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„Women’s Power to Stop War“ – ein Geburtstag!

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VermotNR8WILPF, die Internationale Frauenliga für Frieden und Freiheit, feiert ihren 100. Geburtstag

Den 100. Geburtstag muss man feiern – weltweit – und mit seinen Getreuen, die sich in oft kriegsversehrten Ländern mit grossem Einsatz für Friede, Gerechtigkeit und Sicherheit einsetzen. 1300 Frauen sind an den Gründungsort Den Haag gekommen mit ihren Sorgen, Frustrationen und Erfolgen. An den gemeinsamen Themenveranstaltungen wurden immer wieder die drängendsten Fragen gestellt: Wie schaffen wir es, aus dieser weltweiten, beklemmenden Spirale von Gewalt, Krieg und Militarisierung herauszukommen. Wie schaffen wir eine Welt ohne Angst und Terror, in der eine gemeinsame Zukunft ohne Zerstörung möglich wird?

Viele mutige und selbstbewusste Frauen sassen an den Podien, erzählten, erklärten, manchmal brach die Stimme, weil der Horror noch immer präsent und die Emotionen zu stark waren. Zum Beispiel als Zahra‘ Langhi aus Libyen im Workshop „Frauen zwischen Extremismus und Militarismus“ die Geschichte von der Ermordung Salwa Bouguiguis erzählte, die gegen alle Widerstände und Drohungen als erste Frau in den nationalen Übergangsrat in Libyen gewählt wurde. Die Feministin wurde ermordet, weil sie laut, unbequem, klug und unerschrocken war – eine Politikerin, die Frauenrechte in Libyen einforderte. Das war ihr Todesurteil.

Im Panel zu „Impact of Missing Persons on Women“ machte die Vertreterin der Internationalen Kommission für verschollene und verschwundene Personen deutlich, dass zwar meist die Männer verschollen, aber die Frauen davon mehrfach betroffen sind. In Ländern, wo Frauen keinen eigenständigen Status haben und Ehefrauen nur mitgemeint sind, übernehmen die Familien der Vermissten das Zepter. Die Frauen der Vermissten werden oft (erneut) zwangsverheiratet. Weigern sie sich, verlieren sie das Recht auf ihre Kinder und werden ökonomisch nicht mehr versorgt.

“Man ist nie zu alt und man ist nie zu jung”

Und immer ging es um Geld, das nicht in Frauenhand ist und das „blind in Waffen und Kriege und Korruption versickert und in kriminelle Staatsführung investiert wird, statt in Gesundheit, Bildung und Frieden“, sagte eine syrische Aktivistin. Eine Frau aus Libyen analysierte messerscharf: “Was Geld generiert, wird von Polizei, Militär und korrupten Eliten geschützt – was kein Geld bringt, wie Erziehung, Gesundheit, Kinder, Alte, Kranke, ist scheinbar nicht schützenswert“.

Natürlich spielten auch die Generationen eine Rolle – „wo sind die jungen Frauen?“, fragte eine ältere Aktivistin, denn war ist nicht zu übersehen, dass die Generation der grauen Haare in grosser Zahl vertreten war. Eine junge Frau jedoch meinte: “Man ist nie zu alt und man ist nie zu jung, um gegen Patriarchat, Ausbeutung, Krieg zu kämpfen und sich für Frieden und Gerechtigkeit zu engagieren“. Das wurde mit grossem Applaus quittiert.

Was ungleiche Rechte und die Bevorzugung von Männern bedeutet, zeigte die Pakistanin Sameena Nazir am Beispiel des Gesundheitswesens auf. So stehen in der Regel in Kliniken und Spitälern viel mehr Betten für erkrankte Männer zur Verfügung als für Frauen. Frauen müssten oft wochenlang auf eine Behandlung und ein Bett warten. Für Männerbedürfnisse sei in der patriarchalen Gesellschaft immer gesorgt, sagte sie ironisch.

Wut und Hoffnung

Auf grosses Interesse stiess die Friedens-Nobelpreisträgerin Mairead Maguire, die bei ihrer Teilnahme an den Friedensverhandlungen in Nordirland eine wichtige Rolle spielte. Sie, die ihre halbe Familie im Konflikt verloren hatte, erzählte von Strategien, Listen, Rückfällen und endlos langen Verhandlungen. Sie brachte die verfeindeten Gemeinden an einen Tisch, mit dem Ziel der politischen Gleichberechtigung. Mairead Maguire ist eine Vorbereiterin der UN-Resolution 1325 zu „Frauen Frieden Sicherheit“, die seit 15 Jahren die Beteiligung von Frauen an Friedensverhandlungen fordert.

Sie machen uns nachdenklich, sie machen jedoch auch Mut, diese Frauen aus Syrien, der Ukraine, aus Palästina, Nigeria, Pakistan, Nordirland und anderen Ländern. Sie trotzen in schwierigsten Lebensumständen. Sie erzählen ihre Geschichten, sind zornig und hoffnungsvoll.

Wir? Unsere Häuser werden nicht von schwer bewaffneten, vermummten Kriminellen belagert, wir leben in ziemlich grosser Sicherheit, wir haben zu essen, unsere Grundrechte sind gewährleistet, unsere Kinder gehen zur Schule, unser Gesundheitswesen funktioniert, wir haben keinen Krieg. Aber unser Land betreibt im Namen des freien Handels, der Sicherheit und der Rettung von Arbeitsplätzen Waffengeschäfte mit Ländern, die an Eskalationen beteiligt oder in Kriegshandlungen verwickelt sind. Wir sind KomplizInnen – ein ungutes Gefühl, wenn man die unmenschlichen Anstrengungen wahrnimmt, die Frauen in Diktaturen, Unrechtsstaaten und Kriegsgebieten leisten, mit dem einzigen Wunsch, ihre Rechte wahrnehmen zu können. Wir sind mitverantwortlich!

