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.

Georgian police learns about domestic violence

Police Academy 2

Aspirants at Police Academy in Tbilisi

A few weeks ago I attended a training for police officers at the police Academy in Tbilisi, together with swedish journalist Maja Aase. The training was arranged by Anti-Violence Network of Georgia and the topic was Domestic Violence; what are the signs and how to handle it. Some twenty young men and a couple of women were listening to psychologists Manana Sologashvili and Elene Samushia as they described the different forms of domestic violence, the psychotypes of victims and perpetrators and the role of the police in DV-cases.

According to statistics, every third woman has experienced domestic violence in Georgia, and so far this year 23 women have died as a result of it. However, 78 % of the population hold the view that domestic violence is a family matter that should not be discussed publically.  Almost 30% of the abused women never apply for any kind of help due to fear or shame. The young police aspirants had a hard time to believe these facts, and some of them thought the numbers must be exaggerated. Unfortunately they are not.

Police Academy 1

Sharing experiences of our countries

One of the hardest things to understand is why the victim stays with her abuser, and that question also caused a lot of discussions among the students, who had several different suggestions . However, the women don´t always realize they are victims. Usually it starts with psychological abuse, and the victims are gradually being robbed of their self esteem and isolated from their net work. In this state it is very difficult to break up, especially if there is no support and no other place to go.

There were also a lot of different opinions on the cause of violence. According to research in Scandinavia, where I study Social Work and Social Science, violence is a reaction on feeling powerless, and to stop it we have to understand the background and reasons for violence. That was pretty much what was presented at the training, in the picture of the “Wheel of Violence” power and control was placed in the middle, as the main cause.

Police Academy 3

Discussions with chief of police

At the end of the training we were asked about the situation in Sweden on Domestic Violence. We have a population of almost 10 million people, compared to Georgia´s 4,5 million. In average there are 30 000 reports on violence against women every year, 45% of these are carried out within the seclusion of the home, by a person close to the woman. About 17 cases each year have a deadly outcome, so there is a lot to be done on this matter in our country as well, which surprised the georgian police aspirants. Let´s combine our strengths and experiences and work on this together, so women can feel safe in their homes everywhere.

Gabriella Erixon, student of Social Work and Social Science at the University of Lund, Sweden and intern at the Anti- Violence Network of Georgia

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.


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!


- 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