For women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding

An initiative from Kvinna till Kvinna

Egypt activists: Mass protests could benefit women’s rights

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Women’s rights activists in Egypt are concerned about the proposed new constitution of Egypt. They fear that it will contribute to a negative development for women in the country. But some find hope in the recent mass protests bring hope.

Azza Kamel, chairperson for ACT, in the Tahrir square in 2011. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Lena Wallquist.

Azza Kamel, chairperson for ACT, in the Tahrir square in 2011. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Lena Wallquist.

29th of November the Egyptian constituent assembly presented a new draft constitution. Now there is talk of a possible referendum on 15 December.

Azza Kamel, president of ACT (Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development) in Egypt describes the current situation as very serious, since there is a dispute between the Muslim Brotherhood and other political parties. According to Azza Kamel there is a fear that those who have demonstrated in support of the removal of the constitutional declaration will be jailed.

Decree for increased power

22th of  November the Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi, issued a decree that gives him almost unlimited power until a new constitution is in place. This lead to renewed protests taking place in the Tahrir Square in Cairo. The decree states that the President’s decision can not be appealed or overruled by any other instance. President Morsi also extended the time limit for the constituent assembly’s work with drawing up the new constitution by two months. He described these measures as temporary and necessary for building a democracy.

There is a suspicion among democracy activists and human rights organizations in Cairo that the decree was an attempt by the President to prevent a dissolution of the constituent assembly. There is also a concern that Mohammed Morsi is trying to push through a new constitution with strong Islamistic elements.

Put terms on equlity

Women’s rights activists are particularly worried. According to parts of the draft constitution, that were leaked in the beginning of October, early marriages and female genital mutilation will be decriminalized and human trafficking will not be criminalized in full. The draft constitution’s Article 36, also states that the State can ensure equality between men and women, as long as it does not conflict with Islamic Shari’a. Putting terms on equality suggests that the constitution won’t promote or protect women’s rights in full, which is seen as a significant setback for Egyptian women.

– If the President does not withdraw this constitution, it will have a negative impact on women’s rights, says Azza Kamel.

Azza Kamel points out that the new draft constitution contains no rights for the Egyptian women and that laws may be enacted to restrict and affect women’s freedom and status. This would also entail restrictions on Egyptian women’s freedom of movement. But Azza Kamel sees hope for Egyptian women in this new wave of protests.

Largest protest against President Morsi

During the past week’s mass protests against President Morsi’s decree opposition groups have re-united against the government. Around 200 000 people took part in demonstrations in the Tahrir Square on Tuesday, making it the largest protest so far against President Morsi.

– The protests show that Egyptians do not accept dictatorship, they are not afraid. They can fill up the squares, without the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation, says Hoda Badran, from the Alliance of Arab Women.

Different groups united

Hoda Badran explains that this is the first time that women’s groups, political parties, trade unions and other groups are uniting against unacceptable declarations from the President. She believes that the protests reflect the women’s movement in a positive way, as participants.

According to Hoda Badran, several male leaders have acknowledge the rights of women, and now consider women as partners in the transition towards democracy.

Leila Rayes

38 aid agencies warn of humanitarian disaster in Gaza if military confrontation is not stopped

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As the impact of days of violent escalation worsens for civilians in Gaza and in Israel, a group of 38 aid and development agencies urge world leaders to take swift action to enforce a ceasefire in order to protect civilian lives and infrastructure and prevent another widespread humanitarian disaster in Gaza brought on by a prolonged military confrontation.

The agencies said the international community must apply immediate pressure on the government of Israel to keep the crossings to Gaza open to allow in supplies of essential humanitarian aid and push all parties to the conflict to end violence and uphold their obligations under International Law.

“World leaders cannot sit by while civilian casualties in Gaza and Israel continue to mount,” said Nishant Pandey, Oxfam Country Director.

“We urgently need to enforce a cease fire. The present conflict threatens to perpetuate and worsen the humanitarian impact on Palestinian civilians in Gaza of over five years of Israeli blockade and the 2008-2009 Israeli military operation ‘Cast Lead’. It will only deepen despair, create more insecurity, and jeopardize chances for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a just and durable peace,” he said.

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The agencies call comes as local health care partners and hospitals in Gaza have announced they are running out of essential drugs and medical supplies. As the escalating violence makes it difficult for partner organizations and local staff in Gaza to move around on the ground, the agencies said there were growing concerns about getting help to injured people and food and other necessities to people in need.