Ruth-Gaby Vermot PWAG

Bern, 1. Mai 2015

«If women had a chance, things would be much better»

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A conversation with Soad Shalaby*, Director of the Women’s Business Development Center of the National Council of Women (NCW) in Egypt, at the regional Dialogue Forum in Marsa Matruh, November 2014.

The NCW supports PWAG by providing their facilities and ensuring that the dialogue fora can take place. Additionally, you personally have attended every one of the three regional dialogue fora in 2014. Why do you support this project?

It is important to give Egyptian women the chance to meet and to exchange their views. If a woman in Egypt is not given the chance to discuss her problems in a relatively protected place, then nobody will hear her. This applies especially to those women living in remote governorates. Egyptian women are very serious, sincere and dedicated. They are keen about getting a job. If they don’t get the chance to study or work, they suffer a lot – and their families with them. This project targets women in general, whether they are business women, employed in the government or in NGO’s, thus giving a bigger chance for different women to discuss their problems together. This is something that I feel is important. The way PWAG conducts the dialogue fora is very attractive: it’s a new way of generating conversation.

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“Women must have a role in preserving peace”– Soad Shalaby at the opening session in Marsa Matruh.

How can one ensure an effective dialogue?

In the first dialogue forum I attended, in Luxor, the participants told me that they had been to many seminars and workshops before, but that this was the best one: “Each one of us gets a chance to talk. It’s not a lecture; we contribute with our own thoughts. Nobody is pushing us to believe in something. We reach conclusions, which we are actually part of. This makes it different.” I agree with what these women told me, they were happy because they were able to contribute. This is an effective way of dialogue.

What is necessary in order to have a real impact on women’s political participation, be it as voters or candidates, in Egypt?

This is the most important and the most difficult part. It is not easy to change a mentality which has been there for many years and is influenced by traditions, religion, society and many difficult norms. But we have the possibility of dialogue. When the outcome of such a dialogue process is presented to the decision makers, you can say that these are samples of the society – the opinions and needs of people that have been subject to that kind of harassment or have been in this specific situation. If the society is supposed to change, then we have to listen to these voices. We have to change our mentalities. How? We have to have an impact. How? We have to really influence those people who are in the decision making processes. I feel that in order to have an impact we will have to work very hard, because nobody is interested in listening. We have to make them first listen, then we have to make them change their mentality and then we have to make them change their laws and regulations. This is a long process.

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The team from left to right: Yasmine Arafa (Project Coordinator in Egypt), Soad Shalaby (Director of the WBC, NCW), Tanja Mirabile (Program Manager PWAG), Salima Abdel Rehim (NCW Marsa Matruh).

There are a number of women in Egypt heading large companies and banks. It seems that women can reach higher positions in the private sector, but are excluded from higher ranking in the public sector. Why is that?

In the private sector there is free recruitment and promotion, ‘free’ meaning: whoever is more competent, gets the job. This is not the case in the public sector. There are many sectors of society that are not approving of the fact that a woman can get a higher job in the public sector. Even though the constitution 2013 gives women the right to get equal jobs and to be promoted equally, it’s not happening. Because there are limits, there are ceilings. And it will not happen, unless we have good role models. In all societies in this world there are some jobs that are deprived from women. But the president of Egypt made a very good step by appointing a woman as the National Security Advisor. She is young, competent and she was the Minister of International Cooperation during Mubarak’s regime and the revolution. These are the good models. In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 25% are women, and this is a very good percentage in a ministry. Some ministries allow women to reach higher positions, others don’t. That’s why we’re still pushing. In the NCW we are pushing that a woman be elected as governor for the first time. We have influenced many women to apply and we are urging the minister who is in charge of appointing the governors to choose a woman. We still have the hope that there will be a woman at the head of a governorate in the close future.

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From left to right: Yasmine Arafa (Project Coordinator in Egypt), Soad Shalaby (Director of the WBC, NCW), Tanja Mirabile (Program Manager PWAG)

What do you believe would change if more women were represented in politics?

A lot would be happening. We have seen here in Marsa Matruh many examples of women who would make a big difference in the society, if they were given the chance. I believe that if women had a chance, things would be much better.

*Soad Shalaby was born in Cairo in 1948. After she got a university degree in economics in 1969, she started her diplomatic career. Throughout the last three decades, socio-economic development as well as enhancing peace and stability in Africa have been her main interests whether in her various diplomatic responsibilities or during her postgraduate studies at McGill University in Canada. She currently holds the position of Director of the Women Business Development Centre (WBDC) of the National Council of Women. Her mandate is to train and recruit 50’000 women from all over Egypt so that they can bring income to their families.

Interview: Andrea Grossenbacher, PWAG Project Assistant

Hidden behind closed doors – women in Siwa

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Giving the possibility to women from remote and isolated areas to voice their needs and articulate their demands is an important aspect of the work done by PWAG in Egypt. At the third regional dialogue forum organized by PWAG and the National Council of Women in Marsa Matruh, in the north of Egypt, two women from Siwa – an oasis in the Libyan Desert – were invited to represent the voices of Siwi women. Fatma Ossman, one of these women, gave us insight into the role of women in her community.

