Category Archives: 16 Days

16 Days: Haiti

By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator

Photos courtesy of Madre (madre.org)

Though rape is a longstanding problem in Haiti, sexual violence has increased drastically since 2010’s tragic earthquake. Thousands of people still live in crowded makeshift tent cities, and women are extremely vulnerable to the often armed men who roam the camps at night. Amnesty International reports that over 250 cases of rape in several camps were reported in the first 150 days after January’s earthquake; there is no doubt that hundreds more rapes remain unreported.

Based on her experience as a two-time rape survivor, Malya Villard-Appolong, along with Eramithe Delva, established KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims) in 2004 to address the medical and psychological needs of rape survivors. Since the earthquake, Villard-Appolong and her group have helped more than 1,400 women. KOFAVIV innovatively improves safety in the camps by organizing nighttime community watch groups, providing cell phones, whistles and flashlights to camp residents and offering safety trainings. The organization also partners with Haitian lawyers to pursue cases, advocates for safer conditions and works for a reconstruction process that respects women’s rights.

16 Days: Afghanistan

By Beth Taubman, JWI Volunteer

Sosan Firooz
Photo courtesy of Multipolar Future

Although there have been some improvements for women in Afghanistan since 9-11, violence against women is still prevalent.   According to a 2011 poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Afghanistan is the most dangerous country for women.   Violence against women has increased recently, with more than 3000 cases this year according to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission.

Despite this increasing violence, women activists are speaking out and there are small signs of change.  Women in Kabul can be seen wearing makeup and shopping alone or with other women.  There is also an increase in the number of girls in school and women in government.

Sosan Firooz, Afghanistan’s first female rapper, uses her music to speak out against oppression and in favor of a more peaceful country.  She sings about the difficult times her family faced living as refugees in in Iran and Pakistan and encourages people to stay in their homeland.  She is breaking rules by performing and singing and not wearing the traditional burka.  Her uncle has cut off relations with her family because she performs and appears on television, but her father supports her and accompanies her when she goes out.

Watch her rap video, “Our Neighbors”:

16 Days: Guatemala

By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator

Norma Cruz, photo courtesy of State Department

Norma Cruz, photo courtesy of State Department

Violence against women is at epidemic levels in Guatemala. Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world, particularly along drug trafficking routes that lead from South America into the United States. Decades of war, a strong patriarchal culture, poverty and widespread impunity contribute to a violent environment, and the numbers of women who are brutally murdered are rising each year.

Norma Cruz is a strong activist working tirelessly to reduce violence against women as well as support and seek justice for female victims of violence. In 1999, Cruz’s daughter was the victim of sexual violence; Cruz was increasingly outraged as she sought justice for her daughter and found that sexual abuse was dismissed and ignored by the legal system. In 2003, she founded Foundacion Sobrevivientes (Survivors Foundation), a non-profit that protects and pursues justice for victims of violence.

Cruz’s Foundacion Sobrevivientes has assisted in finding, prosecuting and convicting over 30 individuals accused of murdering women. The organization shelters abuse victims, seeks legal recourse for women and advocates for reform. Despite facing intense personal risks, Cruz perseveres in ending the culture of impunity and improving the lives of women in Guatemala.

16 Days: United States

By Beth Taubman, JWI Volunteer

In the United States, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and younger women, ages 16-24, experience domestic violence at higher rates.  Advocacy organizations and individuals are working to raise awareness, provide education, training and assistance to victims of domestic violence.   In 2011, JWI and Jewish Woman magazine recognized four Jewish women advocates working to end domestic violence in the United States. Read their stories in the article, The Power of Advocacy.

16 Days: South Africa

Ndumie Funda, photo courtesy of Luleki Sizwe, lulekisizwe.com

By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator

Eighteen years after apartheid ended with the election of Nelson Mandela, South Africa is a diverse, complex and rapidly evolving democracy. South African women played a large role in the anti-Apartheid movement, and the country ranks third globally for the number of women in government. South Africa is ranked fourth out of 53 African countries for its record on women’s rights and an impressive sixth out of 134 countries in World Economic Forum’s “gender gap index”. South Africa boasts what is arguably the world’s most progressive constitution, which legalizes gay marriage and has anti-discrimination policies for gender as well as sexual orientation.

