Regional Conflict Insights


             The Alliance for Peacebuilding's Position on Sexual Harassment 

The Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) is a membership network of over 100 organizations. Our members include some of the world’s largest development organizations, the most innovative academic institutions, and the most powerful peacebuilding groups. We bring together coalitions in key areas of strategy and policy to elevate the entire peacebuilding field, tackling issues too large for any one organization to address alone. We are writing this statement to reiterate our firm commitment to fight discrimination, sexual harassment, and abuse within our community; both at the headquarter and field mission level. Those working in the peacebuilding field have an obligation to the communities we serve, our staff, our supporters, and our donors not only to uphold and practice high peacebuilding ethics, but to ensure that we promote a strong and healthy organizational climate within the peacebuilding field. Organizations must work to ensure that they reduce the risk of and deter discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse within their organizations and protect the communities they serve. 

Peacebuilding organizations must have a strong organizational climate that supports a diverse and respectful workplace. Recent studies find the strongest, most potent predictor of sexual harassment in an organization is rooted in its organizational climate.[1] Organizations seeking to root out harassment at all levels need to be prepared not only to detail with what is impermissible, but must further create an environment in which these behaviors are never tolerated in the first place. It is not enough to merely say harassment is not tolerated or to have a zero-tolerance policy. The  major study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine outlines a more comprehensive way of examining sexual harassment within organizations and identifies the strongest predictor of such behavior. Surprisingly, it has little to do with individual perpetrators. The study finds that the strongest, most potent predictor of sexual harassment is essentially the culture of the company ― what the researchers call “organizational climate.”  The report finds that organizations need to focus on the entire corporate culture: when organizations truly cultivate a climate that makes clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in any form, employees are much less likely to engage in sexual harassment.

The study further asserts that the second most potent predictor of harassment is whether the men at an organization outnumber the women, particularly at the top of the organizational chart. Organizations must support diversity policies to ensure that women are fairly represented in organizations at the senior level. As one recent court case in the US revealed, it was found that women at a major company were reportedly routinely mistreated, demeaned and under-valued. These behaviors enable a culture where sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse thrive. 

Therefore, organizations need to have a comprehensive, transparent program in place that clearly details the consequences for inappropriate behavior and provides extensive training to reduce the risk of harassment in the workplace. Training staff on how to prevent and respond appropriately to allegations of wrongdoing is not a one-time, annual training – it requires organization-wide support and an investment in resources that encompass time, capacity, and money. In addition to prevention, organizations must also provide reporting options and whistleblower protections to ensure the safety and confidentiality of victims and others who come forward, in order to inhibit retaliation. It is also critical to create internal services or connect appropriately to external services that can compassionately and efficiently respond to victim’s needs.

In line with good peacebuilding values, organizations should promote diversity, be transparent about processes and actions that have been taken, and should eliminate nondisclosure agreements and other forms of enforced secrecy. As a field, we cannot appear to support, even tacitly, allegations of covering up or hiding wrongdoings within our own organizations. Peacebuilders have a responsibility to lead the way, and to practice the values that we require in our programming. We must stand for diversity and respect, and must address conflict, including discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse. We must have the courage of our convictions to push this movement forward in a transparent and open manner.

As a field, we will have to work together collectively to identify better practices.  Peacebuilding organizations must ensure they create and maintain a culture in which individuals believe they can come forward, and must establish safe structures and strong diversity practices. To transform a culture of discrimination, harassment, and abuse to a culture of respect and accountability, leadership must face these issues in a transparent manner, and create policies encouraging respect, dignity, and safety for all employees, clients, and beneficiaries.

[1] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

                                                                    Third Sex Fact Of Life?

Dr Derrick Aarons Comments on recent Australia High Court Decision

Observer, Sunday April 20th, 2014

The High Court declared that the sex of individuals is irrelevant to legal relations, except when considering the legal status of marriage.

The judgement notes that, while historically there were two 'registrable' classes of sex, this does not mean that people should be forced to choose between the two. The ruling allows full recognition of people who are born 'intersex', or transgender people who do not wish to be identified as either male or female.

A Sydney University gender studies expert wrote that "understanding male and female in dualistic terms is a spurious endeavour and demonstrated how out of step the previous law was with scientific evidence". This past week, the Supreme Court in the sub-continent of India made a similar ruling, thereby creating the category of a third sex in that populous country.


What makes us female or male, boys or girls, men or women? Is it our chromosomes, our genitals, how we are brought up to think about ourselves, or all of the above?

