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Time for Kosovo's media to stand up for gender equality

For a country of 1.7 million people, Kosovo has a large and vibrant media landscape. All too often, however, the media fails to treat women with humanity and respect. - free thinking for the world

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Working for women's rights in Jordan

Afaf Jabiri talks about taking on the Jordanian government over women's rights. Plus: blogging 16 days

Middle east: the terrorized half of our society

by Houzan Mahmoud

The undeclared war on women continues to victimize women worldwide on a daily basis; the Middle East is no exception. Women in our region are amongst the most oppressed and terrorized in the world. The Islamic law upheld in many Middle Eastern countries has turned women into slaves with invisible chains.

In Iraqi Kurdistan in April 2007, Dua Khalil Aswad - 17 years old at the time - was brutally stoned to death in front of a crowd of over 1000 cheering men. Her only crime was falling in love with a man from a different religion.

Houzan Mahmoud is the Abroad Representative of Organisation of Women's Freedom in IraqIn Saudi Arabia in March 2006, a woman was abducted with a friend and was raped by 7 men. In October, the men were sentenced to 2-3 years in prison, but the woman herself was sentenced to 90 lashes. Saudi Arabian Islamic law forbids a woman to meet with a man to whom she is not related. The woman and her solicitor appealed the sentence; the men's sentences were increased from 2 to 9 years in prison, but the woman's sentence was also increased as a result to 200 lashes and 6 months in prison.

This is the price of reporting rape in Saudi Arabia.

Virtual Violence

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Girls need modems

Cyber violence against women is on the rise yet many countries' laws still do not have ways of addressing it in part because of the nature of the 'crimes' involved.

The fact that cyber violence happens virtually rather than face-to-face can make it more difficult to take action on it for any of the following reasons:

  • There may not be any physical evidence that it is happening for a forensic analysis, for instance, especially if it's in chat rooms that don't log messages
  • It may be difficult to link abusive behaviour to actual known people if perpetrators are using screen names
  • The violence may be directed at online representations of women, which themselves may be degrading or visually violent, rather than known or actual individual women

India's silent tragedy

A shockingly high maternal mortality rate reveals government inaction on halting preventable deaths. Jameen Kaur asks, where is the delivery of rights for India's "invisible women"?

India's most famous monument, the Taj Mahal, is recognised the world over. Built by Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, it represents a particular poignancy, as Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth.

Week 2 - another collection of links

Healthy discussion: In the fantastic sex education site Scarleteen (which I personally can't recommend enough for teenagers and young adults), Heather Corinna writes about rape with boys (and men) in mind:

"Those articles about rape prevention telling women all they can do to prevent rape? This isn't one of those articles. This one’s for the men."

A global generation of women: Imagining ourselves is an online multimedia project ran by the International Museum of Women, full of stories, photographs, films and much more. A true gem.

Women fighting violence: MADRE lists 16 ways women are fighting against violence

Feminist men: The concept makes some feminist bloggers raise their eyebrows at the mention of a "feminist men's blog", but here's one - Feminist Allies blogs 16 days.

A call to men: an men organisation working on ending violence aginast women. To read: 10 things men can do to end VAW. Shakesville's blogger Melissa comments on it.

Any links you want to share with us? Please post them in the comments... 

Song of liberty - a little history

by Patricia Daniel

I think it's worth recalling the origin of the international day for the elimination of violence against women. It actually commemorates the assassination of three sisters, members of the underground working to depose the dictator Trujillo, on the 25th of November 1960 in the Dominican Republic.

The picture shows a mural of the Mirabal sisters, called ‘Song of Liberty', on the seafront in Santo Domingo. It was painted on an obelisk erected by Trujillo and thereby subverts him in more ways than one.

The collective code-name for the three sisters was las mariposas (butterflies) which gave the title to a 1998 novel based on their experiences "In the time of butterflies" by Julia Alvarez.

This was later (in 2001) turned by and with Salma Hayek into a movie which was doubtless further romanticised.

But still, how often do we have the chance to see a strong female role model in the cinema these days? Even Joe Queenan has said: "I think women need to start their own film industry: this (mysognynist) one isn't working."

November 25th was initially declared International Day Against Violence Against Women at the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean held in Bogotá, Colombia, July 1981. Almost twenty years later, in 1999, thanks to lobbying from the Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University in the US, the special significance of November 25th was officially recognized by the United Nations.

