08 5 / 2013
The economic disparity between women and men is a pressing gender equity issue that demands international attention. While current labor trends in North America demonstrate that a majority of American women are now breadwinners in their households, women are not being justly compensated for their work. During my trip to the 57th CSW at the United Nations, I sat on panels that focused on disparities in the work place and the effects these disparities have on women’s labor rights. The UN panel discussions shed light on the stereotypes that exist in the work place and extracts key economic and social issues mentioned in the World Economic Forum’s 2012 Global Gender Gap Report.
The CSW’s Women: Equality of Rights and Labor panel, hosted by Women International Democratic Federation and Regional Office of America, shed light on an important component of economic and social rights, specifically with regards to the public’s outlook on profit. Panelists discussed how capitalism misuses women, especially those in vulnerable economic and social situations, and how this practice exploits situations in which women are forced to work over time without compensation. They said that, with employees’ hours of work defined by capitalism’s need for greater profits, labor mandates affect women’s social rights such as their health. For instance, working in dirty and dangerous conditions for extended periods of time inflicts short and long-term illness that ultimately affect workers’ ability to secure a healthy lifestyle. As a young female college student, I have a responsibility to become aware of these gendered issues in the workplace and take action. Participation in on-campus initiatives, such as Rutgers Students Against Sweatshops, gives me the outlet through which to spread awareness about these exploitative practices and engage in activism to help women suffering in these situations.
Published by the World Economic Forum, the 2012 Global Gender Gap Report briefs on ways in which these issues affect women across global societies, ranking 135 countries based on 14 different indicators within economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. In assessing the Forum’s report on economic participation, it is crucial to highlight its discussion on the participation gap, which is “captured using the difference in labour force participation rates” and the remuneration gap, which is identified “through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income” (World Economic Forum). Both the participation and remuneration gaps mentioned in the report bridge together the notions that educated women endure gender disparities in the professional work place just as much as women working in laborious factories. For instance, while women working in factory environments experience a form of the remuneration gap- enduring long hours without compensation- women working in professional environments have to combat the participation gap, which maintains glass ceiling theories such that men remain in senior positions. These gendered stereotypes ensure women reach plateaus in their careers, with no hope of reaching management level positions. As a conscientious and motivated college student seeking to pursue a career in the corporate world, I am determined to help shift this societal trend and to break the barriers that prevent women from advancing in the corporate world.
Women, especially those who are formally educated, struggle just as much as women who work in laborious factory environments. Across the board, whether in laborious or professional working environments, women are enduring economic and social disparities. These disparities call for all governments and global societies to take a stand, to actively voice women’s rights, and to put an end to economic and social injustices in the workplace.
Written by Karimah Munem, CWGL’s Spring 2013 Economic and Social Rights Intern. Karimah is currently a sophomore at Rutgers University majoring in Political Science with minors in Spanish and Middle Eastern Studies.
08 5 / 2013
Attending the events held at 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for the first time was truly an eye-opening and affective learning for me. The CSW session is an annual event held in NYC that provides a forum to women’s rights NGOs and activists from around the globe to discuss their progress within women’s rights advocacy. The main discussion of the 2013 session was themed around the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
One event that particularly sustained my interest was The Women and Memory Forum’s panel discussion titled “Women and the Egyptian Revolution: Documentation as Resistance”. The Women and Memory Forum is a women’s rights organization based in Cairo, Egypt whose mission is to document and archive women’s stories of sexual abuse as a way to garner critical attention and open up a discussion about women’s rights violations in Egypt. Since the 2011 Egyptian revolution, there have been an unprecedented number of violent gang assaults towards women in Tahrir Square. Many stories shared in the Forum are accounts of these experiences.
There is an unfortunate disregard for many of these sexual assaults occurring in post-revolutionary Egypt by both the Egyptian media and the political elite. Under President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, the omnipresent police ensured that sexual assaults were kept out of public squares, but since his overthrow the absence of tight security forces has allowed sexual assaults to increase, even in the public eye. However, many women have taken advantage of the weakened structure of authority by speaking out against the aggressive news media, even while elected officials maintain deep hostility to women’s participation in politics.