“Thousands of innocent people, including women and children, are in danger of being caught in the crossfire in the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas. We are urgently appealing to all sides, as well as to world leaders, to seek a political resolution and avoid the loss of any more human lives. If global leaders do not intervene, Gaza stands on the brink of yet another humanitarian crisis,” said Aleksandar Milutinovic, Mercy Corps Country Director, West Bank/Gaza.

Noting a number of civilian injuries and deaths over the past days, the agencies said that it was critical that the protection of civilians was prioritized by the parties to the conflict as outlined by International Humanitarian Law. They stressed that the protection of civilians extends to civilian infrastructure, as a number of homes have already been hit by strikes and shellings.

“Save the Children is deeply concerned by the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and Israel. Children are already among the dead – and as always, children bear the hardest burden during military conflict.  Save the Children urges all parties to end the violence immediately,” said Alex Schein Save the Children Country Director.

In calling for an end to the violence, the organizations stressed the need for the international community to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1860, passed in March 2009, which outlined the conditions for a permanent ceasefire and a path to long term security for both sides.

“The failure to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 1860 has only re-fuelled a cycle of violence that now needs to be put to a permanent end. The international community has an obligation to act to protect civilians and there needs to be immediate pressure on all parties to the conflict to stop the fighting and start working towards peace,” said David Viveash, The Carter Center Field Office Director.

With 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza, around half of whom are children and around 50,000 of whom are elderly, still living under blockade, the organizations said another military operation would only increase the hardship faced by the people they work with.

“Civilians pay the greatest price when the international community fails to act. There are families that CARE and our Palestinian partners have worked with in Gaza who are still living amidst the rubble of their destroyed homes. It is critical that those with power to stop the conflict act now. The human costs of another military confrontation would be too high – the people of Gaza cannot afford to start rebuilding their lives all over again,” said David White, CARE Country Director.

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); Action Against Hunger (ACF); ACPP; ActionAid; Care International; Community Housing Fund (CHF); CPT; DanChurchAid (DCA); Diakonia; Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene Group (EWASH); Fondazione Terre des Hommes Italia ONLUS; Gruppo di Volontariato Civile (GVC); Handicap International; HelpAge International; Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC); Kvinna til Kvinna; Life for Relief and Development; Medecins du Monde France; Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP); medico international; Mercy Corps; Movement for Peace; Norwegian Church Aid (NCA); Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA); Norweigian Refugee Council (NRC); Oxfam; Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH); Save the Children; Seba; Secours Islamique France; Solidaridad International; Terre des Hommes Switzerland; The Swedish Organization for Individual Relief; The Carter Center; The Lutheran World Federation (LWF); The Overseas NGO; War Child Holland; World Vision Jerusalem-West Bank-Gaza

Peace activists targeted in recent wave of violence in eastern DR Congo

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Once again the level of violence is escalating in eastern DR Congo. Many women’s rights and peace activists have been subjected to death threats and harassment.
– I have been threatened several times through the years, but now the situation is getting worse. The threats are no longer directed just at me, but also against my family, says Eric Lwa Mwenge from the peace organization FADI in Uvira.

During the last month there have been many reports from eastern DR Congo of increased levels of violence and of death threats against people who are working for peace in the conflict-affected region.

The city of Uvira, in the South Kivu province, has been especially targeted and has become a dangerous place to live and work in. Since two weeks there are restrictions on travelling in and out of the city in the evenings, in an attemt to curb the development.

Questioned about motives

FADI (Femmes en Action pur le Developpement Intégré) works with conflict resolution at the local level, between people from different ethnic groups in the villages outside of Uvira. Eric Lwa Mwenge often gets questioned about his motives.

– “Why are you talking to them? Whose side are you on anyway?” The suspicion is great, even though all I try to do is to contribute to a better climate between people, he says,

He has sought support from the local authorities, but they say that they are not able to protect either Eric Lwa Mwenge or his family. But fleeing is not for him.

– If we who believe in a change leaves the country, how will the situation ever get better? How will there be peace then? I have to stay!

Sleep across the border

Gege Katana, who works at the women’s organization SOFAD (Solidarité des Femmes Activistes Pour la Défense des Droits Huimains) in Uvira, agrees with him.

