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Posts Tagged ‘gender’

The war against women

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

By Cassandra Tse

“It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier, in an armed conflict.”
Patrick Cammart, Former Division Commander of the UN Organisation Mission in the DRC

“Violence against women has reached hideous and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from conflict.”
Ban Ki-moon, Chief of UN

“Women’s bodies [are] a battleground in times of war.”
Rachel Maranja, UN adviser on Gender Issues

drc-womenThe statistics are devastating. There were an estimated 500,000 rapes during the Rwandan genocide, 64,000 in Sierra Leone, 40,000 in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Gender-based violence causes more deaths and disability among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war.

Sexual violence is used shamelessly and appallingly as a military tactic in several conflicts areas around the world. It is used to humiliate and demoralise women and shatter communities. Horrifyingly, corrupt or inept legal systems often ignore, tolerate or even condone this atrocious practice. Rape may not even be viewed as a crime, meaning that there are no means to bring the perpetrators to justice. .

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) provides some of the most horrific examples of gender-based sexual violence as a common war tactic. Last year, in one province of the DRC alone there were almost 400 rapes a congo-truckmonth. Even during ceasefire, the war against women continued to rage on and it only worsened when the conflict reignited. And the blame cannot be laid on just one group– perpetrators can be government soldiers, rebels or deserters. To the victim, the identity of their abuser doesn’t matter as he will most likely never be punished.

“Despite many warnings, nothing quite prepared me… a sexual violence so brutal it staggers the imagination and mocked my notions of human decency.”
John Holmes, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, after visiting the Congo

Even if a woman survives being raped and manages to receive medical attention, there is no guarantee she will be accepted back into her community. Victims of sexual violence are often ostracised and rape is stigmatised.-Even though it is now devastatingly commonplace, people deal with sexual violence by ignoring it and pretending it does not happen in their community. A common view taken by Congolese officials is that the woman “asked for it” and so she is to blame, rather than her attacker.

“When we got to the hill, one of the soldiers pushed me to the ground. He put the blunt side of his machete on my neck and the handle of his rifle on my chest. Then he raped me. When he was finished, he called the other soldier and he raped me too… As I fled, they shot their rifles into the banana plantation. I fell to the ground, pretending I was dead. They then left and I ran back to my family.”
Testimony of Marie , twenty-year-old Congolese woman

Rape is a brutal crime against humanity that stays with the victim long after the physical pain has subsided. Victims, like Marie, may have to deal with the emotional trauma of their attack alone, without any support. In their home village, they no longer feel secure. After subjection to sexual violence, women like Marie may live the rest of their lives in dread. The stigma attached to rape can break community ties with the victim, and in towns like Shabunda, North Kivu where the majority of the town’s women have suffered sexual violence, this can lead to a breakdown of the entire community and a permanent state of fear.

“Every woman in the village leaves at night to sleep in the bush because of the raping. They still loot but if they can’t find us they can’t rape us.”
Woman in DRC

As a battle tactic, rape can create more terror than terrorism, and is far more widespread. It’s a crime of the strong against the weak, the armed against civilians. Yet despite this, it was not officially seen as a war crime until mid 2008, when the United Nations Security Council put forward a resolution that called for the ‘immediate and complete halt to acts of sexual violence against civilians in conflict zones’. Though the UN hopes this resolution will be implemented by June 2009, it will not be that simple. For rape as a weapon to finally come to an end, and for its perpetrators to receive their deserved punishments, a complete turnaround in thinking is required. As Rachel Mayanja, UN advisor on Gender Issues, stated at the Security Council meeting, ‘Sexual violence in conflict, particularly rape, should be named for what it is: not a private act or the unfortunate misbehavior of a renegade soldier, but aggression, torture, war crime and genocide.’

There is still a long road to travel before communities in countries like Congo feel the impact of international law. If we want rape to stop being used as a military tactic, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond, not only laws but attitudes must change. Only when the victims of sexual violence are supported, not stigmatised, and when the culprits are condemned, not condoned, we will see sexual violence as a weapon finally come to an end.

TAKE ACTION!

