The Forgotten Frontline: Women at War Zone: Syria’s case

ISIS-women-sex-slave-620x330
Sticky

The civil war has destroyed Syria and dominated the news; there is a noteworthy aspect of the conflict that endures to go mostly unreported: the dilemma of women and girls who take the flak of the war.

They are bearing the greatest burden, yet their voices and stories are often left unheard.

Syria is undergoing the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world of today. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, the human rights activists and organizations claimed that the situation has persistently worsened. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the UN Human Rights Council have been reverberating the warnings of the grave violations committed by Syrian government and other parties of the conflict.

Violent and aggressive fighting have increased between Bashar al-Assad’s followers and armed rebellious groups; in July 2012, the fighting was qualified as internal armed conflict caused humanitarian damages on civilian citizens; including random arrests and detention, extra-judicial executions, rape, different forms of sexual violence, kidnapping, enforced disappearances and torture by Syrian authorities and pro-governmental militias called “shabbihas”.

As of June 2015, more than half of all Syrians have been enforced to leave their homes; 7.6 million people were exiled within Syria and 3.9 million people displaced as refugees in neighboring countries: Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, according to UN refugee agency.

Women and girls are among the most vulnerable, about half million Syrian women, those in refugees and those who still in Syria, are sexually injured, pregnant and need maternal care services.

Countless UN bodies and representatives, international and national NGOs and journalists, have documented the crimes attacks and the sexual violence cases committed during the Syrian crisis. Still, it remains tremendously difficult to measure the extent of crimes of sexual violence and to draw conclusions on patterns; however, there have been several reports of crimes of sexual violence committed by anti-government armed groups. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, stated that “Civilians already caught in a vicious cycle of violence are also the target of sexual violence by all parties to the conflict”.

Most accusations of rape and the other forms of sexual violence reported were said to have been executed by government forces and shabbiha during house searches, at checkpoints and in imprisonment.

In some cases, women were assaulted and beaten in public in front of family members.

We caught up with Karam Yahya “Syrian Refugee in Germany and human right activist” who told us :“Women suffer differently according to the region they live in, suffering in Damascus is not the same in north of Syria, every region is controlled by regime and group, which makes women subjective to different suffering experiences”. He added: “There is a social disorder in all these regions, women struggle to feed their families as their husbands go to fight, and outside Syria the suffering is even enormous, the case of Zaatari Camp in Jordan where I worked, there is violence, discrimination, and the cultural conservative traditions enforce women to stay home”

1186125_10202195906802050_1364359073_n

Thousands of Syrian women are objects of sexual violence, but their conservative cultural and religious environments, especially in rural and southern areas of Syria, prohibit women and girls from talking freely about their suffering from sexual violence and other forms of violence.

This is the reason that makes it very difficult to find rape cases because of the dominant culture and the refusal to talk publicly about these subjects.

Furthermore it is hardly anyone makes complaints about such crimes because nobody will marry a woman who has been raped. The social stigma and family pressure influence the psychology situation of these women, which in some cases can lead to suicide.

In other cases, families forcibly marry raped women, including to relatives and foreign, for the “sake of the honor”, which makes it hard to help these women who are in critical situations, as their parents block any assistance that could be provided to them.

Bashar al-Assad forces are not the only enemy to Syrian women, ISIS (criminal group) is disrobing them of their human rights, as well. “Marry me or be my slave”; this is how ISIS group threats innocent women; whether they accept or refuse they are subjected to various forms of deprivation, threats, solitary imprisonment, as well several forms of torture, rape and sexual harassment. Other women were forced to divorce their husbands and enforced to practice “jihad sex” with different rebels of ISIS.

The media has widespread the case of the young mothers who have been savagely maimed by ISIS for breastfeeding in public. The Members of ISIS’s enforce strict barbaric sharia laws concerning on how women should dress and act, breastfeeding in public is not accepted act according to their rules.

Distressingly, they use a spiked, metal device known as “The Biter” to wreak harsh punishments on women deemed to have shown too much skin and those who breastfeed in public. They take the “Biter”, which is a shrill object that has a lot of teeth, they hold the women, and place it on their chest and pressing it strongly, this could damage and destroy the femininity of these women. Thousands of Syrian women are slaughtered silently.

