Maintaining Hope in Gaza

One of the strong women that continue keeping hope in Gaza. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/ Magnea Marinosdottir

One of the resilient women maintaining hope in Gaza. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/ Magnea Marinosdottir

She is standing outside under the blue sky with five of her kids in one of the neighbourhoods hardest hit in the war last summer. Compared to last time I was in Gaza four months ago, there are little signs of change: some piles of rubbles with rubble removal on-going, some piles of sand and gravel, and small groups of men working on reconstructing roads and infrastructure I assume. Yet very few are repairing their own apartments or houses.

She agrees to show me inside the 4-5 square meter space where she lives with her husband and the children.  The mattresses they sleep on are piled up by one wall while rest of their belongings are up against the other walls including a small gas stove where she cooks meals for the family.  The room they are living in is the only part of their house which was left standing after the war when they were forced to flee first to a hospital that was used as a shelter until it was bombed and then to a UNWRA school. They were offered to move into a container. Instead, they decided to move back to what is remaining of their home – one little room – hoping they can soon begin to rebuild their house.

Instead of moving to a container, the family decided to stay in what is left of their own home. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/ Magnea Marinosdottir

Instead of moving to a container, the family decided to stay in what is left of their own home. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/ Magnea Marinosdottir

They are still waiting for support. They get coupons to purchase food as they lost their livestock during the war and are not in a position to make any income to purchase a new one. Their situation is same or similar to the situation of many others who lost their home and livelihood during the war.

The spirit of this mother and her cheerful kids is something I hope they manage to maintain until they will receive the required assistance so they can have a future.

Inspiration och öppenhet trots skilda vardagar

Palestinska och svenska aktivisters möte i Nablus. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/ Matilda Reiderstedt

Palestinska och svenska aktivisters möte i Nablus. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/ Matilda Reiderstedt

Nu är vi här!

Efter flera månaders förberedelser hade vi igår en jätteintressant, spännande och viktig workshop i Nablus, Västbanken. Från Sverige deltog jag, Mira, Matilda och Karin från Kvinna till Kvinnas kontor i Sverige tillsammans med unga kvinnorättsaktivister från Västbanken, Gaza, Jerusalem. Det var första gången som dessa unga kvinnorättsaktivister samlades för en gemensam workshop och det kändes otroligt speciellt att få vara del av det.

Jag heter Erika och pluggar Politices Masterprogram i min hemstad Uppsala. Sedan tre år tillbaka är jag aktiv Kvinna till Kvinna-informatör i Stockholm och i Uppsala. Att genom denna resa få möjlighet att vara med och träffa några av de kvinnor som får stöd genom Kvinna till Kvinnas projekt känns jätteinspirerande!

Tillsammans diskuterade vi motgångar och framgångar för kvinnors rättigheter i Sverige, Jerusalem, Palestina och Gaza. Det som gjorde mig mest överraskad, och glad, var hur öppet vi kunde prata med varandra om kvinnors gemensamma utmaningar trots skilda vardagar.

Idag gjorde vi ett studiebesök hos unionen för taxitransport i Nablus. Några av aktivisterna har drivit ett projekt för att uppmana taxichaufförer att handikappanpassa sina bilar. Det har varit en lyckad kampanj och idag var hela gänget från gårdagens workshop med och märkte ut taxibilar med klisterlappar som säger att taxibilarna ska vara särskilt handikappanpassade. Projektets slogan ”My disability doesn´t limit my movement” stod på klisterlapparna.

Det är mycket som jag kommer att ta med mig efter dessa dagar och det känns fantastiskt att få se vad Kvinna till Kvinna bidrar med på plats genom sina projekt – Kampen för alla kvinnors rättigheter går vidare!

 Erika Leijon Flodin, 26 år, Uppsala

Gamla stan, Jerusalem

Unga kvinnor driver ett aktivitetscenter för kvinnor och barn i Gamla stan i Jerusalem; en stadsdel där palestinier utsätts för stor diskriminering och trakasserier av israelisk militär. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/Matilda Reiderstedt

While President Abbas is in Sweden…

During the bombings against Gaza in the summer of 2014, Kvinna till Kvinnas partner organisation Aisha decided to gather their staff for an integrated security and wellbeing training. They felt they needed to strengthen themselves in order to be able to continue helping others, and they used the IS method that they learnt from Kvinna till Kvinna.

During the bombings against Gaza in the summer of 2014, Kvinna till Kvinnas partner organisation Aisha decided to gather their staff for an integrated security and wellbeing training. They felt they needed to strengthen themselves in order to be able to continue helping others, and they used the IS method that they learnt from Kvinna till Kvinna.

