event highlights the importance of gender-skilled, accountable policing and security to move on the Millennium Development Goals Post-2015. We will focus on the ‘universal’ security and safety needs of women and girls.”
Key areas that will be covered by the event are:
Speakers will refer to their own experiences of international policing in challenging and fragile states.
Jane Townsley, President of the International Association of Women Police, will speak on implementing gender responsive policing in Afghanistan, Kosovo and the Lebanon. Jane, a recently retired police Chief Inspector who is based in Yorkshire, UK, said: “Ensuring policing is gender sensitive is not just a matter of recruiting more women, there are more fundamental requirements to achieve real change.”
During the presentation the benefits of establishing and joining women’s associations in policing and the wider security sector will be explored. There is an important role for associations to play in gender responsive policing, changing cultures and thereby improving service delivery to communities.
Case studies will be used to illustrate challenges faced by policewomen in Afghanistan as well as the impact of access to professional development and empowerment of women officers in the Lebanon Security Force, the United Arab Emirates and Kosovo.
Among the speakers will be IAWP 2nd vice president Stephanie Harding, who has worked as a police advisor in many countries including Afghanistan. She said: “Afghanistan has powerful civil norms about the roles of women in society. When a woman applies to become a police officer to serve her country she must go through a rigorous process of approval before she can even enter or graduate from a police academy. This includes approval from but not limited to: her husband, father, grandfather, Elders, Shura, Malik or Mullahs.”
Anyone attending the event on March 12 will have the opportunity to hear from a range of speakers who are highly experienced in the field of gender-responsive policing.
The event, to be held in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Convention Centre (2nd Avenue at 35th, NY) will be moderated by Dr Tuula Nieminen of UN Women NC UK.
Agenda as follows:
On the 16th January 2014 we held a celebratory event for our third birthday in the Houses of Parliament.
Our special guest speaker was journalist, author and campaigner Natasha Walter (pictured above). She spoke about her experience of the progress of feminism in the UK since publishing her book ‘Living Dolls’, and says she has been pleased to see how over recent years there has been a popular uprising against the objectification of women. Campaigns such as the Everyday Sexism Project, and ‘No More Page 3′, are doing excellent work highlighting instances of sexism, and have been gaining huge followings.
Walter herself – although agreeing there is still a way to go on this front – has turned her own attentions to the plight of refugee women who come to the UK, often fleeing violence in their home countries only to find they are treated abysmally once they arrive. Many, in spite of having legitimate claims to asylum (50% of women seeking asylum in the UK have been raped in their home country) are held in detention centres indefinitely, often for weeks or months, a situation which takes a heavy toll on these women’s lives, and costs the state an awful lot of money.
In order to campaign against this broken system, and support those women who find themselves within it, she has established Women for Refugee Women. Her colleagues from this organisation, Rahela, and Jade, spoke very movingly about their own experiences of the system. Together they are working to challenge the legal and policy framework around keeping asylum-seeking women in detention, and to raise public awareness of the issue. Amongst other things, they are planning this year, with 1 Billion Rising, an action in front of the Home Office in Marsham Street, London on 13 February at 6pm, and are supporting this petition to stop the detention of women seeking asylum in the UK.
You can find out more about Natasha here, Women for Refugee Women here, and a timeline of tweets from the event here.
The second part of our event actively celebrated the inspirational women in our lives: members were invited to bring a picture of a woman who inspired them, and talk about why. Examples ranged from Marie Colvin to Marie Curie, from mothers and little sisters, to members of UN Women itself. Hearing their stories made for a truly uplifting and inspirational end to an evening of thought-provoking discussion.
Many thanks to our speakers from Women for Refugee Women, and to the members who shared their stories of inspirational women. We look forward to seeing you all again at our next event.]]>
From the adoption of an historic agreement to end violence against women to a viral campaign exposing the scope of sexism online, this year’s timeline from UN Women captures select gender equality achievements that have grabbed international headlines and spurred action on the ground.
View the timeline>>]]>
AAWG which was founded in 2002, is an inclusive group of women from all nationalities and politics coming together for self-help and to share experiences. Through regular meetings they are united and strengthened by the often acute challenges they face.
Geraldine told us about her, self-help group of over 50 women. Women are from Africa and beyond, including Bolivia India, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean. Many come from war zones where they have experienced domestic, violence, rape and other torture. Some have children in the UK or in the country they have left. Most are looking for asylum and security.
Those working in AAWG are mainly women who are themselves survivors or have status overcoming the trauma of their experiences. They volunteer to help and support other women to deal with the emotional and physical traumas and to gain refugee status or the right to remain. They help women to prepare and present their legal case in court. Geraldine spoke about the moving case of a traumatised Sierra-Leonean woman who successfully won her case. Another success for the Group, but many more cases lie ahead.
Black women’s Rape Action Project was founded in 1991 by Black women to run services and campaigns. They focus on winning justice for women of colour and immigrant women who have survived rape, racist attacks and other violence. They have successfully helped many rape survivors win the right to stay in the UK where they can begin to rebuild their lives and that of their families.
Cristel shared the stories of survivors of rape and sexual abuse who come to the UK for safety and protection. Some are in detention because their case has been refused without them having the chance to present evidence of the persecution they suffered. BWRAP helps them seek justice and compensation, by giving advice based on personal experience. It also provides them with safe environment where they can talk about their difficult experiences. Some women fear being separated from their children, which prevents them from seeking more formal help.