The absence of any real policy change or solutions to these attacks highlights a failure in Mohamed Morsi’s government to restore social order. Many women’s rights activists among others believe that the sexual assaults are organized and coordinated, possibly by state actors, “with the aim of silencing them, excluding them from public spaces and the political events shaping Egypt’s future, and breaking the resistance of the opposition” (Amnesty International). During the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (11 February 2011 to 30 June 2012), women protestors taking part of demonstrations calling for women’s rights and the end of sexual harassment were targeted. Thus far, there has been nobody held accountable for these crimes.
The logistics of archiving are crucial as women’s stories must be framed and presented within larger metanarratives. Many women say that the police add to their degradation by driving women away from demonstrations and political participative events and stripping them of their respectability. Feminist demands during the revolution were not a top priority within political groups. Women’s demonstrations have not been widely accepted, thus there remains a wide sense of being left out among Egyptian women.
Written by Marielle Rodriguez, CWGL’s Spring 2013 Economic and Social Rights intern. Marielle is currently a fourth-year student at Rutgers University majoring in Political Science and Visual Arts.
26 3 / 2013
On 9th November 2012 the United Kingdom (UK) announced that it will end its financial aid to India by the year 2015. New “programmes will take the form of technical assistance,” while “investments in private sector projects” will be expected “to generate a return,” according to its Department of International Development. The UK government goes on to note that the “shift reflects India’s successful transition to become a key part of the global economy.”
This policy shift has also to be contextualized within the current economic situation in the UK, in particular, and Europe more broadly, viz creeping economic downturn and the implementation of sweeping austerity measures.
At first glance, and for those with knowledge of the history of the two countries, this mutually agreed decision marks both the end of an era, and to some degree, the culmination of a complex relationship which spans trade (1600s), colonialism (1858-1947), and aid (post 1948). According to the UK government, the period marking the end of aid to India will entail a focus on trade and technical assistance.
In laying out its rational for ending aid to India, the UK government highlights that in “2010, bilateral trade between the UK and India grew by 20%”, with a “total to £13 billion.” It is important to note that UK goods exported to India grew by 37% while goods imported from India increased by 27%. In addition, Indian investment to the UK is also growing, with several notable deals, including the purchase of Jaguar Land Rover by Tata for £1.15 billion in March 2008. These recent deals, as well as the decision to end aid, are concrete examples of India and the UK’s economic transitions and a larger geopolitical shift, with implications for trade, international relations and global governance.
Specifically within the context of development finance, India, as a member of the BRICS, is involved in talks to establish a development bank. To date, with the exception of Russia, a majority of financing is focused on infrastructure development, for mutual benefit in the spirit of South-South cooperation. It remains to be seen, given their differing positions on conditionalities and tied aid, and their national economic interests, the extent to which the proposed bank’s policies and approach will diverge from the ideology of the Washington Concenses.
The UK’s efforts to embrace “trade not aid” by 2015 in India, which many development advocates and activists have been promoting can be encouraging if there is a level playing field. However, the extent to which this shift will result in a departure from protectionist measures by the UK, such as agricultural subsidies and intellectual property, must be evaluated in part against its bilateral and regional trade policies with India.
In addition, much touted and linked to India’s increasing economic success, albeit uneven geographically and in terms of distribution within its population, specifically along caste and gender lines, is that India’s development efforts have resulted in approximately 60 million people moving out of extreme poverty in the last years. However, even the Indian government acknowledges that inequality and poverty remain challenges to its development, which makes the following question pertinent: will the current Indian development model and increasing neoliberal approach to economic growth result in sustained reductions in poverty and inequality?
2 Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa
21 3 / 2013
Have you ever wondered about your government’s spending on the military and the ways in which it impacts the availability of critical social resources? On the first day of the CSW, Monday, March 4, 2013, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership along with partners, the Global Fund for Women and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, convened a panel discussion on the intersections of human security, militarism and violence against women. With a packed room, presenters and the moderator Madhu Mehra, APWLD, stressed the need for a more people centered approach to security as well as the importance of the human rights framework in the shaping of fiscal policies.