  • Find out more about this issue- try the links above.
  • Go to www.saynotoviolence.org and sign the petition calling for an end to violence against women.
  • Start a photo petition. Go to www.stoprapenow.org to find out about the cross-armed gesture, symbolising an end to rape as a weapon.stoprapenow
  • Mobilise your local media. Write letters to the editor or talk about this issue online- get people informed.

LEARN MORE

Sites about rape as a weapon:
Stop Rape Now www.stoprapenow.org

Sites about women’s rights and gender equality:
UNICEF’s Gender Equality Division www.unicef.org/gender/index_3993.html
Women Watch www.un.org/womenwatch
Human Rights Watch www.hrw.org/en/category/topic/women’s-rights

YWCA of Aotearoa-New Zealand (YWCA and Y-Dub)

Friday, February 20th, 2009


www.ywca.org.nz

What do they do?
The YWCA of Aotearoa-New Zealand work to empower women, especially young women, to reach their potential. They acknowledge their Christian and women’s heritage and commit themselves to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to addressing all forms of oppression so that women together may attain social and economic justice.

How can I get involved?

There are nine YWCA Local Associations around Aotearoa-New Zealand, each offering valuable programmes and community services.

Check out the local association web sites here to discover what they are doing in your community.


YMCA

Friday, February 20th, 2009


www.ymca.org.nz

What do they do?
The New Zealand YMCA is a community organisation, based on Christian principles, which aims to enable individuals and families to develop physically, mentally and spiritually and enjoy a healthy quality of life.

How can I get involved?

YMCA is represented all around NZ, and they run a variety of programmes depending on the needs of that particular community. One programme that is currently run in many YMCA centres is ‘Raise up and Represent’.

The aim of Raise Up is to support youth in being physically fit, to encourage personal ownership and leadership, and to foster a sense of pride and respect for themselves, and the communities in which they live. YMCA are often searching for student leaders to help plan and implement Environmentally focused youth initiatives and activities for youth in their community. Contact your nearest YMCA for more info.

World Vision

Friday, February 20th, 2009


www.worldvision.co.nz

What do they do?
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome extreme poverty and injustice. World Vision New Zealand currently supports more than 70 projects in more than 25 countries.

How can I get involved?

  • Sponsoring a Child
  • Getting involved in a Charity Challenge (biking round Cambodia or climbing Mt Kilamanjaro are a few examples)
  • Volunteer to help run World Vision programmes in NZ
  • Participating in/running a 40-hour Famine
  • Donating directly
  • Getting involved in World Vision advocacy campaigns
  • Joining/starting a World Vision group at your school or university

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund)

Friday, February 20th, 2009


www.unicef.org.nz

What do they do?
UNICEF - the United Nations Children’s Fund - is the world’s leading agency for children. UNICEF works closely with children, women and communities as well as governments, other UN agencies, faith-based groups, non-government organisations and the private sector to create a better world for every child.

How can I get involved?

Fundraise – Put the ‘fun’ back into fundraising!  Take part in a run, cycle, or swim while raising money for UNICEF.  It’s easy to make your own fundraising web page!

Campaign for Change - Make some noise and help shape better policies and practices for children.  Whether you write to your local MP about an issue affecting children, fill out one of our surveys or sign a petition, you’re helping affect change for a new generation of kids.  Join UNICEF’s Campaigners for Change by emailing takeaction@unicef.org.nz for further updates.

Buy an Inspired GiftDoes your Dad need another pair of socks?  Why not help girls in Ghana go to school instead?  Purchase a bicycle for a girl in Ghana from our online shop and help give a better future to children!

Donate
- Your donation will go further with UNICEF! For every dollar donated, we can leverage $10 for children who need your help.

Volunteer - There are a number of ways that you can get involved with UNICEF NZ as a volunteer:

  • You can help out in their Wellington office with administration duties
  • You can help them with fundraising events
  • If you think you have some specific skills and experience that will be of value to them then you can apply for an internship


Trade Aid

Friday, February 20th, 2009


www.tradeaid.org.nz

What do they do?
Trade Aid is a New Zealand founded, alternative trading organisation which has been working with craft producers and small farmers in developing countries around the world for 35 years. Trade Aid currently has 32 retail shops in both the North and South Islands and runs an extensive public education programme which aims to equip New Zealanders to speak out for greater justice in world trade.