A report in one of Jamaica's newspapers some time ago described the verbal abuse meted out to a then 12-year-old schoolgirl, who was born with both male and female genital organs. Perhaps not knowing which sex hormones would dominate in the later teenage years, at age two, doctors performed a surgical operation on the child which reduced her enlarged clitoris, and the child was then raised as a girl.

When the hormones stimulating the development of the child's secondary sexual characteristics began increasing at age 12, the child began to feel she was a boy by nature. This resulted in insulting names being hurled within the community, and, in shame, the eventual withdrawal of the child from school.

In many societies, one of the first responses to the birth of a child with ambiguous sex is to seek to assign the newborn's identity as either male or female. Surgical modification of the child's genitalia to conform to the believed sexual identity is done, and medical treatment, such as hormones, may be given to reinforce the decided gender. Such an approach is erroneous with possible dire consequences.


Stories such as these illustrate some of the ethical issues that may underlie any premature normalisation of children born with cosmetically offensive anatomies. Estimates from the medical literature reveal that between one in every 500 and roughly one in 1,500 live births have intersexuality/ambiguous genitalia. This constitutes a range of physical conditions in which an individual's anatomy mixes important masculine anatomy with key female anatomy.

The ambiguous genital organs may not be due to any disease process, but simply constitute a failure of nature's formative process to fit society's particular definition of normality. However, a metabolic problem occurring in some foetuses in the womb, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, may cause an overproduction of male hormones. This can result in the genetically female foetus becoming masculine, with resulting sexually ambiguous organs at birth.


Studies in the rural areas of the Dominican Republic provide another side to this issue. A rare deficiency of testosterone metabolism results in children that are genetically XY (males) being born sexually ambiguous. Those children are often raised as girls, but at age 12, their voices deepen, their muscles develop, and their testicles descend. What was thought to be a clitoris enlarges to become more like a penis, and the child who was thought to be a girl, or sexually ambiguous, gradually becomes

a boy!

In these cases, biology outweighed the sexual socialisation that took place, and testosterone prevailed. Consequently, while many countries code for only two sexes, areas such as those in the Dominican Republic provide a third code for the sexually ambiguous child - guevedoce - meaning penis at twelve.


Similar to children born with clear and unequivocal male or female genitalia, ambiguous genital organs also occur in nature as a fact of life. Accordingly, people in all societies should be aware of this and these children, and young people should never be treated as outcasts or sources of embarrassment, as the psychological effects of such stigmatisation and marginalisation can be devastating and permanent.

Read more at:

                                                     WOMEN AND MEN BUILDING PEACE

A number of detailed accounts of the work of women and men building peace in difficult circusmtances can be fiund in the online journal Building Peace. You can find it at the web address below:

Brazil's cash transfer scheme a source of empowerment for women

By Jonathan Watts , December 18, 2013

Maria da Paz and her three daughters live high on the slopes of Rocinha, just beyond the boundary line between Rio de Janeiro's biggest favela and the world's largest urban forest.

Geographically mirroring their social position, the family's small brick home is on the periphery of the periphery – dangerously close to the landslide zone and discomfortingly distant from roads, shops and social services.

During a recent storm, the roof collapsed; their home was flooded and they were forced to evacuate. The same thing happens about 10 times every year. That's not their only terror. Three months ago, they were robbed of their pots, pans and other meagre possessions. Last week, a nine-year-old neighbour was raped and murdered a few alleys away.

"It's dark and it's dangerous in this place. I can't leave my girls alone ever," says Da Paz. "But we are lucky. There are so many other people in the world who don't even have a roof over their heads."

Despite their hardships, the mother and her daughters (Dilila, 15, Andressa, 13, and Beatriz, 11) have remained in this home for more than a decade. They are glad to have shaken off the person Maria sees as the biggest threat to their happiness and safety: her former partner.

"I left him because he was aggressive and started beating the children," says Da Paz, who credits this decisive move in her life to Brazil's bolsa familia poverty relief programme.

She started receiving the payments from the government – currently 166.65 reais (£43) a month – nine years ago. A few years later, she said goodbye to the children's father.

"I substituted my husband for bolsa familia," she says. "Bolsa familia has helped women. Before it started, women could only be frantic about feeding their kids but now, with bolsa familia, we are less dependent on men."

The impact of Brazil's poverty relief programme on gender roles and relationships is still being studied and debated, but cases like that of Da Paz are not unusual. Nor is divorce the only way in which the cash handouts are changing lives.

