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Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity

The corporate denial of violation of human rights in the death of Berta Cáceres reveals the web of complicities and impunity that prompted her assassination.

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Darfur: no redress for rape

A Human Rights Watch report released yesterday delivered a stark reminder of the ongoing crisis of sexual violence in Darfur, and of the need to step-up pressure on the Sudanese government and international forces to address the problem effectively.

"We live like the dead"

A new report produced by the Karama network ‘Refugee and Stateless Women across the Arab Region: stories of the dream of return, the fear of trafficking and the discriminatory laws' (pdf) is a ground breaking work written collaboratively by women from Syria, Palestine, Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Somalia and Morocco. It combines original research and personal testimony with historical and political analysis, to call for a response to refugees that moves beyond relief services to the promotion of rights. The authors address in detail the particular problems faced by Iraqi women living in Syria, Egypt and Jordan, Palestinian women living in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, Sudanese women living in Egypt and Somalian women living in ‘a nation without a state'.

Rights not relief

by Afaf Jabiri

Afaf Jabiri is a member of Karama and one of the authors of a new report on refugee and stateless women in the Arab region. She writes here about the group's decision to produce it.

The shadow of the gun

India is one of the most heavily armed nations in the world, and is suffering an epidemic of gun violence. Writer and activist Binalakshmi Nepram tells of her work tackling small arms proliferation, and working with women survivors to rebuild lives.

A rare victory for women's rights in Iran

Human rights defenders have welcomed a "rare ruling" leading to the release of a woman awaiting execution by stoning in Iran. Now, the women's movement must move forward to end all forms of discrimination and violence against women; "nothing more and nothing less" writes Elahe Amani.

Enough: tackling sexual violence in eastern DRC

A new report aiming to protect women and girls in eastern DRC argues that policies to prevent sexual violence be closely linked to established and ongoing conflict resolution and peacemaking initiatives already underway.

Sukkar Banat: sweet like candy

Shortly after the downfall of the Taliban regime, the media relayed many stories illustrating the great liberties given to Afghan women by democracy: their newfound ability to drive and go to school, their right to not wear the burqa and bizzarely, the establishment of beauty parlours.

Jasmine blossoms, bombs and Bruce Lee

A ten year old Bruce Lee fanatic attached to her Adidas trainers and determined to become a future prophet is not your average leading lady. Meet Marjane, of Marjane Satrapi's Oscar-nominated film Persepolis, adapted from her autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. At a packed ICA screening in London this week, part of the Bird's Eye View festival, much of the audience fell in love.

Rebuilding civil society in Sierra Leone

Hussaina Abdullah spoke to Jane Gabriel about rebuilding civil society in Sierra Leone in the aftermath of civil war.

Clowning glories: Hollywood's screwball women

Kasia Boddy welcomes a London retrospective showcasing comediennes of classical Hollywood, and celebrates the brief reign of screwball's madcap women.

One day of life: a Romanian odyssey

Cristian Mungiu's portrait of a young woman's illegal abortion in Ceausescu-era Romania makes humane and moving art from its bleak subject-matter, says Grace Davies.

Women and world poverty

The basic rights of women in the developing world are being ignored in the battle against poverty

We stand for all women

by Houzan Mahmoud

Women's freedom means freedom for all. It is time to stand together, writes Houzan Mahmoud as part of our ongoing coverage of international women's week

Getting close to Musharraf

Speakers rightly fear misleading introductions, and so too should films. As an audience of scruffy aesthetes sucked on their complimentary ActionAid rock candy, a staffer of the Birds Eye View Film Festival rose to introduce Sabiha Sumar's "Dinner with the President". This was, she promised, a timely and relevant film, delving into Pakistan's abiding political crisis as the country remains in the glow of the global spotlight. But for any observer of Pakistan, the subsequent film was less timely than it was out of touch. Such is the speed of events in Pakistan that a documentary released in late 2007 can already feel sepia-toned and out-dated by early 2008.

Women and politics: the Brazil paradox

Despite an established and diverse women's movement, prominent in civil society, Brazil has one of the lowest rates of women's political participation in the world. Ana Alice Alcântara investigates a Brazilian paradox.

“Being a man” in contemporary Russia

The depiction of Russian men in media and social commentary often focuses on negative or self-destructive behaviour. But the working and family lives of men in the post-Soviet era is more complex than the image suggests, says Rebecca Kay.

