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View the documentLegal Strategies
View the documentMobilization and Political Advocacy
View the documentTraining and Education for Officials in Government Institutions and for Groups in Civil Society
View the documentResearch and Documentation
View the documentMedia and Communication Technologies
View the documentChanging Male Behaviour
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Mobilization and Political Advocacy

In mobilizing support for women’s human rights, what strategies have been most effective at the global, national and community levels?

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence is an international campaign that developed from the 1991 Women's Global Leadership Institute. Participants chose the dates, November 25 and December 10, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights. November 25 is the International Day against Violence against Women declared by the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean in 1981. This date was chosen to commemorate the murder of the Mirabal sisters by the Trujillo dictatorship on November 25, 1960. December 10 marks international Human Rights Day and the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including December 1, which is World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when a man gunned down 14 women engineering students reportedly for "being feminists."

Every year the Global Center composes a campaign theme in consultation with women's human rights advocates worldwide, then circulates an announcement for the campaign as widely as possible throughout the world. In addition, the Center publishes an International Calendar of Campaign Activities which seeks to connect local activities to the women's global movement. The 1998 16 Days campaign bore the theme "Building a Culture of Respect for Human Rights." As we embarked on the year marking the 50th anniversary of the UDHR, we wanted to create an opportunity to celebrate and honor the work of women and men who had dedicated their work and lives to building a culture of respect for human rights - more specifically, women's human rights. We are now in the initial stages for the next campaign. Please feel free to forward to us any suggestions you may have for a theme for the 1999 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

Linda Posluszny, Center for Women's Global Leadership
New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA

The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC) has been involved in the 16 Days of Activism campaign since 1991. The campaign has gained momentum over the years. Every year FWCC chooses an area of focus and campaigns around the issue intensively for 16 days. Activities usually include workshops in various parts of Fiji, newspaper supplements, bumper stickers, posters, radio slots, TV advertising and other educational material.

When focusing on domestic violence, FWCC has organized forums with men speaking out against violence, launching Real Men Don't Hit bumper stickers and T-shirts, and running TV advertisements that look at the cost of domestic violence. On the issue of child abuse, FWCC has produced materials specifically for children and organizes educational activities and teaches children about support services. Activities usually culminate with a march through the streets on 10 December, World Human Rights Day.

The public has become aware of this campaign period, and it has become a period to which many people look forward. The 16 Days campaign is a good way of getting issues across to people, especially if it is intensive. Due to the bombardment of images and information during this time, a lot of discussion is generated. Client numbers rise extraordinarily immediately after the campaign period. The campaign has now spread through the region, and there are marches, rallies and other activities in little villages and towns around the Pacific region. We are planning to launch a three-year Zero Tolerance campaign, which will assist in our lobbying for appropriate domestic violence legislation and our move towards eliminating domestic violence.

Shamima Ali, Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, Suva, Fiji

B.a.B.e. is a strategic lobbying and advocacy group located in Zagreb. Here is an encapsulation of our activities during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence:

> B.a.B.e. and a representative from Autonomous Women's House discussed and promoted the 16 Days of Activism on the TV programme "Good Morning, Croatia."

> Posters of How to Be a Fabulous Feminist were placed throughout the city.

> Press conferences were held for the 16 Days where a group of male and female journalists received our printed and verbal information.

> Open fora organized in conjunction with the Social Democratic Party drew a large crowd, including an entire high school class.

> We gave an interview on Radio Mostar about Croatian family law and violence against women.

> The last few of our 12,000 postcards were distributed, but calls for more kept coming in.

> Our free legal hotline offered extended hours - we handled 50 calls in 10 hours on only one line!

> We gave statements about family law and violence against women on the TV programme Motrista.

> A rap song by the group Scats was recorded for B.a.B.e. with text based on our materials, but because we could afford to make only 50 copies of these CDs, we sent them to radio stations throughout Croatia.

> At our candlelight vigil at Cvjetni Square in Zagreb, where witches were burned in the Middle Ages, we placed 50 candles to commemorate women victims of violence and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

> Overall, the 16 Days of Activism was a success for B.a.B.e.! In addition, after much lobbying, for the first time in Croatia the new Family Law has finally incorporated restraining orders.

Kristina Mihalec, B.a.B.e. (Be active, Be emancipated),
Zagreb, Croatia

[A reporter for the Inter Press Service] noted that during the 16 Days of Activism, women's rights groups, supported by Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), focused on wife-beating. Among the numerous posters hung in public places, says the reporter, were those declaring, "It's a crime to beat your wife," "You could be fined and sent to prison if you beat your wife," and "When you discuss things with your wife, there is peace in your house."

While statistics regarding domestic violence are scarce, the Centre for Research, Information and Training on Women (CRIFF) in Lome found that out of 468 women who went to it for assistance last year, 105 (22.5 percent) had been victims of domestic violence. Who knows how many other abused women remain afraid to lodge a complaint?

WILDAF's West Africa coordinator, Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson, told "La Tribune Africaine" that a goal of the 16 Days was to "make abused women understand the need to talk about the violence done to them so that it can be stopped." As Blao reports, "NGOs here see getting abused women to break their silence and take legal action as a key element of their struggle.

A highlight of the campaign was a mock trial at the French Cultural Centre in Lome which centered around a battered woman who overcame her fear and took her husband to court."

At the end of the mock trial women told Blao that their perception of domestic violence had changed and was no longer Ian unavoidable reality." "I won't hesitate to take my husband to court if he abuses me," Gisele Kpakpote, a 34-year-old store clerk, told Blao. "This campaign has to guide all women in their struggle to be respected."