According to official data, 93% of families that receive bolsa familia are headed by women. They receive the card that entitles them to withdraw cash from the bank each month. With that money comes a degree of power. The architects of bolsa familia say this was a key consideration in designing the programme.

"That's part of the strategy. It's then up to them to decide how to spend the money," says social development minister Tereza Campello. "Our research shows that the money empowers women. In many cases, it's their only source of income, so it means they are less dependent on their husbands, more likely to share in decision-making, and have higher self-esteem. Some women who were forced to put up with husbands who beat them now feel liberated enough to think of divorce. The money also gives women more say in whether to buy and use contraceptives. Less women feel like they are owned."

Read more at:

                                                      SEXUAL OFFENCES IN THE US MILITARY

                                                            Changing Minds About Rape 

                                                             SOCIAL EXCLUSION IN BARBADOS 

Media reports on the launch of the Country Assessment Of Living Conditionshighlight the fact the individual and household poverty in Barbados has almost doubled over the last 20 years.  The reason given for the increase in poverty are the barriers to access created by stigma, inter-generational poverty and lack of educational and skills qualifications despite high government spending on education. It was also reported that discrimination based on “age, sex, area of residence, religion, disability, sexuality, migrant status or HIV status”, and that the attitudes of people toward “sex workers, the disabled, Rastafari, gays, the homeless, people living with HIV/AIDS, to mention some . . . meant lack of access to several public amenities and services, and therefore limited their ability to enhance their living conditions”. 

Read more at:

                                                                 The Women Peacemakers Program

              Spreading the idea of Safe Cities in Papua New Guinea



Teaching respect for all through anti-racism curricula

- Class 6 at Colveston Primary School, Hackney, East London

Can respect for all be taught? A new mapping study has collected policies, practices and materials dealing with teaching respect from all over the world. The study identifies good practices to develop learners’ knowledge and understanding of other cultures and peoples; exercises to develop empathy, self-confidence, openness to new experiences and flexibility in behaviour.

All these abilities help counter hatred, prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination and bullying. Commissioned as part of the UNESCO-USA-Brazil project Teaching Respect for All and carried out in cooperation with the Centre of Human Rights Education, Lucerne, Switzerland, the study also makes recommendations in terms of content, methodology, usability and process for the future development of education materials against racism, discrimination and intolerance. For example, it recommends pedagogy which encourages students to apply what they have recently studied at school and community level so as to ensure a sustainable learning experience.

Launched in January 2012, the UNESCO-USA-Brazil project Teaching Respect for All aims to promote educational responses to counter discrimination and violence through strengthening the foundations of mutual tolerance, and cultivating respect for all people, regardless of colour, gender or national, ethnic or religious identity. The results of the study are now available online in English and French.

The advisory group for the project met for a second time from 29 October to 1 November 2012 in Brasilia, Brazil. Jointly organized by UNESCO, the Secretariat on Policies of Promotion of Racial Equality (SEPPIR), Ministry of Education and Ministry of External Relations of Brazil, the meeting allowed international experts to discuss the major components of the project such as the policy guidelines and teaching materials that have now been drafted by specialists and how to implement pilot testing with interested countries and partners. On this occasion, the experts, representatives of the national and municipal authorities, NGOs as well as teachers and educators in Brazil shared their experiences and suggestions. Recommendations included the promotion of cooperation with higher education institutions for research, data collection and training for policymakers, and the involvement of family members in educational activities so that schools can be a bridge between generations.


                                      UN Wants To See More Women In Technology


7 January 2013 – Women and girls run the risk of being left behind in scientific and technological fields if countries do not put measures in place to address discrimination and change traditional attitudes, the United Nations said today, warning that this gap constitutes an obstacle to nations’ progress.

“Women tend to be overrepresented in the humanities and social sciences, and underrepresented in science and technology,” said an official from the world body’s International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Bureau for Workers’ Activities, Claude Akpokavie. “Measures need to be put in place to redress this imbalance.”

According to ILO, the gap between men and women in the scientific and technological fields is linked to pervasive gender roles and attitudes in different societies – visible in both developed and developing countries – which encourage girls to pursue ‘softer’ subjects.

Over the past few months, recent stories have emerged revealing stark gender discrepancies in a number of countries around the world, which are hindering women’s participation in science and technology both at school and at work, the agency noted.

