Protests in Armenia against changes in Maternity Leave Law

Activists and other members from civic society gathered this week outside of the Armenian parliament to protest against the suggested changes in the Law on Temporary Unemployability Benefits which regulates pre- and post-natal maternity leave pays in Armenia.
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As of today the law guarantees an equivalent of the average monthly salary for women on maternity leave during 140 days but the government-proposed plan wants to calculate the salary based on the length of service in the most recent job, leading working mothers who stayed less than a year at the same employer to get only 40% of her normal salary during her maternity leave. Women who have been with the same employer for 3-5 years would get 60% and starting from 5 years mothers would receive 80% of their normal salary. The government states that the money it would get from introducing this reform will be used to ensure that some money is given also to unemployed mothers.
The protest last week and yesterday gathered a larger number of protester than usually take part in activities concerning women’s rights in Armenia which can be seen as proof that this is something upsetting a larger part of civic society here. Knarik Mkrtchan activist from Women’s Resource Center Armenia comments “Not only women, but also other members of the family will suffer because of this law, since the budget of the family will be cut.”

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Activists and women’s rights defenders in Armenia supports the suggestion to also provide unemployed mothers with funds during their maternity but strongly oppose that this money should be provided by cuts in the pre- and post-natal maternity leave pays for working mothers. They also strongly critique the part of the proposed reform which requires calculating the salary based on the length of service in the most recent job since this would hinder women’s carrier possibilities as they would need to take this under consideration when offered a new job.
Knarik Mkrtchan, again: “The adoption of the law will cause extra discrimination against women while applying for a job.”

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Poster from ArtAct

End the Silence on Domestic Violence

 

The sun is shining from a clear blue sky over my new, beautiful hometown Tbilisi, and I can see green palm trees through the open window in my office. It´s the end of October and I know from the news I watch every morning that Sweden is cold, rainy and grey as usual this time of the year, so I have no home-sickness what so ever. I have spent almost two months in this fascinating country of Georgia, and I feel very fortunate for having this opportunity to get to know a part of Caucasus.

Working with Nia

Working with Nia, the Project assistant at AVNG

My name is Gabi, and I study Social work and Social Science at the university of Lund in Sweden. Right now I am doing my Internship at the Anti-Violence Network of Georgia, an NGO that has been working mainly against Domestic Violence since 2003. There is a lot to be done on women´s issues and women´s rights, in a patriarchal society structure many women are still regarded as property, and when a man is abusing his wife it is considered a “family issue” that authorities shouldn´t interfere with. Domestic Violence was criminalized by law in 2012 in Georgia, but still the problems remain since the law is not implemented properly.

Demonstration

Women have been shoved into the kitchen, but we will not be silenced!

As a reaction on the killing of a university lecturer by her former husband last weekend, a spontaneous manifestation was called for over Facebook, and tuesday at lunchtime more than a hundred women – and quite a few men as well – gathered outside a governmental building close to Liberty Square in Tbilisi to protest. The people that gathered brought kitchen utensils, and with blindfolded eyes and covered mouths they started pounding on pots and pans. The message was: The women have been shoved into the kitchens, but you cannot silence us! Nobody was giving a speech, nothing was said in words but the action spoke for itself.

Tamara demontrates

Tamara would like the female politicians in the parliament to stand up for the georgian women.

A young student I was talking to there, Tamara, said that she was disappointed that none of the few women in the government had stood up and condemned this latest act of domestic violence. On the contrary, the female minister of justice said in a statement that “the crime rate in Georgia has not increased, it´s only men´s violence against women that has increased”. She might not have thought this comment through properly, since it came across like men´s violence against women is not a crime, and a lot of people were upset by this statement.

Pots and pans

Ending the silence with pots and pans, together with my collegue Salome

Since this was first written, the minister of justice has made a new statement, saying that the amendments in the law will not be enough to adequately address the problem, as mentalities towards women also need to change. I believe she is abolutely right,  a change of attitudes is really needed in many different levels, to improve the women´s situation here. I am grateful for this chance to be a part of the work AVNG is doing in Georgia for a period of time.

“Now we fight openly because of the statements police made”

armenianpolice-05An event which occurred earlier this year where a female activist participating in a demonstration in Yerevan was involuntarily kissed by a serving officer was recently addressed at a meeting about the safety of human rights defenders in Armenia. A higher ranked police officer attending the meeting upset activists when he stated there was no way of telling whether the woman liked the kiss or not.
In the photage from the event you can see the activist being drawn away from the action and, while restrained from behind by the unknown police officer, she gets kissed in the neck.  Something which Shushan Petrosyan, a member of parliament at the time commented by asking if there is anything bad in kissing?

This can also be seen in the light of a victim blaming statement about women’s safety in public recently announced by the Armenian Police. Among the recommendations of how to act and dress in order to avoid violence in public is the advice to not walk alone and only make dates in crowded illuminated places wearing clothes that wouldn’t limit you movements or “attract wild fanatic’s attention”. The police even go into details concerning hair styles and jewellery and tell women to distrust unknown men. Talk about using a rhetoric which both risk scaring women to stay at home and which tells society that how women dress and behave is the explanation behind violence and harassment towards them.