Addressing violence against women: a global approach (part 2)

by Ceri Hayes

[this is the second part of a blog entry addressing the ways to tackle Violence Againt Women. Part 1 is here].

Co-ordination between and the commitment of different actors in the community is extremely important if interventions to address violence against women are to succeed.

Integrated community approaches

In Ghana, the Nkyinkyim project has a strong focus on working with traditional and religious leaders - and engaging the whole community in its efforts to tackle the pervasive problems of domestic violence. Partners in the project have created COMBATS or Community-Based Action Teams to work with local leaders in rural areas -where access to legal support and formal justice systems can be very limited - in order to resolve individual cases of domestic violence and to establish locally appropriate sanctions such as public ‘naming and shaming' of perpetrators.

This approach has fostered a sense of ownership of the project amongst the whole community that has resulted in not only the incidence of violence against women decreasing, but also a reduction in other types of intra-familial violence.

Widowhood and Violence

by Ancila Adrian Paul

Violence against women is pervasive around the world to such an extent that a 1994 study based on World Bank data of ten selected risk factors facing women between the ages of 15-44 years rated rape and domestic violence higher than cancer, motor vehicle accidents, war and malaria in causing death to such women. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon puts it "Most societies prohibit such violence - yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned."

Ancil Adrian-Paul is a consultant for PhoenixConsultingUK. However, it is important that we recognise that there are many different categories of women that are affected by such violence. Single women, married women, divorced women, lesbian women - all have experienced violence. Similarly, girls, adult women, elderly women and widows of all ages also experience violence of different types. This blog entry is mainly concerned to highlight the experience of widows with violence.

The International Community has developed a raft of human rights legislation governing the rights of women including among others - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the 2000 SC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Additionally, many countries have domestic laws protecting the rights of women including girls. Yet, for varying reasons, widows are often unable to take advantage of the protection offered by the international statutes and their national laws.

Who pays for violence against women?

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coins in the air


Consider this, from UNFPA:

In Chile, domestic violence cost women $1.56 billion [USD] in lost earnings in 1996, more than 2 per cent of the country's GDP. In India, one survey showed women lost an average of seven working days after an incident of violence. Domestic violence constitutes the single biggest health risk to Australian women of reproductive age, resulting in economic losses of about $6.3 billion a year. In the United States, the figure adds up to some $12.6 billion annually.

By way of comparison, estimates of the economic cost of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa have ranged (pdf) from 0.6% of GDP for the region to over 1% (equivalent to $12 billion USD a year in 2001). Clearly then the cost of violence against women is significant, whether measured in absolute or relative terms.

As Sylvia Walby has researched this cost of violence against women is not restricted to one government department or one area of society. In addition, the costs to the government as a whole are both direct and indirect (pdf). For example, direct costs include those accruing from direct service provision such as that from the health care and criminal justice systems (including emergency services, hospitals and GPs, and the courts) as survivors access medical treatment for their injuries and perpetrators are brought to justice. Importantly, any measure of these direct costs will only be a fraction of the true costs since reporting rates are so low and many women do not seek medical attention. Indirect costs meanwhile include those cited in the quote above such as loss of productivity and earnings, as well as less tangible variables such as educational achievement and future earning potentials. This is to say nothing of the human and emotional costs, which Walby has demonstrated can also be financially quantified.

On being a survivor

by Katie

Survivors of sibling incest abuse suffer from a lack of writing about the experience. I try to write about it with women, girls, boys and men in mind: anyone else who is going through or has experienced something similar.

I would also like to write about the experience of calling oneself a survivor. This has been poignant in reflecting on what I have been through, and a key process of the stages of my healing.

Improved Services for High Risk Survivors of Domestic Violence

by Diana Barran

Over the past 3 years there has been a real break-though in the UK for support for the highest risk survivors of domestic violence. CAADA has worked with other expert services in the sector to bring in a co-ordinated and systematic approach to addressing these cases. We have introduced a new process of using professional Independent Domestic Violence Advisors to support women and to co-ordinate help for them. They aim to keep women and their families safely within their homes by working in partnership with a broad range of agencies.

Addressing violence against women: a global approach

By Ceri Hayes

[This blog entry, contributed by WOMANKIND worldwide's Senior Policy Officer Ceri Hayes, addresses the many effective ways to globally tackle Violence Against Women. The second part will be posted tomorrow.]