In the United States, for example, a Yale University study found that women science graduates are discriminated against when applying for research posts. In Iran, the Government recently announced that women will be excluded from a wide range of university studies, including nuclear physics and electrical engineering. In China, several universities require women to obtain higher entry grades than men for science courses.

“Girls are far less likely than boys to study engineering or computer or physical sciences,” said the Director of ILO’s Bureau for Gender Equality, Jane Hodges. “Stereotypes of girls represent them as less interested or capable in certain subjects – such as mathematics and science. This inevitably reduces their access to jobs with better pay or labour markets that may offer better opportunities.”

However, when encouraged, girls do excel in scientific subjects, she added.

With an estimated 500 million people entering the global workforce over the next decade, Ms. Hodges stressed that it is crucial that women in science and technology jobs are not left working at the lowest levels.

“Even though women hold more than 60 per cent of information and communication technology-related jobs in OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, only 10 to 20 per cent are computer programmers, engineers, systems analysts or designers,” she said. “Education and skills training – and a change in attitudes – are vital to ensure women are not left behind.”


Women in Swaziland organise to confront discrimination

Activists look to the country's traditions as a route to recognition of their contribution and a return to equality

Women in Swaziland
A majority of Swazi children are raised by single mothers or by their grandmothers, according to Thabsile Ndwandwe, of the Swaziland Single Mothers Association. Photograph: James Hall/IRIN

Women in Swaziland are organising to promote their rights and welfare, convinced that discriminatory laws are at odds with the essential roles they play in their families and in their country's economy.

"We are taking a page from the past to achieve the recognition Swazi women deserve as the ones who keep this society going. It is a scandal how the authorities refuse to take women seriously when we are holding the country together," said Cynthia Simelane, an activist who works with female garment workers at the Matsapha Industrial Site, outside the city of Manzini.

The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civil Organisations has noted that the Swazi government has signed various international accords pledging to end gender discrimination, but it has never enacted legislation to put those pledges into action.

In 2005, King Mswati III, a strict traditionalist with 13 wives, signed a new constitution granting men and women equal rights. However, discriminatory laws – such as one that prevents women from taking out bank loans – remain in place. Another law, forbidding women from owning property, remains on the books despite having been ruled unconstitutional.


In the past year, the Swaziland Single Mothers Association (Swamaso), which aims to improve the lives of single mothers and reduce high teen pregnancy rates, doubled its membership.

"In Swaziland today, a majority of children live with one or no parent, mostly because of Aids but also because Swazi men have many girlfriends," Thabsile Ndwandwe, a Swamaso member, said. "A majority of Swazi children are raised by single mothers or by their grandmothers if the mother is no longer alive. Where are the programmes to assist these mothers? Where is even the government acknowledgement of this reality?"

Instead, the government announced last week that elderly Swazis, including grandmothers, will not receive their pension stipend this quarter due to "limited resources". Swaziland's financial crisis has not eased since the government last suspended pension payments, in 2011. The amount of the stipend is only US$73 (£45) per three-month period, but the majority of elderly live in chronic poverty and the suspension of the pensions will hinder their ability to purchase food and medicines and care for their grandchildren.

Swamaso's attempts to lobby the government to give more assistance to single mothers have not yet paid off, but the organisation is making a difference in other ways. Its network of community groups plays an important role in educating girls about avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. A quarter of Swaziland's population is HIV-positive, the highest rate in the world.

Tradition of organising

Swazi women have a long tradition of organising based on age groups, according to Simelane, from the young maidens who assemble to collect building material for the Queen Mother ahead of the annual reed dance, to the grandmothers who supervise community improvement projects.

Other women's groups include the Swazi Women for Positive Living, established in 2003 by HIV-positive women to assist other women living with the virus, and the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse, formed by women to influence policy on the country's high rates of domestic and gender-based violence.

Last month, a new group was established – the Swaziland Young Women's Network – which announced its launch with a march through the streets of the capital, Mbabane, to protest against the prevalence of sexual harassment. The police blocked the march on the grounds that some of the women were wearing miniskirts.

A week later, the Royal Swaziland Police Force spokeswoman Wendy Hleta invoked a 19th century public indecency law as a basis for arresting women wearing miniskirts or tank tops. Hleta said that women who wore revealing clothing were responsible for provoking rape.

Her comments drew a flood of unfavourable reports in the international media, prompting a government spokesperson to deny that a miniskirt ban was in place. Gender-rights activists considered this a partial victory.