The oasis Siwa is considered an extremely conservative society. Its inhabitants are of Berber origin, and live according to centuries-old traditions. Siwa is part of the governorate Marsa Matruh, which belongs to Egypt. Traditionally, women in Siwa have been kept behind closed doors. They are not allowed to leave the Oasis unaccompanied and if they do travel outside their home, they are entirely concealed under flowing robes. Young women in Siwa hardly have any chance of continuing their education after high school, as they cannot pursue their studies outside of Siwa. There is merely one technical school for women in Siwa, where they can study industry or commerce. The prevailing structure doesn’t allow girls to pursue their dreams, says Fatma Ossman, herself born and raised in Siwa. Men, she says, may however pursue their studies anywhere as long as they can afford it financially. Strong restrictions are placed on married women, as they are not allowed to leave their houses for work. Often they do raise income for their families, but only through small projects and endeavors done at home. Whereas single women benefit of more freedom to move, as they are allowed to work outside of their homes – many working in factories or handicraft.

IMG_9527Fatma obtained a degree in commerce and has been working for an NGO in Siwa for many years now. She is 32 years old and single. She was the first woman ever to be elected into the local council. Currently women lack a political role in the community, says Fatma. When asked what she would change if she had the chance to do so, she says: “I don’t want to change our culture, I rather want to add something to it. Women in Siwa need someone to be their representative, so they don’t have to come all the way to Marsa Matruh to voice their needs or opinions. They need a complaints office and women’s associations, which then might initiate some kind of dialogue or discussion.”

Siwi women are deprived of many rights, especially in health and education. This is why Fatma has decided to commit herself to women’s rights. By coming to the dialogue forum in Marsa Matruh, Fatma challenged herself and her environment. She explains why she accepted the invitation nonetheless: “I’m not doing anything wrong. I want something that will actually benefit my country. I want the voice that says women have a role in every aspect of the society to reach my society. Because many claim that women are half the community but in fact they are much more, we say they are the community. The participation in this forum also gives me incentive to confront the difficulties that I might face when I go back.” Her greatest wish for women in Siwa is that one day it be accepted that women participate in the political life.

“Eritrean children don’t have dreams anymore”

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Eritrea’s military dictatorship systematically persecutes its own people and those who oppose the system. Many Eritreans who flee are abducted during the journey, brought to the Sinai and tortured for ransom. This October (2014), human rights activist and journalist Meron Estefanos spoke at our event “Trafficking of women in Sinai”* in Berne. She works for the International Eritrean Radio Erena and is a co-founder of the International Commission on Eritrean Refugees in Stockholm. Estefanos was born in Eritrea and lives in Sweden since the age of 14.

Every day, Meron Estefanos talks to Eritreans in difficult situations: women and men being held captive, the crew of a refugee boat drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as relatives searching desperately for their close ones who have disappeared in the desert call her. Estefanos listens and tries to help if she can. In her radio show, she tells these tough stories because she wants Eritrean people to know them. At our event in Bern, she talked about the case of a woman who was captivated and brought to the Sinai: she was tortured and so was her young child. The little boy has finally been released, but his mother died in the torture camp. This is only one of many stories, an example of the cruel mistreatments that are happening in the Sinai.

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Meron Estefanos

Meron, are you satisfied with the event “Trafficking of women in Sinai”?

I am really glad that we had a full house. It is so good to see that a lot of people are interested in Eritrea and human trafficking in the Sinai. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to talk about the root causes of the problem: the dictatorship. The living conditions in Eritrea are very bad. For example, every man and every woman must serve in the military from the age of 15 till 50. Women with children are exempt, but their husbands aren’t. So many women must carry the burden of feeding and raising the children alone.

There is no freedom of religion, no freedom of movement, no freedom of speech. People are even afraid to say that they are hungry, because it might be interpreted as a political statement: “Are you saying there is starvation in Eritrea?” If your brother gets arrested, you are not allowed to ask what he did – asking is a crime. That’s why people flee. In Eritrea, the children don’t have dreams anymore. I asked 8- or 9-year-old children about their aspirations: nobody said “doctor”, nobody said “pilot”. They said: “I’m going to be a soldier.” And the saddest thing is that their career aspirations are very realistic: all their sisters, brothers, fathers and grandfathers are in the military, so it’s all they know.

Many Eritreans who leave their country get kidnapped during the journey and are tortured for ransom. Which are the specific dangers that women face?

They also get kidnapped and tortured. And they face sexual violence too, even the young girls. Even if they are released, it is very tough for them, because they feel ashamed. In our culture we don’t talk about rape because it is seen as something instigated by a woman. So they deny it and say: “it didn’t happen to me, it happened to the other women.” They worry of not having a life afterwards because nobody would agree to marry them. So they hide it instead of working on the issue of the trauma.

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In March 2014, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Security and Human Trafficking in the Sinai. Has the situation improved since?

I am very happy about the resolution since I have been lobbying for it for the last 4 years. But it isn’t enough: Egypt still completely ignores the problem! The EU frequently raises the issue on the meetings with Egypt, but all too often the words are only hot air. The same applies for the United States: they tell Egypt to tackle the problem, but continue to give money to the government. Come on, they should tell them: “We are stopping this money until you are stopping the human rights violations in Sinai.” But Egypt is a very important ally to Europe and to the US. So they try to make everybody happy: they grant money so the Egyptian government is happy – they write a resolution so we are happy.

Is there a thing Switzerland could do about it?

Many Eritreans flee to Switzerland. And every time I come here, Swiss politicians tell me that they cannot be integrated. This is weird because German politicians always tell me that Eritreans are the ones who easily integrate into the system. I doubt that the Eritreans are the problem. So Switzerland should look at its system and ask where it is failing. Any human being can integrate, but you have to know how.

