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Anastassia Zinke interviews Rev. Joyce Kariuki, acting general secretary of the Anglican Councils of Africa.
Was this your first time attending the Conference on the Status of Women (CSW)?
I have been here several times before. The last one I attended was the CSW focused on the Girl Child. I think this is the fourth time that I have attended a CSW. This year I was requested by the archbishop to come. They send someone yearly, but some years for personal reasons I have been unable to serve as the delegate.
What have you learned or taken away from this year’s CSW?
We cannot let the Beijing Platform for Action to be eclipsed by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), or be dropped as a tool in addressing women’s rights. We are far from achieving our goal. It is a struggle to keep this movement going, to achieve the empowerment of women. The Beijing Platform is useful to us though, because it reminds us and equips us to keep this struggle going. It helps articulate women’s issues. We can refer to it and make sure – through the use of the right language – that others understand.
What are the pressing issues that you see in Kenya? In the church?
Also, gender equity in the church needs to be addressed. We are far behind the governments in terms of gender equity. This will not do. The church ought to be the model for society. We also have to acknowledge the huge reach that we have. We reach everyone: girls, women, men, and boys. We have the ability to ensure that the message is being heard.
This can be complicated however. There is a debate that the girl-child has been promoted so much that the boy-child has been left behind. So now I include the boy-child, so that it is about holistic participation in change. However, we have not forgotten that that the child-girl has been in a difficult situation. We all have become involved, and help them become and stay students.
Another significant issue is domestic violence against women. When there is violence, a woman is reduced to nothing. We need to change this. The church has not been able to address this yet. During this conference, however, I heard a South African man talk about his work of leading men to address violence against women. Men themselves condemning the violence. They see that it is their issue. This is powerful and a model that I would like to see adopted in Kenya, so that men don’t push the issue aside.
In Kenya, we are changing the constitution. This presents a great possibility for women. We need to finish this process. Though we can critique the government, we cannot let this opportunity pass. We must recognize that we all function under the government, so we need to partner with the government to get the constitution to its the best stage.
The Civil Society Unit of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is moderating an on-line discussion on Women and Human Rights, focusing on issues of accountability and access to justice.
The discussion started on 1 February and will end on 28 February. Sub-themes are:
- National legal frameworks challenges, trends and best practices with respect to legal protection of women’s human rights (Week 1);
-Accountability challenges, trends and best practices with respect to ensuring accountability for violations of human rights of women, including violence against women (Week 2);
-Access to justice challenges, trends and best practices with respect to womens access to justice (Week 3);
-Summary, wrap-up and observations (Week 4).
Each week starts with a short introduction to the theme to trigger and encourage a constructive and fruitful on-line discussion, to be summarized and analyzed in order to contribute to the Beijing +15 review. The discussion is part of a series of United Nations online discussions dedicated to the fifteen-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (2000); and is coordinated by WomenWatch, an inter-agency project of the United Nations Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality.
The United Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has launched a month-long online discussion on Women in Power and Decision-Making. Dedicated to the fifteen-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), as well as outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (2000), these discussions will be a contribution to the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women to take place 1-12 March 2010.
While reading the excellent book Purple Hibiscus from the outstanding Nigerian author and previous Princeton lecturer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I got to thinking about abusive relationships and how women get stuck in them, unable to break free from these iron shackles. In the novel, the heroine endures torture from her father, who tells her he’s doing this for her own good.
As the world is getting ready for the 54th Commission on the Status of Women to be held in New York in March, that will review and strengthen the commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, domestic violence and abuse against women are now more than ever getting attention from both national and international authorities.
In my whole 25 years of existence (Don’t laugh, I know it’s a small number, but it just goes on to proving my point, which is,(keep on reading)), I have witnessed women being abused verbally in public by their partner or by their father, I have heard testimonies of physical abuse given by young women, women under 30 years of age, already carrying the burden and repercussions of such emotional and physical turmoil so early on in their woman’s life. To many, the abused woman is the married woman suffering beatings from her alcoholic husband. This cliché, like all clichés, has a lining of truth, but let us not forget that abuse can be physical, but also emotional, that it can happen to any woman, and that it can also take place in a parent-child relationship. Besides, violence can also be perpetrated by women, but as the vast majority of violence against women cases recorded have been made by men, we will stick to the gender angle for the purpose of this article.
I have often wondered why women who find themselves in such a relationship do not simply leave their very own private hell. While it seems very easy to have this rather judgmental kind of reaction, things are far from being so black and white, many shades of grey can appear: many women could be afraid not to be able to sustain their family financially without their partner’s support, some others claim they still love the person who abuse them, some will even tell you they were guilty of something and deserved this outburst of violence, and some will simply not realise they are being abused, because to them abuse is only physical, and they won’t have the appropriate tools to unveil the emotional mistreatments.
