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.

“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.

Armenia vs Sweden

When meeting an other person who’s sharing their memories and experiences I tend to spontaneously relate by drawing parallels to my own and the feelings I’ve experienced in a similar situation. In many ways a quite egocentric way to explore the world – my subjective experience of a certain situation is rarely the same as someone’s with a different background, life and idea world than mine. Still, it is in this relating my capability of empathy and a first understanding lies and to be able to deepen that I need to ask questions. In Armenia I am constantly drawing parallels in the same way to my own culture and life back home and then asking questions to get a better understanding.

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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.

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No future? – The struggle to support women survivors of violence in Iraqi Kurdistan

A beautiful spring day in Iraqi Kurdistan, Runak Faraj, chairwoman of Women’s Media and Education Centre (WMEC), one of Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organizations in Iraq, accompany me and my colleagues Bayan and Hadeel to the new government shelter in Suleimania.

View over Suleimania

View over Suleimania

In 2011, Iraqi Kurdistan adopted a domestic violence law that prohibits all forms of gender-based violence. According to the law, the Kurdistan Regional Government is responsible for to “provide shelter to the victims of domestic violence”. There is one government shelter in each governorate in Iraqi Kurdistan, three in total. The shelter in Suleimania has recently been moved to new premises at a secret location.

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