Hidden women human rights defenders in the UK

Twenty years after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s globally resonant speech which declared that ‘women’s rights are human rights’, the term Woman Human Rights Defender is part of the zeitgeist.

Without recognising the work of women who seek to protect human rights domestically, the UK government risks seeing the activist’s role as a stage of international development rather than as a core function of democracy.

openDemocracy.net - free thinking for the world

Hidden women human rights defenders in the UK

Twenty years after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s globally resonant speech which declared that ‘women’s rights are human rights’, the term Woman Human Rights Defender is part of the zeitgeist.

Without recognising the work of women who seek to protect human rights domestically, the UK government risks seeing the activist’s role as a stage of international development rather than as a core function of democracy.

openDemocracy.net - free thinking for the world

Follow 50.50

5050 Facebook page 5050 Twitter page 5050 e-newsletter

Women and peacebuilding in Northern Ireland

Download & Listen

Real hopes for Afghanistan

After monitoring September’s elections in Afghanistan, Emma Bonino remains hopeful about the country’s future, if women can share in it as equal partners.

Contemporary Art and the Prospects for Radical Change


Imagine a World Exhibition” is a contemporary art exhibition organised by Amnesty International as part of their campaign to Stop Violence Against Women. The exhibition takes place at the Bargehouse (London, South Bank) from November the 25th till December the 11th and features work from New York’s Guerrilla Girls, Tracey Emin, Alison Lapper, Marc Quinn, Grayson Perry and Stella Vine.

In the context of debates about the achievements of the 1325 Resolution and the call for change in the status of women. This exhibition invites us to think more carefully about exploring the ways in which art may contribute to the realisation of this call.

Daily Links - 4 November

“Mainstreaming Men into Gender and Development” by Sylvia Chant and Matthew Gutmann. An Oxfam Working Paper, which aims to incorporate men in gender and development interventions at the grassroots level.


Women and War Economies. “The challenges of war economies: the role of the international community and civil society organisation” by Volker Boge and Angelika Spelten

Daily Links

UNIFEM Currents is an e-mail newsletter which provides timely information on international women's issues and UNIFEM activities around the globe.

The July/August 2005 issue offers articles on subject matters ranging from Iraqi women's efforts to ensure the place of women's rights considerations in the drafting of Iraq's new constitution to UNIFEM's work supporting the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Gender Caucus to ensure that gender issues are integrated in the WSIS.

Daily Links - 2 November

'Securing a Just and Sustainable Peace' (Noeleen Heyzer, unifem.org, 27/10/05)

"Women know the costs of war — what it means to be displaced, to be excluded from public life, and to be regarded as less than full citizens. They know the realities on the ground, and what needs to be done to address the injustices of war and to prevent relapse into conflict. They can be, and must be, part of the solution for lasting peace." UNIFEM's Noeleen Heyzer outlines challenges for the UN on women, peace and security.

CEDAW: the women formula

Adopted in 1979 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – the most far-reaching international commitment of governments working for gender equality – was the first international human-rights instrument to explicitly define all forms of discrimination against women as fundamental human-rights violations. As of April 2005, 180 states have ratified CEDAW, interpreting their treaty obligations in diverse ways ranging from reluctance to active incorporation.

Daily Links - 1 November

Responsibility to Protect / Engaging Civil Society (R2PECS)

The Responsibility to Protect is a set of principles intended to guide the international community in preventing and stopping violent conflict, by shifting the focus from state security to human security. This site explains the project and provides key reports.


The latest edition of the IANSA Women’s Network Bulletin celebrates the 5-year anniversary of 1325 by exploring its content, how it has been used in practice, and how it may be used in the future. Read it here.

Violence - the central issue

The International Action Network on Small Arms has sent out issue 8 of its bulletin dedicated to  1325 - the 'pioneering resolution on women, peace and security.' In one section, Sílvia Roque and Tatiana Moura from the  Peace Studies Group of the University of Coimbra in Portugal have formulated a set of goals they think 1325 activists should  work towards, as follows:

" · Guaranteeing that States considered at peace do not interpret Resolution 1325 only in terms of what they should do for other  States or oblige other States to do, but that they seek to explore and translate the meaning of the Resolution in their own  contexts given the continuum of violence;

Boitumelo Mofokeng, South Africa


 My days were beginning to be empty without dialogue with the Blog Sisters. Rosemary assured me that we are continuing for another two weeks and this gives me an opportunity to reflect on my personal experience of this collective.

