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image001by Maria Murerwa, delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.   You can find part one of this post here.
There were so many highlights for me during CSW I find it hard to choice which ones to write about. As a young Rwandan woman, I was so proud to have my country represented and for me to be able to attend their events. Rwanda is doing amazing work in promoting gender equality. Professor Shirley Randell spoke on the “global perspective on violence against women: in the case of Rwanda.” Her presentation focused on education programs that are provided to women, girls, boys and men at the grassroots level about how they should be part of ending GBV. They are educating girls in secondary schools to start to envision and plan for their future at the same time providing literacy programs for illiterate women. Programs like these will help empower women and hence preventing GBV.There have been economic empowering opportunities for women in Rwanda. Before the 1994 genocide, women had to have permission from their husbands to start a business, but today many women especially young women are taking part in entrepreneurial opportunities without the consent of husbands, fathers, bothers. Even though women contribute to the growth of the country and its economy, they still find it hard to get things like loans compared to men. However, I must say that I am so proud of my country and how much has been achieved. The government is very supportive of gender equality in Rwanda; in fact it would have been almost impossible if it wasn’t for the government support and the large group of female legislatures (56 percent). Women are now part of decision making at the local, national, and even global levels.

While most men still wrestle with the concept of gender equality and gender balance, a network of Rwanda “MenEngage” believes that a  “new positive masculine identity is needed, one that does not depend on superiority over women.” I am happy to know that men are getting together to form a movement that is fighting the ideas that lead to GBV.

More on creating positive masculinity, The Men’s Story Project is an organization based in California that works with men on break the silence. When I first hear what this woman was doing was quick to judge because it seemed like it was taking the focus away from the reason we were there, VAW not men. However, the more I listened and with the videos of the men telling their stories, I was so glad that someone was working with me. We saw some videos of men telling their stories through poems, songs acts, and this made them talk about things that might have hurt them when they were children, violence that happened to their mothers, something that may still happen to them or things they have done to others due to social, economic class or sexual orientation. This project is a good reminder to society that violence against women (VAW) does not only affect women, but also their children, and those children can grow up to be violent on other women in their lives.

This was an amazing experience for me. I am very grateful to have been part of it, thanks to the LWF Women in Church and Society desk and the Lutheran Office for World Community for giving me this opportunity and thanks to all the women and men who are working hand in hand to end this horrific epidemic. Violence against women should be eradicated, and it will take girls and boys, women and men working together. Let’s all together break the silence, take a step towards education and don’t let anyone tell you “you can’t” because you are a woman. Together we can…

image001by Maria Murerwa, delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

I have been very blessed this year to attend this commission on the Status of women (CSW 57) and the Ecumenical women orientation and events.  I am always blown away by the people I meet, the work they do, the energy and the fact that most of the women and men come with a common goal of empowering women. This week, I have attended many great NGOs  Parallel events that have been eye opening and hopeful; however there is a still a lot of work to be done in to end gender based violence. I went to so many events that are worth sharing. I will highlight a few which include, ending female genital Mutilation (FGM/FGC), Ending violence against women in Rwanda, and creating positive masculinity (the men’s storytelling project.) This year, the theme is “Ending all Forms of Violence against Women and Girls.” Violence against women is a form of discrimination and a violation of human rights. It cuts lives short, causes women to be silent and leave in tremendous pain and fear everywhere around the world.

This conference brings together women and men from all corners of the world to the United Nations headquarters in New York for two weeks to address and find solutions for issues that affect women. The same time CSW is happening the Ecumenical women join in forces together with CSW.  Many issues are discussed in hopes to find solid solutions for them. Some of the topics but to mention a few included, ending early child marriage, violence in widowhood, ending impunity of sexual violence, violence against women living with disabilities, violence against rural and indigenous women, Military sexual violence, elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM), mental health communities, violence against clergies in the church, violence against aging women, gendercide and many others.

It is unfortunate that at least one out three women worldwide have faced violence.  Women are here to break the silence and find solutions to end violence against women.  This conference serves as a platform for women to break the patriarchal male centered system that is feed by cultural, social and religious practices that exists in most societies.