- It would be cowardly to flee, you just can’t do that, she says.

According to Gege Katana, peace actors in the region are trying to continue their activities, at the same time as they are talking precautions for their safety.

– For example some of us are crossing the border into Burundi in the evening to sleep there, just to not have to worry during the night. Then we can go back and work at home in Uvira in the daytime.

Political motives

It is unclear who is behind the escalating violence. Most likely there are several different actors. There is a lot of tension between different rebel groups and criminal elements also follow in the wake of the conflict. Only a few nights ago three families in Uvira were seriously injured in an attack by a group of men armed with machetes.

There are speculation about there being political motives behind several of the recent attacks, including the one on the chief surgeon at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Denis Mukwege, two weeks ago.

In Goma, north of Bukavu, a peace activist was recently kidnapped by a group of men. She was released the next day. According to her organization the kidnapping occured because of the organization’s criticism of the government’s unwillingness to address the conflict in eastern Congo, a criticism which they share with Dr. Mukwege.

– When there is turbulence among those in power it spreads down to the civilian population as well. We have no links to the top but what we can, and must, do is to continue working for peace in the region. Work with the people here so they not get stained by images of the evil enemy and drawn into the conflict, but instead focus on a peaceful future, says Eric Lwa Mwenge.

Anna Lithander

Escalation of violence as airstrikes hit Gaza

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The violence between Israel and Palestine is increasing. – The civilian population of Gaza is being severely affected, regardless of socioeconomic status. Civilians have died, including a pregnant woman and several children, says Linda Öhman, working for the women’s rights and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation in Jerusalem. 

– Today is the Palestinian Independence Day and the bombs are falling over Gaza and Gaza City, it’s ironic and sad, says Linda Öhman and continues:

– There were approximately 50 Israeli airstrikes against Gaza while the armed militant wings of Hamas fired a dozen rockets against southern Israel.

The entire population of Gaza, who have lived completely enclosed under siege since 2007, is affected by this escalation in violence. The electricity supply which was already functioning badly is only getting worse. Many people are sitting in the dark without access to computers or television.

Many dead or wounded

Linda Öhman is in close contact with many women’s rights organizations.

– The escalation in violence began during the weekend, and yesterday the Hamas leader Asmad al-Jabari was killed, says Linda Öhman.

Details on how many civilians that have been killed or wounded differ, but at least 13 people are reported to have died and 120 to have been wounded. Three Israelis also died last night.

– During my three years working here for The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation I have not seen the situation get as serious as it is now. I had to cancel visits to several women’s organizations that I should have met on Monday. They called and asked if I really thought I should come.

Fear for the future

The women’s rights activists that Linda Öhman has talked to express fear and concern for the future.

– They are afraid since they feel it can lead to something bigger. Bombs do fall on Gaza regularly, but usually only in specific areas and not in these numbers. The escalation we see is really worrying. We hope for the situation to calm down as soon as possible.

Ida Svedlund

Liberian women’s rights activists fighting traditional laws

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Helena Torh Turom, Sewoda

Helena Torh Turom, Sewoda. Photo: Ida Svedlund/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Violence against women is widespread in Liberia and harmful traditions, like women being accused of witchcraft, are still very much in use. Helena Torh Turom, co-founder and national coordinator for the Liberian women’s organization Southeastern Women Development Association (Sewoda) is one of the activists fighting for change in the post-conflict country.

Liberian women have become known around the world for their crucial part in the peace process that in 2003 ended the country’s four year long brutal civil war. During the conflict over 250 000 people were killed and up to one-third of the population was displaced. Social norms and values vanished, and the social structures has still not been completely repaired. Women in Liberia face deeply discriminatory systems, hindering them from taking part as full members of society.

Women trialed for witchcraft

One of these systems is the practice of traditional law. Among many things, it entails the possibility to accuse and trial women for witchcraft. For the accused to prove her innocence, she then has to drink an extract prepared from the bark of the sassafras tree.

– The bark is poisonous, so the women who are forced to drink it get sick and many die, says Helena Torh Turom.

If the accused woman dies from drinking the extract it means, according to popular belief, that she was guilty of witchcraft. This justifies the tradition. Mostly it’s used against women who are considered troublesome, explaines Helena Torh Turom.

– Sewoda is trying to get Liberia’s old tradition-bound laws integrated into the official justice system. It should not be possible to try people for witchcraft, but it still happens.