Everyday should be a Blog Day!

We had space to share and express our thoughts, ideas and profound desire to have peace in our lifetime. When I first posted my input, I listed issues I would like to have addressed as follows: 

Creating and strengthening global solidarity with women to realise the UN Resolution
- Creating conducive environment for increased participation of and by women
- Socialization of girl-child to ensure that today’s gains are not lost in the future
- The need for women’s voice in the media and media ownership
- Demystifying gender and cultural myths used to block women’s participation

The birth of gender vision

Adopted in 1979 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – the most far-reaching international commitment of governments working for gender equality – was the first international human-rights instrument to explicitly define all forms of discrimination against women as fundamental human-rights violations. As of April 2005, 180 states have ratified CEDAW, interpreting their treaty obligations in diverse ways ranging from reluctance to active incorporation.

Daily Links - 31 October

Read and listen to statements from the 5th anniversary of Resolution 1325 in New York. (peacewomen.org)

'How does change happen?' (awid.org, 30/10/05)

The AWID International Forum on Women's Rights and Development concluded in Thailand yesterday. Find out what they have been thinking and talking about.

MOWA & Medica Mondiale Event

I have been very enthused by the blog hosted by opendemocracy and by Maria's reports from New York on the 5th anniversary activities. So, although I have been away for awhile, I thought it a good idea to organise a small event to join in with the celebrations and to remember the work that was put in during the Women Building Peace campaign that contributed to the unanimous adoption of this resolution.
So, today, to celebrate the 5th anniversary of UN SC Resolution 1325, the MOWA supported by medica mondiale - the German women's organisation working on the medical, legal and psycho-social aspect of violence against women, organised a 2 hour event. Participants to this event included the Minister of Women's Affairs and other representatives of the Government of Afghanistan, United Nations agencies, local Afghan women's NGOs, the press and others.

Women's security in disaster situations

I’m in Pakistan, working for the earthquake emergency relief programme. The fear that we haven’t got enough tents and food supplies out to the remotest areas is still very real; new stories emerge every day of entire villages that have yet to receive aid, and these stories send the aid agencies into panic. The stories could be false. But what, says a team leader of one of the largest agencies, if the stories are true, and we haven’t made any provisions for these people? With winter fast approaching—and the weather in the two worst affected regions, N.W.F.P and Kashmir can be severe indeed— we’re running against the clock. In the midst of these concerns about providing shelter, food and health care, other concerns are also now being raised. A key issue is protection. This is usually understood as protection of the most vulnerable: women; children; the elderly and the ill. I would like to here just say a few words about women.

The Women Vector

UN Resolution 1325 on women and peace-building presents a complex challenge for the international community. It identifies two distinct groups of women with a role to play in peace-building and reconstruction: those on the ground in areas of insecurity and those in global discussions on security issues, in positions of influence and who are peace-builders from the outside.

Civil Society at the Security Council Open Debate

The week of 5 year on events at UN Headquarters has whizzed past- Thursday the Security Council held an all-day Open Debate on 1325. Besides the statements given by those mentioned in the UN News Wire article, UNIFEM showed a documentary on the peace process in Burundi, which I thought was a great way to liven up the debate. The absolute highlight of the day for us was when two of our NGO WG participants spoke- having civil society sit at the SC table and speak directly to the SC as powerfully as they did, as candidly as they did was just an incredible experience. Sweeta Noori of Aghanistan spoke as did Helene Dandi of the Ivory Coast, who finally joined our program after some visa complications. We are so proud of them- they spoke from their hearts and they were the only ones applauded by SC members and those sitting in the gallery!  Their speeches as well as most of those given by SC members are on the Peacewomen website.

Daily Links - 28 October

'Security Council urges protecting women in war, empowering them as peacemakers', (UN news centre, 28/10/05)

Find out what the Security Council has to say about Resolution 1325, five years after its adoption.

