Archive for June, 2017

“I Must Not Give Up”

coffee meetingCoalition members speak of the importance of a treaty

 

Everywoman Everywhere Coalition member Lilly BeSoer, Papua New Guinea, wrote those words after attending a gathering of coalition members in New York City. Members who were in town for the annual UN Commission of the Status of Women were meeting to say hello. But what was expected to be a coffee meeting became a powerful cry of global unity for a treaty. “Members shared stories of the trial and tribulation that had brought them there, spoke of the collective power we have built with this global coalition, and how ready, willing, and able they are to fight this challenging fight,” said executive director Vidya Sri. Below are a few highlights from members who spoke.

Khadija-ArfaouiLongtime peace activist Khedija Arfaoui of Tunisia held a picture of her son and daughter-in-law and told the group that the two were killed in the nightclub attack on New Year’s Eve in Istanbul. She described their deaths as an “earthquake,” yet her message was one of resolve. There is pain and challenge, but we cannot afford to lose faith, she said. I have lost my child, have seen the length and breadth of obstacles over the last 40 years, and still I stand her with all of you.

Dr-Morissanda-KouyatéDr. Morissanda Kouyate, a Guinea-born pediatrician now heading the Inter-Africa Committee on Traditional Practices. It wasn’t that long ago that the world gave little thought to the violence of FGM, female genital mutilation. No one wanted to take a meeting, no lawmaker wanted to talk. Yet with persistence, legislation was passed. Today, FGM is a crime in multiple countries in Africa. We were knocking on doors, knocking doors and we must keep knocking.

Caroline-HerewiniCaroline Herewini has been working for more than 20 years to aid her indigenous Maori community in New Zealand. She captured the spirit of our collective effort when she spoke of the treaty reached between the British and the Maori long ago. She explained that before she speaks, she pays respect to her ancestors, and that history roots her in the present. Similarly, working with respect to existing cultures and beliefs, as we are with this treaty, paves the path for peace and productivity. She noted that when the visitors came from the UK long ago, they were pulled into the existing legal framework of the Maori people in New Zealand. The local law was part of the agreement with these guests and the treaty was an agreement between equals. Equality, respect of culture, and working together are essential, Caroline emphasized, adding, we have proverb: “He aha te mea nui o te Ao”? He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata! What is the greatest thing of all? It is people, it is people, it is people!

The gathering had a motivating effect on all of us. It reminded us we are in this together and wanted to share that thought with all members by including a sampling of emails members sent to executive director Vidya Sri after the event.

“This treaty, now going through its arduous journey, will have learnt lessons from what was missing in the CEDAW. I believe it is going to play a significant role in eliminating the many types of violence that destroy women’s lives. At last, we are addressing the injustices that widows endure, so hidden, so neglected. Bless you all in your great work, love, Margaret.” – Margaret Owen, Widows for Peace through Democracy, England

“On this journey to a just world, there are hardships and obstacles. But there are also extraordinary stories of courage, perseverance and grit, the sweet fruits of friendship and bonding, and oases in the middle of this desert of cussedness of vested interests. Yesterday was one such oasis. “I feel blessed to be part of this extraordinary group and this amazing journey. Success then for us is not an option. It is a given.” —Meera Khanna, Guild For Service, India

“Thanks for bringing together such a beautiful gathering of hearts, heads and minds. We did not get to hear all our stories, but we definitely felt the passion that binds us together. Keep the flag flying. Excelsior!” – Eleanor Nwadinobi, Widows Development Organisation, Nigeria

“Hearing stories from the other great women have really empowered me and helped me to understand and know that I am not battling alone in my corner of the world, there are other sisters doing the same thing and we are in it together. This really motivates me to feel part of the movement and I must not give up.” – Lilly BeSoer, founder of the women’s rights NGO Voice for Change, Papua New Guinea

“Dear Heroes: I am so moved by your life and activism and stories. My heart is full and your smiles are tattooed on my soul. Be safe in your travels home. Blessings.” – Indrani Goradia, Indranis Light Foundation, USA

WHY A TREATY: Russia Decriminalizes Domestic Violence

Recent changes to Russian law demonstrate need for a treaty

 

In early February, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed legislation that decriminalized some forms of domestic violence. Everywoman Everywhere Coalition members—Russian attorney Mari Davtyan and longtime Russian activist Marina Pisklakova-Parker—share what this means for Russian women and how a treaty would help.

 

Mari DavtyanAttorney Mari Davtyan works with the Russian National Center for Prevention of Violence, also known as Center Anna, to promote women’s right, among other groups working on campaigns to end discrimination and promote human rights:

The first two months after decriminalization show us the situation with access to justice for survivors of domestic violence has become worse. Among other things, the lack of an administrative procedure permit judges dismiss cases or only fine the offenders, give them community service or up to 15 days in custody. Rights of victims are very limited. For example, victims don’t have a right or a vehicle to express complaint. Police officers claim that decriminalization has made their work more complicated and slow.