Radhika Balakrishnan, Center for Women’s Global Leadership, highlighted that the realization of economic and social rights requires much more than rhetoric to be achieved; it necessitates financial resources. She shared that expenditure and revenue needs to be unpacked in an effort to better understand the ways in which governments are supporting or undermining human rights. One question we all need to ask our government is how does the spending on military and defense compare to the spending on education and health?
Investing in peace requires governments to reallocate financial resources towards initiatives that advance the women, peace and security agenda and Security Council resolution 1325 national action plans, which Azza Kamel, Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development (ACT) and WILPF representative, touched upon during the panel. The increasing militarism, arms flow and violence against women in Egypt threatens women’s rights and the realization of women’s economic and social rights.
As a result of increased militarism worldwide and lack of 1325 implementation, women and girls are left out of peace building processes. Eleanor Nwadinobi, Regional Representative of Sub-Saharan Africa for the DPI/NGO Executive Committee, stressed the importance of including women in peace building processes as well as explained the gendered effects of militarism on women, and the ways in which gender-aware budgeting can help offset some of the negative effects on gender relations caused by militarized societies.
Since the CSW theme was focused on violence against women, panelists made connections between the arms trade and gender-based violence and the unfortunate reality for many women in the world: that peace does not exist and a new definition of peace must be articulated. The linkages between the flow of arms, budgets and gender-based violence are obvious and governments must commit to reallocating resources that support women’s rights.
by Margot Baruch, Economic and Social Rights Program Coordinator
15 3 / 2013
Economic and social rights provide a fundamental standard of decency for evaluating our economic system and holding governments and private actors to account. These human rights are inalienable – individuals cannot have their rights taken away due to political changes or economic crises such as the one we are currently experiencing. The recent global economic crisis is evidence that the economic policies of the past three decades have not worked. In fact, they now threaten the security of basic human rights. The devastation that the crisis has already wrought on the most vulnerable households in the Global North and the Global South is a reminder that the formulation of economic policy and the realization of human rights have, for too long, been divorced from one another.
This is why on March 12th at the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) in partnership with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) jointly organized a panel discussion focused on the status of women’s rights during the recent financial crisis, 20 years after the Vienna Conference on Human Rights was held. Although the theme for the 2013 CSW was on the elimination of violence against women, CWGL and OHCHR saw the need to reframe the discussion to include the ways in which economic policies can both support and undermine women’s rights and a life free from violence. The event was moderated by Savitri Bisnath, CWGL’s Associate Director and drew a standing room only crowd, demonstrating the importance of this type of discussion. Panelists made linkages between the economic crisis, budgets, militarism, migration, macroeconomic policies, and economic and social rights.
In times of crisis, people’s access to basic human and financial resources becomes threatened. The linkages between the financial crisis and increases in violence against women were reflected on by Rashida Manjoo, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women its causes and consequences and the featured speaker at the event. As governments decrease spending on social services, there are fewer resources available for vital women’s crisis centers that seek to support survivors of violence and prevent future cases from occurring. She gave a specific country example from Cambodia in which the situation of violence against women is increasing and specifically domestic violence as a result of the financial crisis. Violence against women and austerity policies significantly impede the realization and enjoyment of freedom and equality for women.
Panelist Ruth Ojiambo Ochieng, the Executive Director of Isis-WICCE, an international women’s rights organization based in Uganda, noted the ways in which fiscal policies and budgetary allocations of a country in conflict/post-conflict impact women’s access to basic services. She spoke about the impact of militarism and violence on women’s livelihoods and their ability to achieve economic autonomy. One example she provided was that of a girl gang raped by 16 military men. As a result of the rape, the young girl had fistula and HIV which led her to being ostracized; she became homeless, and lacked access to water/sanitation and critical health provisions. “This situation is the same for thousands of women,” Ruth explained. Clearly, more funding is needed for women’s rights and not the military and as a result of these experiences CWGL has begun a project to redefine security. The security project seeks to collect data from women’s rights group worldwide and redefine security in an effort to demonstrate to governments that their budgetary allocations do not match up with the priorities of women.
