28 Too Many is a charity working to end female genital mutilation (FGM). Their focus is on research into 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 been working to profile each country and has completed four of the 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. 28 Too Many’s aim is to reduce FGM by 10% in 10 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. In Kenya, 28 Too Many uncovered 157 organisations working to end FGM, however, without knowing of the existence of the 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 practice is also 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.]]>
Guest speaker at a popular and well received event organised recently by the UN WOMEN UKNC London Branch was Dr Phoebe Abe, President of the 100 Black Women’s Group. She talked about the current challenges facing women and girls living in Uganda.
Larisa Corda reports -
Dr Abe is a GP who has been involved with helping to improve conditions for women and girls in Northern Uganda since 1992. Years of war had left a trail of destruction behind and a region riddled with poverty, crime and practically no access to education or income for the people living there. Most people live in slums which have become rife with drugs and violence, in particular sexual abuse committed against women and girls. Dr Abe informed the audience that when she initially set out to help at the beginning of the 1990s, with no support apart from her own income as a GP in Berkshire and Middlesex, she met a population eager to change and triumph over their impoverished circumstances, but with no means to manage this. This is where she decided to introduce opportunities in the form of education, by offering courses and apprenticeships, resulting in qualifications that have equipped people to run and manage their local environments. She purchased pieces of land that have since been cultivated into small animal rearing farms and plantations, and now generate a regular income. She has appointed locals to act as project managers who oversee small groups that cook, sew, clean, sell local produce or offer transportation, in exchange for an income as a means of sustaining themselves. In addition, she used her own talent and passion for dance and music, so ingrained in the African culture, to set up a performance group called Acholi Heartbeat. Since then this group has performed at various national functions and events, including the National Theatre in Uganda and Kenya, in front of international dignitaries, which has generated another source of income and boosted morale. The group has even performed a special dedication to Michael Jackson that can be seen on YouTube and which has been viewed by the Jackson family, who have offered praise in support of Dr Abe and are eager to meet her.
The tremendous effort and success of Dr Abe’s venture is, however, tempered by the fact that so much more needs to be done to help a country whose population reached 37.5 million this year. Despite the widespread AIDs pandemic it has the second highest fertility and fifth highest growth rate in the world. Dr Abe said that the rapidly expanding population is compounding the crime and poverty that have plagued the country for so long, leading to child labour, forced marriage, sexual abuse and violence against women. Prostitution and female genital mutilation are widespread and without education and the ability to overcome their adversities, young women and girls are resigning themselves to a life under patriarchal control. Uganda has introduced the 2010 Anti-FGM Act, making this practice illegal. Despite some improvement in the rates of FGM, there is fear that a lot of the previous practice has not been eradicated but has gone underground and is therefore undetected. Dr Abe tells of how even in London, her clinic is full of girls who have undergone FGM but are too afraid to speak out about it.
Rates of literacy and school enrolment are very low in regions where FGM is practised (12% for boys and 6% for girls), compared to a national average of 77% for boys and 58% for girls. Dr Abe’s own experience of empowering women and girls by means of education and a regular income has shown the positive effect it can have on reducing violence, stigmatisation and overcoming poverty. With over 80% of Africans attending a religious or faith building organisation once a week, these can be seen as excellent opportunities to offer platforms for teaching, education and health provision in the form of screening for cancer, contraception, vaccination programmes and infection control. There is much to be done and Dr Abe’s talk gave us an endearing and personal insight into how all of us can change the course for women not just in Uganda, but all over the world, by leading discussion and campaigning for female equalities. In the words of Kofi Annan, then UN Secretary General, in 2006: “It is impossible to realise our goals while discriminating against half the human race. As study after study has taught us, there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”.
For more information on Dr Abe’s work please visit www.drabefoundation.com
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 on Saturday, 30th November. To find out more about becoming a member go to http://www.unwomenuk.org/get-involved/become-a-member/]]>
2013 is the UN Year of Water Co-operation, and so recently UN Women UK’s Corporate Advisory Group (a forum of high level individuals from global businesses) met to discuss how issues of water and sanitation disproportionately affect women.
During the meeting, chaired by UN Women UK board director Laura Haynes, members heard from Burak Cakmak of Swarovski (our generous hosts for the meeting), Stella and Tara Joy of Active Remedy, and Jane Wilbur of WaterAid, who presented their ideas on:
Their presentations were followed by a group discussion of some common themes. Throughout the world, women are intrinsically linked to water resources because of their roles and responsibilities in using and managing water. Since women and girls often cook, clean, farm, and provide health care and hygiene for their households, they are on the front lines of their communities’ and countries’ water issues.