"The government's first response to women seeking our rights was to block us and threaten us with arrest, and to control us by telling us what to wear," Simelane said. "That is their instinct, and it is going to be hard to overcome, but we are determined not only for our own sake but for the sake of the country.".


Ntombi Dube, a health worker in Manzini, argued that the only way for Swaziland to reverse economic and social decay was for women to assume a greater role in policymaking.

"This is what Swazi women have been doing in our 'regiments' for generations … men have got to stop seeing our call for the end of discrimination against women as an attempt to usurp their authority," she said.

The new constitution stipulates that a third of members of parliament should be women, but the actual proportion is about a quarter, and parliament's role is limited to raising and debating issues, as legislation can only be drafted by cabinet.

The women's advocacy groups insist they are not asking Swazi women to choose between traditional Swazi life and western concepts of femininity, arguing that this is a false choice.

"There is no traditional life to live any more. It is sad that the old multi-generational homestead where women held respected roles is a thing of the past," Dube said. "We can't go back to that, and we have to adapt as African women who are proud of a culture that respects women. That respect got lost somewhere."

Simelane agreed: "All these laws that make Swazi women second-class human beings, they were not part of traditional Swazi life because we did not live under western laws. Swazi women want to return to the way it was when we were equal."





3 Brave Women Who Risk Their Lives For Justice

Source: Alternet

Last Monday, Human Rights Day, New Yorkers at a benefit luncheon met three women who are organizing for rights around the world, women who walk daily in harm’s way and have seen unimaginable atrocities, but are undeterred in their struggle.

Despite death threats, exile and violence, activists remain undeterred.

Activists challenging the status quo here in the United States frequently put their bodies on the line by risking arrest or police brutality. But around the world, the simple act of speaking up for basic human rights, whether it's pushing for an end to genocide, fighting impunity for crimes, or supporting the dignity and rights of women, all types of nonviolent resistance can risk death threats, torture, violence, harassment and exile.

Last Monday, Human Rights Day, New Yorkers at a benefit luncheon for the American Jewish World Service, a human rights organization headed by Ruth Messinger, met three women who are organizing for rights around the world, women who walk daily in harm’s way and have seen unimaginable atrocities, but are undeterred in their struggle.

Before the panel, I was lucky to meet the three honorees. I spoke to Khin Omar from Burma, Cecelia T.M. Danuweli from Liberia and Claudia Samayoa of Guatemala about the moments that spurred them to take that initial risk and speak out for dignity and equality in their homelands. Later, they engaged on these same questions in a panel moderated by Mara Liasson from NPR before a lively audience of 250, mostly women and donors, who left feeling humbled, inspired and rededicated to their own activism.

Fighting for justice in Burma

Khin Omar realized her life would never be the same when, as a young woman, she survived a repressive crackdown on student demonstrators in Burma in 1988, witnessing beatings and violence from the riot police and narrowly escaping. “I got home that night, my body shaking,” she said, and from that moment on, she “became a different person.”

She said that for her, human rights activism wasn’t really about abstract ideals of democracy and civil rights, but about what she had witnessed: “injustice without rationale."

"I wanted to do something," she said. She spent months as an organizer playing “cat and mouse” games with the authorities, she told me, and eventually there was no safe place left. She had to flee. When she left to join the resistance in the rural area near the Thailand border, she learned about the country's civil war and the use of rape as a weapon of war. “This struggle is not only in the city,” she said.

She was granted political refugee status in the US and has spent the ensuing years traveling, getting educated, spreading awareness, and becoming committed to feminism and gender justice in addition to peace and civil rights for Burma’s ethnic population through her work with the Burma Partnership.

Omar has been fighting for her country for over two decades. “You come to ‘I can’t do it’ moments. But those of us who stand up once can never be suppressed anymore,” she told me. “We’re not alone--as women in particular. If there is a success in one place, it is a success for all of us.”

Omar worries that with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and her election to Parliament, and the recent visit from President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, the West thinks the conflict is over--and US companies will rush in to exploit new markets and resources “in an area where conflict is taking place.”

“[Suu Kyi] is trying hard, but Burma remains engaged in a civil war. Ethnic women are still raped and killed. Political prisoners still exist,” she said.

Standing up for peace in Liberia

Cecilia T.M. Danuweli has worked side by side with Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee to bring a cessation of violence to Liberia, which is scarred by a long civil war and the brutal rule of Charles Taylor. ”Hell broke loose in our country,” Danuweli said. The women of Gbowee's peacemakers group were known for their public mobilizations, “sitting there in the rain and sun as silent witnesses for peace” Danuweli told attendees at the ceremony.