I attended two separate parallel events that addressed the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). According to the world health organization (WHO) FGM “comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” One event was on Anti-FGM legislature in African and local communities’ reactions sponsored by the women’s front Norway. This organization is working with the Nyaturu tribe in Northern central Tanzania (Singida area) where Ms. Chiku Ali, one of the panelists grew up. Ms. Chiku has been working on this issue for so many years now in Singida. The Nyakuru tribe practices the right of passage which includes, FGM, tooth extraction and cutting a mark on the forehead.

There have been many declarations to barn this practice since 1967. One famous declaration was the “Arusha declaration” this was followed by so many campaign. The idea was good, but the practices did not stop. People especially the elderly, continued the practice silently when the government used force to stop FGM. When children who were not mutilated got sick, the people believed that it was a curse from the ancestors because they are angry at the authority for stopping FGM.  Ms.Chiku luckily survived this horrendous practice thanks to her father. A devoted Imam who made “a mistake” (as Ms.Chiku jokingly said) to send his young daughter to boarding school. Young Ali asked her grandmother and mother about this practice and why it was important for her to have it, but their answers did not satisfy her. Ali’s best friend died from an infection cause by FGM. This made Ali so upset that she decided to talk about the issue with her father. Ali did not want to go through what her friend had gone through, and so did her father. And so because her father said didn’t permit it, Ali was safe from FGM .

The second event had powerful speakers whose stories were heart sinking, but yet so hopeful for a future without FGM.  For the second event was on FGM / FGC: how to can faith communities help to end it? Sponsored by Mpanzi, 28 Too many, LWF and Tearfund.  I will focus on an amazing woman who is a survivor of FGM and how she is using her voice to break the silence against this practice in her native land Kisii, Kenya. Ms. Jackie Ogega is a co-founder of Mpanzi , an organization based in Kenya which works to promote peace and development in rural African communities through education, women’s empowerment, health and livelihoods. Ms. Ogega is also an author of a new book called Pervasive violence, which was launched on March 8, 2013. This book is about her story as a survivor of FGM. In her remarks, she highlighted the dangers of this practice to a girl/woman’s health. She is not afraid to share her story because she knows that it can help other women tell their stories and be part of ending FGM for the generations to come. Ms. Ogega believes that in order to end this vicious practice, we need education. She thanked her mother for giving her opportunity to education, which helped her not to make the same chose for her teenage daughter.

I found her story very inspiring especially because she is not embarrassed to say it happened to her. So many women would have been very uncomfortable to even talk about this matter because it is so personal. Well she is not, in fact she acknowledges that FGM/FGC is part of her “identity but it does not hold her back” and knowing her it definitely does not define who she is either. I think that her story will inspire other women to tell their stories and advocated to end it. As the saying goes, “charity begins at home,” Ms.Ogega has started with her own daughter by not allowing this practice to happen to her.

FCM/FGC continues to be a form of violence against women around the world and it is time that we broke the silence and we need to bring both girls boys to speak about this. I was especially moved by speech of Nora Muturi Ms. Ogega’s daughter who reminded us that this practice is not only in Africa but even here in America and it takes many forms. I thought that you will be happy to know that a resolution to “Ending female genital mutilation” was passed as of 2012 by the UN General Assembly. So yeah to that…We all have a story to tell, don’t let anyone tell your story because you are who you are and your story is unique because.

by Rosemarie Doucette, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women

Rosemarie DoucetteThere was an awesome energy last week at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women!  Clearly times are changing for the better as issues of inequality, injustice, and violence were brought to light with grace and power.   Women across differences of faith, race, gender identity, ethnicity, and education united in the effort to bring truth and justice to those places where they are most needed.  I was very impressed with the progress made in Mauritania in the movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM).  Putting all girls at risk for their physical health, the deeper psychological damage that is done is often harder to assess and there are few resources for addressing it.  While this is a harmful practice, it is nonetheless an integral part of the tradition of many cultures so its eradication must be approached with sensitivity and options must be introduced.