Global challenges like over-consumption, population growth, privatization and climate change all affect the quality and accessibility of water, and put a strain on limited freshwater systems. Water scarcity and contamination disproportionately impact low-income women and girls. For many girls who must walk miles to access clean water, school is not a reality. In Africa, research has shown that a small increase in drought can lead to a spike in girls missing school. The same is not true for their male classmates.
Without a basic education or the ability to get a formal wage-earning job, many women become locked into a vicious cycle of poverty. This has a ripple effect that impacts communities and countries socially, economically and environmentally. There are also health implications to lack of clean water, and many issues around W.A.S.H. (water and sanitation hygiene) go undiscussed for being taboo.
The speakers’ presentations demonstrated that with all of these issues, businesses as well as charity and action groups can do much to help, by working with communities to educate, and to tackle problems in context.
Many thanks to our speakers and CAG members for their contributions to this meeting.
Forthcoming meeting topics for the CAG are proposed as: health, safety and freedom from violence in the workplace, supply chains, and reporting/ measuring impact.
If you’d like to find out more about joining the CAG, please visit our Corporate page.]]>
On 28 October, UN WOMEN UKNC joined representatives from the UK Government and civil society for the joint preparatory meeting for the 58th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in London.
Guest contributor Elizabeth Willmott Harrop,a freelance human rights advocate and writer, shares here the key points of the meeting.
This was a critical meeting in which around 90 stakeholders on gender equality, including Helen Grant MP, Minister for Sport & Equalities, the Government Equalities Office (GEO), the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), UN Women UK, Womankind Worldwide, and Widows for Peace Through Democracy, planned their representation at CSW58 and how to advance the cause of gender equality – in the UK, in countries receiving UK aid, and internationally.
The day included an introduction to CSW, the role of the UK Government Delegation, an update of the work of the Department for International Development (DFID) and its Strategic Vision for Girls and Women, and a review of the UK’s implementation of CSW57 Agreed Conclusions on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. In the latter half of the event there were three break-out sessions one of which – on ‘Maximising Influence: working with civil society’ –was led by Jan Grasty, President of UN WOMEN UKNC.
While NGOs used the preparatory meeting to question government on policies affecting women, such as the recent cuts in legal aid (see for example Unequal Before the Law in Fabiana Autumn 2013), Helene Reardon-Bond, head of gender equality policy and inclusion at GEO, stressed NGOs should focus on the goals of CSW attendance. Reardon-Bond noted that the UK is seen as a “leading light” within the European Union in terms of joined up government policy on gender, with the GEO, FCO and DFID all working closely together.
About the Commission on the Status of Women
Established in 1946, the CSW is a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and is the principal global policy-making body dedicated to gender equality and the advancement of women. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which now has 187 State Parties, was prepared by the CSW and was adopted in 1979.
Every year, representatives of UN Member States gather at the UN Headquarters in New York for the CSW session to:
The principal output of CSW is the agreed conclusions on priority themes set for each year. Agreed conclusions contain an assessment of progress, gaps and challenges, and a set of concrete recommendations for action by Governments, intergovernmental bodies, civil society and other relevant stakeholders, to be implemented at the international, national, regional and local level.
In addition to the agreed conclusions, the CSW also adopts a number of resolutions for example on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (2010).
Millennium Development Goals
The 58th session will be held in March 2014, with a priority theme of challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls. The MDGs have provided a valuable focal point for the development community in the past 13 years, however they have also received much criticism, from the immeasurability of their targets to their lack of gender awareness. CSW58 will therefore be a final but vital platform for reflecting on the MDGs as they evolve into the post 2015 development agenda.
STEM science, technology, engineering and mathematics
The CSW58 Review Theme will be access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work, which formed the agreed conclusions from the 55th CSW session in 2011.
At the preparatory meeting, Jeremy Clayton, Director, Research Base at Department for Business Innovation & Skills, gave a candid overview of issues affecting women, girls and access to STEM subjects including the fact that only 9 per cent of engineering professionals in the UK are female – the lowest in Europe. However Clayton also noted progress including the appointment of Dr Jackie Hunter CBE as the new Chief Executive of the BBSRC research Council.
For further information about CSW58 go to www.unwomen.org/en/csw]]>
Take a look at their equality heat map below.]]>