Security, power and voice

Rose Ngendakumana, interpreter and Bitangalo Brigitte, RIO

Bitangalo Brigitte, RIO and Rose Ngendakumana during one of the sessions. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna, Susanne Rudehill

 

On the initiative of Kvinna till Kvinna women human rights defenders from different parts of eastern DR Congo recently gathered again in Burundi to develop and deepen strategies to stay safe and well in hostile environments. It was an opportunity for activists to reflect on their own situation and share ideas on how to keep going despite immense challenges. These women all take a great risk by working to defend human rights and peace in places where respect for human rights and peace are far from a reality.

“It starts with the eggs and ends with the property!” our facilitator concluded. One of the topics discussed during the meeting was the control over women in different spheres of society. From what girls are allowed or not allowed to eat to if women can own their own property and be economically independent. We asked ourselves: Am I free to make decisions about my own body? Who defines my daily routines? What are the power relations that affect my freedom and security? And how do we find ways to free ourselves from violating norms?

Security is not only about arms and safe streets. Security is also about my personal life, my health, my voice. The most important outcome of the meeting for Christine, one of the participants, was to find strategies how to dismantle oppressive structures in her own life, both privately and professionally. For Brigitte, another participating women’s rights activist, the meeting was an opportunity realize her own value, and to respect herself on different levels.

As women human rights defenders we need to find ways to support each other to keep going. Despite immense challenges.

 

Women’s human rights defenders meet to unite at times of crises and conflict in Iraq

The fall of Mosul occurred the day before a meeting of women’s rights defenders from Iraqi civil society and authorities in a hotel in the outskirts of Erbil. The participants were based in Bagdad, Kirkuk and various parts of the Kurdistan Region. They are part of a network of Iraqi women’s rights defenders and government officials who have participated in Kvinna till Kvinna-organized training courses on women, peace and security and UN Security Council resolution 1325, a landmark document that stresses the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the recent adoption of a national action plan by the governments in Baghdad and Erbil for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325. The action plan aims at, amongst other things, increasing participation of women in decision-making and abolishing or amending legislation that is discriminatory. It is the result of several years of sustained advocacy by Iraqi women’s rights activist. The national action plan was drawn up together with governmental stakeholders, and it is seen as a landmark for women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa region. However, having the plan agreed on and signed is just the beginning – to fully implement the plan over the next five year remains and is a big challenge for the ministries and authorities in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region as well as for their civil society partners.

However, the news of the fall of Mosul and the response by the federal government cast a dark shadow over the meeting. Many of the participants were worried about their loved ones, friends and colleagues. Some of them also feared the response of the Iraqi government to what happened, and what over-reactions would mean for all those organizations and individuals who work for peace and security across the country:

- The last speech from the prime minister is about mobilizing the people and the tribes to stand by the army, it’s about militarization, said Hasan Hadi, from the Iraqi Al-Amal Association. This will lead to destruction. Civil society and peace building can be ruined in just a few days, so now we are battling.

- We are very afraid of the future of the civil society, he continued. If there is a state of emergency, it will affect the civil society: we will not be able to meet or to gather, and there will also be effects on the media.

Participants stressed that is important to keep on pushing for a bigger role for women in conflict prevention and resolution, and the crucial role of civil society. Liza Hido from the Baghdad Women Association, one of the architects behind the national action plan and guest speaker at the meeting, called for increased collaboration:

- We need to cooperate and understand each other, we should be united as civil society says Liza Hido.

Meeting on Women, Peace and Security in Erbil 11 June

Some of the meeting participants discussing Women, Peace and Security, Erbil 11 June

Proud to be a woman – in Kosovo

Living in Kosovo entails in itself facing many difficulties on daily basis in all spheres of life, and as a woman, these life difficulties become even more apparent.

However there are days when all the life difficulties disappear, vanish from the face of earth and all what is left within is strong feelings of love, solidarity, accomplishment, inspiration … Today was one of these days. Not an ordinary day.  A day when something happens, and one feels moved. Today was one of the four days of the regional feminist festival “Femmes Fatales” in Prishtina organised by our partner organisation Artpolis, with participants from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia.

This festival has given me lots of emotions through performances, photo exhibitions, documentaries, poetry, music – all produced by women.

Courageous women who told their stories … their war … their dreams!

Women who enabled these stories to be heard … shedding light into women’s lives, women’s issues, women’s rights and building bridges of understanding, solidarity and friendship across ethnic, gender and other boundaries and YES, making a change!

Inspiring women who made me forget the difficulties … women who made me proud to be a kvinna in Kosovo, proud to have been working jointly with them  kvinna till kvinna (woman to woman).

Text and Photos: Yllka Soba/Kvinna till Kvinna – Field Office Kosovo

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Ana Ćurčin – ACT Women, Serbia.

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Photo exhibition on violence against women “You don’t kill a woman this way” by artists from Albania, Montenegro, Canada.

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Documentaries and launching of “Beyond HIStory” – Kosovo Oral History Initiative Website by Kosovo Women’s Network, Kosovo and New School University,US (www.oralhistorykosova.org)

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Presentations and discussions – Activism and Art in the Balkan region.