Benin is the 14th country to ratify the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. One more country is needed to bring it into force - and there are unconfirmed reports that Togo has become that 15th. (pambazuka.org, 27/10/05)

UN Human Rights Committee

Thanks to Tim Symonds at Shevolution for sending this suggestion regarding the UN Human Rights Committee:
Take a look at the list of Human Rights Committee members and you’ll quickly note that only 3 (France, USA and Sweden) are women, out of the 18 members, i.e. 16%.  There will be a meeting of State parties in New York in 2006 to replace 9 of the current members whose 4-year terms expire December 31 2006 (though members can be re-elected if nominated). Britain’s representative Sir Nigel Rodley is Professor of Law and Chair, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex. His term on the Committee is completed at the end of 2008. The American member Ruth Wedgwood ends her term December 31 2006.

To the UN, from Women Making a Difference

Women from around the world are meeting at the UN in New York to lobby for the full implementation of UN SCR 1325. Our Women Making a Difference bloggers make their proposals for the UN and EU.

More New York news

Maria's message on the Arria Formula offers us not just an opportunity to celebrate, but also an important challenge to reflect. On one hand, the Arria Formula was again a success - the speeches were good, Security Council member states showed good will and asked good questions. But we should acknowledge that three member states did not attend at all, and we had fewer Ambassadors/DPRs then ever. Why? Maybe we can take responsiblity for this - and I want to be frank here. The Security Council (SC) resolution offered us an opportunity to enter the peace and security discussion and as Amb Chowdhury suggested when he spoke at the launch of Five Years On (an excellent publication!), the subtitle could have been - "Making Peace Work for Women, and Ensuring Women are Working for Peace," instead of simply stopping at "Making Peace Work for Women". I simply wonder if we can do a better job of speaking to the SC mandate and the issues on the SC agenda directly.

Daily Links - 27 October

Women, War, Peace and Violence Against Women. (womenwarpeace.org)
What is violence against women? Women War Peace defines it, shows what can be done, and highlights the work of UNIFEM.

“Women advocating for resolution 1325 in the democratic Republic of Congo”
(1325 PeaceWomen E-News Issue #10, peacewomen.org, 4/10/02)
After years of tensions between Congolese women and their government, 1325 was implemented in 2002.

“Iran: Tehran Bans Movies That Promote Nihilism And Feminism” (Golnaz Esfandiari, rferl.org, 24/10/05)
Is the new ban on foreign movies the start of a new era of more restrictive cultural policies in the Islamic Republic of Iran?


Congratulations to all on the amazing discussion that is currently taking place. Also, from Maria's email it sounds as though a phenomenal amount of work is being done by the NGO Working Group in New York.
Here in Afghanistan, we are awaiting news of exactly who will be in the new Parliament and how many women. Of course the issue of credibility will arise but for now Afghan women are happy to be able to contribute in some way to the reconstruction of their country.
While there have been many activities on this 5th anniversary of UN SC Resolution 1325 in New York, elsewhere things have been happening too. Some of the bloggers here participated in the UN FPA conference on Resolution 1325 and Violence Against Women that was held in Romania earlier this month. The discussions were extremely rich with the need to move past ad- hocery and apathy to concrete and effective action being highlighted.

after the Arria

Yesterday was a really big day here at UN headquarters. At lunchtime there were three different 1325 events happening at the same time, which was rather frustrating- a women and elections panel, a National Action Plans panel hosted by the UK Mission and a DPKO panel... so the NGO WG tried to distribute itself- I myself went to the elections panel, which was excellent. The Under SG spoke, as did the DPA's Electoral Assistance Division and Mr. Anders Johnson, the SG of the IPU, who gave a really fantastic presentation, as did Sweeta Noori of Afghanistan, one of our October Advocacy Program participants.

Mirror images in the Congo: sexual violence and conflict

Sexual violence is not merely a “by-product” but an integral and widespread part of conflict. Nicola Dahrendorf reports from the Democratic Republic of Congo, on a major humanitarian challenge.

Sexual violence is arguably one of the most challenging human rights violations to address in peace and security work. There is no vaccine to prevent it; there is no ‘cure’ for its effects. Girls and women are dying from the violence, and its long-term emotional, psychological and physical effects are profound and far-reaching.