Why Muslim women can have it all

Muslim women in Britain, are sluicing away restrictive cultural practices and reclaiming their fundamental Islamic rights, says Samia Rahman, part of our coverage of International Women's Day, 2008.

Iran's real women

Rebecca Barlow is inspired by the Iranian women she met on a trip to Tehran. Please note, all names have been changed in order to protect privacies.

This International Women's Day I would like to express my support and deepest respects to the amazing members of the Iranian Women's Movement, some of whom I met whilst on a trip to Tehran in July 2007. During my short stay in that fascinating city, one particular traveller's cliché came true: so many women implored me to tell people in my own community what Iranian women ‘are really like' - beyond the popular western imagination and the images of submission and servitude conjured up in the speeches of western leaders such as President Bush. Perhaps here I can make a brief contribution to that end.

Riyadh: city of women

Saudi Arabia's professional women and young people are creating their own spaces of personal freedom in a conservative and segregated society, finds Bissane El-Cheikh.

HIV/Aids: a war on women

International HIV/Aids policy, led by the United States, is discriminating against those it needs to help most, writes Alice Welbourn.

When will they ever learn? Women, men and peace-building

International Women's Day is a moment to press global power-brokers to realise the aspiration of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to allow women to take their rightful place at the heart of peace-building, says Lesley Abdela.

"Citizenship is everything"

As part of our coverage of International Women's Day 2008, Abigail Fielding-Smith meets the women fighting for citizenship rights in Lebanon.

A Bird’s Eye View

Now in its fourth year, Bird's Eye View is a London-based international film festival celebrating women filmmakers from around the world. Ten days of documentaries, new features, workshops, retrospectives and short films showcase the best new work by female directors. And in an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry, it is much needed. With a few notable exceptions such as Sofia Coppola and Mira Nair, the female director is - or is thought to be - a rarity. The packed programme of this year's festival gloriously proves otherwise.

One dollar at a time.....

The theme of this year's CSW is Financing for Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality. There are dozens and dozens of NGO's here with ideas about how to demand the resources and there are daily sessions sponsored by the UN missions, but with only two days to go I haven't found anyone who is optimistic that this year's CSW will have the slightest impact on women's empowerment.

Looking for final justice


I attended the session on The Impact of Guns on Women's Lives, hosted by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and IANSA the International Action Network on Small Arms. The panel of women speakers came from Argentina, the DRC, Iraq, Canada and India.  Binalakshmi Nepram is a young woman from India and founder of Control Arms Foundation of India.  She opened her speech by saying " This is my first address to the United Nations, a place where everyone comes for final justice."  She dedicated her speech to the 5000 women who have died by gun violence in her region by state and non-state actors, and went on to say "My very presence here is proof that women are taking action to stop gun violence". She spoke of her pain as a young woman born in the country that gave birth to non violence and is today the largest democracy in the world, knowing that India is  "arming itself to the teeth" and has 40 million fire arms, the majority of which are in private hands. She'd recently attended an arms bazaar in New Delhi where one of the 450 arms dealers had told her that in India "gun shops are mushrooming like phone booths".

Parvin Ardalan banned from travel

Last month, this blog along with many others celebrated the award of the prestigious Olof Palme prize to Iranian women's rights activist Parvin Ardalan. Now, just a few weeks on, Ms Ardalan has been denied a right to travel abroad. On her way to Sweden yesterday to accept the internationally recognised award, she was detained by security officials before the plane could leave. Ardalan explains: "(Officials said) I was banned from travel and that I could not exit Iran. They also seized my passport."

"You used to speak for us. Forget it. We'll speak for ourselves".

The permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations sponsored the session on ‘Dignity and the Politics of Financing of Women’s Rights’, and Karama organised the panel. It took place in the Dag Haamarskjold Library Auditorium of the UN (which they had fought ‘tooth and nail’ to get). Earlier in the week they’d been worried that the room was too big, but after four days of raising Arab women’s voices at every and any opportunity during the CSW, they attracted a large audience. Afaf Jabiri opened the session by saying “we want to talk about violence in relation to the reality we live in, which in our region is one of conflict war and occupation, so one of our priorities is to work with refugee women and statelessness”. The panel was made up of Sabah al_Hallaq from Syria, Afaf Marei from Egypt, Joumana Merhy from Lebanon, Saadia Wadah from Morocco, Rugaia Abdelgader from Sudan, Teraza al-Ryyan and Afaf Jabiri from Jordan.