The international ‘16 Days of Activism campaign' provides activists from around the world with an opportunity to raise awareness of the impact of violence against women - and to highlight the challenges that hinder their efforts to end this global pandemic. But what of the other 349 days of the year?

Women and conflict

In May 2007 I attended the First International Conference of the Nobel Women's Initiative (NWI) Women Redefining Peace in the Middle East and Beyond as a rapporteur. Women from more than 40 different countries came together to discuss and exchange strategies to improve women's conditions.

Ending Violence and Isolation

By Sundra Flansburg

I continue to be powerfully impacted with the way that violence surpasses individual tragedies and horrors to become a part of every girl and woman's psyche. Violence and the fear of it is a fundamental difference in the way that women and men experience their daily life, wherever they live. Those of us lucky enough to escape blows and violations still know women who haven't. Those of us who have directly experienced physical or psychological violence are rarely able to just move on. We either don't go outside after dark, coerce others to accompany us or keep our antennae up.

Penning resistance for change

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picture of a pen

There are a number of women in the world today who are risking their lives to reveal the violence against women that exists within their communities. It is a tragic irony that in writing about violence against women, they themselves become the targets of violence.

Earlier today Roja Bandari blogged about a woman named Jelveh Javaheri who has been arrested in Iran for her participation in the Campaign for One Million Signatures. Her crimes? ‘[D]isrupting public opinion, advertising against the system, and publishing lies.'

Gender inequalities and reproductive medicine

by Hannah Newman

My partner and I began trying for children a long time ago. It wasn't working and I had this niggling feeling that it was not going to work. Call it a pessimistic streak; call it intuition which led me to seek some answers from the medical establishment. My GP decided that I presented symptoms which would explain the problems we were encountering. However, after 10 months undertaking every test under the sun it was clear that mine was a thoroughly ‘healthy body'.

A war that can be won

The UN's John Holmes on confronting sexual violence worldwide
Plus: blogging 16 days

Visual acts: the power of being visible

Being a victim of violence is about losing power: the power to protect one's body or mind from abuse; the power to have some control over how one is physically, psychologically or emotionally treated.

Being a survivor or a resister of violence is about reclaiming a sense of power. Feeling empowered is an important part of healing after being a victim of violence. It is also a key ingredient for resisting violence, whether or not one has already been a victim. The link between empowerment and agency is a strong one as Andrea Cornwall dissects.

However, empowerment is not an entirely subjective experience. Violence is about inequalities of power that both perpetrator and victim can be aware of, and that outsiders can bear witness to. Moreover exercising coercion or control is about a struggle for power over someone that can be perpetrated by many more actors than just an individual, including the state, organizations such as religious groups, or even culture through values and norms.

Reclaiming a sense of power can therefore move significantly beyond the personal and well into the political. It can be about reclaiming the power to influence the public about what is acceptable behaviour, the power to bring perpetrators to justice, the power to provide adequate support to survivors of violence.

How can power be reclaimed? There are a number of projects around the world that are taking on the challenge of reclaiming survivors' sense of power and some of the most poignant are the most effective for a very important reason: their presence disrupts the silence around violence against women in the public eye. How? They are visual and they are visible.

In her analysis of the characteristics that have contributed to the effectiveness of various feminist activist art projects, Helen Klebesadel outlines seven essential attributes:

  • A ‘real world' orientation that speaks to lived experiences and moves beyond pure aesthetics
  • Process oriented instead of object oriented, with an interest in transforming the lives of the people involved in the art
  • Presentation in public sites
  • Production through participatory processes and collaboration
  • Involvement of the public and non-art world audiences
  • An element of performance or performance-based activity

As examples, she cites the American Guerrilla Girls, Clotheslines Project, and CODEPINK, among others such as the international Women in Black.

I'm convinced that the popularity of the Gulabi Gang, meaning the Pink Gang, in the public eye (including the BBC), and The Hindu stems from similar roots, where the visual and the visible are harnessed to create presence and influence the public and authorities. How could a group of several hundred women dressed in pink saris fail to draw attention to itself?

What is interesting about all of these accounts is their relative lack of judgement about the methods the group uses to effect change. The BBC article is clear that the women, hailing from Uttar Pradesh in India, are vigilantes, who have attacked men with sticks and axes and stormed police stations. The group's founder, Sampat Pal Devi even admits that

sometimes we have to take the law in our hands.

I think it is likely that the Gulabi Gang are permitted the license to use force in part because the women appear to be actors in costumes. One lesson to take from this is that the lines between art, performance and activism can at times be purposefully blurred to reclaim power.

