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ICC brings Charges of Sexual Slavery & Rape against DRC Rebel

From an article in Al Jazeera on 17 February 2014…

In a case brought to the International Criminal Court )ICC) against atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo,charges of sexual slavery and rape have been made for the first time in cases involving massacres.

“Germaine Katanga has been charged by the ICC with three counts of crimes against humanity, namely murder, sexual slavery, and rape; as well as seven counts of war crimes, among them the use of child soldiers, attacks on the civilian population, and pillaging. The ICC is the first permanent international court that has jurisdiction over grave human rights violations.”

The judges wil rule in Katanga’s case in early March.

The article states, “A convicition for sexual crimes would be considered a major victory for the evolving nature of international law. According to experts, the judgment can shape how the international community in the future will deal with sexual violence crimes in conflicts.”

Congo has a high prevalence of sexual violence. Rianne Letschert, a professor in international law and victimology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands told Al Jazeera that “A conviction at the ICC would show that no immunity exists for those crimes and could increase the pressure on national courts to prosecute sexual violence crimes.”

Read more of the article here.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

Men Required to Combat Violence against Women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, says combating violence against women requires the support of men and boys.

Violence against women is so endemic it is impossible to work on any issue relating to women without it being addressed, according to the head of UN Women.

Speaking in the runup to a high-level summit on protecting women and girls in emergencies, held in London on Wednesday, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of the UN agency, told the Guardian: “I don’t think now it is possible to work with women and not have this as a central issue because it is crucial. Women are facing domestic violence, and violence affects young girls, through early marriage, though thankfully we may finally be turning it around on female genital mutilation.

“Poverty is a form of violence against women as well. It’s an issue not just for us [UN Women], but all agencies, and civil society. We’re calling for everybody, men and boys as well, to make it a priority as well. This has got to be something we all work on.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was appointed executive director of UN Women in July, replacing Michelle Bachelet, praised the UK government for its leadership in addressing violence against women. The Department for International Development, which is hosting Wednesday’s event, led the talks for a new resolution on conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building, which was passed by the UN security council last month. Meanwhile, in 2012, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office launched its preventing sexual violence initiative to prevent and better respond to sexual violence in conflict and prosecute perpetrators.

The high-level meeting, to be attended by UN agencies, government leaders and NGOs, is expected to result in a call to action to ensure protecting girls and women in emergencies is a priority and to agree on policies to bring about lasting change.

The mass displacement that comes during conflict or after natural disasters often leads to a breakdown in social structures, which can leave women more exposed than men to sexual violence. According to a report this year on the civil war in Syria by the International Rescue Committee, sexual violence against women and girls was a “significant and disturbing” feature of the conflict. But because they were refugees many of those who had been attacked had been unable to access the physical and emotional support they needed.

In the Philippines, the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs estimates that of the total number of people affected by Typhoon Haiyan, 47,600 women aged between 15 and 49 are at risk of sexual violence.

Mlambo-Ngcuka, South Africa’s former deputy president, said more attention needed to be given to the practical responses to an emergency in order to protect women. For example, building toilet blocks or water points that are not situated far from where people are living and are well lit. But she added that after the initial throes of a crisis, women needed more longer-term support to ensure their rights are upheld.

“Organisations like us … will be working with governments to see that the impact [of an emergency] is not disproportionately borne by women,” she said.

Women can find it more difficult than men to “re-establish their identity” or uphold their right to land if documents are lost during a disaster, she said. And sometimes the extra responsibility involved in looking after orphans, which often falls to women, is not acknowledged by governments or local leaders when resources are being distributed. “These are some of the details that could make the post-crisis life of women more bearable if we pay attention to them.”

In times of fighting, such as in areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where an estimated 40 women a day are raped in South Kivu alone, women must have access to appropriate health services, such as emergency contraception, said Mlambo-Ngcuka, although she acknowledged that access to abortion as a result of rape in conflict was a fraught topic.

Explicit mention of ensuring women who have been raped in conflict have access to safe abortions was included in the outcome document of this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women, but it came with the proviso that abortion services have to be permitted by national law. Many governments still do not allow abortion or do so only if a women’s life is at risk.

Mlambo-Ngcuka admitted this “makes it a bit tricky”, and was not a “position we want to put women in. Unfortunately, it’s not as perfect as one would like to be,” she said. But she added that women’s organisaitons were critical for implementing change. “We’re not going to win the battle in the offices in New York. The battle will be won in the countries where women engage and confront their governments.”