I was encouraged by the work of speaker Mariem M’Bareck of Mauritania who has worked extensively with both the religious community and health care providers in order to educate and mobilize people from within their own communities instead of alienating them through a campaign waged from outside of their culture.  First Mariem met with a few Imams who established that the Koran does not require FGM of any female, of any age, for any circumstance.  The Imams, respected as wise religious leaders, will educate the people in their communities so that over time the misunderstanding that FGM is a requirement of Islam might be corrected.  The group of Imams who have made this commitment has grown from two to over two hundred.  Health care providers will approach the eradication of FGM from a health standpoint, highlighting the extreme and lifetime health risks involved while teaching women and men that the reasons used to justify it are based on misconceptions, superstitions, and myths.

Another piece of the situation is that the women who perform the cutting will be left without a livelihood.  It is important that their financial and social needs be met by the community because they are most often uneducated and this will be a difficult thing to process, that their service to the community will no longer be needed.

Finally, and perhaps the most uplifting and easiest transformation to make following the eradication of FGM will be to provide young girls with new rituals to mark their passage from babies to young girls and from young girls to young women.  For thousands of years young the passage of boys to young adulthood has been marked by circumcision, preceded and followed by communal celebrations and privileges.  Girls, on the other hand, were more likely to be cut in private and would have to spend even more time in healing.  Their passage to womanhood was generally not celebrated in community.  In the new light of hope, equality, and human rights, communities where FGM is being eradicated are now replacing this practice with healthy ways of celebrating and marking this life passage, thus ensuring better physical and psychological health, and more social equality.

“If a woman can cook so can a man because she doesn’t cook with her womb.”

“What stuck with me is the report that in Kazakhstan, a man is put in jail for 3 years when he rapes o violates a woman, but put in jail for 11 years when he steals a cow. How cheap women are considered! This has to stop!”

“Forgiveness is not words, it is ACTION!”

“If violence against women were a disease, they would have declared it a pandemic.”

A horrible quote from men in Egypt: “When Christian women and widows go into the square, they are raped. They asked for it.”

Thoughts for the CSW: “It is an enlightening experience, but I would be very grateful to see how Ecumenical Women are taking the raised awareness back home and not just finish at the base. We should consider ‘depth’ in all the work that we are doing.”

IMG_0068On March 6, Presbyterian Women Aotearoa/New Zealand, Interfaith Worker Justice, Presbyterian Women in the Presbyterian Church (USA), The Presbyterian Church (USA) and Young Women’s Leadership Development, PC (USA) co-hosted a parallel event based on Ecumenical Women’s talking points on structural violence against women.

“Women of faith are reinterpreting the traditional understandings of sacred texts of Christianity to challenge violence condoned and promoted within the church.  What can we learn from such efforts about confronting all forms of institutional violence?”

Women with a variety of perspectives shared stories of experiencing and overcoming institutional violence in the church, workplace, legal system and educational environments.  Attendees were invited to discuss their own stories in small groups and work with presenters to plan action steps to take home.

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366by Candace L. Strand, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.”  As I reflect upon my life as an African American woman who may have been a statistic of domestic violence myself during 1977 to 1983, I give God the glory, honor and praise for my deliverance.  When I think back to that part of my life I know that it could have been worse.  But God and the mercy and grace factor stepped in.

I had two wonderful daughters to raise while I went through the mental and drug abuse situations.  I was married twice.  In the first marriage I was young and ignorant.  There was fighting and an adulterous situation was present.  Sex was often forced. In the second marriage, I came to know the Lord and our relationship went south.  At first the drug issue was a part of my life, but when I became saved my ways changed and my companion’s life did not.  There were women in the home when I was not there in that drug atmosphere during that time. I prayed a lot during that time period of my life.  Life was hard financially and things were cutoff in the home.  My two daughters and I were without heat and electricity during those difficult times in my life.  Yet, I was very spiritual.  This seemed to compensate for the ending of that marriage and that season in my life.

Presently, I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have survived from that sadness and oppression.  I have remarried.  I have been married for seventeen years.  My husband is a Christian.  My daughters are grown and I have five grandchildren.  I feel so blessed. I had to be humble during those years.  I am still humble and I believe that the Lord took me through my adventure for a reason.

