Saturday, 27 February 2010

ActionAid Launches Two VAW Documents

On Wednesday evening, the London office attended the launch of two new ActionAid reports on violence against women. The reports are "Destined to fail? How violence against women is undoing development," written by Zohra Moosa, and "Her stories: working with women survivors of violence in emergency situations."

The launch included presentations by Christine Butegwa, Regional Coordinator for Africa Programmes at Akina Mama Wa Afrika; Zohra Moosa, Women's Rights Advisor at ActionAid UK; and Charlotte Watts, Director of the Gender, Violence & Health Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Watts gave a presentation on the links between HIV prevalence and violence against women. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, vastly more women than men aged 15-24 are HIV positive. There are huge numbers of women who have reported that their first sexual encounter was forced.

Butegwa then outlined her experience of campaigning on violence against women in Uganda as well as with the African Feminist Movement, which is trying to develop strategies to address violence against women. Some of the statistics she gave were shocking: for example, in South Africa, a woman is killed by her partner ever 6 hours. A woman is raped every 17 seconds. 2010-2020 has been declared by the African Union African Women's Decade, so hopefully these statistics will no longer be the case in 2020.

Moosa gave a presentation on violence against women and international priorities while introducing the two new ActionAid reports. A short video of women resisting violence in the DRC was then showed, followed by a panel discussion by the presenters, which was chaired by Habdeel Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. The issue of involving men came up in the discussion, with Butegwa commenting that the patriarchal system makes the involvement of men complicated, but that men should be seen as partners. Patriarchy is a system, but individual men are very different from each other. Watts warned that we don't want to get into a men vs women debate; she said it is great if men are questioning patriarchy, but that this is a sensitive issue because there are scarce resources and therefore worries that men's organisations will attract funding away from women's. This is an issue that the WRC is aware of; the WRC doesn't receive mainstream funding and while we sometimes receive an abnormal amount of attention from journalists because we are uniquely aimed specifically at men, we make sure that we direct journalists towards relevant women's organisations as well. On a positive note, a woman working for Women for Women International spoke up, stating that they have a programme working with men and that 75% change their views by the end of the programme.

Each person in attendance received the two reports being launched. "Her storiesis a fascinating collection of first-person accounts from women living in war-torn areas of Africa. "Destined to fail?" examines an issue that effects one in three women globally - violence. The report examines violence in relation to education, maternal and child health, HIV and AIDS, conflict, and governance. The report gives recommendations for the UK government, the most interesting of which perhaps is to "appoint a Minister on violence against women and girls whose brief covers the Department for International Development (DFID), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD)." This would be analogous to the post held by Melanne Verveer, the first American Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues.

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