Work in isolated areas

Sewoda was founded in 1995 and is an umbrella organization based in southeast Liberia, with about 100 women and 4500 men as members.

– We are working to increase awareness of women’s rights and trying to get women to discover their own identity. We want women to be educated and increase their own capacity.

Sewoda is working in areas that are difficult to reach. Some villages they visit have never before been visited by any organization that has talked about women’s rights.

– The war has isolated the southern region of Liberia, it’s very difficult to get there. The roads are in poor condition and it is dangerous for women to travel because of the lack of security.

Working in the villages also entails safety risks for Sewoda activists. They often meet men who claim that they are trying to turn their women against them. Sometimes activists receive threats and insults.

Encourage women to vote

One of the key issues ahead for Sewoda is to get more women to master the will and the courage to engage in politics. Since 1996, women can be elected to the Liberian parliament, but there are still very few female candidates and women’s participation in elections is low.

– We need to get more women to use their power and vote, says Helena Torh Turom.

Another big challenge is funding. Since Sewoda is operating in a region very distant from the capital Monrovia, it’s difficult for the organization to get the attention of international donors. Still the needs are great. The southeast region was hit hard by the unrest during the last elections in the neighbouring Ivory Coast and the humanitarian situation is severe, with large refugee camps on the Liberian side.

– We do not have any money so all the support we receive is very important for  us, says Helena Torh Turom.

Ida Svedlund

Three women ministers in new Georgian government

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Late October, a new government was approved by the newly elected Georgian parliament. Many analysts call this a historical election – for the first time ever Georgia experienced a peaceful transition of power. And three of the key positions within the government went to women.

The incumbent President Michal Saalashvili congratulated the newly elected Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili to his victory. The elections were preceded by a dynamical campaign period, mostly concentrated around these two men’s personalities. When it comes to women’s participation, however, from the moment of registration of party lists and candidates for majoritarian elections, it was clear that there would be no breakthrough in terms of gender balance. Yet, there have been some positive developments.

In relative terms, it sounds great – the share of women MPs has risen with 60 percent in the Georgian parliament. But they still are only 10,8 percent, compared to the previous 6,6 percent, the lowest rate in Europe. The number of women in the newly elected cabinet is unchanged – three women out of 20. The good news is though that the women occupy key positions within the government, Maia Panjikidze as a head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tea Tsulukiani of the Ministry of Justice and Khatuna Gogoladze of the Ministry of Environment.

Financial incentive no effect

Elena Ruseckaja from the Georgian women’s rights organization Women’s Information Center is happy about the increase of women in parliament, but says that she and her colleagues analyze the results, to draw lessons for the future. For instance had the recent amendments, providing parties with financial incentive to have no less than 20 percent of women on party lists, no effect.

Elena Ruseckaja, Women's Information Center

Elena Ruseckaja, Women's Information Center. Photo: Julia Lapitskii/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

– This opportunity was only used by two parties: the Christian Democrats and the New Party and they were not even elected to the parliament. Thus, the efforts of the international community and women’s organizations in this direction have not played a role.

What did play a role, according to Elena Rusetskaja, was direct interaction with the parties and support for women candidates.

– Women’s groups had meetings and discussions with the parties, and the majority of women that were elected to the parliament are known to us. Many of them have their background in civil society, such as Manana Kobakhidze, deputy speaker of the new parliament and the former chairman of the organization Article 42 of the Constitution (Georgian citizenship: fundamental rights and freedoms).

First democratic transfer of power

For the first time in the history of independent Georgia, the transfer of power took place in a democratic way, and several political branches are now represented in the parliament:

– We see it as a positive development, that we now have a multi-party parliament, which opens up for constructive cooperation. We will monitor how they are living up to their obligations and follow the implementation of the Gender Equality Law, the Law on Domestic Violence, the National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. We hope to be able to advocate for changes in the Labor Code, because now it has loopholes that makes it possible to discriminate against women in the workplace. In addition, we very much hope that a Gender Advisory Board of the parliament will play a major role in achieving equality at all levels of the government. The gender thinking should permeate all state institutions, says Elena Ruseckaja.

Hope for resolution of frozen conflicts

There is also hope for a peaceful resolution of the frozen 20-year old conflicts concerning Abkhazia and the South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region. This issue has disappeared from the political discussions during the last few years, but now parties actively put these questions on the agenda.