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Eva Andonie (FIZ) and Dr. Fana Asefaw (doctor and psychologist, Zurich) discussing at the event

Do you have an idea what the problem might be?

Well, let’s start with the media. How many rapes happen here in Switzerland by Swiss men? If a single one is done by a migrant, the media only write about that one. In Sweden, things are different: media are not supposed to generalize. They write “one man stabbed another one,” but they don’t write about their backgrounds. There is no law about it, but it simply is inhumane to generalize that much. So they don’t. The generalization incites hate; it helps people to hate other people. Every human being is different and people should start looking at each case individually. And Eritreans also need to find a way to learn about Swiss people, about their food, about their culture. In Sweden for example, they have to go to practices. They have to work or take classes. It is important that the society invests in them. It is too easy to say: “they cannot be integrated.”

What is your dream for Eritrea?

In Switzerland, people vote four times a year. We’ve never voted, we’ve never had one single election. My dream is a country where we can elect our president, where we have a parliament, where people are judged by the law. For this to happen, Eritreans have to stand up for their rights. But they also need help. Only a few countries implemented the sanctions of the UN-Security Council. As long as there is money going to the Eritrean government, the suffering of Eritrean people will not end. So the only way is to stop supporting and to take drastic measures against the Eritrean government.

Interview: Caroline Honegger, PWAG Communication Manager

Pictures: taken by Corinne Wenger in Berne on October 30th at the event “Trafficking of women in Sinai”

*The event has been jointly organized by PWAG and the Swiss Observatory for asylum and foreigners law (SBAA).

Ägyptische Frauen und Politik im Dialog

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Ein Sandsturm zieht über die Stadt Tanta, es ist heiss und staubig. Auf den Strassen herrscht Chaos: hupende Autos, klappernde Motorräder, Pferdegespanne und Menschen suchen ihren Weg. Über alldem thront die Grosse Ahmad-al-Badawi-Moschee, eine sunnitische Pilgerstätte. Hier, in der Hauptstadt des Gouvernements al-Gharbiyya, findet vom 25. bis 27. September 2014 das zweite in Ägypten durchgeführte regionale Dialogforum von PWAG statt.

Frauen im Ägypten von heute

Von 2011 bis 2013 forderten ägyptische Frauen ihre Rechte – auf der Strasse, Seite an Seite mit den Männern. Nach diesen Revolutionen befindet sich Ägypten nun in einem Demokratisierungsprozess. Dies ist für die Frauen Chance und Herausforderung zugleich.

Die kürzlich verabschiedete Verfassung  beinhaltet Artikel zur gleichberechtigten Vertretung von Frauen und Männern in verschiedenen Positionen und zur Einführung von Frauenquoten auf lokaler Ebene. In den nächsten Monaten stehen nun die Parlamentswahlen an und es gilt, die Frauen in Ägypten sowohl als Wählerinnen wie auch als Kandidatinnen zu stärken.

Das Thema der regionalen Dialogforen, die PWAG in Zusammenarbeit mit dem National Council for Women (NCW) und lokalen Organisationen durchführt, sind deshalb die Herausforderungen, denen Frauen auf dem Weg hin zur politischen Partizipation begegnen – und wie sie diese bewältigen können.

Dialog – in der Gegenwart, für die Zukunft

In den Räumlichkeiten des NCW in Tanta trudeln die Leute am ersten Tag nach und nach ein. Wir warten bis alle ReferentInnen und TeilnehmerInnen eingetroffen sind, und beginnen mit einer Stunde Verspätung.

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Nach einer feierlichen Eröffnung sprechen unsere FriedensFrauen aus Libyen und Tunesien über Dialog und Leadership. „Was ist ein Dialog?“ fragt Omelez Alfarsi ihre Zuhörer gleich zu Beginn ihrer Einführung in die Methode des Dialogs und dessen Regeln.  „In dialogue we must come to listen to the other person’s ideas”, erklärt sie. Nachmittags will Najla Abbes aus Tunesien  von den TeilnehmerInnen  erfahren, welche Eigenschaften sie in einer Führungsperson erwarten. Auf interaktive Art und Weise diskutiert sie mit ihnen die Grundprinzipien von erfolgreichem Leadership.

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Durch die gemeinsame Sprache finden unsere FriedensFrauen schnell Zugang zum Publikum. Vor allem in den Kaffee- und Mittagspausen entstehen intensive Gespräche und ein bereichernder Austausch über Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede zwischen den drei arabischen Ländern Ägypten, Tunesien und Libyen, alle drei geprägt von politischer Unruhe.

Alle sind wichtig: Jede Stimme zählt!

In den zwei darauffolgenden Tagen, gehört die Bühne den über vierzig TeilnehmerInnen. Es ist der wichtigste Teil des Dialogforums, da sie nun selber Dialog führen und Inhalte generieren.

In den Dialog Sessionen fallen einerseits der Generationenkonflikt und andererseits die Zurückhaltung der jüngeren Frauen auf. Um dem entgegenzuwirken, ist es wichtig, einen Raum zu schaffen, in dem sich alle wohl fühlen. Wir muntern besonders die jungen Mädchen auf, ihre Stimmen zu erheben. Und es klappt! Bereits in der zweiten Session beteiligen sich alle Teilnehmerinnen aktiv am Dialog. Am letzten Tag freuen wir uns dann über sehr angeregte, fruchtbare Gespräche und grossen Enthusiasmus gerade bei denen, die zuvor schweigsam waren.