In other cases women are being stripped naked and forced to take “virginity tests,”  then they are taken to slave markets where the attractive virgins are sold off to the highest buyers, those who refuse to perform an extreme sex act are burned alive.

Outside Syria women face further challenges and depressed situations; some parents force to marry off their daughters as child brides and push them to work as prostitutes in the camps. Several reports stated that men from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries take the advantage of families’ desperation to seek young brides.

While many countries have strictly constrained border crossings and closed their borders completely in response to the fear that terrorists could enter to their lands.

According to Thomson Reuters Foundation poll on women’s rights; Syria is ranked 19th out of 22 Arab states to some extent better than Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt, where women face gender violence, degrade reproductive rights, economic exclusion, lack of necessary health services, depraved treatment of women within the family and the society, in addition to elimination attitudes towards women in politics and society.

Five years into Syria’s civil war and with no end in eyesight, it is somehow hard to see what the future of Syria will look like, and what women’s place will be in it, the war has devastating impact on women’s rights, putting millions of women and girls at risk of trafficking, forced and child marriage and sexual violence.

 Sana AFOUAIZ

 

Narrating Egypt’s revolution: From offline to online revolution!

12974393_10153538647457592_1079775383322288827_n
Standard

On 11 February 2011, Egypt witnessed what for ages was considered impossible, when the Former Vice-President Omar Suleiman announced that Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s dictatorship symbol, had resigned his post as president. Just few months earlier, no one would have believed that such an ending is thinkable. After the revolution occurred in Tunisia, Egypt witnessed an extraordinary mobilization, from tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands; to finally over a million Egyptians protesting and claiming Mubarak’s removal. The internet and especially social media, enabled people over the global to witness these events in unparalleled detail and with an extraordinary speed.

Since then Egypt marks the growth of online political activism like never seen before, this activism that has sparkled a major debate among youth, the ones who see in the internet this new powerful weapon; to confront social injustice and reclaim for human rights and democracy. The motive behind the actions of the Egyptian activists was to oppose to the repressive regime of over 30 years; internet activism was no more than an instrument which activists used to get their messages across and their actions planned.

The technology provided the Egyptian activists the ability to get thousands of people to the streets, without online activism -that led to unpredictable demonstrations- Mubarak regime might have survived.

Five years of uproar and violence, Mubarak remains behind bars, as well does the first popularly elected president Morsi, in 2013 the military restated its power and set Abdel Fattah El Sisi in power.

However, the revolutions that symbolized a life-time of hope and a new beginning in Egypt soon turned to be far from that with the new regime.

The few Egyptian activists who speak out against the military regime actions are either in prison, tortured, arrest or fled the country.

In the other hand, civil society organizations are being threatened, the authorities have used different methods to detain their work, in contrast, CSO existed in Egypt with Moubarak and also Morsi regimes, but since 2013, the number of civil society in Egypt has declined drastically.
CSO’s have played an important role in the transition of democratic wave after the fall of Mubarak regime. However their role was oppressed by the new authorities, which adopted policies weakening their activities, targeting in first-hand the organizations working in the field of accountability, reform and human rights.

The new introduced law gives the authority to disprove foreign funding appeals without explanation, and limits national and local fundraising activities by requiring a state permit.

There is a big loss of development when government limits the activities of CSO and citizens to work together for a better country.

Last week we caught up with Radwa Othman Mohamed“Political Researcher and Human Right Activist”- in Gaziantep, Turkey. She shared with us her views about the current situation in Egypt.

13045612_10207959732885504_1911225035_n

 

Did you take part of the revolution in 2011? If yes, how was your feeling?

Of course, I was part of the revolution since its first beginning, unforgettable moment for all Egyptians, today, if you ask Egyptians about it, they would say that was the moment that has set us free. What makes this revolution unique is that it gathered all people who had different opinions, visions, beliefs, religions… for one goal to shut down Mubarak regime, a moment that history will remember. Nonetheless, after the revolution, the people started to be divided through different political ideologies, then the political conflicts started to occur, which led to more division in the country, then the revolution took another road.