Today the first act of battery is considered an offense. A second act is considered criminal if it’s done within a year of the first offense. But even then, it remains “private prosecution.” Private prosecution means cases are not investigated by the police, the charge is not introduced by a prosecutor, and the victim is her own private counsel who must independently investigate the crime, collect evidence, and prosecute the case in court. This renders justice for domestic violence survivors completely ineffective.

Russia is a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), but it often ignores its obligations under international law. Even if it did, the treaty itself is not specific to violence against women. We can only point to the recommendations of the committee that monitor implementation, which are not legally binding. Furthermore, the committee expressed its concern that cases of violence against women are a private matter. A new, global treaty would give myself, other lawyers and advocates the legal tool we lack to pressure our government to strengthen our national laws on domestic violence. It could also help ensure that women and girls who are survivors of violence have access to immediate means of redress and protection, and that perpetrators are prosecuted and adequately punished.

 

Marina-PisklakovaMarina Pisklákova-Parker is the director and founder of Center Anna, Russia’s first hotline and crisis center for survivors of domestic violence:

The change to decriminalization is also bad in terms of public perception and awareness. It sent a signal to society that domestic violence is a norm for Russia. And there is fear it increased incidents of violence, as there was an increase in the number of cases reported in some regions of up to two times.

Working on domestic violence has become more difficult for women’s organizations. In an environment of governmental neglect and an aggressive stance against addressing violence against women, the level of threat for women-activists is now higher. Women’s human rights activists always had a double threat, one from the government, and another from the conservative patriarchal part of society that resists our efforts. Now, with less legal recourse, it becomes in a way more legitimate to attack activists and women’s NGOs in the media and via threats. A treaty could help create a global climate that views domestic violence as a criminal act, not a family matter.

The Recommendations Are In!

Global approach leading to a more effective treaty

 

More than a year ago, women around the world formed committees to begin the difficult process of determining what, specifically, should be included in a global treaty on violence against women. Did it need a clearer definition of violence? A list of types of violence? How could the treaty address the implementation issues other treaties have faced? And what tools and examples could help nations better prevent violence in the first place?

The 124 women and men on the committees brought a wide-range of experience and points of view. They consisted of advocates, policy experts, practitioners, researchers and survivors from 50 countries—Sierra Leone to Pakistan, Mexico to China. “It has been all too common for treaties to be developed by a small group of people, which limits the perspectives and therefore the effectiveness of the treaty,” says Millicent Bogert, an Everywoman Everywhere volunteer who helped coordinate meetings. “An international approach is more rigorous, impactful, and even more ‘ratifiable,’ when is informed by the knowledge and expertise of women in all corners of the globe.”

The global approach adds what has been missing from past efforts: voices from the grassroots. When traditional top-down pressure is met with the force of women and men in each country pushing their governments to improve responses to and prevention of violence against women and girls, a treaty has a greater chance of being effective.

Committees met via teleconference under five umbrella topics—types of violence, vulnerable groups, life stages, prevention and implementation (see below for a full list). Members presented what they’d found digging into previous treaties and spent the bulk of their time weighing language and defining terms. What falls under “domestic violence”? What qualifies as a “conflict”? The result was a “wish list” for the treaty—17 detailed memos on what’s needed in a global treaty on violence against women.

The full 386-page document is now in the hands of the Drafting Committee, which will spend a year reviewing and integrating the key findings in to a core platform. The core platform will then be sent to 1,000 additional experts for input before official drafting begins.

A huge thanks and Bravo! for the groundbreaking work done by each member of the Expert Committees:

TYPES OF VIOLENCE: Simi Kamal (and Zainab), Pakistan; Marina Pisklákova-Parker, Russia; Ghada Hammam, Egypt; Katarzyna Sękowska-Kozłowska, Poland; Virginia Muwanigwa, Zimbabwe; Tanyi Christian, Cameroon; Cristina Ricci, Australia; Ghada Hammam, Egypt; Uuree Uuriintsolmon, Mongolia; Sopheap Ros, Cambodia; Sheena Kanwar, Singapore; Adolf Awuku Bekoe, Ghana; Valerie Khan, Pakistan; Pei Yuxin, China; Taskin Fahmina, Bangladesh; Monica McWilliams, Ireland; Jeanne Sarson, Canada; Peg Hacskaylo, USA; Dr. Denise Kindschi Gosselin, USA; Khedija Arfaoui, Tunisia; Katarzyna Sękowska-Kozłowska, Poland; Kelly Jones (Burundi), USA; Angela Hefti, Switzerland; Hauwa Shekarau, Nigeria; Anyieth D’Awol, South Sudan; Manizha Naderi, Afghanistan; Virginia Muwanigwa, Zimbabwe; Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, Nigeria; Joanna Smętek, Poland; Gaby Razafindrakoto, Madagascar; Reena Tandon, Canada; Laurie Tannous, Canada; Tanyi Christian, Cameroon; Jo-Anne Dusel, Canada; Shawn MacDonald, USA; Michal Sela, Israel; Orit Sulitzeanu, Israel; Carolyn Rodehau, USA; David Wofford, USA; VULNERABLE GROUPS COMMITTEE: Violeta Momcilovic, Serbia;  Alice Nenneh James, Sierra Leone; Debbie Gross, Israel; Reem Abbas, Sudan; Stephanie Baric , USA ; Zainab Umu Kamara, Sierra Leone; Sandra Johansson, Spain; Reem Abbas, Sudan; Heidi Guldbaek, Australia; Caroline Herewini, New Zealand; Hazel Hape, New Zealand; Ruth Howlett, New Zealand; Anne Todd, New Zealand; Dorinda Cox, Australia; Kelly Stoner, USA; Kamilia Kura, Sudan; Kabann Kabananukye, Uganda; Yolanda Munoz Gonzalez, Canada; Martha Jean Baker, England; Martha Tholanah, Zimbabwe; Gcebile Ndlovu, Swaziland; Talent Jumo, Zimbabwe; Ricky Nathanson, Zimbabwe; Erika Castellanos, Belize; Miriam Banda/Kateka, Zambia; Truffy Maginnis, Adelaide; Margie Charlesworth, Australia; Savina Nongebatu, Solomon Islands; Yolanda Munoz Gonzalez, Canada; Truffy Maginnis, Australia; Stephanie Ortoleva, USA; Cristina Ricci, Australia; LIFE STAGES, Obioma Nwaorgu, Nigeria; Azra Abdul Cader, Sri Lanka; Munara Beknazarova, Kyrgyzstan; Fadoua Bakhadda, Morocco; Anu Radha, India; Safeer Ullah Khan, Pakistan; Keerty Nakray, India; Stephanie Kennedy, USA; Margaret Owen, England; Judy Lear, USA; Patricia Brownell, USA; Eleanor Nwadinobi, Nigeria; Helen Hamlin, USA; Meera Khanna, India; Lois Herman, Italy; Asmaa Al Ameen, Iraq; Heather Ibraham-Leathers, USA; Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Nigeria; Aabha Chaudhury, India; Sara Winkowski, USA; Ferdous Ara Begum, Bangladesh; IMPLEMENTATION, Francisco Rivera, USA; Ronagh McQuigg, Ireland; Stephanie Willman Bordat, Morocco; Laura Nyirinkindi, Uganda; Gulnara Mammadova, Azerbaijan; Vanessa Bettinson, UK; Shazia Choudhry, UK; Rhona Modesto San Pedro, Philippines; Amy Barrow, Hong Kong; Petra Butler, New Zealand; Tevita Seruilumi, Fiji; Claire Hammerton, Australia; Felicity Gerry, Australia; Karen Willis, Australia; Joyce Hewett, Jamaica; Natalie Wade, Australia; Dinah Adiko, Ghana; David L Richards, USA; Cristina Ricci, Australia; PREVENTION: Gladys Mbuyah Luku, Cameroon; Medea Khmelidze, Georgia; Margaret Nwagbo, Nigeria; Manisha Desai, USA; Zynab Binta Senesie, Sierra Leone; Lu Pin, China; Vanessa Coria, Mexico; Suntariya Muanpawong, Thailand; Halah Eldoseri, Saudi Arabia; Susan Harris Rimmer, Australia; Lisa Hoffman, USA; Sisi Liu, Hong Kong; Ann-Marie Loebel, Australia; Heidi Guldbaek, Australia; EVERYWOMAN EVERYWHERE SUPPORTING TEAM MEMBERS: Natalie Eslick, Australia; Caitlin O’Quinn, USA; Maria Pachon, USA; Seden Anlar, Turkey; Victoria O’Neil, USA; Amany Elgarf, Egypt; Rachel Uemoto, USA; Vidya Sri, USA; Millicent Bogert, USA.

 

EXPERT COMMITTEES BY TOPIC

Types of Violence: Domestic Violence, Non-State Torture, State Sponsored Violence, Trafficking and Slavery, and Workplace Violence

Vulnerable Groups: Violence in Conflict, Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls, Violence Against Disabled Women and Girls, Inclusive groups, which focused on women and girls living with HIV/AIDS, sex workers and LBTQI women and girls

Life Stages: Violence Against Girls and Students, Violence Against Older Women, and Violence Against Widows of All Ages

Prevention: Advocacy / Rights-Based, and Training and Mandatory Education

Implementation: Implementation Assessment, Governing Bodies

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