Elvira Melisetyan from Women’s Resource centre comments on the event both stating that it is in line with what women have faced when reporting sexual violations to the police before and that it gives activist a position where they can openly target the victim-blaiming culture within the Armenian police: “I will dare to say we were not surprised finding the statement of police, because we face the consequences of their main way of thinking in our daily work regarding Sexual violence prevention in our community. Several women have reported the main approach of police there in the police station. Police has just legitimized their approach towards these kind of situations. If previously we were fighting against this on a grass-root level, trying to raise awareness on the particular cases where police used victim-blaming while investigating, now we fight openly because of the statements police made officially. This is a good sign for us on the way to strategy planning for fighting against sexual violence, now we can face police openly with our statements and demands. No doubt that this statement enlarges the risk of having more cases of SV, as now the abuser has some more ”approved explanations” for their actions. This makes us be more attentive and more proactive according to elimination of sexual violence in our community because Police officially showed they are not for a victim and not with a victim in this ”fight”.

Directly after the statement was made official independent activist posted images of them self with texts like “Don’t tell me what to wear. Tell them not to rape.”
ArtAct group decided to dedicate an entire album of posters to addressing the stupidity of the police using a mixture of humour, facts and attack.

The messages exist in both an English and Armenian version if you visit the Art<3Activism Facebook page.

When will justice come to Gaza?

Women and children in Gaza waiting for reconstruction of their homes. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Magnea Marinosdottir.

Women and children in Gaza are waiting for the reconstruction of their homes.

These women were sitting in the shade in front of demolished buildings. Not only have they lost their homes, they have also lost their livelihoods – the goats and the bees. They used to produce milk, cheese and meat, and their honey was the best they claim. They were managing fine. Now all is gone.

During the day, they sit in the shade in front of the ruins waiting for justice to arrive, the reconstruction of their homes and livelihoods. The international community did not (manage to) prevent the “collateral damage”, including bombing of homes, factories, mosques, and death of civilians. The international community is paying the bill…again. The donor conference in Cairo last Sunday was claimed to be a success. The funding exceeded the pledge made.

This week, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, visited Gaza. He said the destruction was beyond description. I agree. The Network of Palestinian NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) is calling for the establishment of a national committee, including women human rights organisations, to ensure inclusiveness and transparency during the reconstruction phase. The question is if the allocation of these funds will be accountable to women’s rights and gender equality and even include affirmative action to ensure such accountability? The future of the baby girl in the photo – born on the first day of the military offensive in Gaza, 7th of July – and of the women and their children will depend on the answer to that question.

A young girl walks beside the rubble of destroyed buildings. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Magnea Marinosdottir.

A young girl walks beside the rubble of destroyed buildings.

Yes We Can – Women in Kosovo bring Change!

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- What comes out of support to local women’s organisations? What difference does it make?

At times I am faced with these questions as a Kvinna till Kvinna co-worker. The questions arise in conversations with my neighbors, friends, colleagues or in meetings with donors.  Recently I was strengthened in my ability to give clear answers to these questions.

Under a blue and sunny sky in Montenegro Kvinna till Kvinna invited partner organisations in Kosovo to network and share their achievement stories. The million dollar question was: what change has been promoted by women’s organisations in Kosovo over the last few years?

After intense and creative group work several achievement stories were shared. It was clear that great change has happened with important contribution from women and their mobilisation. Allow me to present the top-five achievement list for Kosovo:

  • More women in local decision making
  • Better support to women subjected to domestic violence
  • Legal reform insuring justice and financial support to women subjected to conflict related sexual violence
  • Breaking the isolation of marginalized women
  • Re-claiming the concept of Feminism to promote women’s rights

Having this said, we need also to acknowledge that achievements do not come for free. “Great achievements takes sacrifice”, as Vetone Veliu from Mitrovica Women’s Association for Human Rights, phrased it during the meeting.

Vetone Veliu, Mitrovica Women's Association for Human Rights

Vetone Veliu, Mitrovica Women’s Association for Human Rights

So, dear neighbours, friends, colleagues and donors. You are all welcome to fire away with your questions. I have fresh and solid arguments for how women in Kosovo bring change and why support to local women’s organisations and their collaboration is crucial as we move forward.

Text: Anna Sundén, Coordinator for Kosovo

Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Laura Katona

 

Hellre än ett fredspris

Säkerhetsträning för irakiska och kurdiska kvinnorättsaktivister

Kvinnorättsaktivister från Irak och irakiska Kurdistan genomgår just nu en fyra dagar lång säkerhetsträning i Istanbul. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/Karin Råghall

Om jag hade haft högre tankar om Nobels fredspris (kommer aldrig kunna smälta det där med EU), så hade jag velat dela ut det till de 19 kvinnorättsaktivister från olika delar av Irak och Kurdistan – Dohuk, Sulemania, Halabja, Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Moqtadiya, Bagdad, Basra och Najaf – jag träffat de senaste dagarna. De är kurder, yezidier, kristna assyrier, kakai, shia och sunni. De kämpar för fred och mänskliga rättigheter.

Jag möter dem under en säkerhetsträning, som Kvinna till Kvinna ordnar för våra samarbetsorganisationer. Det är just den bristande säkerheten i Irak som gör att vi alla ses i Istanbul. Jag har hört frasen ”säkerhetssituationen försämras i Irak” hundra gånger men har i ärlighetens namn ofta haft svårt att ta till mig vad det innebär.

Med 19 kvinnorättsförsvarare samt tre kollegor från Irak och irakiska Kurdistan omkring sig blir det plötsligt tydligare. Under en bensträckare ursäktar sig en av deltagarna efter att ha läst ett sms från sin släkting, som meddelar att ytterligare två kvinnor i trakten har dött.

”Jag behöver gå ut och ringa lite”, säger han bara, som om detta hände var och varannan dag. Vilket det ju gör.

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