No Europe without women’s human rights

Advocacy trip to Brussels. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna

Recently, 14 women’s rights activists from the Balkans, together with Kvinna till Kvinna staff, visited Brussels to advocate for women’s human rights. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna

Violence against women and lack of justice for battered women is still a huge problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  At the same time, the country aims to be part in the EU. Sometime in the future. It is a golden opportunity for the EU to make demands and put pressure on the country to make a change for gender equality and women’s human rights! That is the message when women human rights defenders visit Brussels.

The new 2014 Bosnia and Herzegovina Progress Report*, recently published by the European Commission, was evaluated as the worst one so far. As expected, it reflects the lack of the collective political will by the government to implement reforms necessary for joining the EU.

Just like in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Commission keeps marginalizing issues concerning the protection of women’s human rights and gender equality, reducing them to a few general statements in the section of human rights. In dealing with other important topics, such as social policies, public health and trafficking in human beings, the report does not have a gender perspective at all.

In the beginning of November, a group of activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania had a chance to visit Brussels, thanks to support by Swedish foundation Kvinna till Kvinna. The activists meet with officials of EU institutions, talked to member states representatives to the European Union, visited the European Parliament and talked to members of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

I was part of this team of amazing women who have been cooperating for decades, without any political, national, ethnic or other obstacles. We are directly responsible for a series of successful peace building initiatives at both national and regional levels, and have contributed to the inclusion of women’s rights in laws, enhanced support to women and the increased visibility of women’s issues and problems.

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White Ribbon Campaign

November 25:th was the kick-off for the 16 day long campaign of activities to stop the domestic violence around the world, also called the “White Ribbon Campaign”. Here in Tbilisi we started out with a demonstration outside of the parliament building, and there was quite a big crowd gathered in the pouring rain and chilly weather.

Mother of women killed in DV

Mother of woman killed in domestic violence

Before the manifestation started all attention was turned to a woman dressed in black, holding the portrait of her daughter in her hands. She was crying and screaming, pouring out all her sorrow, pain and anger towards all the injustice experienced. Her daughter was one of all the women killed in

Leaving impressions

Leaving impressions

domestic violence here in Georgia, so far about 24 victims only this year. All the journalists and media was flocking around her, to capture her story. I was standing nearby, and of course, I didn´t understand one word of what she said, since I don´t speak any georgian, but that kind of feelings don´t need any interpretation, they are quite obvious.

Signing petition

Signing petition

Speaches were held by several well known profiles in Georgia, people were signing petitions and dipping their hands in finger paint to leave their hand impressions on a big white board, in solidarity with all the suffering women in this country. The handprints were dissolving slowly in the rain, but I really hope that the resolutions to stop the silence on the domestic violence in Georgia will not melt away like that. The sight of the desperately crying mother has certainly left a lasting impression on my heart.

Later that day I participated in a high level meeting arranged by the UN Women, with representatives from the georgian government present, as well as ambassadors from both the US and Swedish embassies. A lot was said about how gender equality is the number one condition to end the domestic violence, when men start to see women as equal human beings they can no longer treat them as their property. For this reason men worldwide  are also being engaged in the “He for She Campaign”, a solidarity movement to get men and boys to take responsibility to eliminate discrimination against girls and women.

White Ribbon Campaign started

White Ribbon Campaign started

The US ambassador shared some depressing statistics on domestic violence: From all the women that were killed worldwide during 2012, half of them were killed by somebody close to them. This is not acceptable, nor in Georgia or anywhere else in the world. But steps are being taken forward, to change this situation, and women will not keep quiet until they get to share the human rights that belong to all humanity.