Despite these successes, South Africa has one of the highest incidences of reported rape in the world. A World Health Organization study found that fully 40% of South African women described their first sexual experience as non-consensual. One common act of violence is that of “corrective rape,” an act of sexual violence targeting lesbians to “cure” them of their homosexuality.

In this homophobic and violent environment, activists are making strides in raising awareness and calling on legislators to make corrective rape a hate crime. Ndumie Funda is a groundbreaking activist who founded and heads the Luleki Sizwe Project. The organization is named after Funda’s friend Luleka, a lesbian who was raped by her HIV-positive cousin and died in 2005, and Funda’s fiancée Nosizwe Nomas Bizana, who was raped by five men at gunpoint, contracted meningitis and died in 2007.

Funda’s small non-profit is run by volunteers and operates in 10 Cape Town townships to assist survivors of corrective rape, providing a safe-house, medical care and social services. She launched a record-breaking Change.org petition with over 170 thousand signatures from 163 countries, pressuring South Africa’s Ministry of Justice to establish a national task team to address hate crimes against LGBT South Africans. Ms. Funda is currently serving on this task force and continues to advocate for LGBT justice despite constant threats of violence.

Video featuring Ndumie Funda:

Protest Action Against Corrective Rape – Cape Town, South Africa – 15 May 2011:

16 Days: Romania

By Sophia Bass, JWI Intern

Photo courtesy of Not For Sale

Romania is known as a popular destination for sex trafficking. Each year, thousands of men, women, and children are trafficked into and through Romania for prostitution and forced labor, causing severe physical and emotional trauma. In 2007, the opportunity for the illicit transportation of people and goods from Eastern to Western Europe increased as a result of Romania entering the European Union. After a restricting of anti-trafficking agencies in 2009, NGO’s shut down, leaving Romania with little protection and prevention for trafficking victims.

David Batstone founded Not for Sale in 2007 to fight human trafficking and modern day slavery.  Since 2011, Not For Sale has been providing education, healthcare, counseling, shelter, and vocational training to victims of sex trafficking, labor, or illegal adoption.   NFS operates a small farm where trafficking victims live and work in greenhouses from which they sell produce to restaurants and catering companies.  NFS is a ray of hope for trafficking victims throughout Romania as it reassures women and children that they can restart their lives with love, education, and protection.

16 Days: The United Kingdom

By Valerie Mickiewicz, JWI Executive Associate & Library Project Coordinator

In the United Kingdom, a specific criminal offense clearly defining domestic abuse has never truly existed even though it accounts for 18% of all violent crime. A general definition that refers to “incidents of threatening behavior, violence or abuse” was adopted in 2004, but since then, the British government became concerned that the police and other agencies were not applying it broadly enough.

The new definition, which will go into effect in March 2013, expands domestic abuse to cover psychological intimidation and controlling behavior, will apply to victims under the age of 18. This means that acts such as preventing partners from leaving the house or having access to a phone could finally lead to a prosecution. The definition will include female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and make it clear that victims are not confined to one gender.

However, the new definition will not be written into law as the British Centre for Social Justice originally proposed. Instead, the reform provides a new way for authorities to respond and think about abuse.

Non-government activists, campaigners and domestic violence attorneys questioned how effective the changes would be in bringing more cases to court. Rachel Horman, head of domestic violence and forced marriage issues with the law firm Watson Ramsbottom, was skeptical of how effective the change would be. She urged the government to invest in training for police, prosecutors and judges in the devastating effects of psychological abuse; otherwise, cases will not be brought to court.

We must not assume that by changing the definition of domestic violence it will automatically increase their safety. Prosecutions for domestic abuse in Britain doubled from 2005 to 2010. However, in the last two years, 31% of funding to the domestic and sexual abuse sector has been cut leaving services under-resourced. In addition, the Home Office estimated the number of domestic violence incidents was 35% higher in 2011 than the previous year.

Whether or not this reform will increase the arrest and prosecution rates for domestic abuse in the UK remains to be seen. But with legal change just around the corner, it is important for everyone to keep their eye on this issue to ensure victims receive the necessary protection they deserve.