"Our Resolution"

On the 31st of this month, in cooperation with Women in Black-Belgrade's conference on "Women, Peace, Security," our allies in the parliament will introduce a "Resolution on Women, Peace, and Security."  It is not expected to pass - Serbia has not ratified 1325 - but it is how we are marking the anniversary.  Here is our text:

A Draft Resolution: an initiative prepared by Women in Black, Belgrade
The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia
-      Beginning from the expressed wish of citizens of Serbia to live in a prosperous and democratic state in which on the basis of the full equality of all citizens, security is guaranteed to every human being;

Daily Links - 26 October

Women are willing to make a difference on the international theater. But can children? The last part of the Toolkit (by IA and WWP) underlines the plight facing so many young civilians in war-torn countries.


“In Lesotho and Swaziland, AIDS Activates Women” (Nicole Itano, womensenews.org, 24/10/05)

Preparing a message - part 2: gender, changing attitudes, international do's and don't's, local credibility...

1.  UN SCR 1325 needs to be better known and better understood
2.  UN SCR 1325 needs to be better enforced
3.  The participation/representation of women must go beyond numbers
4.  Our expertise must extend beyond women to gender
5.  How do you change attitudes in your society?
6.  International aid and intervention – what not to do
7.  We need local credibility

8.  How democracy can be made to work
9.  How to cope with vulnerability and combat victimisation
10.How to defend women’s human rights
11.Towards a ‘bloodless knowledge revolution’

4. Our expertise must extend beyond women to gender

Many bloggers were keen to shift the 1325 debate away from the concerns of women alone and towards a more profound understanding of gender equality, gender mainstreaming and gender hierarchies.

Lina Abifareh’s concern was that the women she encountered did not wish to be ‘extracted from their social realities’. They wanted to work with and alongside men. She saw this as a challenge for 1325 activists who too often liked to forget that men are an essential part of gender work. She cited one woman’s comment: “Men don't want to see women improve their lives. They think it is at their expense. No foreigner can come in and change this. If an organization comes to help men, this is better. First work and training, and then talk about change and women."

There was little disagreement about the need to encourage men to be active supporters of women’s rights and to work on gender relations. But different priorities were expressed. Mu Sochua was sympathetic to listening to those who fear change: ‘I think I went very strong on promoting women's space, when I was first minister of women's affairs and it was my deputy who told me, taught me to include men. And then it became easier as men who abuse their wives had less to fight against. They give up their space more easily when we explain that it is not a weakness but a sign of strength to allow their wives to have their own opinions’. But she is not keen to compromise ‘away our space in democracy because we need men… Democracy is never a free meal. It is not a fight between men and women – it is a fight to make sure that laws are used to protect men and women equally, rich and poor fairly, majority and minority justly.’

For some in the discussion, feminism helps both men and women, by ‘diluting the false patriarchal dichotomy, man/woman.’ For others, such as Farkhanda Chaudhry, speaking about the Muslim Women Talk project in the UK, women make a huge difference whether or not their work is recognized, or gender relations are challenged: ‘…the contribution of women in the creation of stronger communities is essential. Women's work needs to be recognised as valuable, like the cement used to build structures. This work may not always be recognised: it may be done in the background. Often we see women as the backbone to voluntary contributions: but men may front the initiative.’

But for others the right of women to be different and do things differently is what has to be defended, often from violence, and particularly in militarized societies where male aggression is the subject of adulation. Mu Sochua drew this conclusion from reading the discussion, ‘maybe women define democracy and peace very differently from men and that is the reason why women's agenda for peace rarely gets on the table.’

Galia Golan writes about how women in peace negotiations are more likely to be interested in individual well-being, inclusiveness, transparency – a win-win situation. Zainab, returning from monitoring the first free, multi-part elections in Liberia doesn’t mince her words, ‘Whenever I meet men politicians in Africa, I tell them Africa is in the mess in which it is because it has been run by men. They have destroyed our continent.’