Can you tell about women’s involvements in the revolution of 2011?

Women have been an essential part of these revolutions; they organized and marched alongside men.  Women were in the streets, women in the demonstrations, women in the media, for women’s activists the overthrow of long-standing dictatorships was perceived as an opportunity to bring democracy and social justice, but it was also a chance to make their voices heard in the public arena. Although, women activists had to deal with traditional and cultural consents, the fact that women were protesting all day in the street was perceived unusual by some conservative groups, this reflects the nature of society an Egyptian woman has to deal with on daily basis. At the same time, it was an excuse to use against women to decrease and prohibit their participation in the revolution. Many of them were subjected to sexual harassment, assault, violence and rape; all this was used as way to restrain their participation in the revolution.

The revolution of Egypt was melted by women’s presence, excluding them makes the revolution losing its greater values.

Is it hard today to be a woman in Egypt?

Well, today more than ever it is hard to live in Egypt not only for women. After the revolution, women become more aware about their rights, and they can finally say NO!

However, many Egyptian women and especially among the rural people, are oppressed, because of the current situation, the political regime is oppressing the citizens, the men are oppressing their wives, sisters, mothers … the women themselves oppress their daughters, the up-coming generation… which engenders series of  political oppression heated by cultural-social oppression.

Can you tell more about the online activism in Egypt?

The online activism in Egypt symbolizes the power of people to say NO. It was first used to get thousands of people protesting in the street to shut down Mubarak’s regime. After the revolution, Egypt faced different wages of suppression; it became difficult to march in the streets, so the Egyptians use the internet to express themselves since they can no longer deliver their messages and claims through protests. Now Egyptians are online-active citizens, more than ever before, we are taking our offline dissent into the online world, and that’s our new revolution, online revolution.

Do you still have hope?

Yes, I do. The revolution breached many taboos we couldn’t talk about before, it changed many things in the society, for that it remains my hope for a better Egypt, this hope will survive although the struggles and the issues we are facing today in Egypt.

Can you give me one word to define Egypt?

Hope.

Thank you for your time.

P.S: In this house, we don’t call it “Arab Spring”, we call it “Revolution of Dignity”!

 

Sana Afouaiz

Forward-thinking on feminism discourse: Middle Eastern Narrative: Our story

3a432d4e7b6e5bda83afa6fdde6c7efa
Standard

Among the common stereotypes about Middle Eastern countries are the labels about women; being perceived as oppressed, veiled, passive, close- minded, followers to men’s orders. No wonder I‘ve been asked many times while living and traveling to the west about the harrying life that women face in Middle East (as well in North Africa), for some of them it is surprising that a female from the region could travel, work and participate in all life spheres.

The question is where are all Middle Eastern women who fought for new changes in their countries; and who led social movements challenging their governments for concrete political, economic and social changes?

We often dismiss the reality by looking at foreign narratives to what is like to be a woman in the Middle East. Why?

The historical waves of feminism:

When it comes to women’s studies, the focal point is articulated on western ideologies and approaches, and since 1970 “Women in Middle East” trend has been studied as a second separated chapter; and particular focus is given to “Islam and women” that highlights the work and studies of many anthologists, mainly underlining the oppressing life of women in the region.

19th and 20th century marked the first feminism movements in Europe and USA, in 1903 the first foundation of women has been created  “The Women’s Social and Political Union” led by Emelyn Pankhurst, women marched down the streets of London, the group organized social protests asking for political, economic and social equality between the two sexes, which resulted on the universal suffrage for both women and men for the first time in the UK.

In the sixties, the feminist movements began to influence academia level, and 1975 marked the achieving of the UN Year of Woman. While these events occurred in the West, many establishments on women have been established in the MENA region including: research centers and institutes in Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and other countries… In Egypt that has a long history of debating gender issues in the public sphere; the fight for women’s rights began long time ago before the first feminism movements in the West.