Marie-Helene Mottin-Sylla, Dakar, Senegal

We, the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence Against Women, recently were able to assist in the case of a Lebanese University medical student who was abducted on May 9, 1998, on her way to class at the Islamic Hospital in Tripoli, North Lebanon. Her paternal uncle, father to her abductor, organized the kidnapping to secure, by force, "a wife for my son." By kidnapping a woman, raping and impregnating her, a woman is usually forced to submit to marrying her attacker. The act of kidnapping alone insinuates that sexual intercourse has occurred, thus severely reducing a woman's chances of finding anyone to marry her at a later stage. Like Victorian England, unmarried women (or "girls," as unmarried women are referred to here), are expected to be virgins on marriage. Raping a woman usually ensures that she marry her attacker. This is often done in Lebanon if a man wants to either marry "on the cheap" without a wedding and without providing (or providing less of) a dowry or when a woman or her family do not consent to the marriage. The student was forced to accept marriage. The victim's mother, however, reported her daughter's abduction and rape to the Council.

The actions of the Council were able to turn the situation into the victim's favor. Besides providing her with free legal representation, the Council acted in the following ways to secure the result achieved:

> Widely publicized the issue.

> Appealed to the President of Lebanon, the House Speaker, the Prime Minister and also to the Justice Minister for urgent action to be taken.

> Appealed to human rights associations and held meetings on the issue.

> Held a public debate at the Lebanese Law faculty in Beirut calling for a cancellation of article 522 of the penal code, which legalizes a marriage between a victim and a man who has committed crimes of seduction, rape, forced prostitution and/or kidnapping, even if both parties consent to the marriage. By marrying a victim a perpetrator is not punishable for his acts.

> Publicly protested and condemned the support given to the perpetrator.

> Demonstrated outside the Tripoli jail, where the perpetrator was temporarily detained and questioned.

> The outcome of the case was a triumph for the Council. The marriage will be annulled. The perpetrator was questioned for five hours and released on bail, but two lawsuits have been filed against him. Charges of kidnap, rape and forced marriage have been made but it is likely, because of the possibility of an ongoing and potentially violent family feud, a settlement will be negotiated by the Council lawyer.

LCRVAW, Lebanon

One of the most incredible projects I have ever witnessed as far as increasing women's safety and reducing violence against women has to be the Sonagachi Project in Calcutta, an organization of prostitutes working for better conditions and to gain respect for their work.

Groups around the world have implemented programmes to reduce violence against sex workers, such as Women in the Sex industry and Sex Worker Outreach Projects in Australia. These groups maintain job listings for sex workers (they worked hard and successfully to have prostitution decriminalized), conduct street outreach and publish an "ugly mugs" booklet which warns workers about potentially dangerous customers. By decriminalizing sex work they have gained the right to protection under the law. In the United States, where sex work is illegal, Crime Victim's Compensation and Victim of Crimes Act money can not be used for services to sex workers who have been victimized.

Since prostitution has been decriminalized in New South Wales, Australia, violence against sex workers has decreased significantly.

Lacey Sloan, Ph.D.

One of the most impressive women's rights rallies seen in Lahore was held on Human Rights Day, attended by some 2,000 grassroots workers and activists, men, women and children, lawyers trade unionists, factory and farm workers. Representatives of the ruling party were nowhere to be seen.

Many of the women were participating in a political activity for the first time. Breaking the myth of such rallies being the domain of "westernized" and "alienated" women was the presence of dozens of chaddor-wearing and burqa-clad women. Many tripped along in high heels.

"Please tell the photographers not to publish our picture," one woman said. "Our men will beat us."

Beena Sarwar, Centre for Education and Documentation,
Bangalore, India

Last year in June I lost my mother. She was killed by my father. As we mourned and grieved the loss, my siblings and I felt the need to give tribute to our mother and also do something about the high incidence of domestic violence in our community. We started the Margaret Wanzuu Foundation, whose vision is a society where men and women live harmoniously together. We see our mission as enabling the individuals in the rural community where mum lived and worked, to rediscover the peace within themselves so as to be able to live in peace with each other.

I, as a feminist activist, know something about the various theories regarding domestic violence and want to devise community programmes based on these. However, I strongly feel the need to consult the community in order to incorporate their perceptions. I want to know whether these communities perceive domestic violence as a problem and if they do, what are the causes and possible solutions.

Usually domestic violence is considered a "private affair" and people do not talk about it. However, I have so far received a very positive response to the Foundation - I have received a total of 3,000 filled-in questionnaires from Nyakach, the community where my mother was married, and I expect to receive a similar amount form Kibwezi, the community in which my mother was born. This positive response could be attributed to various reasons, one of which is the fact that we want to break the silence.

Angie Dawa, Kenya

The idea came to me when I was writing about CEDAW and the need to apply its provisions along with other domestic law. Every time we talked about violence against women, we would invariably mention the diligent UN Special Rapporteur Radhika Coomaraswamy. It struck me that here was this one woman at the international level doing what needed to be urgently done at the regional, national and local levels. We simply need more rapporteurs at these levels to keep tabs on the crimes against women. The current incidence and volume of violence against women sure merits such intense scrutiny.

The UN need not appoint more rapporteurs. Instead it should persuade member countries to appoint and recognize rapporteurs on the subject within their borders. These rapporteurs should in turn be asked to report on violence against women every year or two, simultaneously reporting to the Special Rapporteur. These reports should be given wide publicity through the media. And some degree of accountability must be introduced in the international systems.

Bhargavi Nagaraja, Bangalore, India

What factors contribute to effective training/education?