How can I get involved?

Shop at Trade Aid! =D

Volunteer for Trade Aid - At Trade Aid there are opportunities to be a retail volunteer, speaker about Trade Aid issues to community or school groups, campaigner, education team member or a trustee. Get in touch with your local shop and see what you can get involved with today, sign up on-line at www.tradeaid.org.nz or pop in for a chat.

Save the Children

Friday, February 20th, 2009

save-children

www.savethechildren.org.nz

What do they do?
Save the Children are a humanitarian organization that fights for children’s rights, both in New Zealand and overseas. They desire to see a world which respects and values each child, a world which listens to children and learns, and a world where all children have hope and opportunity.
How can I get involved?
Sponsor a Child - Help transform the lives of vulnerable children. You can either sponsor a child in a region of your choice, or nominate the money to go to the area of greatest need.
Shop – there are 33 shops all across New Zealand, which all sell quality products for mums, dads, children, grandparents and friends at competitive prices. They are run by volunteers and the funds raised help with Save the Children’s work around the world.
Volunteer your time – You can help with a wide variety of fund-raising activites, such as advocacy and awareness raising, staffing a STC shop, or collecting during their Annual Appeal.
Apply for a Small Grants Fund - Save the Children will fund local initiatives that make lasting benefits for children and young people by building their capacity to reach their full potential. If you are under 18 you can still apply, but you are required to partner with a registered organisation for financial and other support.

Christian World Service

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

cws-logo

www.cws.org.nz


What do they do?

Christian World Service is a faith-based organization that works in partnership with communities across the developing world to help ensure people can build lives free from injustice and poverty. CWS responds to people’s needs regardless of race or religion, and is the development agency of New Zealand churches.

How can I be involved?

Come to an event where CWS is present, including the Parachute music festival, Samstock in Dunedin, Church national youth conferences and local churches. Local actions are regularly publicised on the website.

Sign up for regular resources: @world magazine (a 3 times a year report on actions), Youth topics (designed for youth groups) and World Watch (for 7-13 year olds). All of these include suggestions for local actions linked to international efforts.

Join in the campaign work - by signing petitions, organising stalls, hosting an event (eg in Fair Trade Fortnight) or by meeting with local political candidates. CWS is currently working in the area of economic justice (especially on debt cancellation for developing countries and trade justice through fairer international trade rules and expanding the fair trade market) banning cluster munitions and climate change It also focuses on specific country issues including Palestine, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, West Papua and Zimbabwe. In July/August 2008 it held a Global Youth Encounter: Making Peace a Reality involving young people from partner groups in various parts of the country. Follow-up actions are planned and you are welcome to join the network.

Become a volunteer by helping out at an event or in the Christchurch office.

Donate to an emergency appeal or through the Global Neighbours scheme (enabling you to make a link with a specific long term funding partner). CWS also promotes an annual Wipe Out Poverty event for young people.

Caritas

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

caritas

www.caritas.org.nz

What do they do?

Caritas is the Catholic agency for justice, peace and development. Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is part of Caritas Internationalis, which is a confederation of 154 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies from around the world. Caritas agencies work in over 198 countries: delivering aid, supporting development, and working for justice.

How can I be involved?

Donate!

Campaigning – Caritas are involved in many campaigns, including Aid, Children, Cluster Munitions Crime and Punishment, Debt, Environmental Justice, HIV and AIDS, Human Rights Make Poverty History Millennium Development Goals, Submissions to NZ Government, and Trade. They offer excellent resources on their website to help you join with them to take action on these issues.

KALEIDOSCOPE 2007

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

By Pip Bennett

Four months after I had first submitted my application to become an Oxfam International Youth Partner (OIYP) I was informed that I was one of the 300 youths from around the world that had been chosen from over 3000 applications to join the programme.

kaleidoscopeOIYP is a three year programme, which aims to build the capacity of the Action Partners (the name given to Youth Partners) by providing us with support and resources, and creating opportunities for dialogue, networking and learning. Our first opportunity came in October this year at Kaleidoscope, a festival where all of the Action Partners come together in Sydney, for nine days of workshops, dances, performances, art, theatre and meeting a zillion new people.