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Für viele Frauen beginnt das Problem bereits in den eigenen vier Wänden – Väter, Brüder oder Ehemänner, die das Streben nach mehr politischer Teilhabe nicht verstehen und auf einer klaren Rollenverteilung bestehen, stünden ihnen im Weg. Gesprächsthema ist daher die Rolle des Mannes in der Förderung von politischer Partizipation von Frauen. Aber auch die Rolle der Frau selbst wird kritisch hinterfragt. Es sei nämlich auch an den Frauen, sich zu interessieren, sich zu informieren und die eigenen Rechte einzufordern.

Nach drei interessanten Dialog Sessionen sitzen die zwei neu formierten, regionalen Arbeitsgruppen zusammen und überlegen, was sie tun können, um die politische Partizipation von Frauen in ihrem lokalen Kontext zu fördern: Tür-zu-Tür Kampagnen und Theaterstücke zum Thema Frauenrechte sind Ideen, die hier aufkommen. Wir dürfen gespannt sein, was uns die Gruppen aus dem Nildelta in den nächsten Monaten von den Aktivitäten berichten werden!

 

Autorin: Andrea Grossenbacher
Fotos: Free Lens Photography, Alexandria (Kairo) 

Mobilizing Women for Change

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Tabassum Adnan and the ‘Da Khwendo Jirga’

“We’re fed up with male-only Jirgas which decide in favour of men and sacrifice women for their own mistakes,” says Tabassum Adnan. She is known as the Khwedo Jirge Mashra – leader of the first ever Women Jirga in Pakistan.

The Jirga is a community assembly that functions as part of an unofficial Pashtun justice system, which settles local conflicts and grievances. It is traditionally made up of men. Often, decisions are made against women – without their consent or presence. Most cases involving murder, for example, are settled by giving a girl or woman of the perpetrators family in marriage to an elder member of the victim’s clan or family. In such a situation a girl is not asked her opinion. In other words, she pays the price for a crime she never committed. This is where the efforts of Tabassum Adnan come in.

“The Women Jirga evolved as a necessity due to the continuous violence against women in Pashtun society”, she says.  Tabassum has vowed to fight back, hereby challenging the norms of Pashtun culture. In January 2013 she formed a group by the name of Da Khwendo Jirga (The Sisters Council) with the purpose of raising the voice of voiceless women in Pashtun society. Tabassum herself suffered great hardships in her marital life. At the age of 13 she was married to a man who was 30 years older than her. At the age of 20 she was mother of three kids. She had to obey a person whom she didn’t want to live with and was tortured physically and mentally every now and then.

“We simply can’t leave women at the mercy of the male Jirga”, says Tabassum. She first asked to join the main Aman Jirga to ensure justice for women, but the men refused. “So, we have formed our own Jirga now and we will decide on cases involving women”. Tabassum and her Jirga are striving to fight injustices and stop heinous crimes against women and girls in the Swat valley. 25 female members are committed to the Women Jirga. These women make decisions based on mutual understanding and consensus. Lack of awareness about laws is a problem in the region. Tabassum explains that there are many pro-women-laws, but due to the common lack of knowledge of their existence, most women don’t know where to get justice from. The Da Khwendo Jirga  defends women’s rights by supporting innocent girls and women in legal matters.

Tabassum conducts bi-weekly sessions of the Jirga. She and the other members visit different villages and inform women about their rightful place in the society. Through these encounters, the women become acquaintant with the female Jirga. “Though they don’t directly coordinate with us, out of fear of the men near them, many have contacted the Women’s Jirga indirectly, asking for support, and many have shown willingness to become members of the Jirga. Those women who’s cases have been resolved with the support of the Jirga have joined us and we are increasing in number”, says Tabassum.

The Da Khwendo Jirga has some very vocal and influential female personalities who use their communication skills and knowledge about laws to pressurize the police and district administration.With the support of a local NGO called ‘The Awakening’ their protests in front of police stations and government offices are being heard.

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Here are two examples of cases that the Khwendo Jirga has dealt with:

In Swat valley a girl was brutally murdered by her father-in-law and her husband, both of whom were accusing her of having committed adultery. Through the pressure exerted by the Women’s Jirga – who legally assisted the family of the murdered girl – the men were not only caught but prosecuted and sentenced to death. Tabassum’s efforts in this case were recognized by the male Jirga and she was invited to be a part of it.This marks a milestone in the history of Pashtun culture.

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Most recently Tabassum raised her voice again for 17-year-old Shahida Bibi.  The young woman’s husband, a policeman by profession, chopped off her nose for ‘honour’ on May 11, 2014 and then kept her locked in a room of his home for almost 20 days. Tabassum and the Khwendo Jirga strongly condemned the cruel act, stating that torturing a housewife is totally unlawful and unacceptable in every society. Shahida was wedded when she was only 7 years old. “I met her at the hospital,” Tabassum said,adding that marks on her body revealed that she was brutally tortured by her husband.  She demanded that the government take a stern action on this issue and propose a proper law for girls’ marriage.

To strengthen her cause, Tabassum works with youth, inspiring them to come forward and make way for their sisters, mothers and daughters: “so that all women of the society could enjoy freedom”. She attends meetings with women and makes use of media to raise awareness about women’s rights.  Thanks to her, women in Swat valley have actually gone to the streets to protest about injustices reaching from electricity shortages to child rape. In other words, Tabassum encourages women to get involved, to participate and to fight for their rights – she mobilizes women for change.Tabassum2

Authors: Tabassum Adnan, Da Khwendo Jirga and Andrea Grossenbacher, PWAG 

“Feminism empowered me at the table of peace negotiations”

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Interview with Luz Mendez, Guatemala PeaceWoman and Peace Negotiator during the civil war.

PeaceWoman Luz Mendez

Was it a long way from guerilla to peace negotiator?