While it is possible that many women probably think along these lines, I’m also convinced that something in their partner’s attitude keeps them emotionally attached to them, triggers something in their mind and heart for them to stay or makes them feeling so guilty and worthless that they become grateful to their partner for “putting up with them”.
Studies have shown that the abusive partner is generally somebody who exerts some kind of power upon their victim, whether financially or emotionally, which puts the abused woman, right from the beginning, in a dependent situation. Right at the start of the relationship, there is a will to dominate the other spouse or partner. The process will slowly creep on the relationship: it’ll be a hurtful comment, or a slap. These incidents will be followed by justifications such as “But I’m only saying this because I love you”, or “You provoked me, I went out of my mind, I’m sorry, It will never happen again”.
It will happen again.
Emotional manipulation is a big component of the abusive partner’s attitude, along with making the victim feel guilty, put the blame on her. In the eyes of her aggressor, an abused woman has all the flaws in the world, and she should be grateful that he’s staying with her. Insults, degrading comments and intimidating measures will happen often, leading the woman to feel worthless, guilty, and to continuously ask herself if what her aggressor is saying is true: Is she really such a bad person? And if so, why is he still staying with her? Surely, he must be an outstanding person?
And there you go. This is how a woman can endure so many unspeakable treatments and this is how this vicious circle starts.
However, it doesn’t stop there. In order to ensure a firm grip on his prey, and make sure that his partner will never leave him, the abusive man will know how to cajole and seduce his spouse/partner. While continuous violence will eventually lead to a defensive reaction from the victim, an alternation between evil and angel will have her confused: “He can be so adorable; I must be really awful to him sometimes to push him to this extent”. The violent partner will be charming in society and with other people, only throwing from time to time the degrading comment (with a smile and condescending laugh) to the woman accompanying him. These strategies are equivalent to brainwashing, and with such an oppressing burden, no wonder mistreated women have trouble leaving their homes.
This is why it is tremendously important to teach women, not only about their rights, but also about how to identify the first signs of an abusive relationship, when it is not too late to intervene or for the woman to seek help.
Just think about what difference it would make if women would walk into relationships aware of these twisted strategies and manipulations.
Maybe women would have more confidence in themselves.
Maybe a woman wouldn’t die each week in Europe following violence from her partner.
While we reflect this year on Beijing+15 and on the status of women, let us not forget that education is not only knowing about national laws protecting women or CEDAW. It is also giving women tools that they can use before they actually need to resort to these laws.
It’s called prevention, and it works.
Ladies, you’re aware now.
by Onleilove Alston
In America many people make New Year’s Resolutions to set goals as they go into the New Year. Most resolutions involve breaking a harmful habit or beginning a positive one. This New Year’s I want to challenge all of us to make the resolution to resurrect Beijing by supporting the advancement of women’s rights at your church, in your communities and on your jobs. If you choose to take-up this resolution review the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. Become familiar with the document and share it within your community. One way in which you can advance women’s rights is by advocating for women’s leadership in local churches and denominations. March is Women’s History Month and you can advance women’s rights by teaching a Sunday school class on women in the Bible. On a broader level if your state or nation is considering legislation that affects women get involved by lobbying your governmental officials. Consider mentoring a younger woman in your church or community this year and encouraging her to be a leader. Individually you can make a donation to a women’s organization or ministry. Personally you can resolve to advocate for yourself and other women when faced with sexism and gender discrimination. One important way you can help resurrect Beijing is by attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City from February 26 to March 3. Even if you can not attend the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women take-up a local cause that affects women: childcare, sexism in the workplace, women’s wages or any issue that affects women in your community.
2010 and the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action gives us a unique opportunity to consider the advancements women have made since the Fourth World Conference on Women and to fight against the disadvantages we still face as a global community. The New Year always presents us with new opportunities for growth and advancement, 2010 will present women with the opportunity to advance our cause for equality. As a global community let’s unite and resurrect our rights, our voices, and our cause. Let’s Resurrect Beijing! Have a blessed, safe and prosperous New Year from Ecumenical Women!
Luke 1:39-56 (The Message)
Blessed Among Women
39-45Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,You’re so blessed among women,and the babe in your womb, also blessed, And why am I so blessed thatthe mother of my Lord visits me? The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears,The babe in my wombskipped like a lamb for sheer joy.Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!46-55And Mary said, I’m bursting with God-news;I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.God took one good look at me, and look what happened—I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts.He knocked tyrants off their high horses,pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now. 56Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.