War and sexual violence: an issue of security

The organised abuse of women is not a by-product of many conflicts but is becoming a core military tactic. A vital United Nations Security Council resolution acknowledges this, but much more needs to be done to ensure that it is used to prevent women's suffering and to engage them in resolving conflict, say Anne Marie Goetz & Joanne Sandler.

16 days, week 2: a selection of links

- Take back the tech: one of the campaign's daily contribution to "16 days" is the fascinating Who males history? Something to bare in mind: historical invisibility is a form of violence against of women, whose legacy to the world has been erased or conveniently not recorded and/or celebrated.

"The field of science and technology is particularly steeped in the culture of elevating ‘father figures’. Think of all the notable names in computing, and chances are, you’ll come up with Bill Gates, Richard Stallman, Steve Jobs, Charles Babbage, Alan Turing etc. It’s less likely for us to know names of women such as Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Betty Holberton, Kathleen Antonelli and more, who also played critical roles in the expansion of knowledge and innovation in this field".

- Interview with Imam Cheick Mohamad Diallo: Every Day a New Battle against Circumcision in Mali (via

"The religious authorities must change their views, otherwise our education efforts will never succeed. I myself have been excluded from the Association of Imams since 2000, because I called circumcision non-Islamic in a televised sermon. This exclusion persists today."

Grit in the oyster

by Patricia Daniel

I'd recommend the film Brick Lane based on Monica Ali's book (which I haven't read).

It's a salutary reminder of the everyday violence which is visited on so many women because decisions about their future, their behaviour and their aspirations, are made by other people - family, community, religious representatives and so on. No wonder the making of the film caused a little controversy among those same (male) community leaders in Brick Lane.

How do you turn off compassion?

by Roja Bandari

My recent challenge has been trying to go about life as usual at the university and at home in California. Unfortunately this simple task is becoming more difficult every day because of things that are happening 7580 miles away in Tehran, Iran. For the past nine months I have been a part of the Iranian women's struggles for equality. Iranian women's demand for equality goes back over a hundred years but equality, especially in the law, has remained elusive to this day. In June of 2006, a movement called the Campaign for One Million Signatures was conceived that unified many of the Iranian women's rights groups that were formerly working separately. The campaign has a goal of collecting one million signatures to demand a change in the discriminatory laws. Signatures are collected face to face and with a discussion and a booklet that educates the reader about specific laws that have a negative effect on women's lives. As an Iranian living and studying in the US, my limited involvement has been an educational journey for me; I have been reading these women's writings and listening to their stories and trying to tell them to others.

I have been moved and inspired by the amount of love, support and trust that is in this campaign. Activists in Iran can be easily marginalized by accusations of ties to western countries or to Iranian political groups that work against the Iranian government outside of Iran. It is understandable why many inside Iran are very cautious about any harmless stranger who offers them help or even solidarity. Despite this, my very first email asking about how I could help was replied with an open heart and open arms and I was touched by this accepting behavior which I later found was a general attitude of the campaign. I continued to have email contact with a few of the people who were more comfortable with email and English and who had some time. One of these women was Jelveh Javaheri.

I like Jelveh. I found her to be a very warm and kind girl. She is not very loud and you almost don't expect someone so soft-spoken to be so bold and stubborn in continuing her path. Her articles are published on the Campaign's website and they were among the first articles I read that touched my heart and compelled me to join the campaign. When she writes, there is a certain sorrow in her tone that makes you want to reach across the oceans and give her a big hug.

HIV/Aids: More than numbers (part 2)

by Lucy Stackpool-Moore

(part 1 can be read here)

Speaking freely about living with HIV

In 2006, Panos worked with members of three HIV social movements in Southern Africa (Khululeka Men's' Support group, Treatment Action Campaign [TAC] and the International Community of Women living with HIV [ICW]) to collect and learn from life stories of people living with HIV in South Africa and Namibia. We were looking to learn more about the communication dynamics that can support people living with and affected by HIV and those that sustain informal networks such as social movements.

The feminization of HIV and AIDS

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series of AIDS ribbons

Action Aid has launched a new campaign on women and HIV and AIDS called Invisible Women in order to ‘bring the crisis facing women into the spotlight.'