Danuweli has advocated against violence against women, keeping vigil outside the courthouse where perpetrators were being tried as well as beginning an “intergender dialogue to end violence” with separate sessions for men. Although some of the stories she has to tell are gruesome and disturbing, including every kind of brutal killing imaginable, she told me that telling them brings “healing, relief, self-esteem.”

Her own story is particularly painful. Journalist Debra Nussbaum Cohen, who was at the luncheon, relates it:

Danuweli told her a story that she repeated for the benefit of the luncheon audience. As part of Liberia’s reconciliation efforts, she met with a man who began telling her about the man he had murdered and then cut up along every joint in his body. It was Danuweli’s stepfather. His disjointed body parts were given to her sister in a plastic bag to take home for burial. When she recognized that it was her own family’s story and began crying, the murderer said, I don’t care, and just walked away, she related. “He thought he was talking to somebody else, not the victim. People should hear what is happening in Africa. We live with the pains” of the bloodshed, Danuweli said.

Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, represents progress, but Danuweli, who works with the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, believes that with all-male power structures still in place, Liberia remains in danger of backsliding into conflict.

“Don’t think because a country signed a peace accord things are okay,” she told me. Without strong efforts at repatriation and changed norms, “patterns start repeating.”

Protecting human rights in war-torn Guatemala

Claudia Samayoa was in the United States just weeks after receiving threats against her life --which was nothing new to her.

Her work with Guatemala’s Human Rights Defender’s Protection Unit aims to protect peacemakers, human right workers and civilians from the threat posed by oligarchs, an army and warlords in a region recovering from a decades-long civil war, genocide against the indigenous people and an epidemic of femicide. In some regions, women who speak out on politics are accused of having a “pact with the devil” Samayoa told the audience, saying “The price of war is paid on our bodies."

Her work has put her under serious threat of bodily harm before. Her car has been tampered with and she has had to flee. Samayoa told me that her activism has always arisen from a feeling that what she was doing was “never enough.” With every campaign, she asks herself “to invent what has not been invented. What else can be done?”

When she receives a threat, she remembers that her efforts are working. “What they want is conflict,” she says. “Every time we get attacked it’s because something is changing.” And the double impact of gender discrimination persists. In every class, ideology and sector, Samayoa told the audience, sexism and harassment are prevalent. “We need a culture change,” she said.

At home, whether we're occupying Wall Street, campaigning for an end to domestic violence, or fighting for immigrant rights, we have so much to learn from activists around the world who have put their safety on the line for a better future for their families.

And it's no coincidence that they're all women.

"Women have a role to not only promote human rights and women's rights," Khin Omar told me, "but to bridge gaps. There are different experiences, but when we come together we have strength."

Article License: Copyright - Article License Holder: Alternet


                                  DEFENDING THOSE WHO CHAMPION HUMAN RIGHTS


Violence against Women Living with HIV in South Africa: research on perceptions and experiences

Gender inequality and violence against women constitute one of the key drivers of the HIV epidemic. Violence against women and HIV are also mutually reinforcing. While violence against women exacerbates women’s risks and vulnerabilities to HIV exposure and transmission, a positive HIV status further exacerbates women’s risks and vulnerability to violence, abuse and other rights violations.

But there has been little documented evidence of such experiences. In order to fill that gap and generate knowledge based on the first-hand experiences of women living with HIV themselves, the South African civil society organization AIDS Legal Network (ALN), has conducted research on perceptions and experiences of violence and other rights abuses against women living with HIV in South Africa.

South African Positive Women Ambassadors say they will use the research for advocacy at the grassroots level. Photo credit: Johanna Kehler

Supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, which is managed by UN Women on behalf of the UN system, the report is being launched across the country during the 16 Days of Activism. Following the first launch, in the province of KwaZulu Natal, Johanna Kehler, Executive Director of the Aids Legal Network, discussed the findings:

1. The cover page of the report includes the following quote from a woman living with HIV: “If I knew what would happen, I would have kept it to myself.” Why did you choose this statement?

We chose this statement because we think it captures the wide experience of humiliation, rejection and abuse that women experience when their HIV status is disclosed. Many women described how they had expected support from their family and how they instead experience a continuum of violence in all aspects of their lives, perpetrated by partners, families, friends, communities and service providers alike.