I playfully call the account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth the first baby shower. In America baby showers are times for women to come together and celebrate new life; presents are exchanged, advice given and games played. I am sure that each culture has its own version of the baby shower. Mary and Elizabeth celebrated the new life within them by exchanging presents of joy, encouragement, song and prophecy. Both women were carrying children of promise: one would pave the way and the other would be the way. John the Baptist being a prophet even from the womb jumped for joy because he knew the baby Mary carried was the Messiah. Mary and Elizabeth were both silenced and marginalized in their society, yet in the company of each other they declared prophetic words of what God was doing in their midst. Neither woman had a convenient pregnancy- Mary being a teenager and Elizabeth being an elderly woman, but each allowed herself to be inconvenienced for God’s purposes. Mary and Elizabeth’s celebration shows the importance of women coming together for prayer, praise and prophecy. When Mary sings: “He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold” we see that in the presence of Elizabeth she could freely declare words that may have been dangerous if spoken in public. When women gather in Christ name he is in our midst. Mary and Elizabeth are a positive example of what can happen when women come together to celebrate life. By their example I am reminded of women coming together throughout history such as: Ruth and Naomi, woman suffragists, and the Fourth World Council on Women in Beijing, China. As we reflect during this season of Advent we must remember that the Gospels included everyday people who God used in extraordinary ways and that we can walk in their example. Women can continue to come together to rejoice, celebrate and prophesy about liberation through collective action and prayer. When we come together the course of history will be interrupted, life birthed and hope given.
Question for Reflection: Using the example of Mary and Elizabeth how can women support each other and create a space that celebrates life?
Prayer: Dear God give us spaces to rejoice, laugh, and celebrate your life during this Christmas season. Develop friendships that will inspire us to speak truth to power. Help us to support our sisters and rejoice with those who rejoice. Thank you for the example of Mary and Elizabeth. Thank you for the gift of your life. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
In preparation for the 54th session of CSW, which will review the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, Ecumenical Women submitted a statement to the UN Secretary-General.
[We] affirm that God’s world was meant to be one of abundance for all persons, with fundamental rights and dignity for both women and men. Women, however, are disproportionately robbed of this abundance. We are called to challenge the gender bias of institutions and seek justice for those who are blocked by institutional barriers.
On workshops and conferences, EW learnt how Beijing 1995 had concrete impacts on women’s lifes. But despite these success stories, many goals of the Platform remain unfulfilled even after 15 years.
In it’s statement EW highlights five areas that are crucial for gender equality: Patriarchal understandings of gender, power and leadership; Violence against Women; Economic Barriers; Education and Training; Vulnerability of Marginalized Women and Girls. A greater commitment in these areas is necessary in order to meet all the Millennium Development Goals. Therefore EW urges the Commission, the UN, and it’s member states to undertake concrete steps for institutional change.
“When the mayi-mayi (community-based militia groups in the DRC) attacked my village, we all ran away. In our flight, the soldiers captured all the girls, even the very young. Once with the soldiers, you were forced to marry one of the soldiers. Whether he was as old as your father or young, bad or nice, you had to accept. If you refused, they would kill you. This happened to one of my friends. They would slaughter people like chickens. They wouldn’t even bury the bodies they slaughtered—they would even feed on their flesh. I even saw a girl who refused to be ‘married’ being tortured.”
Jasmine, 16, the DRC
On this UN International Day to End Violence Against Women, I would like to raise an important and rather invisible subject: the issue of the Girl Soldier.
International Criminal Law considers the enrolment of children as warriors as a war crime in many texts, including the Rome Statute of 1998 establishing the International Criminal Court (Article 8)2)b)xxvi)):
For the purpose of this Statute, “war crimes” means: (…)
(b) Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts (…)
(xxvi) Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities.
The Rome Statute also classifies enlisting children as a war crime in the setting of a non international conflict, at article 8)2)e)vi). This is of enormous importance as contemporary wars tend to be internal rather than international, and foreseeing these cases can prevent war criminals to get away with a “Would the international community kindly don’t interfere with the my country’s issues please? I’m busy killing, raping and enrolling people here”. The ICC is thus currently trying Democratic Republic of the Congo warlord Thomas Lubanga for conscripting, enlisting, and using child soldiers.
It is reported that girls make up for 1/10 to 1/3 of the child soldiers in armed conflicts, depending on the country.The issue of the girl soldier is something that doesn’t get a lot of attention within the International Community; yet it should, as it crystallises all types of violence women and girls have to bear in times of peace.
For there is nothing better than a good crisis to get a society flaws out in the open.