So many times life throws stumbling blocks into our path.  I would have never thought that I would have gone the way that those situations locked me into.  I was always a hard worker.  I had several jobs and I was also on welfare at different times too.  But God………..

Oh, but by the way, I did not mention that I am a college graduate with two bachelor degrees. I am presently a senior under the MDiv (Master of Divinity) program at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.  Thank you Lord!  As you can see, life goes on.

What’s next for me?  Well, the leading of the Lord is my guide.  I have learned that weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.  Through disappointments, sorry, pain and love, I have endured hardness as a good soldier.  I have learned that I have to take one day at a time.  Sometimes when I desire to be in a better financial state or be living in a better home or even be rich, I think about Jesus and the life that Jesus lived.  How can I complain?  God is good……Thank you Lord!  As a 58 year old woman I feel stronger and wiser each day.  Women are powerful too!  Peace………

Check out the video below of our conversation with Dr. Renee Campbell, a United Methodist Women delegate to #CSW57.

MHJ

by Mary Hansen-Joyce, Lutheran World Federation delegate to CSW57  and seminarian at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

I am honored and pleased to submit my thoughts and impressions about CSW57.  Myself and four other classmates were invited to attend CSW57 as Lutheran World Federation (LWF) delegates during its first week.  We are seminary students at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, taking an elective year-long course in Human Rights that is based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  We five women students of diverse ages, ethnicity, and backgrounds chose to attend CSW57 because of our individual interests in women’s’ issues.

As I attempt to say in this space what my experience has been, the words ‘universal’ and ‘solidarity’ stand out.  Our unique personal stories and interests are obviously diverse, yet undeniably ‘universal’ as female children of God.  When we come together to share our stories and experiences, as well as our shared prayer for the violence to end, we find ‘solidarity’ in our commitment to work toward the end of the violence.  With one voice, united and emboldened through the history of ecumenism, we seek to remain strong and vocal about the reality of violence again women.

The numbers are staggering to me.  Seven in ten women world-wide are affected by some form of violence in their respective culture and community.  One in three members of every church community in the United States is affected in some way by domestic violence.  Women and girls are dying daily because of the violence that has been embedded for generations in the culture and the religious traditions of their communities.  No country is immune.  This can be changed, and must be changed.

The facts are often overpowered by culture and faith traditions, social stressors, economic pressures and political tactics.  There is clear evidence that the welfare of all peoples is improved when women and girls are educated and treated equally.

Nevertheless, it will take continued courage and determination, which is why I hope that this year is the first of many years that I will travel to NYC for the CSW.  As a result of attending the event this year, I am bringing back the book “When Pastors Prey” to be considered as part of the seminary curriculum in the future.  I am bringing into my future ministry as an ordained pastor the undeniable need to remain connected to these issues, and the women and men involved in them.  I also bring the belief that anything I can do to inform both men and women, and engage in dialogue and ministry with my community toward the elimination of violence, is God’s work.

 

Check out the immensely powerful video above for “One Woman,” a song launched on 8 March, 2013 by UN Women to celebrate the International Woman’s Day.  This year International Women’s Day focuses on ending violence against women, a gross human rights violation that affects up to 7 in 10 women throughout the globe across all economic and social classes.

Rochelle in UN GA hall

by Rochelle Rawls-Shaw, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegate to CSW57; this was originally written as an email to her community at San Francisco Theological Seminary

I felt it was time to share with you all the exciting happenings and history-making things going on here at the United Nations. For the next two weeks, March 4-15,  women ( some 5,000 are registered, no one is absolutely certain how many will participate) will come to the UN for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This year’s theme is the Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

I’m part of the Presbyterian delegation which has over 70 people at this year’s Commission. This  includes girls and men from across the US. Our delegation is a member of the Ecumenical Women (EW) delegation which has over 200 people from different denominations and church organizations.

I attended two full days of orientation that began last Friday when the Presbyterian delegation met. Our delegation includes individuals from Presbyterian Women and Young Women’s Leadership Development as well as Presbyterians working to end violence against women and girls and PC(USA) national staff. As we fellowshiped, we shared information about our ministries and explored our purpose at CSW: to advocate for justice and equal rights for all women and girls around the world.