I am on my way to Gaza, getting back to our office in Jerusalem by the end of the week. While I am away, the President of the occupied State of Palestine, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, is traveling to Sweden to meet with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Foreign Minister Wallström. The reason for this visit is the recognition of Palestine as a State by Sweden of 30 October 2014. The recognition followed steps taken by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) towards reinforcing its claim for statehood, most importantly its announcement to accede to 48 UN Conventions. The first step in the accession process was taken in April 2014 when the PNA became party to 12 fundamental human rights conventions including the bills of rights for women, namely the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW). The accession to CEDAW opens up a window of opportunity to revoke and reform laws and legal provisions discriminating against women and violating their rights. Upon Sweden’s recognition, the Swedish Foreign Minister stressed that Sweden wants “above all to defend democracy, human rights and the position of women in what’s going to be nation-building for Palestine from now on.“ Sweden has followed through on its recognition by increasing the support to development interventions by 50% from 2015-2019 compared to the previous period in an effort to underpin state-building in Palestine. The focus is not least on women‘s rights and Gaza where 51% of women, who have ever been in a marriage, report that they have been subjected to violence in their intimate relationships (UN Women Statistics). In another survey on protection needs in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, 2nd from the top, is domestic violence in Gaza.

I am on my way to Gaza to meet and discuss with our partners and support them in their important and much needed work. One partner organisation is developing a programme (funded by Sida) to tackle violence against women/girls, also engaging men/boys in that process. Another partner organisation together with a partner in the West Bank are working on a programme to support bereaved women in the Gaza strip: women who have suffered various kinds of losses due to the siege and the Gaza wars in 2008-2009, 2012 and the most devastating one in terms of the death toll and the damage done to homes and industries in the summer of 2014. These programmes will complement what we are supporting already, namely provision of legal aid to and representation of women in sharia courts; empowerment programs for victims of violence and other vulnerable women; rights of women with disabilities in the West Bank and Gaza; and research and interventions pertaining to the practice and risk of early marriages.

The situation in Gaza makes me sad. At the same time, I always feel inspired after talking to our partners in Gaza whose resilience and spirit I admire. The same goes for our partners in the West Bank. If these women would be in positions of formal power there would not be any problems!

Continue reading

Småkakors betydelse för fredsbyggande

”Så vad är ditt förslag? Att inte göra något alls?!” Det är en vanlig reaktion när jag argumenterar mot en militär intervention eller att vi alldeles för snabbt använder våld som verktyg. De senaste dagarna har jag spenderat med fantastiska tränare från flera konfliktdrabbade områden som har visat mig att det finns så otroligt många sätt att arbeta, så fantastiskt många vägar framåt, trots att det kan verka omöjligt att verka för fred och dialog.

Jag befinner mig i Istanbul i ett litet konferensrum. Vi öppnar fönstren så ofta vi kan men ljuden från gatan gör det svårt att höra varandra så vi varvar ibland med luftkonditioneringen. Den låter lika högt den. Så för det mesta arbetar vi på i rummet som snabbt blir kvavt. Det blir lätt så när en grupp människor helhjärtat ägnar sig åt att lära och lyssna på varandra mer än nio timmar om dagen under fyra intensiva dagar.

Intense discussions on conflict resolution at Young Women's Peace Academy "Training of trainers"

Intensiva diskussioner mellan blivande tränarna på Young Women’s Peace Academy i Istanbul.

Vi har förts samman, en grupp på 12 kvinnor från Georgien, Azerbajdzjan, Kosovo, Serbien, Bosnien och Hercegovina och Sverige för vi alla har något att lära varandra om fredsarbete. Tillsammans ska vi bli ännu bättre, lära av varandra och försöka skapa en gemensam plattform för att sedan tillsammans utbilda över 50 andra unga kvinnor. Projektet kallas passande nog Young Women’s Peace Academy.

”Den gröna kakan är godast, näst godast är den med sylt”. Viktigt arbete kring hur konflikter skapas, upprätthålls, men också går att motarbeta innan de leder till våld, blandas med tankar kring hur huvudet ska hänga med att ta in alla samtal om metoder, lärdomar och erfarenheter av krig. Jag vill inte missa någons input för alla bär med sig så många erfarenheter. En gemensam utvärdering av den torra lilla kakbuffén i rasten blir viktig.

Hur många tränare i fredsbyggande ryms det på tre stolar? Rätt svar: 12

Hur många tränare i fredsbyggande ryms det på tre stolar? Rätt svar: 12

När vi är klara kommer alla att återvända till sina regioner för att genomföra flera stora träningar med unga kvinnor som är eller vill bli fredsaktivister. En ”ny generation aktivister” kan låta lite fånigt kanske, men flera av de tränare jag pratar med är oroliga just för hur nästa generation, som kanske uppfattar kriget som något som hände för länge sedan, inte känner att det berör dem. Tillsammans fokuserar vi på hur vi ska stärka deltagarnas självförtroende så de kan kräva sitt rättmätiga utrymme. Ingen kommer frivilligt ge dem plats. Väl på plats ska de också känna att de är utrustade med rätt verktyg.

Det är mycket att göra på fyra dagar. Genom fönstret kan jag se att det verkar vara fint väder i Istanbul den här veckan. Här inne spelar det inte så stor roll. ”Ta på er koftorna, jag slår på luftkonditioneringen igen” säger en av oss.

 

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.

Continue reading

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.