16 Days, 16 Entries
Posted on: Tuesday, November 25, 2008
November 25 - Since 1991, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership has held the 16 Days of Activism, a time each year for us to recognize the global threat that gender violence represents. The sixteen days begin today—with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women—and run through to Human Rights Day, December 10. During this time, we shed a spotlight on the pervasive spread of gender violence—the women who have been killed, the lives that have been threatened, the communities that have been destroyed—but we also gear up for action.
We need solutions and, for that, we need to be creative. For the next sixteen days, until December 10, we are starting a marathon, a blogging marathon. We aim to post at least one entry per day, and we’ll share some of the ideas that have emerged from all the years of our work and of our allies’ work around the world. We hope you’ll join us.
November 26 - Women around the world have been organizing for decades to bring attention to the issue of violence against women, and their efforts have generated major successes. Now, violence against women is an issue on the agendas of governments and international institutions like the UN, which has helped to counter a generations-long silence.
November 27 - In a growing number of US families, the troubled national holiday of Thanksgiving has become an opportunity to recognize and reflect on the genocide of the continent's Indigenous Peoples. Finally ending that genocide means working to transform conditions of violence against Indigenous Peoples that persist today.
November 28 - For years, any mention of Zimbabwe in the international media has consisted of the latest catastrophe: new numbers of rampant inflation, a cholera outbreak, the latest incidents of political violence. These reports have become a litany of ills and have made it easy for so many to characterize the nation as a "basket case."
November 29 - Every day around the world, people who have devoted themselves to protecting women's human rights face particular threats as a result of their activism. Along with other human rights defenders, they experience the same risks associated with fighting human rights abuses, but additional factors weigh in. They are often at risk of gender-based violence, such as harassment and sexual abuse. In addition, efforts to promote women's rights often undermine dominant ideologies held by communities, religions, the state and more--and as a result, women human rights defenders face violent opposition.
November 30 - Yesterday, as we marked International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, we honored the work of activists around the world who promote and confront abuses of women's rights. This work has been going on for generations, and the successes that we have achieved today have come as a result of years of effort. But as history is recorded, the achievements and experiences of women often become a side note--or disappear altogether. As we move forward, we must be sure not to lose the stories of the women whose contributions are often ignored.
December 1 - Today, on World AIDS Day, we remember that this pandemic has been raging for nearly thirty years and has stolen more than 25 million lives. We remember that AIDS, particularly in Africa, is an increasingly feminized phenomenon, with women making up 59% of people living with HIV/AIDS on that continent. And we remember that HIV/AIDS does not exist in a vacuum and that it feeds off of the inequalities that marginalize communities around the world.
December 2 - Yesterday, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning the ongoing violence against civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and asserting that the Congolese government must ensure the protection of the people. The scale of the conflict in the DRC is difficult to grasp—starting over ten years ago, involving seven nations, and killing millions of people.
December 3 - In the city of Basra in Iraq, the answer to the question in the title is blunt: $100. That’s the going rate to hire an assassin to kill a woman, as reported by the Guardian this week. Earlier this year, the trend was already obvious: women in Iraq’s second largest city are being murdered in increasing numbers. MADRE’s sister organization, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), routinely visited city morgues to try to keep track of the patterns of killings.
December 4 - I recently received a communication from one of our sister organizations in Colombia, LIMPAL. In communities where violence by military and paramilitary groups is a constant threat, LIMPAL works to support displaced women and their families with grassroots projects and to promote their human rights at the national and international level. Across Colombia, more than 3 million people are displaced, with Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities disproportionately affected.
December 5 - Earlier this year, I contributed a chapter on Indigenous women’s anti-violence strategies to a book called Violence and Gender in the Globalized World: The Intimate and The Extimate. In it, I used MADRE’s history of partnering with Indigenous women leaders to illustrate the strategies they have employed to counter violence against women. I wanted particularly to show that multiple levels of identity—like race and gender—intersect and create specific experiences of violence.
December 6 - On December 3, Jestina Mukoko—the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project—was abducted from her home by a group of armed and unidentified men, as reported by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. She has been active in documenting and reporting the political violence that ensued after the elections in Zimbabwe earlier this year. Her whereabouts are not currently known.
December 7 - In northern Kenya, a group of Indigenous Samburu women have embarked on a brave new experiment to change their lives. In 1990, led by a woman named Rebecca Lolosoli, they established the village of Umoja, a word that means “unity” in Swahili. Their guiding principle was a powerful one: their village would ban all violence against women. You can read more about this inspiring story here.
December 8 - With all the news about the financial crisis that has rocked Wall Street in recent months, the on-going food crisis has become secondary in many news reports. But as we know from the testimonies of our sister organizations, the crisis continues and many are still grappling with food shortages. Yet, in an age in which the food crisis has undermined food security for communities around the world, solutions are readily available. To find them, we need only turn to the people who produced the majority of the world’s food: women farmers.
December 9 - The term feminicide refers to the sum total of various forms of violence against women, characterized by impunity for perpetrators, complicity of local or state authorities and a lack of justice processes for victims. Feminicide occurs in conditions of social upheaval, armed conflict, violence between powerful rival criminal gangs and militias, rapid economic transformation, and the demise of traditional forms of state power. Those conditions apply to quite a few of the communities where MADRE works. Feminicide is happening in Iraq, for example (though it’s been off the media radar for most of the US occupation). And feminicide is happening in Guatemala, where more than 2,500 women have been murdered since 2001.
December 10 - Today, on Human Rights Day, we reach the end of our blogging series, 16 Days 16 Entries. Over these past days, you’ve read as Yifat, Natalia and Diana have shared some of the stories, ideas and solutions that have come out of more than 25 years of MADRE’s work. We’ve seen how gender violence impacts communities worldwide and how women have organized to confront it.
These stories are just a few among many. While we still have a lot of work to do to end gender violence and to protect women’s human rights, we know that women across the planet are already forging a path. On Human Rights Day, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we honor the work of human rights activists and we commit to continue our work in this global effort.
Here in the US, the latest election created new opportunities for progressive work, and we must seize them. We must push the new administration to join the Human Rights Council at the UN and to finally ratify the Rome Statute, the treaty that founded the International Criminal Court. We live in an age of global challenges—from the economic crisis to the reality of climate change—and these require global cooperation. Such multilateral efforts have certainly not been the hallmark of the Bush administration, and that needs to change now.
MADRE has always rooted its work in the principle of partnership and cooperation with community-based women’s organizations around the world. We’ve built connections that advance the agenda for human rights around the world and that make concrete changes in the lives of women and their families. We have made women’s human rights our priority, and we expect the Obama administration to do the same. We hope you’ll join us in making this call.
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