For women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding

An initiative from Kvinna till Kvinna

Georgia: European jumbo of women’s political participation

Tags: , , , , , , Categories: EU, The South Caucasus

On October 1st parliamentary elections will be held in Georgia. Currently there are only 6.6 percent women representatives in the Georgian parliament, the lowest number in all of Europe.
− To achieve long-term stability in Georgia, it is crucial to include more women in the decision-making processes, says Alla Gamakharia from the women and peace organization Cultural-Humanitarian Fund Sukhumi, based in Kutaisi.

Between 2006 and 2011 Georgia fell from place 59 to place 120 in The Global Gender Gap Index concerning women’s political participation. To reverse this negative trend, the Georgian government in December 2011 adopted a law amendment stating that the stately support to political parties will be increased if they have at least 20 percent women candidates on their party lists.

But this seems to have had little impact on the biggest rivals in the upcoming election. President Saakashvili’s party, United National Movement has 10.9 percent women among its candidates and billionaire Bidzina Ivanisjvilis party, The Georgian Dream (Kartuli Otsneba), has 16.5 percent.

Patriarchal norms and nepotism

The Georgian society is characterized by both patriarchal norms and nepotism. This drastically reduces the possibility of getting into politics without having an influential family behind you, especially if you’re a women. Discrimination against women is widespread and embedded in social structures, which limits the opportunities for women to pursue careers and participate in politics. Issues of gender equality and women’s rights are not high on the political agenda.

For Alla Gamakharia there is a clear relationship between the low percentage of women in parliament and other problem’s in Georgian society.
− A low representation of women leads to marginalization of issues concerning women’s situation in the country, which leads to inequality, human rights violations and social imbalances, says Alla Gamakharia.

International discussions important

Within the framework of the EU’s Eastern Partnership – which includes the EU and its six Eastern neighbors Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus – Georgia has committed itself to respecting the EU’s common values, including democracy and human rights. A commitment that, according to Lika Naidaraia from the Georgian women and peace organization Women’s Political Resource Centre, WPRC, could be crucial for future development in Georgia. She underlines the importance of the EU and the international community highlighting gender equality in political decision-making, when meeting with representatives of the Georgian government.

Leila Rayes

Women organization helped bring down trafficking chain in Iraq

Tags: , , , , , Categories: The Middle East

Street view in Baghdad. Photo: Jeff Werner.

Security forces in Iraq have arrested Eman ”Dakhiliya”, who run one of the worse trafficking chains in Baghdad. Her criminal network, involved in sexual slavery, has also been dispersed. This is a huge victory for the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, OWFI, who has campained against her for a long time.

Eman’s nick name”Dakhiliya” means internal and refers to the Ministry of interior. She got it because of her connections with officers inside the Ministry as well as with the police in the area, which have kept her safe for a long time.

Eman’s accomplices kidnapped girls and women to work in her brothels. Women who came in her depth, like those who developed a drug addiction, were forced to sell their organs.

Exposed in report

As early as in 2010, OWFI pointed out Eman in a report on trafficking.

- Her arrest means a lot, even if she isn’t the only trafficker in Baghdad. Her business grew becuase she worked the poorest areas, where many homeless young women live. They were easy prey for Eman, says Yanar Mohammed, president of OWFI.

OFWI has received many threats, especially since the organization’s publication of the 2010 report, in which several traffickers and brothels were exposed.

- Eman and her pimps have threatened to take us to court or to kill us. But we have also, for several years, been criticized by government agents and many of the other women’s NGO’s (Non Governmental Organizations) distanced themselves from us in order to be on the good side of the conservative officials and the population at large, says Yanar Mohammed.

Women organizations important

- The example of Eman ”Dakhiliya” shows what crucial part women organizations like OWFI play, not only for the individual victims, but for the fight against corruption and organized crime. Few have the strength to challenge these criminal gangs, because of the risks it entails. These organizations need support and recognition, says Lena Ag, secretary general of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, a Swedish women’s rights and peace organization working together with OWFI.

Problem since the US invasion

Trafficking in connection with sexual slavery has been a continously growing problem in Iraq, since the US invasion in 2003. The deteriorating safety situation, increased powerty and deficient border inspections have been good growing grounds for traffickers. According to UNHCR more than 1,5 million people are internally displaced, refugees or stateless without safe living conditions.