– Parties that are new to the political arena are striving for the resumption of economic and cultural relations with the Abkhaz and South Ossetian population. Guram Odisharia, an IDP (internally displaced person), was appointed Minister of Culture and Monument Protection. We believe there will be people in the government who have close ties with Abkhazia. The Geneva talks will certainly be changing format, but we hope that the 40 percent women participants in the Georgian delegation will not be reduced.

The Nobel Peace Prize to a man’s world

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We recieved a blog post from Lena Ag, the Secretary General of the Swedish women’s rights and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, regarding the decision of giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU.

“Three distinguished, senior, white men will go to Oslo December 10 to collect the Nobel Peace Prize. European Parliament President Martin Schulz, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman Van Rompuy.

They reflect perfectly the power structure within the EU.

All Heads of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions are men, as are 73 percent of Heads of EU Delegations. Only two women have ever been appointed as an EU special representative. Just two of the Unions 25 member states have a female prime minister, and of 19 presidents only one is a woman.

The Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg captured my feeling in her tweet yesterday: “Three white middle aged Western European men will go to Oslo to accept Peace Prize for Europe. That’s my modern, inclusive continent…” @nordbergjenny

Although you can call the EU the world’s largest peace-building project, the Union has a lot left to do to be a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.I wonder how the Norwegian Nobel Committee reasoned regarding the basic idea of ​​the Peace Prize, that it is supposed to promote disarmament and non-military solutions. Within the EU there are major military actors, including nations with nuclear weapons.

At policy level, there are high aspirations for peace and human rights, but what counts is what is carried out on the ground. Especially considering that last year’s winners, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman was awarded for their peaceful struggle for women’s security and participation in peace processes. The Nobel Committee noted then that a sustainable peace and democracy can not be achieved as long as women are discriminated against.

Our partner organizations in the Balkans testify to how the EU work is a total failure at this point, despite the enormous resources spent. The EU has a shamefully low number of women in high positions, for example none of the EU’s common peace and security mission, like EULEX in Kosovo, is lead by a woman. And the list goes on. EU and the international community’s failure is evident when studying our latest report, Equal Power – Lasting Peace, that was presented in the European Parliament on October 11th. The report’s conclusions, and the discussions during the conference in the Parliament, show that there is a lot left to be done before the EU implements new strategies, worthy of the Peace Prize.”

“EU should lead by example”

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The unique mapping was presented at the conference. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Ida Udovic.

The unique mapping was presented at the conference. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Ida Udovic.

On October, 11th the Equal Power – Lasting Peace report made by the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till kvinna Foundation on women’s participation in peacebuilding was presented at a conference in the European parliament. Based on the interviews with women-activists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, DR Congo and Liberia, the report is a unique mapping of obstacles that keep women in conflict-torn regions from participating in peace processes on equal terms with men.

The Equal power – Lasting Peace conference gathered more than 100 participants, EU and NATO officials and politicians, as well as civil society representatives – in the audience and among the panelists.

The opinions and discussions at the conference were many, all of them though sharing a common stand: something has to be done to increase women’s participation in peace negotiations. The question is how and by whom.

– Women’s political participation and decision-making are the key issues, underlined Ms. Helga Schmid, Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs at European External Action Service (EEAS).

At her opening speech she mentioned Egypt, where the draft of the Constitution does not make any provisions for gender equality and where there are only six female MPs.

– We focus our assistance in the EU neighborhood to civil society and women’s issues, in particularly legal rights and equal access to decision making and to the power structures. Gender cannot be an excluding factor in the political processes from an early stage of mediation in the process and onwards, said Ms. Helga Schmid.

Gender-blind agreement

Ensuring that gender equality is guaranteed from the very beginning when designing a peace agreement has proven to be a crucial factor for the sustainability of the peace. How bad a gender-blind peace agreement can turn out Alexandra Petric, Programme Director of United Women Banja Luka, BiH, testified on.

– Bosnia and Herzegovina has gone eight years without any women ministers, 17 years without any women members of the BiH Joint Presidency, and 17 years without any women in negotiations about crucial political issues that affect lives of women and men citizens of BiH, such as security sector and constitutional reforms, says Alexandra Petric

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  “EU should lead by example”, The Kvinna till kvinna Foundation’s Secretary-General Lena Ag highlighted in her introduction. While the EU has adopted a comprehensive approach on UNSC resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security, the reality reflected by statistics leaves much to be desired. EU’s CSDP operations (operations under the EU’s common security and defense policy) are all led exclusively by men, and only two of EU:s ten special representatives are women, just to name a few examples.