Why, and how, do girls become soldiers? There could be many reasons to that, including that the girl voluntarily joins the militias. Girls are also forced into waging war, whether physically or emotionally, by blackmailing them: “If you do not come and fight for us, oh well, we’ll just torture and kill your family”. Indeed, girls are central to the war machine: they act as sex slaves for the soldiers, fight like boys and men, and perform all kinds of chores. No wonder they’re regularly abducted.
However, let us dig a teensy bit deeper into the so-called “voluntary” joining of girls in armed conflicts. Studies have shown that girl soldiers joined militias to escape domestic violence or abuse, but also in an attempt as self-protection: some girls declared preferring to go and fight rather than wait for militiamen to come and rape or kill them. Summing up, girls tend to join national violence to escape from the domestic violence they have to bear, and to shield themselves from the seemingly inevitable abuse they will face eventually.
Just because they were born a girl.
Needless to say, girl soldiers will be abused by their brothers in arms or by their supervisors, sometimes getting pregnant, which can assure them the eternal rejection of their community and family, sometimes getting HIV/AIDS or other STDs, sometimes both.
I have to say, I had a hard time digesting the extraordinary amount of violence, stigma, abuse and torture that girl soldiers have to face: they are enrolled because of violence (whatever its form), used (in all the acceptations of the word) and rendered afterwards to civil life, full of hatred, to bear the enormous stigma and contempt of their society, having lost all sense of self. Their reinsertion into civil life is even more difficult than for their male counterparts, because of the women and girls’ status in the society: in most societies, raped and abused women are synonymous of disgrace and dishonour, and a girl who has been known not only to be a fighter but also to carry a militiaman’s child is to be ostracized. That the girl is a victim doesn’t even come into the equation with this reasoning.
Civil society organisations and the international community set up rehabilitation centres, providing the children with education, counselling and health services. Sadly, the advocacy for rehabilitating girl soldiers will be long and painful, so set in stone is the prejudice towards these girls. However, it is also important to note the strength and resilience of the former girl soldiers, who, even though they have been maimed, tortured, abused, raped and ostracized, carry on living, day by day, nurturing their hopes and licking their wounds.
Every day should be the International Day to End Violence Against Women Day.
For more information and testimonies:
By Simon Khayala, BD student St. Paul’s University, Kenya and a youth pastor in the African Church of the Holy Spirit
Despite the Beijing Declaration that “Women empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society including participation in the decision making process and access to power are fundamental for achievement of equality development and peace”, women still feel discriminated. Based on a one-sided interpretation of culture and scripture, discrimination of women is often reinforced by the churches.
Traditionally the story of the fall of man in Genesis 3 was used to blame women. Eve, the first women, seduced Adam into eating the fruit from the forbitten tree. Hence all women today have inherited that blame. Women were seen as inferior, weak, disobedience and easily tempted. But if we read through Genesis 3 carefully, we will realize many positive things about Eve. Aspects, which the churches neglected far too long.
Genesis 2:18 (RSV), says “…it’s not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”. The Hebrew word azer (helper) does not mean any form of subordination as it was always preached. In fact, azer has divine attributes (Heb 13:6, Psalms 10:14). The Bible discribes God as a helper to us. In John 15:26, Jesus tells his disciples he will send them a helper, the Holy Spirit. This implies that Eve was in the correct image and likeness of God.
In Genesis 3:6 we see Eve as a rational being. She is able to reason out to see that the tree was good for food and to be desired to make one wise. The Hebrew word raah (to see), also means “understanding or awareness”.
Who does not want to be wise? All of us desire wisdom. To me the mother of all human wisdom is Eve, because it was until she ate the fruit that we acquired a higher status to become like God (Genesis 3:22).
Therefore our perceptions towards women on the basis of the story of the fall of man should change. Women may indeed have a unique gift which men don’t have.
by Paola Salwan
In September 1995, thousands of people made the historical move of adopting the Beijing Declaration and Plan for Action during the World 4th Conference on Women. The declaration, although not legally binding, quickly became a comprehensive reference policy document on women’s rights and women’s lives throughout the world for governments, NGOs, international organisations and the global women’s movement. The twelve critical areas of importance and concern outlined in the declaration (Women and poverty, Education and training of women, Women and health, Violence against women, Women and armed conflict, Women and the economy, Women in power and decision-making, Institutional environment and the girl child) paved the way for the other documents that try to ensure and enforce women’s rights, such as the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 or the third Millennium Development Goal, which is promote gender equality and empower women.
A review of the implementation of the BDPA has taken place every five years since its adoption. A political document was drafted at Beijing +5, “Further Actions and Initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”, in order to deepen the understanding and application of the BDPA.