Soon the western literature on women in Islam and Middle East received a wage of criticism that underlined the neglect, lack of justification, stereotypic analysis and overall generalization of the reality in Middle East; one element is the controversy of western analysis on sexual matters; as sex was never a taboo subject in the Islamic Middle East, but this subject is already discussed in Quran as well through the work of many authors from the region like: Fatima Mernissi who wrote about the virginity operations that women endure before getting married and the negative effects of it on both men and women , and Nawal el Saadawi; her book on Women and Sex; which deals with sexuality in the Middle East, In 1992, Shahla Sherkat, an Iranian feminist activist and writer, who was part of revolution (1979) in Iran, published the first issue of a feminist magazine, “Zanan” which means “Woman”, the Magazine deals with different aspects related to women’s right in Iran, The magazine was banned by the end. In 1996, Mai Yamani Saudi author wrote a book on “Feminism and Islam. These authors, activists and other thinkers represent themselves as feminists who chose to embrace their culture, traditions and beliefs while advocating for new restructurings, reforms and interpretations that represent their stories and voices.

Basically the Arab literature has highlighted studies on sexuality in the Middle East and particularly on Islam, so excluding it from the western ideology leads to subjective analysis.

Another critical aspect is the subject of women and development, until the late 1960s, the West approached that development and modernization of the Middle East would resolve many problems in the region and mainly would liberate women from the conservative environments. But the modernization approach has only deteriorated the situation of women, because of unequal access of women to different fields like technology, industrialization, medicine…

In the early centuries of Islam, women played an important role in various areas: culture, politics, commerce, religion… One great example is ‘Hind bint Attabeh’ who fought at the battle of Yarmuk[i] and “Khadidja bint Khuwaylid” (the wife of the prophet Muhammed) who was a business woman by that time, who is considered as an inspiration model for all Muslim women.

During the social movements (what is called “Arab Spring”), in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, women protesters were in the front line of the movements, their participation was demographically inclusive, they led off and online mobilizations. In Tahrir Square (Egypt), women of different ages, some of them were accompanied by their children, worked steadily to support the protests: they planned, organized and reported daily the movement. This put aside the passiveness that some western approaches underline, but unfortunately the role of women in the Middle East has been under-analyzed, these women didn’t only join the protests, but led it. And, because feminism approach is a reasonable extension of democracy, it is impossible to stop these women from fighting for their freedom and rights.

Subsequently, women in the region are not totally passive, submissive, neither exotically silent, through the history they played an important role in politics, social and economic life. As results, this first chapter shows that the descriptive scopes of western feminism are lacking deep analysis when applied to non-western cultures. This could be explained when seeking universal rationality of their principles and models by normalizing other social realities to fit their agendas, which leads to exclusion theory.

Colonial feminism:

The colonization in the Middle East had emphasized many models in order to achieve the phase of modernization (according to the west), colonial feminism is one of these models that became the dominant formula of feminism to follow; but it has always been viewed as non-representative form, especially with the decolonization times, as many saw it as foreign from their realities.

Many west authors continue describing the oppressing situations of women in the Middle East, blaming the Middle Eastern societies and culture for the miserable conditions women live in the region. Digging deep, the Middle East is still witnessing continuous Western imperialism across different countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Syria… The post-imperialism occupation has diluted the political and economic stability, which directly influenced the cultural and social cohesion, where are women in all this?

It is not possible to speak women’s rights in the Middle East by only looking at gender, neither by blaming only one side of the story. Imperialism, race, religion, culture, and social class all interconnect with gender to represent realities of women in the region. Interconnecting all these elements helps to avoid the mis-representation of women’s issues and boost forming coalitions and alliances that reclaim rights for all women.

Inclusion and intersecting theories:

Feminism is about various social and cultural elements such as gender, race, class, sexual orientation, religion, age… In order to study how systemic injustice and social inequality occur on different social realities basis, it is essential to intersect all these elements above, feminism cannot be only about patriarchy when it comes to specific societies, because that leads to exclusive analysis.