Speaking from her experiences with WOREC in Nepal, Renu Rajbhandari, stressed the significance of ending impunity in seeking justice for women who experience violence at the hands of the local law enforcement. Renu also reflected on the life of migrant women and the continuous discrimination and exploitation they endure by state and non-state actors. It is the compounding of human rights retrogressions, neoliberal trade agreements, and pervasive violence as well as customary laws that keep women as second class citizens in Nepal and in the region. These cases are at the center of what is wrong with economic policy.
Rather than securing the basic well-being of all, governments are putting forth austerity as a solution to the crisis which is not only unacceptable, but has been shown to not even produce the desired outcomes to reduce debt and increase growth. It is clearly time to assess economic policy using the ethical lens of the universally-recognized human rights framework and Maarit Kohonen Sheriff, on behalf of OHCHR, did just that in her presentation. She provided an overview of legally binding international human rights obligations to guarantee the realization of human dignity and those rights that promote dignity such as the right to food, housing, health, education and work. The framework which is articulated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), makes clear links to the human rights principles progressive realization and non-retrogression; and while 160 Member States have ratified this treaty, the existence of gross human rights violations is an enduring reality in all countries.
Finally, Radhika Balakrishnan, CWGL’s Executive Director, concluded the panel with a call for the UN and advocates alike to see macroeconomic policies as a women’s rights and feminist issue. Even amid plenty, levels of inequality persist and while countries rhetorically agree with human rights, policies and implementation practices remain weak. Fiscal policies and monetary policies impact available jobs and social spending which can increase levels of inequality and severely hinder the realization of economic and social rights. Radhika stressed that, “austerity is not working for us,” and although governments are committing to human rights, their practices are significantly undermining people’s ability to live with dignity as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The event provided a space to unpack the connections between economic and social rights, militarism, women’s rights and economic policy. Panelists explained the stark reality of people’s lives and the gaps between policy and implementation. If economic policy is not addressed when discussing the achievement of gender equality and financial resources are not allocated, then government’s actual commitment to women’s rights is naught.
By March Baruch, Economic and Social Rights Program Coordinator
08 3 / 2013
The 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women began earlier this week with Member States coming together to discuss and reach an agreement on this year’s theme of “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls” and on the review theme of “the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS”.
Civil society organizations, inter-governmental bodies, and human rights activists are here to observe and advocate with Member States to do the right thing and make concrete conclusions that will respond with due diligence toward violence against women and girls, domestic and intimate partner violence, and will ensure that all women and girls have access to health services and have ownership of their bodies and reproductive rights.
In observing the statements made by Member States these past few days, I have heard a lot of repetition of support for the theme. Almost all Member States support comprehensive work on this theme. Many have spoken about major gains their countries have made in expanding the rights of women, especially in terms of protection and support services in the cases of rape, HIV/AIDS, domestic and intimate partner violence, and reproductive health. The truth of these statements is not clear because data collection and monitoring and evaluation in most countries is weak or severely lacking.
It is shocking that all of these Member States support the elimination of violence against women and girls when they are at the UN table, but in every region of the world, many women vulnerable to violence and discrimination continue to live on the margins of their communities. In order to change this negative state, governments must first honestly engage with the problem by identifying its root causes of patriarchy, economic inequality and lack of access, harmful traditional practices, and use human rights based solutions. They must remember that violence against women and girls is not just a theme to consider for two weeks, but that it is a lived reality for women and girls across the world.
Something that has stuck out is the number of states and regional organizations that have indicated the family as the center of resolution of violence against women, failing to consider that in many cases, violence against women begins and ends within the family. European, Central and Latin American, South East Asian, and North American countries are some that have spoken of reproductive health and rights. Beside the European Union countries, there hasn’t been impressive verbal support calling for an end to discrimination and violence against LGBT communities nor for women’s reproductive rights, especially abortion. Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) have been completely left out of the conversation, save for the statement made by Ireland for the European Union, and the civil society organization Latin American and Caribbean Committee for Defense of Women’s Rights.