I took part in the peace negotiations in Guatemala from 1991 to 1996, as a member of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG), a coalition of four revolutionary organizations with a common program for social, economical and political change. One of those organizations was the Communist Party, which I was part of. Not all the members of URNG were in the mountains; some others were in the political and the international fields. So I was not a guerrilla. I took part in the political and international activities.

My way began as a teenager, when I was 15 years old, advocating for students’ rights at my high school. Guatemala had been ruled by military dictators for a long time, with the exception of only 10 years. That meant to live under extreme political repression and lack of liberties, besides the huge social and economic inequalities.

When I entered the School of Economics at the national university, I got involved in the students movement and became the Secretary of International Affairs of the Association of University Students. Then I became a member of the Communist Party, which was outlawed in 1954. I became involved because I thought we needed to create a stronger political force for a revolutionary change. It was really hard to go underground. I had to change my name and houses very often. I was already married and had two small children.

By the time the negotiations began, I had been involved in the struggles for social and political changes for 20 years already. A new stage of my life began when I joined the negotiations team.

In 1982 the four organizations got together to form the URNG, and some years later, after more than 25 years of war, the URNG decided to look for a political solution to the war. A period of dialogue between the URNG and leaders of the civil society – trade unions, peasants, indigenous people, academics, and churches – led by the National Commission of Reconciliation, paved the way for the formal negotiations, which began in 1991. The delegation of the URNG to the peace table was made of the four main leaders, the Political-Diplomatic Team, and two lawyers. I was appointed to the Diplomatic Team. All together we were 10 people but I was the only woman.

What were for you the most emotional and difficult moments during the negotiations?

In the first night before the negotiations began, the moderator of the peace talks invited the members of the government and the URNG to an informal meeting in order to meet each other. The governmental delegation consisted of 10 men, including four army generals. You have to know that I lost my best friend, my uncle, and many very close colleagues during the times of the repression, when many people died in horrible ways. And to be there and shake hands and look into the eyes of the responsibles was a very hard moment for me. The massacres, the murders, and extrajudicial executions of so many loved people came to my mind. They gave me a glass of wine and I could not drink it. When we left the place, I felt something in my throat. I am sure my colleagues had also strong emotions, but we never spoke about that. Men usually do not talk about their feelings.

Being a woman in that male-dominated atmosphere for such a long time was a big challenge. Since the beginning I realized that actually I was not seen as equal, even by my own comrades. I kept wondering why, without being able to find a reasonable answer. That answer came two years later, when I became a member of the National Union of Guatemalan Women (UNAMG), which had a branch in Mexico – where the main part of the peace talks took place. I began to study feminism and since then have been a feminist. That allowed me to understand that what I was experiencing at the peace negotiations was the result of the patriarchal system, which is embedded in all the ideologies and political affiliations. That knowledge and commitment to feminism were strong tools for my own empowerment at the peace table. That was also a turning point in my life.

Halfway through the negotiations, a change in the format of the peace talks was introduced, opening a space for the participation of a variety of organizations through the creation of the Assembly of Civil Society. The women’s groups were able to influence the discussions of the Assembly. The Assembly’s documents, which came to the formal table as recommendations, brought the proposals of the women organizations. That was a great moment for me.

Through the women’s proposal from the civil society I could feel their presence, even though they were absent from the peace table. As my colleagues and I worked in order to integrate some of the civil society points into the URNG’s proposals to the table, that created an opportunity for me to include as much as possible of the women’s recommendations. For getting that, first I addressed my own colleagues in internal meetings, then the moderator, and, in some cases, I could address the governmental delegates through plenary meetings. Several negotiators initially were reluctant to accept that specific commitments in favour of women, such as the penalization of sexual harassment or the creation of an office for the defense of the indigenous women, to be included in the peace accords. They said they had never seen such types of issues included in peace agreements.

Another very emotional moment for me took place when we discussed the rights of indigenous people, one of the topics of the peace agenda. During the last round of negotiations I spoke in the plenary meeting to defend the content of the women’s chapter to be included in the accord. I had to provide convincing and strategic arguments. I spoke passionately. At the end, the government accepted the whole proposal. When we were leaving the meeting room, the head of the UN delegation, a Brazilian man, for the first time, congratulated me for my participation in the talks.

A remarkable experience was my participation in the NGO Forum during the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. For me it was the first time I attended an international women’s meeting. Being there with more than 30,000 women, seeing the Platform of Action addressing women’s right to be part of peace negotiations. Wow! That was another source of empowerment for my participation in the peace negotiations. When I flew from Beijing to Mexico to take part in a round of negotiations addressing the socio-economic topic of the peace agenda, I was feeling the strength of the international women’s movement!

What changes are possible when women are sitting at the peace table?

After almost six years of negotiations, the final peace accord was signed in December of 1996, putting an end to 36 years of armed conflict. The Guatemalan Peace Accords are well known because of their bold gender approach. Women’s economic, political, and social rights were included in majority of the accords. This is the result of the direct participation of women, strengthened with gender awareness, at both the Assembly of Civil Society and the peace table even though deeply under-represented in this last space.

Although the peace accords have been weakly implemented, the negotiating process and the accords were a remarkable ground for women’s empowerment, and nothing or nobody can take this away from us. This empowerment has been pivotal in the current struggles undertaken by the women’s movement to tackle the high levels of violence against women, as well as looking for justice for gender crimes, especially sexual violence against women, during the war.

Interview: Gaby Vermot, Co-President of PWAG, and Ute Scheub, PWAG Coordinator for Western Europe.