The exclusiveness of western theories soon led to critics that began to arise from women who felt that their experiences have been excluded by the narratives of the western feminists. Taking the example of the African American feminists who were the first to explained that mainstream feminism did not include their experiences, because their realities were different from the ones of white middle class women. For the African American feminists they had other issues related to race, education, economic opportunities, social inequality…, emphasizing one reality on whole feminist community and claiming universal feminism definitely lead to failure, because if it doesn’t represent, you cannot universalize it.

Soon Marxist, lesbian and post-colonial feminists groups joined the African American feminists in claiming more inclusive models that represent their realities, voices and challenges. This led to the theory of inclusiveness by taking into consideration at different layers of identities and realities that are usually relegated, and today the feminists in the Middle East have to ask for an inclusiveness representation.

In order to understand “feminism cause” it is necessary to establish profound historical and cultural review of aspects and realities of all women, grounding on tools that go with the features of different societies instead of relying on analytical methods of western feminism. Then we can talk less about the “Middle Eastern” oppression of women, and think about the universal oppression of women and how it reveals differently from place to place. Only then we can speak about “universal feminism project”.

[i] The Battle of Yarmouk is regarded as one of the most decisive battles in military history, where the Muslims were hugely outnumbered by the Romans, but with the help of the women and boys amongst them, defeated the Eastern Roman Empire. Source: Wikipedia

Sana Afouaiz

Call for Justice: 9 years old girl been beheaded

A woman holds a pixilated photo of an ethnic Hazara girl who was allegedly beheaded by the Taliban, in Herat, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Protests calling for better security in Afghanistan broke out in several cities Thursday, a day after an estimated crowd of 10,000 descended on the presidential palace in Kabul in response to the brutal killings of seven people from the minority Hazara ethnic group. (AP Photos/Hoshang Hashimi)
Standard

My name is Shukria

A week of tragedies over the world, many terrorist attacks took place in Baghdad, Beirut, Paris … When Will the world know peace? Till when innocent people will be killed in the name of individual interests? Till when hate and violence will describe our world?

This week in Afghanistan, Shukria, a 9-year-old girl was among seven people brutally beheaded by militants accused to be linked to ISIS. Afghanistan citizens carried Shukria’s coffin for hours through the streets of Kabul on Wednesday, civilians were demonstrating and calling for justice in several cities around the country in the wake of the massacre of seven people from the Hazara ethnic minority. The beheaded bodies of four men, two women and a child (Shukria) were found Saturday in a rural town in the southern province of Zabul.

Solidarity protesters have uttered frustration at the government’s apparent inability to control the attacks against the innocent civilians. Afghanistan civilians sang slogans against the government, the Taliban and the terrorist groups, and some protesters endeavored to storm the presidential regime.

Till now, no group has been called responsible for the killings of these innocent people, and the officials have not yet identified who they suspect is the responsible.

In wealthy countries, death cases like these are rare to happen and when it does, it makes headlines. This is simply one of many episodes where innocent women and children and civilians pay the heavy price of political, religious or individual ideoligies.

It is somehow hard to see what the future of our generation will look like, and what women’s place will be in it, terrorism has devastated impact on women’s rights, putting millions of women and girls at risk of killing.

I pray for the innocent souls, I pray for Shukria who left this world with a mark of social injustice that despite the lack of media coverage, she has inspired us not only as women but as humans to call for justice, peace and love.

Humanity has failed us thousand times, but Shukria’s death marked us all.

Rest in Peace beautiful soul.

We will all remember Shukria

I am Shukria

Sana AFOUAIZ

 

Gender Equality: Insights on Financial Literacy and Economic Empowerment

r-FINANCIAL-LITERACY-FOR-WOMEN-large570
Standard

This article was published at “Child & Youth Finance International”: http://www.childfinanceinternational.org/news-and-events/news-blog/entry/gender-equality-insights-on-financial-literacy-and-economic-empowerment

In their actions the Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team (The Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team is an initiative spearheaded by Restless Development, the British Youth Council, ActionAid and Plan UK) advocate for the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on governance, and the participation of young people in governance and accountability. The Governance team has also called for integration of gender equality concerns, and inclusion of young women in decision-making, this through global and national advocacy and campaigning actions in different countries. They highlighted youth priorities, with a special focus on governance & accountability, in the post-2015 development agenda by taking part and speaking at different high level meetings and global discussions in the United Nations among other international bodies.