HIV/Aids: More than numbers (part 1)

by Lucy Stackpool-Moore

(part two can be read here

Six million fewer people are living with HIV than was estimated in 2006. But beyond the numbers, the individual stories of survival, of despair, of compassion and of caring for others in times of immense hardship remain unchanged. Programme and policy responses need to listen to these stories and respond to these realities just as much as the statistics.

South Australia's new plan

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kangaroo crossing signI had a chance to catch up with Sandy Pitcher, the Director of the Office for Women for the South Australian Government, today and took the opportunity to ask her about her office's work on violence against women. Turns out her team is currently trialling an innovative new programme of work based on a model used in Wales - and there are some lessons to be learned.

Thinking positive

It is only by listening to those most affected, that we can bring about real change. Ahead of World Aids Day, Luisa Orza and Jennifer Gatsi Mallet report on a groundbreaking project bringing together parliamentarians and HIV positive women in Namibia.

Women Won’t Wait: onto 2008

By Susana T. Fried, Neelanjana Mukhia and Shamillah Wilson

Around the world today, women and girls are at an alarming and growing risk of HIV infection as a result of their persisting social, cultural and economic subordination, as well as pervasive violence in their homes, communities, schools, workplaces, streets, markets, police stations and hospitals. Yet, national and global AIDS responses have yet to comprehensively address this deadly intersection.

Why women’s rights…what about men’s rights?

by Anber Raz



Many of us who work in the field of women's rights, when asked what we do for a living will often say we work in human rights. Firstly because women's rights are human rights, and secondly to avoid the inevitable quip which we get in certain settings of ‘but what about men's rights?'

Onslaught on Women’s Rights in Iran

by Lakshmi Anantnarayan and Jacqui Hunt

Kobra Najjar is currently facing death by stoning. She is a 44-year-old Iranian woman whose husband subjected her to systematic violence during their marriage, and forced her into prostitution for 12 years in order to sustain his heroin addiction. A "client" of Kobra who sympathised with her plight murdered Kobra's husband. He was sentenced to death for this murder. However, after enduring 100 lashes for fornication and serving eight years, Habib was released upon paying compensation. Kobra herself was charged with being an accomplice, and also with adultery - the prostitution her husband forced her into - for which she was sentenced to death by stoning. Two years ago, Kobra completed her eight-year sentence for being an accomplice. She now faces the sentence of stoning for the crime of adultery.

Home: not always where the heart is

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door in San Juan

One of the most dangerous places for a woman is in her own home. This is quite contrary to many people's beliefs. For example, in today's 16 Days article, Sarah from the Fawcett Society discusses how rape is largely a result of coercion by intimate partners, and not strangers in dark alleys. Similarly, in the first international study on domestic violence, the World Health Organization found that domestic violence, which it also calls ‘intimate partner violence', is the most common form of violence against women. At its release two years ago, the Director General of WHO admitted:

This study shows that women are more at risk from violence at home than in the street.

Whose side are we on?

by Jon Collins

The causes of violence against women are complex, but we can all agree that we're against it. Can't we?

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. I don't think that you'd find many people claiming that they are ‘for' domestic violence. Yet 1 in 4 women in the UK will experience an act of domestic violence at some point in her lifetime. 42% of young people aged 16-20 know girls who have been hit by their boyfriends. That's a lot of bruises and broken bones. That's two deaths a week, every week.

"The greatest cause of violence against women is government tolerance and inaction"

by Helen O'Connell

I would like to pick up some of the points made by earlier bloggers to write a little about how I see the links between violence against women, transforming politics and building democracies.

Politics must become a safe place for women. Violence is an abuse of power and disempowers women of all ages. It affects all societies and is institutionalised in formal and informal political processes and governance structures. It makes it hard, and sometimes impossible, for women to take political decision-making positions.

Broken Homes or Broken People?

by Anindita Sengupta

A woman I know has been physically, sexually and verbally abused by her husband for years. In her forties now, she has a teenage daughter who is growing up to be exceptionally quiet. An intelligent and educated woman, she gave up her career after marriage at her husband's insistence. Over the years, the abuse worsened and she felt mired in her own dependence. About a year ago, however, she was encouraged by friends to take a part-time job. She is now earning (possibly enough to get by on her own), but she doesn't feel like she can leave yet. We suspect she is waiting for her daughter to grow up. She doesn't want her to face the stigma of a broken home.

Arab Women’s Fund: an idea whose time has come

by Jane Gabriel, who reports from Amman where Karama activists from across the Middle East and North Africa are meeting.

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