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Happy International Women’s Day from HART!
Every day this week, we have been posting blogs that celebrate the work being done by women around the world to promote and protect human rights. We’ve also highlighted the issues that continue to disproportionately affect women, including sexual violence, political participation and access to education. Here’s a round-up of what we’ve covered. Click on the links embedded in the text to read the full articles, and to find out how you can help to #makeithappen.
View the full International Women’s Day blog series here.
Women in Civil Society
Kicking off the blog series, Anna Cox wrote an article celebrating the contributions of Burmese women’s organisations to peace and gender equality, despite decades of military rule, conflict and traditional gender norms which favour male leadership.
“Civil society groups… dedicate their time to work towards a peaceful and free Burma through providing capacity-building programs, leadership and political training of men and women as well as women’s empowerment programs. Civil society in Burma and on the border, have been instrumental in campaigning for gender equality, land rights, environmental protection, minority rights, democracy and against human rights abuses as well as providing basic needs such as health care and education”.
Despite impressive advances, huge challenges remain, and Anna concludes that “the work of civil society in Burma is only just beginning”.
Gender, Conflict and Sexual Violence
Jack Lindsay discussed the gender dimension of war, arguing that: “In understanding conflict through a gender lens, we are better equipped to help those caught up in violent conflict. Violence against women and girls is endemic in all patriarchal societies, and in times of conflict this is exacerbated.” He discussed issues of sexual violence as well as the role of both female combatants and female peacebuilders.
In a subsequent article, Alice Robinson highlighted the stigma faced by survivors of sexual violence in conflict, and the devastation that this can cause to individuals, families and communities. She also explored the way in which survivors of sexual violence are treated by the British asylum system: “Where the skepticism often faced by individuals who report rape meets the heavily politicised arena of immigration, it seems to crowd out compassion and common sense. In the UK asylum process, explaining your reasons for seeking asylum can mean women having to repeatedly recount experiences of sexual abuse to strangers. Those who do not immediately disclose the details of their sexual abuse can have their claims rejected on the basis of disbelief.”
The article argues that “The first thing that we can do to alleviate the suffering of survivors of sexual violence in conflict is the closest to home – with our voices and our votes, we can change the situation in the UK for individuals fleeing sexual violence, and challenge the stigma which runs through all societies including our own.”
Sam Hudson built on this topic, discussing rape as a weapon of war and the disproportionate suffering of women and children in armed conflict. Major-General Patrick Cammaert, former commander of UN peacekeeping forces in the eastern Congo, stated “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”
Sam’s article covers the devastating impact of sexual violence on the physical and mental health of individuals, as well as its repercussions for the wider community – including collective memory, family structures and the silencing of women. She also includes a detailed case study from Sudan.
Political Participation and Media Representation
An article by Anna Cox covered women’s participation in politics around the world. She compared the levels of formal political participation of women in the 8 countries in which HART works, and analysed the tactics that can be taken to increase women’s political participation, including the varying successes of quota systems. She then covered the relationship between political participation and education, empowerment and training, discussing the work of HART’s partners at Marol Academy and the Shan Women’s Action Network.
Ivaylo Hristev discussed the ways in which women are represented in the media. As well as the many barriers and challenges that remain to women’s representation in the media, he also covers recent achievements, and the remarkable efforts of women to make their voices heard in the media in Nigeria, for example:
“In a country where female participation in public life has been traditionally restricted, organisations have been established to deal with this issue, and their voices are being heard. The UNDP has endorsed the efforts of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) who are working towards increasing women’s access and leadership in the media. They have garnered much respect locally for their efforts to encourage women to take up journalism or for their support of journalists. Additionally to civil society groups, Nigeria’s First Lady, Patience Jonathan runs her own development initiative called Women for Change, which focuses on enabling women to have an influence in the political, economic and social realms in Nigeria.”
Jack Lindsay rounded off the week’s posts by focusing on girls’ education. He highlights that: “Although some substantial progress has been made in the fight against gender inequality at the educational level, the statistics can conceal some of the shocking disparities. According to Room To Read, a children’s education charity, 42% of girls across the developing world still are not enrolled into schools. It will come as no surprise then to learn that, of the 781 illiterate adults and 126 million youth in the world today, over two thirds are female.”
The article focuses on Nigeria, which spends only 1.5% of its GDP and only 6% of it’s budget on schooling, less than almost all other African countries. The actions of Boko Haram have exacerbated the situation. Of the 57 million children out of school in the world today, 10 million live in Nigeria, according to some estimates.
Read all of the articles here, and at the bottom of each post, find out how you can help to make change happen.