Women organizations report that young women are being kidnapped, sold by poor families or duped to join the traffickers voluntarily, by promises of a better future. Sexual violence is tabu in Iraq and women don’t dare to speak openly about what they have been subjected to, of fear of becoming outcasts or even get killed. Therefore it is difficult to get any relaible numbers on how many women that are being used for sexual slavery.

New law lacks implementation

A small step towards a change was the signing of an Iraqi anti-trafficking law this spring. The law came into place after several years of lobbying by the Iraqi women’s movement.

- The current law finally treats the trafficked women as victims and not perpetrators, and gives general guidelines onto the state’s responsibility in helping the them to a good life after their painful ordeal. But we are still worried about the implementation since thousands of trafficked women still don’t have any way to seek refuge. They definitely can’t go home as honour killing awaits them, and yet no governmental shelters or group-homes or programs are planned for them, says Yanar Mohammed.

Annika Flensburg/Malin Ekerstedt

Legislation on conflict minerals effective against armed groups in DR Congo

Tags: , , Categories: Africa

The US law on conflict minerals has had a dampening effect on the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This according to a report made by the human rights organization the Enough Project. Combined with new industry policies the law has helped drop the profit from armed groups trade with 65 percent.

What are conflict minerals?Eastern DRC holds rich findings of the minerals tin, tantalum, tungsten (known as the 3 Ts) and gold, that are indespensable in the manufacturing of many high tech products, like computers and mobile phones.

 

For many years the DRC government and different armed rebel groups have been fighting over the control of the mines and their wealth.

 

The trade of the minerals has funded the armed groups continuous terror rule in the region, including rape and murder to intimidate civilians.

In 2010 US signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, that included articles meant to hinder American companies from using conflict minerals, originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in their manufacturing. Two years later the Enough Project has done an evaluation of the effects of the law,and presents it in the report From Congress to Congo.

Less armed groups

They found that although there have been delays in the specification of the regulations for the companies – they should have been provided by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in April 2011 but were adopted as late as August 22nd this year – the mere passing of the law has had positive effects. Besides from lowering the armed groups profits, the Rwandan Hutu rebel group FDLR one of the most violent groups operating in the mining area, has shrunk to a quarter of its size of two years ago. Several armed groups has also pulled out of 3 T mines.

Of course these effects can’t all be referred to the Dodd-Frank legislation – the report also highlights the new requirement from the Congolese government that all mineral export are to be audited and traced to conflict-free mines, as well as industries taking self-regulating measures to stay clear of conflict minerals, as important sources for change.

Job losses and pay cuts

What do the different regulations do?The regulations are being reinforced in an effort to hinder minerals coming from the illegally controlled mines to generate profit to the armed groups – i e to stop the source that’s feeding the ongoing conflict.

 

For instance, the Dodd-Frank legislation forces American companies to report whether or not they are using any minerals originating from DRC or one of its neighbouring countries. And if they are, they must report on the measures they have taken, and that they abide by the appropriate guidelines, for investigating the source and chain of custody of the minerals. Most importantly, companies need to provide independent verification of these steps through an independent private sector audit of their reporting.

There have been a lot of debate surrounding the US law and other regulations. Their opponents claim that they are working against the very people they are trying to protect: the miners and their families. And the report shows that many miners have lost their jobs or had to take severe pay cuts, due to the decrease in saleability of conflict minerals. But at the same time, out of the 143 miners interviewed for the report, a majority expressed a patience to deal with the situation, because of the prospect of getting a mining job with credible health and safety standards and a living environment free of the harassment and abuse that comes from living in a community plagued by the terror of armed groups.

Want European legislation

Still, civil society in DRC points out that there is much more needed to be done, for there to be an end to the ongoing conflict over the minerals.

- We would like to se a European legislation as well, there has to be efficient methods to increase the traceability of minerals. The problem is that DRC has nine bordering countries and since armed groups control the mining areas in DRC, they can just take the minerals across any border and sign them off as coming from that country. So besides legislation, political pressure has to be put on the countries keeping armed groups in DRC, to make them pull out. As long as foreign armed groups are operating on DRC territory, the situation will never be resolved, comments the women and peace organization AFEM (Association des Femmes des Médias) who are active in the South Kivu areas of DRC.

Malin Ekerstedt