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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A broad movement against nationalism

Nationalists around the world are currently attacking many of the rights that I am fighting for. They want to limit LGBT rights, women’s rights, the rights of migrants and the rights of different minority groups. They try to silent peace activists and feminists.

This development makes me scared, but at the same time I’m even more convinced about the need to find ways for groups and people targeted by nationalists to gather in resistance. A broad movement working against nationalism and for a world where human rights are not limited and reserved for a few.

LGBT activists from South Caucasus

LGBT activists from South Caucasus, invited to Sweden by RFSL, visited Kvinna till Kvinna’s office in Stockholm. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Julia Lapitskii

But the road ahead is long, which is something I’ve been reminded of recently, during meetings with peace- and women’s rights activists from Serbia and LGBT activists from South Caucasus.

Last week, eight LGBT activists from South Caucasus visited Kvinna till Kvinna’s office in Stockholm. They represent organisations that work for LGBT persons’ human rights in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

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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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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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