The EW orientation met Saturday. The day began with breaking bread together and included 2 worship services. I had a significant role in the worship service at the end of the day. I was the narrator/storyteller in the story/presentation on the story of Jepthah. It was awesome!

Every day for the next two weeks of the CSW, EW delegates begin the day by worshiping together in the chapel at the Church Center for the United Nations. Each represented denomination or church organization is responsible for preparing one worship experience focused on a biblical passages about women. I was responsible for leading the Presbyterian worship service on Tuesday. It included Presbyterian women from New Zealand. It was titled Laying Down The Stones. It was well attended and a blessing to all who were present.

There are planned marches all around the world for this Friday, March 8th – International Women’s Day. I will be there with our delegation as we march for justice and equality for all women and girls. I will be representing women, Presbyterian, and SFTS!

IMG_4974Rana Chamadi, World Student Christian Federation Delegate, Member of the Orthodox Youth Movement in Lebanon writes about her experience on 3 March, 2013.

Today was a long day: We waited two hours in line to get our UN passes, went for a quick lunch, took the subway all the way across town to get to the Bible study at “the box of God” then came back to the hotel and spent the evening preparing the first ecumenical women worship service on Monday morning. It was really tiring but also very inspiring to be among this group of young educated women who are working hard to make the voice of unnamed women heard.

“If peace was defined as an absence of violence against women, no country would be considered peaceful”. It’s these simple , yet powerful words,  that marked me today. Our WSCF delegation met with other groups of young adults for a contextual Bible study. It’s during this meeting that I heard this important statement and it made me realize, that despite the fact that the women we met with came from various places and were very different, we were all the same when it came to the issue of violence and women’s rights. We are all aware of the issues women are facing, all we need to do is get the message through at the CSW to make an impact then work on the implementation of the change. The change is in our hands, at the “grass roots” level, and that is a big responsibility. These coming two weeks will only be the beginning of our journey of advocacy for women’s rights and I hope I’ll live up to my duties.

 


Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women speaking to a group of about 175 Ecumenical Women delegates to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women on 2 March, 2013.

Nearing the end of our first amazing day of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women at the UN, we absolutely needed to post the following video of a powerful worship experience we had as Ecumenical Women this past Saturday evening.

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when God is silent.

In the beginning of November, Ecumenical Women submitted our written joint statement to the UN. The statement allows us to clearly and publicly articulate the specific issues and areas within the priority theme we will focus our advocacy strategy.

Our three main priorities are:
Cultural, structural and economic violence are underlying factors that must be addressed
In order to eliminate violence against women, its root causes must be identified and dealt with. Cultural values are reflected in structural forms of violence, which work to perpetuate economic discrimination against women. Only when we address how these factors interact to create and sustain violence can we hope to change it.

Education is a vital part of the change process, especially societal change. Education must incorporate men and boys alongside women and girls
Education is fundamental in the prevention of violence against women and girls, but access must be improved. Education allows women to know and understand their rights, and promotes understanding throughout society as a whole, including among men and boys. Education helps to empower women as well as develop the skills essential for income-generation.

We must pay particular attention to the needs of rural and minority populations and improve their access to resources and services
The lack of access to resources and services leaves rural and minority populations especially vulnerable to violence of many sorts, including structural violence. All people have the right to access basic services and resources, and programs should be created and supported that promote the well-being of all people.

Check back for an update and the official statement once it is formally accepted and sent to UN Member States!

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.

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    15 September 2014 – The United Nations Security Council has long been a bastion for men selected to represent their countries on what many consider to be the Organization's most powerful body. But now, women ambassadors are filling over a third of the Council's 15 seats, making history at the venerable institution and sending out a strong message a […]
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    DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – Happiness Rhobi, in the Mara Region of Tanzania, was 12 years old when her parents decided she was old enough to be married. They pulled her from school, planned to have her undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) and prepared to marry her off to a man of their choosing. But Happiness took a stand.
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