Judith Butler’s essay, ‘On being Beside Oneself’ triggered a discussion about the violence against body and mind suffered by people ‘gendered and sexualized outside the mainstream’ in so many societies. This touched on the emancipation a closer encounter with diversity could afford all of us. Cindy Weber concludes, ‘the challenge is to make difference - in this case, the difference women make - something that is safe to imagine and to live.’

Sam Cook began to do the work of careful discrimination between terms which is crying out to be revisited in the attempt to understand, for example, sexual and gender based violence (SGBV): “Through research on sgbv in South Africa and Sierra Leone…it is clear that it is gender hierarchies and notions of masculinity and femininity which motivate and facilitate such violence… The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development has defined gender-based violence to be any act “involving use of force/coercion with an intent of perpetuation/ promotion of hierarchical gender-relations in all social structures.” This focuses on the intended effect of gender-based violence as being the perpetuation of gender hierarchies. This is an important move but this too fails to include a sense of such violence exploiting and relying for its effectiveness on current gender roles and hierarchies – that is, being based on gender. So we need to look at more than masculinity and femininity but also at how these operate in a society in relation to each other in a particular power context.”

5. Let’s share knowledge about how to change attitudes in our respective societies:

Visaka notes that ‘we have to work very hard to change the attitudes of our respective societies – the main obstacle to the implementation of 1325.’ What really does make change possible in our societies? Bloggers have found that all sorts of different approaches work. Here are a few examples – please add approaches you think have been important in these blog pages.

- The cost benefit argument, ‘Peacemaking and building is complex. You need all the help you can get. Women are agents of positive change – you should support their work.’
- The Organizacion Feminina Popular is a women’s organization leading a non-violent resistance against violence in Colombia. Despite the assassination of its leader by paramilitaries, the group offers training for work, in healthcare and arts courses to 1,200 women in safe houses across the region
- Films like Hotel Rwanda take people’s stories away from them and sanitise them. Rwandan survivors of genocide need to tell their own stories face-to face to international visitors. This is particularly important when women survivors have to face those who raped them and killed their families coming back into their communities. We must ask ourselves how we can support these women.
- Activism on 1325 is a way of overcoming fear and escaping from the position of the marginalized other. Global solidarity across borders and barriers also give alternative support to activists.
- Women prisoners brutally detained under the Uruguayan dictatorship for up to ten years, kept sane through their solidarity network. Now they work for democracy more energetically than anyone else, because they remember this ‘black page’ in their country’s history.
- Amongst the diversity of views, we have women who do wish to develop resistance using the parameters of their understanding of Islam, while others, who come from a very secular view point wish to do so from their own particular stance. One challenge is how to build up a coalition which respects this diversity and values the strength of collaborative working to achieve good outcomes for all.

Daily Links - 25 October

HIV/AIDS is a threat to a country’s stability. The 17th slice of the Toolkit focuses on showing how women are twice victims of the disease and its social consequences (by IA and WWP).


Two of the founders of The Jerusalem Link, Terry Greenblatt and Maha Abu-Dayyeh Shamas talk about their project: an International Women's Committee on peace and justice in the Middle East. (zpluspartners.com, 09/09/05)

NY 1325 madness

Greetings from NY, where 1325 5 years on madness is in full swing… the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security has brought women from different conflict contexts to UN Headquarters as part of our October Advocacy Program and so far things have been very exciting. Our participants are brilliant- and we have had 2 days of workshops and training to prepare them for speaking to the media- several of them have been interviewed already and have done a great job. Later today Sweeta Noori of Afghanistan will be speaking in the Security Council Arria Formula, as will Goretti Ndacayisaba of Dushirehamwe in Burundi. We know they will do well despite the difficulties of squeezing everything they want to say and recommend to the SC into a 10 minute speech…
Because I have written two long posts which I have lost and now have to run off to more meetings, I will be back with an update later on…


A question of credibility

I would like to take on board one of the key issues raised by Lina Abirafeh (in her blog of 21.10.05): the issue of credibility. For those of us who do work with and in communities, I think this is one of the most crucial ethical questions we have to address. As Lina points out - an ability to deliver effective programmes, to deliver on our word - goes some way to ensuring credibility. I think another important facet of the credibility criteria has to do with how grounded we are in the realities in which we work; for instance, how does a universal manifesto such as 1325 translate into our individual contexts? Are there times when it is, in its entirety, usable, or times when it is not, or times when it is usable only in parts? In a conflict situation, when is an appropriate time to speak of the requirements of a particular group of poeple (i.e. women)?