16 Days: China

By Sophia Bass, JWI Intern

By Venus (China One Child Policy) [CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
This sign, put up by the government, reads “Please for the sake of your country, use birth control.” It is found in the entry to the alley slums in Nanchang. These slums are where the pregnant women hide from the government officials enforcing the one child policy.

Gender based-violence has been pervasive throughout China in recent decades. In the wake of reducing population growth, China’s one-child policy  has resulted in the physical and emotional mistreatment of women, increasing the rate of forced sterilizations and abortions. This policy is known to promote more gender-based violence against women than any other policy in the world.  With nearly 590 female suicidesa day, women continue to suffer from China’s war against women.

In response to the one-child policy, Chinese activist, Chen Guangchen, has been actively working to stop forced abortions from occurring throughout his native country. He has filed lawsuits on behalf of women.  The United States pro-abortion advocates support his heroic efforts and urged U.S. officials to protect him. The United States and Chen Guangchen’s ultimate goal is to advocate prevention, protection, and accountability to end gender based violence and strengthen women around the world.

16 Days: Sudan

By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator

Sudan is a war-ravaged country ruled by a genocidal president wanted by the International Criminal Court. Plagued by years of war with newly independent South Sudan, the Khartoum regime is orchestrating widespread violence within its new borders. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said that Sudan will adopt a “100 per cent” Islamic constitution, prompting concerns the country will apply Islamic law more strictly after the secession of mostly non-Muslim South Sudan a year ago.

In this dangerous and oppressive environment, brave Sudanese women are speaking out. Youth-led political movements are calling for more women to be elected and given government positions, and women human rights defenders have become a powerful mobilizing force. Friday, July 13th was inaugurated “Kandaka Friday,” a reference to the brave and revolutionary women of Sudan. Kandake (Candace) in the Kushitic language is a title for strong women, and the term was used by the Kushites to refer to their queens. “Kandaka Friday” includes the #SudanRevolts  Twitter campaign and a video made by local activists; this social media campaign persists despite government censorship and crackdowns on freedom of expression.

In the wake of the “Kandaka Friday”, more women were arrested in a blatant attempt by the Sudanese police to mock the day. The Sudan Tribune reported that around 300 protesters – led by women – emerged from a mosque chanting freedom slogans and were dispersed by teargas and rubber bullets from heavily deployed security forces. Tahany Hassan, a 17 year old high school female student was shot in the head on July 31st, and women activists are continuously beingraped or threatened with rape upon arrest.

Sudan has a long history of oppression, violence and war, and Sudanese women are bravely speaking out and facing severe consequences.

16 Days: Peru

By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator

María María Acha-Kutscher, born in Peru in 1968, is an activist, feminist, and visual artist. Her pop art highlights women’s struggles worldwide, profiling heroic leaders and depicting protests past and present.

Ms. Acha-Kutscher describes her Women Working for Women series:

“Women Working for Women is a project for public spaces that recovers the women’s historic memory through portraits of female personalities who have forged change and fought to improve the situation for their gender. The project also includes visual registers based on press images of the female memory in public protests. Each image is the result of an investigation in various archives that tells us a story of struggle that has brought important changes to the way we perceive gender and, consequently, to the history of humankind. The elaboration of each portrait are made digitally and printed in large format tarp that refers to the language of political and commercial messages that abound in Latin American cities.”

Ms. Acha-Kutchser explains the need for women’s activism: “I think all women have had at least a bad personal experience of womanhood. Women are the population group most marginalized over the history of humanity and this encourages fighting, contributing and joining with other women to create consciences to give our girls a better future.”

16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based Violence

By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, kicking off 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.“From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!” is the 2012 theme for this annual international campaign encouraging action to end gender-based violence worldwide.

JWI is awed and inspired by the countless brave women working tirelessly to end violence and promote gender equality despite the persecution and oppression that they face. Gender discrimination is a cross-cutting reality that transcends local, national and global levels; from a violent husband to an oppressive government, violence against women takes many forms and affects virtually all women worldwide.

From November 25th through December 10th, JWI will highlight women’s groundbreaking advocacy by posting about countries and their women activists, focusing on a different country each day. This offers just a small glimpse into an inspiring world where countless women in every nation take enormous risks each day to end violence.