Inclusion of LGBT persons – a question of women’s solidarity

LGBT workshop

Workshop in Bosnia on how to make organizations within the women’s movement accessible to all women. Photo: Lejla Huremovic and Marija Vuletic

– I think I will have to marry a gay man and pretend that it is my life, because my parents would never accept that I am lesbian.

– I would love to be able to tell my mother about my partner, but I don´t think she would ever accept that.

– My father is ok but my mother ignores it and pretends she doesn´t know about it.

The past days, I have heard these words been said in Bosnia and Herzegovina by lesbian women. I was invited to participate in a three-day partner meeting of Kvinna till Kvinna in the town of Doboj, where women’s and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) organizations from all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina gathered to discuss how to work together against multiple discrimination of women. The main focus of the meeting was how to make organizations within the women´s movement accessible to all women.

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Thirsting for justice – a review of the Sjövik seminar 14-16 June

The 11th Sjövik seminar 2013 started one day after the Swedish Minister of International Development Cooperation announced that Sweden should cut its development aid to Palestine, since it yields no visible results. The focus of the seminar was the water situation and the situation of women in Palestine. As usual, restrictions on travel for Palestinians implied that the planned participants were not able to attend which resulted in a list of guests that were not necessarily as familiar with the topic of women’s rights in Palestine as the original plan. However, the guests made up for it with compelling and moving personal stories about being women in Palestine.

The only guest from Israel, Lihi Joffe from New Profile, did a very good job of focusing on feminism and the impact of militarism on the Israeli society. She spoke in depth about the way in which militarism infiltrates all parts of Israeli society. Her talk started with the question: “Do we have a country with an army or do we have an army with a country?”  and went on to inform the audience about the societal sanctions that people who leave the army or refuse to serve will face in the Israeli society; how schools create a ranking system or a pecking order between students based on how many in their family that have served in the army during the history of wars in Israel.

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Not split in Split, but very much united!

During one of the sessions in Split. Girls from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kosovo and Serbia

7-10 June, we – Sevda Jahangirova, from YUVA, Azerbaijan and Elvira Meliksetyan from WRC, Armenia, and together from Young Women Network South Caucasus, were invited to take part in the regional meeting in Split, Croatia. There we had a chance to meet women from Kosovo and Serbia and discuss the chance of creating the similar network in Balkans. Apart from that we discussed a diversity of topics: diverse themes, such as feminist solidarity, feminist curiosity, the role of power in the organization, LGBT rights and challenges that people from LGBT community face in Balkans and Caucasus, meeting activists from Croatian Association LORI.

We are both similar and different…

Sevda: The situation on different problems is different in both regions. For example, if in Caucasus the LGBT rights are more sensitive issue in Balkans human rights defenders and LGBT community can have a safe pride parade. Also as far as I observed and some participants mentioned as a region we are more open to cooperate but women from Balkans need to get stronger to widen the cooperation.

Elvira: I notified that domestic violence is an important issue to fight against for both regions. The women are supposed to be under the control of their husbands. Some girls are brought up in a very conservative way. The boys, vice a versa, are given a power and freedom.

Sevda: In both regions there are still the same problems as gender based violence, domestic violence, the enemy image which is created by misinformation spread in society. In both regions women role in conflict resolution is at the same level not so high.

Elvira: Seemed that for the both regions the misinformation, stereotypes and prejudices were among the main causes for hate-speech movement in the region. Though the activists were active in breaking them, still they are minority.

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Proud in Split

The Kosovo and Serbia exchange continues! This time we are meeting in Split, Croatia, to learn and discuss about LGBT-rights, feminism and feminist curiosity, leadership and more. And of course to participate in the Split Pride. Two young women from Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Young Women’s Network in South Caucasus have joined us, to exchange experiences between the different regions.

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“The future is bright – full of challenges, but bright”

I’m in Brussels for a conference called Peace for all Afghans? organised by the European Network of NGOs in Afghanistan, Crisis Management Initiative, Heinrich Böll Stiftung and the Agency Coordination Body for Afghan Relief in cooperation with MEP Thijs Berman.

The question mark in the name of the conference symbolizes both the lack of peace and security on the ground for most Afghans and the doubt whether the current peace process is creating a peace for all. A sustainable peace, a peace for all, requires an inclusive and credible peace process in which a multitude of groups in society participate. This was stressed by Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, in his keynote speech. Piebalgs pointed out six areas that are crucial for security and development in Afghanistan – a credible peace process, a peaceful transfer of power during next year’s presidential elections, an urgent need to secure jobs, a need for transparency and fight against corruption, a need to secure justice and the rule of law and the necessity to safeguard human rights, and in particular women’s rights.  Let’s hope that this analysis is reflected in EU’s efforts in Afghanistan ahead.

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