A view of 1325 from Serbia

Greetings all,
I’m happy to be joining the conversation, albeit a bit late. This is a view of 1325 from Serbia.
Instead of the expected changes, the period after 5 October 2000 has been marked with the missing of opportunities for our country to create a discontinuity with the politics of the Milosevic regime, to start down the path of democracy and reconciliation, towards the establishment of a just and lasting peace and integration into the international community. A number of chances have been missed for active inclusion in the international community, which is possible only with complete respect for international standards and conventions. One of those conventions is the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 devoted to women, peace, and security.

Daily Links - 24 October

Men and boys suffer from lack of sexual and reproductive rights through inadequate access to information, services and care, but women and young girls of childbearing age are more vulnerable to sexual assaults and reproductive ill-health.

Reproductive health issues, rights and services that affect populations in conflict and post conflict situations, are the focus of part 16 of the IA and WWP Toolkit.

'The day the women went on strike' (Annadis Rudolfsdottir, Guardian UK, 18/10/05)

In Iceland, 24 October 1975 was a "day off" among women, known as "the long Friday" by men: 90% of Iceland's women refused to work, cook or look after children that day. "It was, in all seriousness, a quiet revolution," recalls one participant. This Monday, on the 30th anniversary, women have been encouraged to leave work at 2.08pm, the time by which they would have earned their pay if they were earning the same as men.

More about the anniversary protest here.

'Women are the future of African politics'

News from Liberia's elections

On 11th October 2005 Liberia had their first free and fair multiparty elections in their 150 years of existence as an independent state. Since 1980 when President William Tolbert was murdered and his government overthrown, Liberia has seen has had very little peace. Two presidents have been murdered, each and every Liberian has one way or the other been displaced, hundreds of thousands, ending as refugees across West Africa, tens of thousands of young boys abducted, trained and turned into killings, then unleashed on their own people, hundreds of women abducted and ganged raped. It took Liberians 14 years of mayhem, 14 peace agreements, and the total destructions of the country’s entire infrastructures, 10,000 UN Peace agreements and the support of the entire international community for Liberia to cast their vote on their first free and fair elections.

In New York, a new UN body - but where are the women?

In New York these days there is a flurry of activity around the so-called Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). This proposed body will be a new addition to the UN family, the place where countries emerging from conflict, but not yet on the steady path to development, would be monitored. It is an attempt by the member states of the UN to address the pesky problem of countries slipping back into conflict. I have all sorts of issues with the way in which the international system generally deals with conflict affected countries, but in this particular instance, I want to draw attention to the fact that despite all the talk and activities around 1325 - the discussions of the PBC are again free of any mention of women.  The countries leading the pack, Denmark and Tanzania, are not unfriendly to the principles of 1325, yet they fail to ask the questions or bring up the issues when they invite senior UN officials to discuss peacebuilding priorities. And so, once again, the UN is moving headlong into promoting peace and development, leaving behind at least half the world's population.... what are the chances of success??

When women and power meet

In 1999, International Alert with the support of over 200 organisations worldwide, launched a global campaign – Women Building Peace: From the Village Council to the Negotiating Table – to raise international awareness and secure a resolution from the UN Security Council highlighting women’s peace-building roles and contributions. Through the joint efforts of NGOs, UNIFEM and supporting member states, the push for the adoption of UNSC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security succeeded in October 2000. Rosemary Bechler talks to International Alert’s Senior Policy Advisor, Nicola Johnston-Coeterier.
* * *

openDemocracy: Why is UN Resolution 1325 worth working on?

A serious proposal preceded by a long story

I spend so much of my time focused internationally and on a broader societal level, and so much time finding fault with the society in which I live and coming up with ways to improve it, that sometimes I forget to look right under my nose for some down-to-earth answers to large and troubling questions.

Much of what we are all working on centers on protecting or “empowering” women, and on assisting them after they and/or their children and families have been “victimised” by violations of their basic human rights.

Syndicate content