New Approach: Using Gender and Social Cohesion to Promote Gender Equality and Women Rights in the R.D.Congo

Posted by on Jan 11, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Following many years of researches, awareness raising, campaigning, and advocacy for African women’s rights and therefore human rights in general for peace and human security, an innovative approach has been developed which promote Gender and Social Cohesion; in order to address inequalities and gender based violence (GBV), particularly Violence Against Women (VAW). This new approach was first developed as a training on raising awareness Violence Against Women (VAW), Human Rights and Equality for the UK based African Diaspora women (D.R.Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea,) through London based Voices of African Woman Campaign of UK WILPF . Objectives: This approach was conceived in October 2010 to respond and to contribute to the objectives of the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) launched by the African Union in October 2010 to move from theory to practice in the implementation of the mechanisms that guarantee the rights of women in Africa, in order to accelerate the implementation and realization of the objectives set out in the various conventions, protocols, and declarations adopted by the African Union. In particular two key documents are used, namely: The African Charter on Women’s Rights (Maputo Protocol) and the African Union’s Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality. The innovation is that this approach is based on specific scientific evidence, in order to rigorously raise the awareness of women and men in the promotion of gender equality and gender equity, as well as to address all forms of gender based discrimination and violence, particularly those done to women and girls. This new approach is based on basic genetics, physiology (hormonal functioning) and biology in conjunction with legal instruments, particularly Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the various legal frameworks on human rights. This approach defines gender (sex) as characterized by physiology (which is static) and gender as constructed by societies through time or context (which is dynamics). This approach highlights the female and male reproductive organs and understanding of reproductive health and their importance as a human right necessary for social cohesion, peace, justice and sustainable development. The presentation of this approach is designed to raise the awareness of men and women to a better understanding of gender (in term of sex roles or traditions), equality, and respect for human rights and to initiate a change of behavior. The presentation / workshop can be done in 2 hour (in summary), but it is preferable to take 4 hours, depending on the audience and the context, because gender issues require a special attention and reflection to identify harmful practices as well human rights abuses that need to be eradicated. The Training is designed in two one-day sessions, for those who want more information or use this approach as...

Read More

Diane Brace as told by her friend Martha Jean Baker

Posted by on Jan 8, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Diane was a life-long teacher. Her career began with a class of 40 seven year olds and she claimed that ‘after that everything was easy.’ She continued teaching in a variety of situations until a week before her death. She came to WILPF in her later years through her pen friend Phyllis Yingling to whom she was introduced by a teacher when they were both teenagers and they became life-long friends. She was born into a communist Stalinist vegetarian family. As a child she helped her parents distribute leaflets against Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco. She grew into being a life-long Labour supporter and campaigner, with the exception of 2003-2007 when she cancelled her membership in protest of the Iraq war. She was the first member of her family to attend university where she studied politics with Karl Popper at the LSE. Her classmates included future cabinet ministers and global financiers and also Derrick Brace whom she married and with whom she had two children, George and Catherine. Diane took a sabbatical from teaching to once again become a student where she took an advanced degree in sociology and politics at Birkbeck College under Sir Bernard Crick. Her correspondence with Phyllis spanned 73 years and Diane wrote candid and challenging letters to Phyllis. Phyllis reported that she had to begin reading and researching widely to understand and properly reply to Diane’s letters to her. In one letter Diane wrote about her devastation over the death of her son George, recently qualified as an architect, who was run over by an articulated lorry. Diane never fully recovered from his death but supported her grandson Adam, born a few months after George’s death. Many of us know Adam as he has become a playwright. I first met Diane at a WILPF International Congress. She was there as a guest of her friend Phyllis and those of us from the UK delegation asked her, since she was from the UK, why she was not a WILPF member. She duly joined and threw herself into the activities of the Section. She became membership secretary and visited all the branches and helped set up some now ones. Membership grew under her efforts. She also set up a serious of Saturday ‘Connect’ sessions, where members new and old could come together and meet and listen to women in diverse roles within WILPF to learn about how it works and how they could become more actively involved. She also was elected Section President – a role she served in briefly. Diane was appointed by WILPF to be the convenor of the International Personnel Committee, a role that took her to the New York Office to work...

Read More

Read about our Autumn Seminar Voices of Refugee Women

Posted by on Dec 18, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

On Saturday 25th November we held our 2017 Autumn Seminar, Voices of Refugee Women. Our aim for the day was to show solidarity with refugee women and raise awareness of what life is really like for refugee women in the UK. Over the morning session, our executive committee members Marie Lyse Numhosa and Taniel chaired the morning session most sensitively and efficiently (a rare combination). Ten refugee women, supported women from refugee organisations, spoke about their experiences. Our first speaker described the general process of arriving in UK as a refugee. She told us how the hardest part to handle is being the recipient of a ‘culture of disbelief’ espoused by officials from Home Office, and how there is absolutely no support for the women on arrival in UK or advice on how to present their case to start the application for asylum. Our second, spoke of her traumatic experiences of being not believed and trying to survive as homeless woman on the streets. The third woman to speak, spoke about surviving since 2006 as a woman without documents. She described the effects of ‘hiding’ herself from everyone – she dare not tell people who she really is. The fourth, detailed the indignity of being an ‘asylum seeker’.   She had a good job prior to entering UK and wanted to work here. She originally took a post earning £38,000 a year but when authorities found out, she was detained, ‘imprisoned’ and had to work for £1 a week. She felt exploited all over again, this time by capitalist practice. Our fifth speaker, talked about suffering racist abuse in her own country.   After entering UK, she then experienced domestic violence from her husband and became mentally ill. She would like to see UK policies changed to prevent destitution of those seeking asylum. The sixth refugee woman to talk, told us how she become a refugee because of her resistance to a dictator whose corrupt government was propped up by western governments. She has to exist on £36 a week and has been denied access to health care. She told us, however, that she really appreciates signs saying “Refugees welcome here”. Our seventh, recalled how she was kidnapped and found herself moving from country to country. She eventually had to marry for protection. In time, the government of the country where she was staying gave her money, paradoxically making her more vulnerable, to return to Africa, where she was abused again. She still today is separated from her son, as she could take her son on the journey to UK for fear that he would get hurt. The eighth woman to speak spoke more about the conditions facing refugee...