For Beijing+15, governmental delegations, but also NGOs, UN Bodies and international organisations attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2010 will assess and evaluate the progress made on the implementation of the Beijing document. Delegations will be invited to share good practices and experiences, but also to reflect on the challenges that are still lying ahead for women around the world. Many different spaces will be available for participants to express themselves and try and build strategies for women’s rights. The outcome of theses meetings should be a vision for the substantial improvement of women’s lives , in line with the Millennium Development Goals.
In order to prepare this ever-important session, many regional events are already taking place around the world, such as the Africa Regional Task Force for the Beijing Review Process or the 2009 Asia-Pacific NGO Forum on Beijing +15, organised around the theme “Weaving Wisdom, Confronting Crises, Forging the Future”. These events are mainly put together by NGOs and civil society, while the high level and experts review meetings that are also being undertaken in each region towards the end of 2009 are organised by ministries and national ministries or regional commissions.
It is indeed paramount to have these events, as well as the review of the Declaration, taking place, in view with the current status of women around the world. If we follow WHO’s statistics following a 10-countries study:
- About 5,000 women are murdered by family members in the name of honour each year worldwide.
- Trafficking of women and girls for forced labour and sex is widespread and often affects the most vulnerable.
- Forced marriages and child marriages violate the human rights of women and girls, but they are widely practiced in many countries in Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
- Worldwide, up to one in five women report experiencing sexual abuse as children. Children who experience sexual abuse are much more likely to encounter other forms of abuse later in life.
- Between 15% and 71% of women reported physical or sexual violence by a husband or partner.
It’s time the world wakes up and truly makes the Violence Against Women a top priority on the global agenda. VAW not only traumatizes the women as individuals, it also affects the community as a whole. In societies where women are less represented than men, where women die from honour killings or domestic abuse, the cohesion is likely to be loose and a lack of resources may arise.
Women are homemakers, more often than not bread earners, mothers, sisters, and pillars of the family and of the society. To violate and abuse them is to violate and abuse the society as a whole.
Beijing+15 will be a platform to fight this battle, but we need more of those.
Go on, promote Gender Equality, participate in Beijing+15 events, follow the news on Gender-based violence, spread the word. Every voice counts.
New York, September 17, 2009 – As a major women’s rights anniversary approaches, women of faith are already at work, asking their governments to recommit to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, a milestone human rights platform agreed upon at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women.
“Millions of women worked for years to create the Beijing Platform, but its goals have been eclipsed by other political agendas” said Emily Davila, chair of Ecumenical Women at the United Nations, a faith-based non-profit coalition focusing on women’s rights internationally. “We are calling on women of faith from around the world to come together in their churches and ask, ‘Have these goals for women’s leadership, education and development been met in our communities?’”
To ensure the upcoming anniversary is not forgotten, Ecumenical Women has launched the campaign: “Resurrect Beijing! Calling for a Renewed Commitment to Women’s Rights,” to inspire women around the world to gather together and ask their governments to increase their political commitments and resources towards meeting the principles of the Beijing Platform for Action.
The campaign will host advocacy gatherings in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The first meeting in North America will be on October 7 in New York hosted by the National Council of Churches of Christ. Faith communities were active participants in producing the landmark Beijing Platform, and now they can play a leading role again.
The campaign resources, available at http://ecumenicalwomen.org contain information about the Beijing Platform, a sample agenda for a meeting, tips on building coalitions, a sample advocacy letter for governments and a bible study. The resource is intended to launch meetings all over the world and is also available in Spanish.
Meetings should be held prior to March 2010, the findings of which will be reported back to Ecumenical Women at the United Nations. Earlier dates are strongly encouraged. Conclusions from the meeting will be shared at the March meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-53) at the United Nations and with government representatives.
Anastassia Zinke, Advocacy Coordinator: email@example.com
Ecumenical Women at the United Nations: 212-808-5360
by Onleilove Alston
It is Thursday September 10, 2009 and I am writing live from The Moral Obligation to End Poverty Event co-hosted by Union Theological Seminary and The Poverty Initiative. The speakers for this event include: Peter Singer author of How Are We to Live?, President Serene Jones (the first women to serve as president of Union), Ray Offenheiser president of Oxfam America and Charlene Sinclair member of the Poverty Initiative and Ethics PhD candidate at Union Theological Seminary. Peter Singer is currently discussing what it means to live an ethical life and he has a wise critique for those who may suggest that to end poverty individuals have to give away large sums of money. Singer makes a great point of saying that this extreme solution will only attract a small minority but that the Christian tradition does call us ALL to a moral obligation to end poverty.