Cristel told us that 70% of women seeking asylum in the UK are survivors of rape or of torture, but women are not always provided with the information they need to win the case, for instance the fact that rape can be part of an asylum claim. Currently in the UK, only 6.5% of rape offenders are convicted.
Cristel also shared her concerns at the way private detention centres are run. In 2010, BWRAP helped 70 women who were hunger striking in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre and helped secure the release of 25 of them, 18 of whom went on to win the right to remain.
The decisive input of both groups is invaluable for the women who access their services, but it comes at a cost. Organising and raising money for meals, the crèche for the children and the transport fares in London for participants at each meeting makes fundraising challenging. Thankfully, the dedication of the staff – mainly volunteers – ensures the delivery of concrete results for the vulnerable women who knock on their door.
Several participants said after the meeting that what they liked most was how Cristel and Geraldine spoke about the real situations survivors face and how much more they learned about the dangerous and precarious situation of women seeking asylum and particularly what was very hidden, for example, the treatment of women in detention.
Geraldine and Cristel inspired a robust discussion around the issues and challenges to identify ways in which women who suffer domestic violence, rape and other torture are properly supported and to raise awareness to end all forms of violence against women. They extended an invite to be on the mailing list or to visit the Crossroads Women’s Centre to any member who would like know to more or volunteer with any of the groups.
The London branch of UN Women UKNC holds regular events for members covering a range of topics relevant to gender equality and empowering women. The next event will be in January 2014. To find out more about becoming a member go to http://www.unwomenuk.org/get-involved/become-a-member/]]>
To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, PhD Researcher Jennifer Buczynski, from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, discusses some of the techniques she has discovered through her studies of literature for women dealing with trauma from violence.
Shocking news headlines covering Reeva Steenkamp’s murder by famous blade-runner Oscar Pistorius and the ongoing trial are near impossible to escape. Sadly, Reeva was statistically just one of three women killed on Valentine’s Day this year by an intimate partner in South Africa. More devastating statistics reveal that in this country seven women were murdered each day in 2011, and that one woman gets raped every 17 seconds (allAfrica.com, police statistics).
If we look internationally, one in three women throughout the world will experience physical and/or sexual violence (World Health Organisation statistics). Although I reflect on these statistics about violence against women, mostly there is a sense that this kind of thing is over there, a distance away from me. Yet, the reality is that for millions and millions of women all over the world violence is part of their everyday lives. Rape, battery and other forms of violence are so common in the lives of women that they cannot be seen as unusual or outside ordinary experience. Actually, I am not removed from this horror because a hand raised against any woman could just as easily be raised against me, my daughter, my mother, my sister, my friend.
It is this realisation that most makes me want to do something to help. And to help, I first need to try to understand the affects of this violence on the psyche. What is the damage behind the physical manifestations of bruises and broken bones? If I can understand, maybe there is a way to take some control and discern a way out.
This is what my PhD research is all about. I turn to stories because they have always comforted me and given me valuable insights into my own and others’ experiences. I specifically look at novels that are anchored to convulsive historical periods, and as such frequently represent and confront traumatic events such as incest and rape. My chosen writers have been through the horrors they write about which makes their stories close to the experience of terror. The aim of my project is to draw out literary devices in these fictional accounts which give a voice to the trauma of the injured characters.
The reason for this is that for a woman to recover from trauma, she needs to be able to tell what happened to her. Psychiatrists specializing in treating traumatised patients know that expressing the trauma in a cohesive form is vital to recovery. Without a narrative, there can be no way forward because the accurate re-ordering of what happened, or the making of meaning, and the release of related emotions are essential in gaining some control of the violence enacted against her. But finding the words couldn’t be harder. How can she effectively describe the humiliation and shame of rape? Her pain challenges usual expectations of what it means to tell because often she is unable to acknowledge what she has been through even to herself.
Although language cannot capture such humiliations adequately, I hope that tools used by gifted writers in stories about trauma may help a victim find the words for her own pain. For example, a girl who has endured incest may find it easier to speak of her experience as in a dream rather than an actual involvement. She could create a fantasy space, which may be easier to enter, than her own bedroom. If the perpetrator becomes a nightmarish monster, instead of her father, she may feel free to express her real feelings towards him without fear of betraying the deeply entrenched loyalty attached to a parent.
Another useful tool is landscape metaphor. It may be impossible for a victim to explain the depths of depression following a physical or sexual assault, but imagining the colours and contours of a barren countryside which approximates her interior world may open up possibilities of rich expression. It is these types of literary devices I seek in twentieth century novels and then bring to the surface of the narratives to help give expression to what may otherwise lay beyond her reach.
On 25 November, International Day for Ending Violence Against Women, we can all speak up to break the silence against this scourge that scars our communities. Voices united from our governments, our schools, our businesses and our homes, can have an enormous impact on the practices and attitudes that incite, perpetrate and condone violence against women. We can all help to spread awareness about the scale and true nature of the fact that women around the world are being hurt. This may give courage to more and more girls and women to find the words to tell of their traumas and find healing.
Jennifer Buczynski is a South African PhD student. She spent a year in the UK at Swansea University from October 2012 to September 2013, on a Commonwealth Scholarship. She completes her doctorate on ‘Traumatic Representations in Twentieth Century Literature’ at the University of Johannesburg in 2015.]]>