Read More

Shelia Triggs writes letter to her MP to support the Nuclear Ban Treaty

Posted by on Dec 12, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Dear Jo Jonson, Our very cold week-end has been enlivened by the ceremony awarding the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), and the inspiring speeches made in Oslo on December 10th.  All the speeches were met with enthusiasm by the Norwegian Royal Family and the many international ambassadors and guests who were present.   Unfortunately there was no British ambassador there to report back to the UK Government either the presentation speech by the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, or the lecture given by the ICAN recipients, Beatrice Fihn and Setsuko Thurlow, so I am sending you a link to their content since their cogent arguments deserve study. According to Ms Reiss-Anderson “This year’s Peace Prize follows in a tradition of awards that have honoured efforts against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and for nuclear disarmament. Twelve Peace Prizes have been awarded, in whole or in part, for this type of peace work”.  ICAN has been the civil society force behind the adoption of the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, (TPNW) on 7th July this year.  This treaty, the outcome of lengthy multilateral negotiations and discussions at the UN, bans possessing, testing, using, developing, or assisting with nuclear weapons. It also includes provisions for assisting victims of nuclear weapons use and testing, and environmental remediation. Berit Reiss-Andersen pointed out that the NPT Review Conference in 2000 stated that the NPT calls for “an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament”.  So British people like me, who have been active within ICAN to finalize the TPNW, want our country to be the first nuclear-armed nation to take that undertaking seriously, sign the TPNW and begin the gradual process of meeting its provisions to become nuclear free. The gift of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 recognises the achievement by ICAN in moving world opinion against nuclear weapons.  I look forward to hearing from you when you have read the speeches. Yours sincerely Sheila Triggs   (Views expressed in The Blog do not reflect those of...

Read More

WILPF women at CAAT demonstration at the notorious Arms Fair

Posted by on Dec 4, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

For one week in London’s docklands area in early September people from various parts of the country gathered to protest at two gates to try to interrupt and stop the preparations for the Arms Fair. This is one of the biggest such fairs in the world with some of the most disgraceful and violent governments represented, free to buy weapons to use as they wish, including Saudi Arabia buying weapons to kill the people of the Yemen, others selling, [including the UK of course], without questioning the ethics of their own or the purchasers actions.  (photo credit: Jenny Engledow) Each of the 7 days was themed and on the Wednesday it was anti nuclear and environmental, with a huge windmill assembled on site and many banners including our washing-line of papier mache life size women from the waist up. There were about 50 people at the gate we WILPF women were at. We strung them across the road held up on poles, arms to protect holding a tiny baby, arms to grow holding a plant, arms to link which was 2 people, arms to welcome [refugees], and a placard saying ‘no arms to kill’.  (Photo credit: Jenny Engledow At one point at each gate 2 people did a ‘lock-on’ action where they had their arms linked through a concrete tube that was in a suitcase, making it very difficult for the authorities to separate them as they lay in the middle of the road holding the traffic up for hours, a brilliant and brave action. Whilst they blocked the road we filled the area with our banners and props and sang, and I understand the delay caused the assemblers to work overnight to complete their work.   Jenny Engledow Brighton, Hove and District branch (Views expressed in The Blog do not reflect those of...

Read More

From Eritrea to the UK

Posted by on Nov 21, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Each month thousands of men, women, and children flee Eritrea as a result of grave violations of human rights committed by the Eritrean government, including religious persecution and indefinite mandatory military service. The reasons women leave Eritrea are multiple and often interconnected. Women are not only at extreme risk of sexual violence within the military and in military training camps, during national service and in prison, but also in society at large: in their marriages, and in their communities, where violence against women is perpetrated in an environment of impunity. In addition, the lack of genuine rule of law leaves women and girls unable to seek recourse to justice. The militarization of society, the abundance of weapons in society and the underlying traditional views of women’s place and role increases the risk of violence. Exemption from National Service is usually granted to women and girls who are married, pregnant or have children. As a result, many young girls chose or are encouraged by their family into marriage or motherhood to avoid completing their education at Sawa Military Training Camp, where all students complete their 12th year of education. Family structures have been disintegrated with multiple members of the family either in military service or left the country. For periods of many years, spouses, parents and children have little or no contact with each other outside of their limited periods of home leave. With limited economic opportunities for women outside national service and with key wage-earners conscripted families struggle to come by. Women within the national service are released after marriage or becoming pregnant, but are rarely granted formal discharge papers. As a result, they cannot access education opportunities, access to land or State-sanctioned employment. Often, women do not have access to travel permits, severely restricting their freedom of movement. Where conscripts are able to desert, relatives who remain behind are frequently punished in lieu. Wives and mothers, including with infants and young children, have been arrested or imprisoned for periods of up to several weeks and sometimes months or have been forced  to pay a fine after their husbands or children deserted the national service or left the country. Many women have seen their husbands taken away without being informed why or where they were taken and if they are alive. The contradictory position women find themselves in sees them with little choice but to leave the country. A growing number of pregnant women, mothers and their children from Eritrea leave their home countries to neighbouring countries, North Africa, the Middle East or Europe. Women carry their unborn babies in their wombs or their new-born infants and children in their arms as they cross land and sea borders in...

Read More