As the CSW57 enters its second and final week, there will hopefully be not only a set of agreed conclusions on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, but that we will have real and substantial support for implementation measures on access to health and reproductive rights and services, protection from honor, culture, tradition as an excuse for violence against women and girls, protection of women human rights defenders from state and non-state perpetrators, a steadfast resolve to end impunity and ratify and implement CEDAW, UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions, and other human rights agreements.
By Zarin Hamid, Center for Women’s Global Leadership
As the global coordinator of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership is doing its part at the 57thsession by working in solidarity with likeminded national and international groups fighting for an end to gender based violence, an end to impunity enjoyed by state and non-state actors, fulfillment and protection the human rights of all people, and an end to the culture of militarism that reinforces gender inequalities and violence in our communities around the world. We have submitted our written statements to the CSW57 directly urging Member States to act through substantial means to protect, prevent, and promote.
14 2 / 2013
Today, on V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, I consider why we rise; why the staff at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, why our colleagues at Rutgers University, and why individuals and organizations from around the world chose to rise up and take a stand against gender-based violence as part of ONE BILLION RISING.
Someone asked me the other day how gender-based violence can still be so prevalent and how gender inequality can actually still exist. So, my answer to why I rise is simple; the fact that someone needed to ask me that question in the first place.
Gender-based violence is any form of violence that occurs because of an individual’s perceived or actual gender, gender-identity, sexual orientation, or lack of conformity to one of the aforementioned. Therefore, as we rise to end gender-based violence let us remember why we are rising. We need to acknowledge the violence that occurs every day all over the world.
We are rising for the women attacked because they do not conform to society’s understanding of what it means to be a woman, for those targeted for not fitting in to the gender-norms, for the individuals harassed because they identify within the LGBTQ community, to those raped as a way to maintain the patriarchal power dynamic, for the millions of individuals denied access to safe and affordable reproductive healthcare. For the women human rights defenders who become enemies of their own government, for the one in five college women raped during their time in college, for every member of the queer community who has ever experienced repercussions for coming out, for every individual who ever said “no” and was not listened to. For every survivor who has spoken out, and for the others who felt they could not.
As we work to end gender-based violence, we must remember all that violence encompasses; the psychological, verbal, sexual, and physical assault that occurs on a daily basis. For all the reasons above, and a million more, it is necessary that we rise up and take a stand, that we pledge, together, to work for a more just and peaceful world. I rise because every individual has a basic human right to live free of fear, to not worry about walking down the street alone, to feel that saying “no” is enough, to be who they are without concern of societal repercussions. I rise because I am tired of being told, by my own government, that I am worth less as a woman, that my body is not mine to own, that my identity as queer makes me a legitimate target for discrimination.
I rise because the only way to create lasting change is by standing up and standing together.
by Alex Anastasia, Center for Women’s Global Leadership
10 12 / 2012
Would you believe it if I said that when a country reduces its rates of violence against girls and women it also lowers its propensity for engaging in military conflict? There are meaningful, powerful and verifiable connections between violence in the home and a nation’s level of militarization and war. It turns out that the security of girls and women — how safe they are in their homes, in their schools, on their streets — is a measure of the security of the state they live in.
Such is the conclusion of a fascinating book, Sex and World Peace, by M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett. Here is how they put it:
“The very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated. What’s more, democracies with higher levels of violence against women are as insecure and unstable as nondemocracies.”
The book’s conclusions are based on studies that spanned 10 years and resulted in the creation of the WomanSTATS database and project, the most comprehensive global source of statistics regarding the status of girls and women. The database covers virtually every aspect of what might be considered violence from son preference to maternal mortality, female genital mutilation to child marriage
So, it is possible to really study the idea that what happens in the home – domestic violence – and to consider its butterfly effects. But, how do you define violence? Sex selection? Girl malnutrition? The sale of girl children?