This statistics, says Mr. Olof Skoog, Chair of the Political and Security Committee at EEAS, was a lesson from the day:

– Not a single woman leads our missions. We are choosing the best of the best, but the problem is that member-states are not nominating any women. What we can do is to explicitly ask them to nominate more female candidates, says Mr. Skoog.

NGOs not GONGOs

The topic of giving room to the voices of women from conflict-affected regions was discussed by many of the panelists and raised in questions from the audience. Finding the authentic grass-root organizations can be a challenge when a lot of GONGOs (governmentally organized NGOs) are entering the scene. Still it is crucial in getting a comprehensive understanding of the situation in a region:

– When EU officials are visiting a region, they really need to  seek contact with, and talk to, real civil society organizations, including women organizations, not those who will tell the convenient things that the officials want to hear, says one of the panelists Gulnara Shahinian from the Armenian organization Democracy today.

Slander, violence, corruption and unequal laws are some of the obstacles that keep women from participating on equal terms with men in peace processes, the report shows. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Sara Lüdtke.

Women has important role

The role of women’s organizations and women activists in peace processes was stressed by many panelists throughout the conference. Monica McWilliams, one of the signatories of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland dwelled on it at her presentation at the conference, as well as Teresita Quintos-Deles, advisor to the President of the Phillipines on the peace process, who sent her greetings on video, as she herself was occupied with the upcoming peace agreement. Both women provided striking evidence of the importance of women’s empowerment.

Long-term support neeeded

A long-term strategic approach and continuity are what women activists Alexandra Petric and Gulnara Shahinian would like to see from the EU:

– The EU needs to develop strong and coherent strategies to address women’s human rights and gender equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina to address both direct and indirect support of perpetuating ignorance toward these issues by BiH authorities. This requires the EU’s commitment to a long-term support of women and gender equality – specific programs that focuses on the prevention of and fighting against gender-based violence and that underlines women NGOs positions as watch-dogs and partners to BiH government institutions. This would both strengthen women’s human rights in practice and the NGO’s work on empowering women, says Alexandra Petric.

– We would really appreciate sustainable and strategic involvement from the EU. What we see now is that the EU finances short projects, where partnership with civil society has a formal character, says Gulnara Shahinian.

Protests against Egyptian constitution draft connecting women’s rights to Sharia law

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

The draft proposal of a new constitution for Egypt, has caused fiery protests from civil society and women’s organizations in the country. Last week several hundred people demonstrated in Cairo against the absence of women in the process and against the new Article 36, stating that women’s equal rights should be ensured ”without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence”.

Political and human rights activists in Egypt worry that the proposed wordings in the constitution will curtail women’s rights, since they open for different interpretations by Islamic scholars, reports the Egypt Independent.

The proposed Article 36 reads:

”The state is committed to taking all constitutional and executive measures to ensure equality of women with men in all walks of political, cultural, economic and social life, without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence. The state will provide all necessary services for mothers and children for free, and will ensure the protection of women, along with social, economic and medical care and the right to inheritance, and will ensure a balance between the woman’s family responsibilities and work in society.”

Besides the connection to islamic Sharia law, activists also protest against the recent exclusion of former proposed writings, like setting a minimum age for a woman to be able to marry and banning trafficking.

Alternative constitution

Several demonstrations were held in the capital last week. On Wednesday representatives from civil society organizations, activists and politicians announced at a press conference that they will be drafting an alternative constitution.

- A constitution containing the phrase ‘not to be contrary to Sharia’ and a constitution that limits the rights of certain groups, such as Copts and women, will not be allowed, said Hussein Abdel Ghani from Popular Current, one of the organizations in the group, writes the Egypt Independent.

Women’s movement demanding equal rights

On Thursday women’s organizations organized a demonstration outside the Presidential Palace and handed over a statement in which they called for an equal dividing of seats between women and men in the Constituent Assembly, and for the new constitution to ensure women’s equal rights as citizens of Egypt.

Currently only seven of the Constituent Committée’s 100 members are women. The comittée’s constitutionality has been questioned and is currently being examined by a court.