Keep up-to-date by going to the UN Women website.

Filed under: Global Women's Issues,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG),UN Women,Women and Violence

MDG Progress Reviewed by Stakeholders Prior to CSW 58

From Sophie Turner Zaretsky,
IFUW Rep to the UN and WG-USA member.
New York, Dec 11, 2013

The Stakeholders’ Forum, convened by UN Women on “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls: The road ahead” from 4 to 5 December 2013, brought together a range of stakeholders from Member States, academia, women’s rights organizations — including IFUW — and civil society activists in preparation for the next Commission on the Status of Women.

The two-day forum consisted of 5 panels that reviewed progress for women and girls on all the MDGs, as well as lessons learned about approaches and strategies to successfully accelerate achievement of the MDGs for women and girls. It concluded with a clear message on the need of a stand-alone gender equality goal, and equally strong support for the integration of gender equality issues across all future goals for the post-2015 development agenda.

The first Stakeholders’ Forum organized by UN Women in 2012 in preparation for CSW57 was instrumental in achieving the desired outcome and the main purpose of the second forum was to ensure that all stakeholders and civil society would work towards achieving a similar result at CSW58.

In her opening remarks, UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri stated that assessment of the MDGs from a gender perspective shows a mixed picture, and she called for a transformative stand-alone goal that tackles three core areas: prevention of violence against women and girls, equal access to resources and opportunities as well as leadership and participation.

While hailing progress due to the MDGs, other participants also identified gaps and challenges with not nearly enough improvement in the lives of women.

The following are comments by some of the panelists and discussants:
Nestorine Sangaré Compaoré, Minister for Women’s Empowerment of Burkina Faso said despite the MDGs’ focus on the reduction of poverty worldwide, over a decade later, women continue to be the most affected by poverty. She stated that the current model of development creates inequalities as a result of competition between individuals and nations for wealth accumulation and economic growth. A human-oriented model of development is needed.

Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations Nusseibeh identified key lessons that her region had learned to foster gender equality: closing the gap between legislation and implementation and focusing on education and awareness-raising.

Participants also raised concerns about macro-economic policies that result in extra burden on women, especially during times of austerity such as an increase in unpaid care work.

Minister of Gender, Children and Community Development for Malawi, Clara Makungwa, said that with funds received from UN Women, the Government of Malawi had conducted various projects to promote gender equality such as commitment to the education of the girl child, and a recently enacted new law to increase access of education for all, but needed sustainable financial support for implementation.

Minister of Social Development from Jordan, Reem Abu Hassan, spoke about the importance of transparency in ensuring gender equality. An increase in the appointment of female judges in Jordan was due to a merit based selection process.

UN Women Deputy Executive Director John Hendra expressed support for a stand-alone gender equality goal and the integration of gender equality across all future development goals. He emphasized the need to address the structural drivers of gender inequality – such as unpaid care work, violence against women and girls, and limited sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Civil society representatives presented their insights during a panel that brought voices and stories from women and girls .The need to include women of all ages was stressed by Charlotte Bunch representative of UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group, USA

Looking at the challenges that lie ahead, in her closing remarks, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka underscored the need to make connections between the tools available to the international community, such as the review of progress in the implementation of the MDGs at CSW58, the Beijing+20 review and appraisal process, and the development of the post-2015 development agenda to formulate a quality stand-alone goal on gender equality.

Because in contrast to the MDGs the post 2015 agenda will include input from consultations with many actors there is every hope that significant progress will be made provided there is wide dissemination of clearly outlined goals as well as financial support for the their implementation on the ground.

Filed under: CSW,Equality & Human Rights,Gender Status,Global Women's Issues,IFUW News,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG),UN News,Women and Leadership,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

Sexual Harassment Addressed by Indian NFA Member

Dr Meera Bondre,CIR,IFUWA requests that after you read it, please give your views, and share it with your friends.

She writes, “This is an article on sexual harassment of women in workplace, written by our member Mythili Sundar, President of UWA Madras(Chennai), one of Indian affiliates, recently appeared in one of the leading national newspapers, The Hindu.

Read the article here.



Filed under: IFUW Affiliates,Women and Violence

IFUW Shares Articles about Violence Against Women

Various articles related to the consequences of violence against women are regularly posted on the IFUW website. Go here to see those posted in December 2013.