Several women described how they have chosen to move away from their communities to get a fresh start in a new community where people are unaware of their HIV status. I think that this short quote summarizes this experience of a never-ending circle of violence in women’s lives after their HIV status becomes known.

2. The programme implemented by ALN with support from the UN Trust Fund is documenting and addressing violence and other rights abuses as experienced by positive women. Why is it so important to focus on this target group?

There is a lack of knowledge and data on violence perpetrated against positive women, and particularly little knowledge based on the experiences of the women themselves. In a context like South Africa, where sexual and gender-based violence and HIV have reached endemic proportions, we need to fully understand the way these pandemics intersect in the lives of women living with HIV.

3. Are there any findings in the research that you found particularly surprising or innovative?

The severity and extent of violence experienced by women on a daily basis and women’s strength in sharing these horrific stories of violence is what was most striking to us. I think that the research also demonstrates the complete disconnect between women’s realities and the perceptions of their communities.

The communities tend to believe that women are supported by their families and service providers when their HIV status is disclosed, which is completely contradictory to women’s lived reality of discrimination and abuse by both family and service providers alike. Even though many community members have a certain degree of awareness of some of the risks of rights violations faced by women when their HIV status is disclosed, they still tend to believe that women, despite the risks, still have to disclose her status.

4. Now that the research has concluded, how do you envisage using its findings to promote change around ending violence against women and HIV/AIDS?

Research is an important tool for advocacy to influence policy and programming. We will use its findings and the knowledge generated to engage with health care providers and to try to influence the way services are provided. We also want to use the research to influence policy-makers and inform the national response to women and HIV in South Africa. Through our programme, we will also use the research as the basis for community-based interventions to raise awareness about the rights of women living with HIV.

5. What are the main recommendations stemming from the research?
First, the research shows the need to design and implement programmes that are based on and informed by the experiences of women living with HIV, to assure effective responses to their needs and realities. Secondly, there is a dire need for rights education and awareness-raising throughout South African society to address violence and other rights violations against women living with HIV.

Thirdly, the data shows the urgency to redesign service-provision and build the capacity of service providers regarding risks, vulnerabilities and violence. Through our programme, we will continue to work to enhance women’s access to available HIV prevention, testing, treatment, care and support services without fear of violence and other rights abuses.

Gender Violence and HIV – Perceptions and Experiences of Violence and Other Rights Abuses against Women Living with HIV in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape, South Africa (Aids Legal Network 2012)

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A court decision on April 22, 2012, cancelling a ministerial order barring women from entry-level jobs at the Justice Ministry is an important victory against legally-sanctioned discrimination in Kuwait. Human Rights Watch urged the Kuwaiti government to act on the decision, to guarantee women equal access to all public jobs, and to amend or repeal gender-based discriminatory provisions from all its legislation.

(Beirut) -A court decision on April 22, 2012, cancelling a ministerial order barring women from entry-level jobs at the Justice Ministry is an important victory against legally-sanctioned discrimination in Kuwait, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch urged the Kuwaiti government to act on the decision, to guarantee women equal access to all public jobs, and to amend or repeal gender-based discriminatory provisions from all its legislation.

In July 2011, the Justice Ministry announced in local newspapers that it would accept applicants for "entry level legal researcher" - a first step to becoming a prosecutor. The advertisement specified that the positions were only open to male candidates, without providing any rationale for the restriction.

"This important ruling reaffirms the principles of equality between men and women that are guaranteed in Kuwait's constitution and international laws," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The court ruling shows the important role that Kuwaiti courts can play in protecting equality in the face of efforts to restrict it."

At least six recent female graduates of law schools had applied for the Justice Ministry jobs following the July 2011 advertisement, but ministry officials refused to accept their applications, Marwa al-Seirafi, one of the applicants, told Human Rights Watch.

In August, al-Seirafiand at least five other female applicants separately filed lawsuits at the Administrative Court, contending that the ministry's decision to consider only male applicants was unconstitutional.

The court, in ruling for the plaintiffs, ordered the ministry to cancel its requirement that candidates be male. The court said that the decision violated the Kuwaiti constitution and international treaties that Kuwait has ratified. The ministry has a month to appeal.

Candidates accepted by the ministry for the positions take a nine-month training course at Kuwait Institution for Legal Studies. If they successfully complete the course, they become prosecutors.

"The issue is not whether I'm accepted or not," Dhuha al-Azmi, another female applicant, told Human Rights Watch. "What is important is I have a chance to compete with the other applicants for the positions."