Here are 16 Facts About Violence in Homes around the world:
1. Number of girls missing from planet due to son preference: 160,000,000
2. Sex ratio in parts of China: 120 boys to 100 girls
3. Worldwide, chances that a girl will be malnourished in the home compared to a boy: 3 to 1
4. Percentage of girls between 11-19 in India, where girls are frequently fed after boys, who are underweight: 47%
5. Number of girls worldwide that do not complete primary school education: 100 million
6. Gender gap in developed nations between boys completing secondary education and girls: >10%
7. Worldwide, estimated number of girls, per day, married before the age of 18: 25,000
8. Leading cause of death worldwide for girls 15-19: childbirth and pregnancy related death
9. Number of all women who will be victims of intimate partner abuse worldwide: 1 in 3
10. Percentage of female homicide victims in the US killed by an intimate partner: 33%
11. Country where women killed for giving birth to daughters instead of sons: Afghanistan
12. Number of women worldwide who have had their genitals mutilated, usually before the age of 18: 100 million and 140 million girls and women
13. Percentage of rape victims under the age of 18 (US): 44%
14. Percentage of their attackers who were family members (US): 34.2%
15. Percentage of honor killings in which girl is killed by her own family: 72%
16. Country in which a man killed his three young daughters by putting a snake in their bed because he finally had a son: Egypt
This list, which barely skims the surface, is a compilation of gender based crimes, all of which take place in homes. The overwhelming targets of violence in the home are girls and women. The home is often the seeding ground for violence and the cultural definition of girls and women as property. The dynamics of this fundamental unit – the family – is then replicated at larger and larger scales: neighborhoods, regions, countries.
The 10 years of research that went into writing Sex and World Peace demonstrates that until girls and women are considered fully human, instead of subservient sub-humans, tradable property or expensive drains on family resources, and treated with respect within their own homes and by their families, we are unlikely to affect transformative changes in militarization at the national, regional and international levels. As the authors put it, “The very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated.”
Soraya L. Chemaly writes about feminism, gender and culture. She writes in The Huffington Post, Fem2.0, Alternet, RHRealityCheck among others and has appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, Siriux XM and other radio programs to talk about these topics. Follow her at @schemaly.
09 12 / 2012
08 12 / 2012
By Sharon Bhagwan Rolls
So why does community radio matter? Shouldn’t we be mainstreaming and making news, shaking things up in the mainstream media? I only wish it were that easy. After departing from a career in corporate media where I was constantly trying to find ways to take the messages from our women’s movement beyond the confines of International Women’s Day and 16 Days Campaign events, it has been more than a decade since I connected my work with the vision of Virginia Woolf for women to have the resources to define our spaces, including to be able to challenge war and violence.
For the last 3 years, FemLINKPACIFIC has linked the annual 16 Days Campaign to our rural women’s community media network “1325” network, building on the monthly meetings where rural women leaders share and articulate their Women, Peace and Human Security priorities using a United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 lens.
Last year 139 rural women and 24 young women shared their personal stories, the stories of their families, their community groups and clubs during our 16 Days Campaign in Suva, Labasa and Nausori.
UNSCR 1325 reaffirms that women are crucial partners in shoring up the three pillars of lasting peace: economic recovery, social cohesion and political system. But our political reality is that we still have a long way to go to be able to claim spaces in a legitimate political system, even to simply challenge spending priorities by the state.
The 2012 theme of UN Security Council Open Debate on 1325 reiterates the need to support women’s civil society roles in peacebuilding and conflict prevention, and that means that local and national action plans must be inclusive of women’s definitions of peace and human security. It also requires a transformation of structures to ensure the full and equal participation of women in decision making.
Here in Fiji, we are also awaiting the announcement of the 2013 national budget. The 2012 budget brief coincides with the 16 Days Campaign and we heard with dismay that there would be an increase in Fiji’s military budget by $5.2 million “due to the additional 42 troops for the Iraq Mission” with an additional $550,000 allocated for military infrastructure upgrade. This is the same amount allocated to the Women’s Plan of Action, which is focused on “(providing) training to women in the rural and urban areas and in the process assist in the implementing of their projects that promotes the social and empowerment of women,” while an additional $300K is provided for repairs and maintenance of health facilities, including health centres and 103 nursing stations in the 4 divisions.