Gender equality in the Sustainable Development Goals

The draft outcome document “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, will be officially adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, which will be held in New York from 25-27 September 2015.

This is the first development agenda that has been negotiated and agreed by all Member States and which is applicable to all for the next 15 years.

The new sustainable development goals aim to complete what the MDGS did not achieve, through addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality and the sustainable development that works for all. The new agenda addresses an action plan for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. It highlights the necessity of fostering peaceful, inclusive societies and calls for the participation of all countries, stakeholders and youth. The determined agenda pursues to end poverty by 2030 and endorse shared economic prosperity, social development and environmental protection. This new agenda that is founded on 17 goals, including a goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as well as gender sensitive targets in other goals.

Assuring and protecting economic empowerment on an equal basis for both men and women has been acknowledged as a human right and as a concern for policymakers. Along with the strap line of United Nations in order to achieve the Millennium Development goals, women’s empowerment is seen as a prerequisite.

The importance of economic empowerment for women and girls

A number of studies and researches over the past years have highlighted that gender equality is a smart economic tool. It has been determined that the unexploited potential of women is a lost opportunity for economic progress and development. Women’s economic participation promotes agricultural productivity, enterprise expansion at the micro and macro, small and medium enterprise levels, in addition to improving business management and returns on investments.

Yet, awareness of gender differences in financial literacy and of their significant implications has endured quite low albeit policy makers now perceive financial literacy as an essential for sustainable development, and financial education has become a vital policy priority.

According to the OECD/INFE financial literacy survey, women have lower financial knowledge than men in a great number of developed and developing countries. Women tend to be less-educated and possess low-income and most of them lack financial knowledge. The survey shows that women are less confident than men in their financial skills, they are less over-confident in financial matters, and are more averse to financial risk.

When it comes to financial behavior, women seem to be better than men at keeping trail of their finances, but they face more struggles in making ends meet and choosing financial products fittingly.

Regardless of its importance, recent initiatives to measure “financial literacy” recommend that levels of financial literacy understanding are low. This typical situation limits the objective understanding of financial issues and leads to subjective interpretation.

Due the external environment challenges, it becomes a necessity for individuals to enhance their financial understanding, to make appropriate financial decisions so to reach positive outcomes. Such challenges include the decline of public welfare policies, increased life expectation and health care costs; the development of complex financial markets; and effects of the global financial crisis. Whereas the need for financial literacy is largely acknowledged as vital, though the importance of equal gender dimension stays a subject for debate. Such gender differences represent fundamental problems for social equity, with several consequences on sustainable development of countries.

Countries tend to display loss of economic potential when one half of their population is disoriented, particularly in societies where a great percentage of production takes place in informal enterprises run by women. Low levels of female financial literacy and confidence have a negative impact on their participation in the economy.

The conceptual framework that individuals face may differ according to inherent characteristics among populations of women and men that affect their chances to obtain financial literacy. These characteristics may be different: (age; personality traits; environmental constraints). Women and men experience different cultural norms, which limit where, when and how they best learn about personal finance. Studying these factors is important as they may have impact on founding relevant policy responses: effective financial education interventions necessitate addressing different root causes.

Understanding the gender causes of financial literacy in countries requires effective policy design policy, analytical and comparative reports and research highlighting good practices and detailed case studies on financial education and literacy across national and regional levels. Policy makers need to emphasize standards, principles and guidelines as well practical tools to enable and improve strategic financial education.

Investing in women promotes financial literacy and economic growth

Besides boosting economic growth, I believe investing in women has multiplier effects; women plow a large portion of their income in their families and communities. They play crucial role in creating peaceful and stable societies which are important factors for economic growth. Regrettably, even these benefits have been universally recognized and have therefore not translated into women’s full economic participation in different countries, especially in developing countries, where women still face obstacles when establishing new businesses or even increasing existing ones. Among the biggest obstacles are discriminatory laws, regulations and business conditions, with women’s lack of access to property rights, finance, training, technology, markets, mentors, and networks. According to “Women Finance Hub”: 71 countries prevent women from working in some industries. 16 countries don’t let married women get jobs without their husband’s permission, 44% countries don’t let women work at night. We can only imagine one of the reasons behind the lack of economic development of the world when half of the population is discriminated from full participation in the economic level.