Interview with Yasmine Arafa, social activist and PWAG coordinator in Egypt

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Dear Yasmine, you live and work in Alexandria, Egypt. Now you spent a week in Bern, Switzerland (editorial note: from 3 to 13 June). What are the most striking differences between the life of a young woman here and there?

I have travelled before, so I wasn’t that shocked by the differences in lifestyle and other things. What really stroke me was that there seem to be disparities between the level of salaries for women and men. In Egypt, we are confronted with a lot of problems related to gender inequalities, but we do not have this problem.IMG_8759_blog

What stroke me positively was that people care for their natural surroundings. Rivers and other natural resources are very clean. In my country, people do not care much for the rivers, they do not keep it clean, even though it is a very important source of water.

Are women in your country well integrated in professional life or rather marginalized from it?

In the private sector, women are in a good position. But in politics, they are excluded from decision making positions. Until now, governors have not been appointing women into high ranking positions. And we have never had a female governor. Our new Constitution passed in January stipulates that women have the right to hold a high ranking position. Still, only 4 ministers out of 34 are female. But in Egypt, this is considered to be a high share!

DIALOGUE FORA AND WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION

Since 2012 you are the coordinator of the PWAG Dialogue Fora. Please tell us something about the objectives of this project!

We use this approach to generate a positive change on a societal level as our society is very fragmented. People speak to each other, but they don’t listen to each other. In the Dialogue Fora, we emphasize on the importance of listening to others, also because we want to strengthen the women’s movement. In Egypt, there are women’s organizations, but up to now they have not shared their experiences among themselves. Our aim with the Dialogue Fora is to push this exchange and the networking between the women. We invited men and women from different spheres and with the help of our local partners in the regions we managed to have some people on the dialogue tables who really have an influence in the different sectors and regions.

What are the principle obstacles for women’s participation in Egypt?

Our biggest problem is that we have a huge gap between laws and their implementation. As I have mentioned before, we have a law that gives women the right to participate in politics. We also have a law that condemns sexual violence. But these laws have not been implemented, therefore they have not been effective. The society has given women a certain space for political participation and has encouraged them to become voters, but not necessarily to be candidates.

Since this project has been initiated two fora have taken place. The first and larger one took place in 2012 in Alexandria and the latest in March this year in Luxor. What have your experiences with the Dialogue methodology been so far?

Our experiences have been very positive. I definitely think that Dialogue is an appropriate tool to come up with solutions in the current political transformation process. People do not like to be imposed solutions, they prefer to elaborate their own proposals. And the Dialogue Forum is an ideal platform to work together on solutions which are endorsed by all the participants. In addition, we learnt that it is very important to go to the regions because every region faces its own challenges. Another key element for success is to include influential people as well as grass root women activists.

How do you ensure that the participants of the Dialogue Fora continue to work on the proposed approaches when they go back to their regions?

Follow up and continuity are very important elements for the sustainability of tIMG_8750_bloghe process. During the forum we ask the participants some very concrete questions, for example: “What will you do to foster political participation of women when you go back to your local context?” We do not ask for a huge effort, just something that the participant thinks is important and that is manageable considering his or her resources. In the last regional forum, we built two working groups, one for Luxor and one for Aswan. From the feedbacks I’ve received I know that they are already implementing some of the proposals they elaborated at the Forum. In addition, after having had a couple of other regional fora, we plan to have another national Dialogue Forum where the regional group leaders will report on the processes they experienced on the ground.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

You are also an activist against violence against women. Especially during and after the manifestations in Cairo, we heard and read a lot about harassment of women in the streets. Is violence a part of the daily life of most of the Egyptian women or are these just single incidents?

Egypt is a country with a large population and it is a fact that a lot of sexual harassment happens in the streets. Especially women who use public transportation and walk in crowds are exposed to many risks. Even though there are different forms and stages of sexual violence, one of the greatest problems is that sexual harassment is socially accepted. When a woman is being harassed in a public space, people do not interfere, they sometimes even blame the woman, for example when she tries to defend herself. In most cases, the victim does not report the incident because there is a culture of blaming the victim.

In 2010, the project “Harass Map” was launched with the aim of curbing violence against women. You joined this initiative as a voluntary coordinator. Please tell us more about it!

Harass Map was the first initiative that dealt with the problem of sexual harassment in public spaces. And it really had an impact! Thanks to our initiative as well as the hard work of many other initiatives and volunteers a new law which defines and punishes sexual harassment has been passed in May this year. And it is no longer such a strong taboo as it used to be, people get involved and talk about the topic. Harassmap has active volunteer groups in 17 cities in Egypt which sensitize people on the ground.

Do you think that the new government will be more willing to curb violence against women?

Our new President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has publicly condemned violence against women. He apologized to all the women of Egypt who have been victim of sexual violence and visited a woman who has faced brutal sexual assault during the street celebrations of the electoral victory. But until now, his support has only been in his speeches. We have to wait and see if he is really committed to women’s rights.

Interview by Lisa Salza, PWAG Communications Manager

«Frauen sichern den Frieden»

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Launch Global Campaign with Irene Santiago and Ruth-Gaby VermotMit einer feierlichen Zeremonie in Anwesenheit von etwa 150 Gästen startete am Donnerstag in London auf dem von der britischen Regierung ausgerichteten Gipfel gegen sexualisierte Kriegsgewalt eine Globale Kampagne zu Frauen, Frieden und Sicherheit. Die philippinische Initiatorin und FriedensFrau Irene Santiago hatte 1995 das zivilgesellschaftliche Forum auf der UN-Frauenkonferenz in Peking geleitet und brachte von dort ein Tischtuch mit, das sie auf einem symbolischen Friedenstisch auf einer Bühne der Messehalle ausbreitete. Die Teilnehmenden der Zeremonie, darunter Ruth-Gaby Vermot als Präsidentin von PWAG, die liberianische Friedensnobelpreisträgerin Leymah Gbowee und WILPF-Generalsekretärin Madeleine Rees, legten Stoffparolen auf dem Tisch ab, die die Beiträge von Frauen an Friedenstischen symbolisierten: Transformation, Mitgefühl, Empowerment, Versöhnung und Gerechtigkeit. Ein Video brachte die Kampagne auf den Punkt: «Frauen sichern den Frieden».