Filed under: IFUW Affiliates,IFUW News,Women and Violence

Learn about, Act on International Violence against Women

As this toolkit points out, “Everyone has a role to play in addressing violence against women.” If you don’t believe you know enough about this issue and the legislation, check out the website resource that has been produced by Amnesty International, and endorsed by Women Graduates-USA (see our logo included.)

Go to the site here.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Gender Status,Global Women's Issues,Trafficking,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

Men Lead White Ribbon Campaign against Violence of Women

On December 6, 1989, 14 women were killed by an anti-feminist man named Marc Lepine, and a movement formed in Canada involving men wearing the white ribbon to signify opposition to violence against women.

The White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) appeared in 1991 in relation to this movement and became one of the largest men’s anti-violence programs in the world.Started by activists, such as Michael Kaufman and Toronto politicians like the late New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, it has now spread to over 57 countries around the world. It is now an international effort of men and boys working to end violence against women. Its basic principle is the importance of men and boys to speak out against all forms of violence against women. For that purpose, members of the WRC offer a variety of presentations and workshops on violence.[2] In Canada, the campaign is run from November 25 (the International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women) until December 6, Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Other countries support 16 Days of Action from November 25 until December 10 but campaigns can occur at any time of the year.

WG-USA President, Louise McLeod, was living in Montreal at the time and has said, “I have a personal attachment to this… we were on the Universite de Montreal campus the day of the funerals. My CFUW club raised $14,000 for 14 scholarships in memory of these girls. For the longest time I put candles on all of my websites on December 6. I think a lot of people have forgotten this event. It is one of the dates during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and probably one of the triggers.”

Filed under: Gender Status,Global Women's Issues,IFUW Affiliates,Women and Violence

Official Statements about IVAWA Shed Light on Stances

Catherine M. Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, made a presentation at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in November 2013. Read the statement here.

Secretary of State John Kerry also makes statement on IVAWA here.

The U.S. Congress has also proposed a bill on IVAWA. To see the information, click here.

In addition, Cristina Finch, Managing Director of the Women’s Human Rights Program of Amnesty International, had this article in the The Guardian.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Global Women's Issues,US State Dept - Foreign Policy,Women and Violence

Taking Action, Advocating Change – You Can Do It!

The public policy impact and assistance to make the lives of women and girls better that Women Graduates-USA (WG-USA) member can have does not depend solely upon the national board or committees…it requires all members to take actions from where they are located. Without local branches/chapters to which we can belong (an intentional decision when WG-USA was founded), it requires much more individual initiative to become active. But that still does not mean you should have to work alone.

Here are some of the group with which WG-USA has a working relationship, whether in coalition, or with those groups’ local members: Amnesty International, CEDAW Task Force, Friends of UN Population fund *UNFPA)American Association of University Women (AAUW), United Nations Association-USA and Chapters,Zonta International, UNCIEF, UN Women-USA, Virginia Gildersleeve (VGIF) InternationalFund, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), UN Foundation, International Network on Small Arms (IANSA), Religions for Peace, US Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, Nonviolent Peaceforce, The Advocates fo Human Rights, Women’s Actions for New Directions(WAND) and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWARAW) — to name just a few. surely, you will know others in your community with whom you could join forces in taking actions to support women and girls.

One of the latest actions by some members in Eastern Pennsylvania (led by WG-USA President, Louise McLeod), has been to become a coalition member of the Buck’s County Coalition on Trafficking. The WG-USA members contribute to the Coalition what we have learned about this issue, while our members gain more insight at the “hands-on” level.

Read about their work here. Particularly note the information that they post in regard to federal and state legislation.

Filed under: CEDAW Action,Equality & Human Rights,Girls and Education/UNGEI,Girls Issues,Global Women's Issues,Trafficking,What's New at WG,Women and Economics,Women and Education,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

UN Women Leader Stresses Need to Protect Women & Girls

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was appointed executive director of UN Women in July, replacing Michelle Bachelet, has focused her initial remarks on the issue of protecting women and girls, especially in emergency situations such as the case in areas of terrorism, war zones and displacement camps.

This week, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, is meeting with key stakeholders and attending a series of high-level conferences during a week-long mission to London and Oslo on her first visit to Europe since her appointment.

See article from UN Women.

Filed under: Girls Issues,Global Women's Issues,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG),UN News,UN Women,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

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