In a similar case in April 2010, an administrative court rejected a lawsuit by a female Kuwaiti law graduate who contended that her application to work for the public prosecution unit was unconstitutionally rejected because of her gender. The judge found that article 2 of Kuwait's constitution, which cites Islam as the state religion and Islamic Sharia as "a main source of legislation," prevented women from holding prosecutorial positions.

Article 29 of the Kuwait Constitution says: "All people are equal in human dignity and in public rights and duties before the law, without distinction to race, origin, language, or religion." The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Kuwait ratified in 1994, calls for taking measures to "eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment."

"This is a great historic achievement for all women in Kuwait," al-Seirafitold Human Rights Watch following the decision. "We are fighting for the rights of women in this country and if the ministry appeals the ruling we will keep challenging them."

Women's rights in Kuwait took a step forward in 2005, when Kuwaiti women won the right to vote and to become candidates for election, paving the way for the election of four women to parliament in May 2009. However Kuwaiti women continue to face discrimination on many legal levels. Kuwait's nationality law denies Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaiti men the right to pass their nationality on to their children and spouses, a right held by Kuwaiti men married to foreign spouses.

In cases of alleged domestic violence or marital rape, under Kuwaiti regulations, courts provide lawyers to the accused but not to the victims. Furthermore, Kuwait's laws do not specifically prohibit domestic violence or marital rape, and there are no government-run or funded shelters or hotlines specifically for survivors of domestic violence.

In its concluding observation in October 2011 the CEDAW committee expressed concerns about many discriminatory provisions of Kuwait laws and called on Kuwait to "systematically review its laws and regulations ... in order to amend or repeal sex- and gender-based discriminatory provisions of its legislation with the aim of ensuring full compliance with the provisions of the Convention."



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Gender Sensitive Analysis

Gender Analysis is an integral part of Gender Mainstreaming Strategies (GEMS) which aims to help gender concerns be addressed throughout a program cycle. Gender Analysis takes a very important part in Conflict Analysis as well. More and more funders and international organizations, including USAID, recognize and further require gender sensitive programming as a mandatory requirement in peacebuilding activities. Gender Analysis by definition is "a tool for examining the differences between the roles that women and men play, the different levels of power they hold, their differing needs, constraints and opportunities, and the impact of these differences on their lives.”1 Whether or not gender is a main issue of the conflict you are dealing with there is a growing need of “gender mainstreaming” into programs. But when and how exactly do we conduct Gender Sensitive Analysis?

When Do We Need Gender Sensitive Analysis?

While Gender Analysis can be done anytime from the designing of a program to evaluation phase, please keep in mind that “a gender analysis must be part of the baseline study done before or at the start of a programme or project.”2 If you are unsure whether your current program includes gender mainstreaming strategies, thus needs gender analysis use a Gender Mainstreaming Checklist which helps assess to what extent the program has incorporated gender sensitiveness.

  • Checklist 4.3.1 Is gender included in your research? (Page 33)
  • Checklist 5.3.1 Is GEMS included in your project design? (Page 38)
  • Checklist 6.3.1 How gender-responsive is your M&E system? (Page 46)
  • Checklist 6.3.2 How gender-responsive are your evaluation criteria? (Page 47)
  • Checklist 6.3.3 How gender-responsive is your evaluation process? (Page 49)

Gender Sensitive Conflict Analysis

Given women and men have different perspectives and experiences from a conflict it is critical that a conflict analysis includes gender dimensions to assess accurate conflict dynamics. In order to make a gender sensitive conflict analysis you might want to include the following questions3:

  • How has gender roles changed as a result of conflict? Are men and women socio-politically or economically disempowered from their traditional gender role? >> For example, conflict may have disempowered men by reducing the availability of jobs, thus affecting how they perceive their worth vis-à-vis society?
  • What are the consequences of the conflict for women? And are these changes temporary or long-term?
  • How active are women and men in the peace process or in the perpetration of violence? >> The answers may indicate opportunities for engagement or leverage.
  • How are local organizations working with men and women? Are there gaps that should be filled? >> If there is a significant gender imbalance (in either staff or programming), the organization may not be the most appropriate partner; on the other hand, it also provides an opportunity to strengthen the gender practices of that organization.

Hot Resource! Specific gender dimensions vary throughout a conflict cycle and depending on types of conflicts as well. Check out Annex 2. Gender Dimensions of Conflict Situations (page 34) in Gender Guidelines: Peace-Building by AusAID.

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