The urban woman

Just came out of a parallel event called 'Women in cities' that was hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and organized by the Seoul Foundation of Women and Family (SFWF).With contributions from Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe, it was no surprise that it ran well overtime. The short version? Women are under-represented in decision-making positions in cities and most urban planners and politicians at the local level (and likely at the national, though this wasn't the topic) do not understand gender and have never had basic gender training. The result? Cities designed by men for men.

You've had your chance.....

Between sessions here at the CSW the choice is to sit in the hallways or what's called the Vienna café - the equivalent to sitting in a giant ashtray - while planning the next move. The Karama women barely had time for a cigarette between them today. At 9am they were in the Conference room ready to read the report of the Caucus meetings to the NGO Morning Briefing. They asked whether there would be an Arabic interpreter and were told by the chair "there is always an interpreter for every official language of the UN, unless there isn't." She beamed at them. At that point Nadia, their interpreter, did the planned 'Karama run' and made it to one of the interpreter booths at the back of the hall. They were the first to speak and Taryza Al Ryyen from Jordan gave their report of the work of the Western Asia caucus meetings. Nadia ended up interpreting for the whole session. The General Discussion session followed on immediately at 10am, Karama were told they had been accepted to speak for two minutes and Azza Kamel had the final document in her hands. At this session NGO's have to wait until all the delegates have said their bit, which today left the NGO's only 20 minutes of a 3 hour session. Azza was refused a glass of water. Only delegates are allowed to drink the water.  The NGO's spoke one by one and there were just two more to speak when the chiar closed the session Karama was one of the two. So here is the statement on ‘Refugee and stateless women and financing for gender equality and women's rights' that they did not have the chance to make.

Changing the climate on women

I had the chance to sit in the main UN session today for the first time. The topic was 'gender perspectives on climate change', which is the 'emerging issue' for this year's CSW.

Making development work for women

What has happened to the argument for women's human rights in international policy? Rosalind Eyben of IDS, Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay of the Royal Tropical Insititute in the Netherlands and Helen O'Connell of One World Action spoke to Jane Gabriel.

Men and gender justice: old debate, new perspective

The expanding intellectual interest in "masculinities" is welcome but needs greater involvement by gender-justice and women's-rights specialists if it is to be the vehicle of progress, says Emily Esplen.

The Humiliation of Regulation

The inappropriately named ‘Western Asia and Middle East' caucus met again today and attracted double the number of people from yesterday. Karama ran again, shut the door promptly and chaired the meeting. Each day they encourage someone in their group who is feeling nervous to speak up or chair a meeting - one way of empowering themselves as they navigate what has to be calculated chaos here at the UN CSW. The idea that this Commission is about ‘empowering women' is wearing thin. At the caucus everyone was given a chance to speak and additions were made to the statement including some about the specific situations of Kurdish and Saharan women refugees. The report was then submitted, all twenty two copies, font size 12, double spaced and in English. When Karama speak about the statement on Friday they will do so in Arabic and have been told that in this case they will also have to submit it in Arabic as well. They call it the "humiliation of the regulation."

Queuing for Women - in Arabic

The Karama women are still jet lagged, so many of them were awake at 4.30am they met at 5am to start work on the alterations they want to submit to the Agreed Conclusions after taking them to the second meeting of the ‘Western Asia and Middle East Caucus' for discussion and agreement. When they spoke at this morning's NGO caucus at which everybody briefs everybody about what they are doing, they spoke in Arabic. An interpreter was produced by the CSW but he interpreted the word ‘refugee' to mean ‘people'. Their entire statement is about the special conditions of women refugees in their region. The women in the audience simply gave up and took off their ear pieces. The brilliant interpreter Karama have brought with them, Nadia Al Sharif, will now run if she has to, in order to get to the interpretation booths first when it comes to the Conference hall proper. Karama are getting very good at this running (and it does make a change from the queuing). Their passes into the building expired today. They queued twice for two hours earlier in the week only to be given temporary ones and were told to start again today to get formal ones. They queued for hours. They missed one key session and were refused entry to another for being late. They finally got the formal passes. They leave on Friday. The title for this year's CSW they say should be "Queuing for women".

Still no money

The UN press office told me today that "no specific budget has been approved yet" for the new campaign to end violence against women launched on Monday with such fanfare by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. I was told that "the idea is that there will be additional money, but that it's not known how much this will be or when it will be determined."  In the meantime "the agencies already working to end violence are to continue their work". The whole focus of this year's CSW is ‘Financing for gender equality and women's empowerment.'

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