Not just another week

Yanar Mohammed and Eva Abu Halaweh

Women’s rights activists Yanar Mohammed (Iraq) and Eva Abu Halaweh (Jordan) visisted Sweden this week. Here discussing violence against women during a panel in the Swedish parliament. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Karin Råghall

Another week at work has passed. It’s just that it was not “just another week”.

It was a week when I got to meet activists from South Sudan, Georgia, DR Congo, Liberia, Colombia, Iraq and Jordan – here in Stockholm. I guess I don’t need to say that this doesn’t happen every week.

The activists were here for different reasons. Some participated in the International Training Programme (ITP) on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Others were part of a delegation of women from Jordan and Iraq who came to Sweden to exchange experiences and knowledge about how to combat violence against women.

I only met our guests shortly. But it was enough for me to start thinking about how fantastic it is to meet people from different parts of the world; who all have a vision of a world where people conceived as “women” are not seen as second class citizens.

Something happens inside

When I asked a Colombian feminist on Tuesday lunch what she appreciated most during her three week stay in Sweden, she said: “Everything we learn about UNSCR 1325 is great, but for me, meeting the other participants from Colombia, South Sudan, DRC, Liberia and Georgia has been as important. To learn about how others work for gender equality and share experiences is fantastic”.

I nodded eagerly, and smiled. There is something about meeting people from different parts of the world, who also think that patriarchy has played out its role. Even though I know that we are many who share this struggle, it’s a different thing to actually meet. Something happens inside of me during these meetings.

One of the activists told about how women in Jordan have been imprisoned for up to 15 years, in order to be “protected” from violence. Another one told about the proposed Jaafari law in Iraq, that would prevent women from leaving their houses without permission from men, legalize marital rape and lower the age of marriage for girls to nine years.

You are not guilty of rape

ITP participants from Colombia designed a campaign during a social media workshop at Kvinna till Kvinna, named “You are not guilty of rape”. Other participants were encouraged to write down typical reviews of survivors of rape, that are used to blame them instead of the perpetrator.

 You are not guilty of rape

A group of ITP-participants from Colombia presented a campaign idea about challenging the perception that women themselves are responsible for being raped (watch their video You are not guilty of rape!). The idea received appreciation among the other participants, but it also sparked pain and sadness. Regardless of where we were born, most of us have experiences of gender based violence.

When I write that something happens inside of me during meetings with feminists/women’s rights activists/LGBT activists from different parts of the world – or from different parts of Sweden, for that matter – I try to describe a feeling of that when one of us are subjected to violence, threats or humiliation – it could have been anyone of us. The gendered violence does not look the same everywhere, but it exists all over the world.

That is of course no big news for those of you who read this. Still, I would like to share one last thought that these kind of meetings remind me of: No one is free until everyone is free!

Stöd Kvinna till Kvinna! Vi stärker kvinnor i krig och konflikter för att kvinnors makt och inflytande ska öka. Ditt stöd är nödvändigt för att vi ska kunna fortsätta göra det.

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