Arriving in Sydney airport, we made our way to meet the Oxfam volunteers in charge of taking us to the school. We chatted with youth from Iraq and Lebanon about the war and George Bush, which was quite humourous at times because of the jokes they told expressing their feelings about Bush and his administration. Throughout the week, the situation in Iraq was certainly a feature of many discussions with many of the youth asking those from the region for their local perspective, and it seemed that the consensus was that it was detrimental to pull out U.S forces, whether or not they should have gone in the first place.

We stayed at the oldest school in Australia, the prestigious Kings School, in Parramatta and were divided into various dorm houses. I was one of only three non-Muslim girls to stay in the Muslim side of my house. They tried to keep them separate in order to stop disturbing other non-Muslim participants while they got up early for Ramadan. Staying in this dorm was an excellent experience. Over the week I had many opportunities to discuss various topics, including religion, Islam extremists, and terrorism. The sharing of beliefs and experiences was enlightening, particularly because I have found few opportunities like this back home. There were participants from about 90 countries, from all over the world, Canada, the U.S, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Spain, Chile, and Honduras, just to name a few!

Darug PeopleThe welcoming ceremony took place on the first night, hosted by the Darug people, the indigenous people of the area. There was Aboriginal song and dance, which was responded to by various groups such as Aotearoa New Zealand, Bangladesh, India, and First Nations of the Americas. It was an incredible start to the event, and was at times very emotional.

The official opening ceremony was held on the Tuesday night, at the Carriage Works performance venue. It was a show by youth from the Australian Theatre for Young People and some members from Cirque du Soliel which had been inspired by world affairs and our applications for OIYP. Amongst other things, there was singing, acrobatics, and a young woman carefully balancing an spinning umbrella on her feet whilst lying backwards and upside-down on a chair.

WorkshopDuring the week there were six plenary sessions, along with around fifty workshops, some of which were led by Action Partners. Some of the workshops were only two hours long, while others were four hours over two days. Topics ranged from project management, indigenous rights, land rights, to access to health, access to education, gender and equality, gender and sexuality, and using photography and film. They were helpful, although complaints arose due to their brevity and lack of international or easily transferable context. A complaint from the Latin Americans was that there was too great a focus on Western culture and issues, rather than a diverse representation

There were a significant number of Spanish speakers from Spain, and Latin America, with many of them unable to speak much, if any, English. A significant proportion of Oxfam volunteers could speak Spanish, and were used during workshops as translators or at the help desk. It was an excellent opportunity to learn about Latin America, however, there were difficulties in meeting and talking with the participants outside of workshops because of the lack of linguistic understanding.

One of the special things about OIYP was the support of indigenous participants, in particular the availability of an indigenous Australian who acted like a mentor, as well as a space available for Indigenous people to meet and discuss issues, the Indigenous Forum. Being non-indigenous myself, I was invited to attend the Indigenous Forum, which was an unforgettable experience. I heard unnerving stories, particularly from the Americas, where indigenous people are constantly ignored and their identity denied.

Kaleidescope ArtWe had several opportunities to explore Sydney, predominantly in the evenings, although we did have one free afternoon. Many of us went to a salsa club on Friday night and some gay clubs on the Saturday. Art and dance was a significant part of Kaleidoscope, with Oxfam wanting to explore the power of various forms of art as a tool for development. There were large canvases for painting, dance, song, beat-boxing performances, all with opportunities to try it yourself. A particular highlight for me was watching dancers from Brazil, along with Capoeira performers.

At the end of the nine days in Sydney, although ready to return home, we were all sad to leave. The opportunity to spend time with other young people with similar dreams and goals proved to us that we are not alone in our desire to see change in the world. The one thing that we keep telling each other is that this is only the beginning of our next three years as Action Partners, and that if we want to see change, we have to do it ourselves.

LEARN MORE

For more information on OIYP, check out www.iyp.oxfam.org
For more information about Oxfam and their work, check out www.oxfam.org

All photos from Oxfam International, more here.