One of the trickiest things in working to promote women’s rights in conflict is answering the question that follows when you tell someone that conflict affects women differently. “But how, give me a specific example,” they say.
That is why I am always so happy when I come across clear and communicable examples. Like this one! The Norwegian Refugee Council recently launched a report on “shelter” (humanitarian speak for housing, basically, but simplified) in Gaza. The long and extensive report has five pages that really speak to me – and that is when women in Gaza, in plain words, explain the link between overcrowding (a cause of the destruction of homes, and inability to build as there aren’t enough materials being imported due to the siege) and gender-based violence.
So I am just having a small break in Zugdidi, Georgia after a very interesting week of meetings here in Zugdidi and the breakaway region Abkhazia.
The contrasts are many; first thing I noticed was hundreds of meters of new barbed wire, fences and a longer and more complicated procedure to enter the breakaway region Abkhazia. The Russian military is now controlling enter and exit of the breakaway region Abkhazia, and as I heard today some Russian military officers are telling local people, living in Eastern Abkhazia, that they need an Abkhaz passport to enter – however far from all inhabitants of Eastern Abkhazia have an Abkhaz passport – it is a long and complicated bureaucratic procedure to get one. Many of the inhabitants of Eastern Abkhazia depend on Georgia for health care and medical service. From barbed wire to the stunning beauty of nature – the black sea and the mountains while travelling to Gagra.
All women I have spoken to during my intense trip, on the Georgian as well as the Abkhaz side, ethnic Georgian as well as ethnic Abkhaz women, witness that women during the conflict got a new role – as breadwinners of the family and that they also were caring so much for the wellbeing and health of their families – that women simply forgot about themselves. Women might have been in need of health care and medical service – however they didn’t prioritize themselves – which resulted in poor health status of women. Moreover as a consequence of the conflict domestic violence has increased. In Abkhazia there are no mechanisms protecting women subjected to violence, and it seems like our partner organisations are alone in talking about domestic violence. Our partner organisations are working on increasing the awareness of domestic violence and its consequences and trying to prevent that gender stereotypes hindering women’s equal participation in private and public life are maintained. A very important and hard work in the conflict affected communities.
Aneta, Maia and Nani, Avangard, at ther portable ultra sound which they bring to villages all over Eastern Abkhazia where women have little or no access to health care.
Better late than never – people living in Gali has been waiting for the road to be fixed for about 20 years now. Today was a historical moment when the road in front of Avangard’s office was fixed.