This will be the 3rd year that FemLINKPACIFIC’s 16 days of community radio campaign will be staged in Suva, Labasa and other rural centres. Ahead of the campaign we organised an interactive learning programme for our current young women producers and broadcasters and a group of potential volunteers from the capital city and from our Nausori “1325” network to work with two outstanding feminist communicators – Vanessa Griffen and Shirley Tagi. They worked together to enhance their collective knowledge of the 16 Days Campaign as well as develop a series of messages which are airing during our 16 Days Campaign.
These are the spaces we have created to enable women including young women to talk about issues closest to them. To connect processes and define where the transformation is needed, especially as here in Fiji in the democratization process of our country.
This is thinking globally and acting locally.
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls is a broadcaster by profession and co-founder of FemLINKPACIFIC (Media Initiatives for Women) established in Suva, Fiji Islands in 2000 following the May 2000 coup. Today she is the Executive Director of the organisation which supports a “1325media and policy network” that includes a cadre of young women producers and broadcasters.
07 12 / 2012
06 12 / 2012
By Patricia Teffenhart
Chipped and cracked, I still have in my possession my childhood mug that reads, “A Woman’s Place is in the House…Senate and Supreme Court.” That statement, at such a young age, made an indelible mark on my sense of self and my view of the world around me. It seems as if I’ve spent my whole life defining and honoring my own personal interpretation of feminism.
What I have determined is that my feminism is not defined by the fact that I went to Douglass College, or by my personal perspectives on family or politics. Nor is it defined by the fact that I have spent the majority of my career working to advance the social justice issues influencing the everyday lives of women. My feminism is rooted in the inclusive philosophical considerations of “humanism,” which speaks to the self-determination and advancement of all peoples. It is the breadth with which humanism affirms the dignity of all peoples that most accurately aligns with my view of the feminist movement as being a part of the larger social justice framework.
Defining feminism in this context underscores the need for individuals and organizations to work together to overcome all oppressive norms. In order to effect sustainable change, advocates must be sensitive to the delicate ways in which gender is influenced by race, ethnicity, spirituality, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, educational attainment and age. To not evaluate gender-specific oppression in this larger context is to deny the rich and complex realities that shape the lives and identities of women. To address one of these influencers, as if it exists in its own isolated silo, is to disregard the way in which various forms of oppression intersect and overlap.
It is in this intersection that my feminism resides, and if by chance my commitment to feminism should ever start to waver or a sense of false confidence regarding the status of women should try to emerge, I need only think of my work with Women Aware, the comprehensive domestic violence agency serving Middlesex County, New Jersey. It is the reality of my work that prevents me from falling into a place of complacency.
Each year, we provide free and confidential services to thousands of women and children moving beyond abuse – families who have been economically oppressed, emotionally tormented, physically and sexually assaulted, and psychologically demoralized. During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, approximately 250 women will call our hotline, 15 women will escape violence by seeking refuge in our Safe House, and 50 women will seek the justices afforded them by law through our Legal Advocacy services. And we are just one organization, working within one county, in one state.
As a domestic violence service provider, I spend 365 days a year entrenched in the feminist movement and every day I am inspired by the strength and resiliency of women – women who are not defined by their past, but driven by their dreams of the future.
And so…I have my own dream for the future – one in which all people are able to live lives free of the fear of abuse and the oppression of institutionalized privilege. We can start with 16 Days, but it’s not enough time to right the wrongs of generations’ worth of gender-based oppression. Sixteen days is not enough time to heal the wounds caused by violence. But, if for 16 Days we can focus on our collective strength as women, we can shift the tides of change. Because the stakes are too high for us to allow ourselves to succumb to apathy. Because our foremothers have paved the way for us to be forces for change, so that our daughters and sons may live in a more just society. Because we are strong. Because we are humanists. Because we are feminists.
Patricia Teffenhart is the Assistant Executive Director for Women Aware, the state-designated domestic violence organization serving Middlesex County, New Jersey. She also is serving her second term as elected Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and is also a member of the Board’s Governance Committee.