Die Globale Kampagne soll 16 Monate dauern und im Oktober 2015 enden, wenn in der UNO der 15. Jahrestag von Sicherheitsratsresolution 1325 gefeiert wird, die die gleichberechtigte Teilnahme von Frauen auf allen Ebenen von Friedensprozessen fordert. Ihre bisherigen Resultate sind mangels politischem Willen der UN und ihrer Mitgliedsstaaten allerdings mager, worauf auch Gaby Vermot in ihrer kurzen Ansprache hinwies. Immer wieder wird in Verhandlungen die Resolution und die Einbeziehung von Frauen und Zivilgesellschaft „vergessen“. Das führt dazu, dass sich männliche Kriegstreiber unversöhnlich gegenüber sitzen und Friedensgespräche scheitern – wie zuletzt die Genfer Verhandlungen zu Syrien.

Dieser traurige Umstand soll durch die Globale Kampagne endlich zum Besseren gewendet werden. Das Jahr 2015 bietet dafür gute Anlässe, werden doch zusammen mit dem 15. Jahrestag von Resolution 1325 noch weitere Jubiläen gefeiert: Die Internationale Frauenliga für Frieden und Freiheit (IFFF bzw. WILPF) wird 100 Jahre alt, die Pekinger Frauenkonferenz 20 Jahre und PWAG 10 Jahre. Zahlreiche Organisationen wollen in der Kampagne zusammenarbeiten, um einen politischen Durchbruch zu erreichen. Auf zentralen Plätzen in möglichst vielen Orten der Welt sollen im Laufe des Jahres 2015 symbolische Friedenstische mit Frauen unterschiedlicher Herkunft, Religionen und Kulturen aufgestellt und Friedensabkommen erarbeitet werden.

Das philippinische Team von Initiatorin Irene Santiago hat dafür unter dem Namen «Women Seriously» eine Website und Facebook-Seite eingerichtet: www.womenseriously.org.

Autorin: Ute Scheub, PWAG-Koordinatorin für Westeuropa

Exposición “1000 Mujeres de Paz en el Mundo” por primera vez en Paraguay

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Mujer de Paz María de Pilar CallizoEl 3 de junio en la Bolsa de Comercio y Seguros de Paraguay se inauguró la Exposición “1000 Mujeres de Paz en el Mundo”, la cual permaneció abierta al público hasta el día 6 de junio.

El evento fue organizado por la Mujer de Paz, María del Pilar Callizo (véase foto a la derecha), la Oficina Regional para América Latina y el Caribe de Mujeres de Paz en el Mundo, con el apoyo de la Asociación Paraguaya de Empresarias, Ejecutivas y Profesionales (APEP) y del Tribunal Ético contra la Impunidad.

La inauguración del acto estuvo a cargo de la Dra. Callizo, quien dio la bienvenida a los/as asistentes y destacó la importancia de la Exposición en la República del Paraguay, manifestando que la misma es un valioso testimonio de paz.

A continuación la Coordinadora Regional de Mujeres de Paz en el Mundo (PWAG – PeaceWomen Across the Globe), María Julia Moreyra, se refirió a la histórica nominación de las 1000 mujeres, al surgimiento de PWAG y la importancia de la Exposición. De igual modo, destacó a las cuatro mujeres paraguayas que integraron la nómina: María del Pilar Callizo, Nilda Estigarribia, María Noguera y Maggiorina Balbuena. Dos se ellas estuvieron presentes: Nilda Estigarribia y María del Pilar Callizo, quienes relataron sus experiencias y sentimientos ante la nominación al Premio Nobel de la Paz.

Acto seguido, la Sra. Ileana La Rosa de Venezuela y representante de Aliadas se refirió a su organización (la cual cuenta con 8 años de trayectoria), sus objetivos, la promoción del desarrollo con inclusión social, los problemas que enfrentan las mujeres en su país, tales como la pobreza, la precariedad en los servicios de salud y la propuesta de empoderamiento a las mujeres a través de la tecnología.

Posteriormente hizo uso de la palabra la Sra. Ana María Ortiz, presidenta de APEP, institución creada en 1991 y que tiene presencia en todo el país. Bregan por la paz y manifiestan que las estrategias de negocios van respondiendo a la evolución del tema género. Asimismo, desde la asociación promueven la incorporación activa de la mujer.

Luego de la disertación de la Sra. Ortiz, la Coordinadora Regional, María Julia Moreyra, hizo referencia a los principales postulados de la Resolución 1325 “Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad”, a la Exposición “Sin Mujeres no hay Paz” (se proyectó la versión digital de la misma) y a la importancia de la implementación a nivel nacional de la mencionada Resolución.

El Sr. Antonio Palazón, Presidente del Tribunal Ético contra la Impunidad, y la Señorita Ana Karina García de Venezuela, la cual expuso sobre la situación que se está viviendo actualmente en su país, completaron la nómina de expositores/as.

Autora: María Julia Moreyra, Coordinadora Regional para América Latina y el Caribe de Mujeres de Paz en el Mundo.