The statement made by the Egyptian women’s movement

On women’s rights in the Constitution:

  • First, women’s rights are part of the citizenship’s rights.
  • Women gained their rights through historical struggling and they contributed to the 25 Jan revolution where they were scarred and died, just like the men.
  • The constitution identifies the rights and the duties of all Egyptians (male and female ) so all should share in formulating it.
  • Women have been marginalized in the mechanisms for achieving the objectives of the revolution, starting with the poor representation in the parliament  and the Consultative Council, and ending with the founding of the constitution committee.
  • There are many women who are in leading positions and teaching law and constitution at the universities.

Taking all of the above into consideration, and for a Constitution for all Egyptians, the Egyptian women’s movement, which is formed by people from all of Egyptian society and represented by the signatories (she/he)  to this document, is demanding:

Considering the current Constituent Committée lost its legitimacy, since it is under consideration of the judiciary:

Restruction of the committee to represent all of the Egyptian people with membership divided equally between women and men. Adoption of objective and transparent criteria for membership, taking into account the names nominated by different spectra of society.

The articles of the constitution should:

  • Reflect the equality between all Egyptians
  • Confirm the international treaties, like the Elimination on all Forms of discrimination against Women
  • Guarantee the full equality of women and men within each of the following rights: education, employment, health care, health and social insurance, housing, unemployment benefit, and the right of a healthy environment
  • Make sure that the State and the political institutions empower of women in their political representation, in order to achieve a fair representation of women reflect their percentage  in society
  • Put proper control on the election law and process
  • Confirm the equality between men and women regarding responsibilities within the framework of the family .
  • Include articles to protect children’s rights, the environment, the rights of persons with special needs, and the rights of the elderly.

New report: Violence, corruption and unequal laws keep women from peace processes

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Categories: Africa, EU, The Balkans, The Middle East, The South Caucasus, UN

The findings from the Iraqi field study show that the US occupation increased secterian thinking within the country and severly crippled women's rights. Photo: Anna Lithander/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Violence, corruption and unequal laws are some of the obstacles that keep women in conflict-torn regions from participating on equal terms with men in peace processes. Another big part of the problem is that the international community gives priority to men for senior positions in peace operations. This according to the new report Equal Power  Lasting Peace made by the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Equal Power – Lasting Peace is based on field studies made in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, DR Congo and Liberia. Although the countries and conflicts differ, the patterns are strikingly similar.

In all the regions women and women’s organizations play important roles in resolving conflicts in local communities and in handling everyday life.

But when it comes to formal decision forums the doors are closed for women. This contrary to the statements of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which emphasizes that women must participate on the same terms as men in all parts of peace processes, for the peace to be sustainable.

The exclusion of women is present both within the international missions and negotiating team at national level. Equal Power – Lasting Peace shows that very little has happened, despite the fact that twelve years have passed since Resolution 1325 was adopted.

– Peace Processes that excludes half the population are imperfect. Women’s needs and experiences are made invisible, says Lena Ag, Secretary General at The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Common obstacles

Equal Power – Lasting Peace’s survey shows that the most common obstacles for participation that women face are:

  • Legislation and standards
  • Rumours and threats
  • Domestic violence, including sexual violence
  • Poverty and corruption
  • Ignorance of the international community

- As in other policy areas, the male dominance within the peace and security area needs to be broken. It is a question of democracy and a basic condition for sustainable peace processes. It is also important to push for the appointments of more women to key positions within the EU and the UN. How else can the international community credibly argue that equality is important? says Lena Ag.

No female UN Chief Mediator

Examples of the representation of women and men in key positions related to peace and security:

  • At the 24 largest peace negotiations held between 1992 and 2010, only 7,6 percent of the negotiators and 2,5 percent of the mediators were women.
  • The UN has never appointed a female Chief Mediator.
  • 89 percent of the UN’s special representatives and envoys are men.
  • 84 percent of the UN peacekeeping operations are led by men.84 percent of the UN member countries’ UN ambassadors are men.
  • There are only men leading the EU’s CSDP operations (operations under the EU’s common security and defense policy).
  • 2 of the EU’s 10 special representatives are women.

Download:

Equal Power – Lasting Peace, the report

Equal Power – Lasting Peace, summary

Statistics of women and men in key positions within the EU and the UN