Although there has been current focus on developing women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries, this spotlight has been on growth-oriented women’s businesses. Women’s entrepreneurship in micro and small business that are often measured as informal, regardless of these concentrated efforts of poverty reduction initiatives through increased access to skills training and micro-credit, still have not been able to reach the growth potential among women.

I have been working with women in different countries in Africa and Middle East, and I have noticed that the role of women in national economies is more emphasized in recent years by ensuring gender equality and women empowerment among individuals. But the fact is that women have less access to resources, education and health facilities in most of the developing countries, where women are half the workforce. Greater participation of women in economic activities is the major concern of most of the countries, which is considered as one of the best tools to achieve and attain a sustain development.

Governments need to show more financial aid to support efforts to increase women’s access to quality financial services; there is an urge need to highlight women’s crucial role in advancing agricultural development and food security, and encourage policy and programmatic support for female farmers and agricultural businesses owned by women, and reform the policy to facilitating the processes for women in this field.

More support to NGOs, industry associations, and corporations advocating for policy and programmatic solutions that would enable women’s economic participation, also enhance more technology access and providing access to mobile phones, internet, and other vital technologies along with addressing cultural, financial, educational barriers.

Provide capacity building, trainings, and mentoring programs to women and girls and equip them with market information, entrepreneurship opportunities, and the necessary skills to attain economic independence; and encourage best practices to increase women’s leadership in the sector of business and entrepreneurship.

Government states especially in developing countries need to find a solution to one of the biggest obstacles which is data collection; endorse the collection and configuration of gender data in the economic sector to create evidence-based policy and programs aimed at increasing women’s economic participation across all sectors. Governments need to provide their youth with space to hold their leaders accountable and that’s by ensuring youth participation in data collection and arrange for youth to express their innovative analyses that form the basis for recommendations to policymakers, help them make decisions and promote policies best suited to ending global economic inequalities and to generating people-centered sustainable development.

Sana AFOUAIZ

From the Rape Capital of the World: Stories of Survival

11873553_766978103431762_1101782593592863469_n
Standard

Violence against women takes different forms: physical, sexual, emotional and economic. These forms of violence are consistent and distress women’s life. Yearly, millions of women and little girls worldwide suffer domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, killing, trafficking, sexual violence in conflict zones, and abuse.

Women and little girls who are subjected to violence suffer a severe range of health and psychological problems which diminish their civic engagement in their communities. These different types of violence against women harm families; generations and nations, in additions strengthen other forms of violence to occur in the society.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular the east of the country, has a long history of rape and violence, it was named the “Rape Capital of the World”. Although sexual violence has always occurred in the country, but the region has faced increased rates of sexual violence at the time of the armed conflicts.

This report has lifted the lid on the sexual exploitation of little girls aged between 6 months to 12 years old, along with government failures to deal with the issue.

The Club des défenseurs des droits de la fille/HPT visited the victims on the 17th of this month in Kavumu, SOUTH KIVU, DR CONGO; the families of the victims shared with us their harrowing feelings.
The daily stories of Kavumu, group of men come every night, break into the houses kidnap and rape little girls. Then in the morning they bring them back to their beds or leave them at the door house. If the girls are lucky enough to survive, they are taken to the Kavumu health center. We have covered 42 severe rape cases of young girls and one of them did not survive, sometimes the little girls get pregnant. Several survivors received the first care in local clinics then were sent to Panzi hospital, the victims are aged between 6 months to 12 years. Relatives of the victims cannot sleep because of the criminals, as they don’t know when they are back again. The poor construction of the homes in this neighborhood, -that are often built of mud- due to lack of financials resources of the families; makes it an easy target for the criminals to break in and rape the little girls.

11873553_766978103431762_1101782593592863469_n

A mother testified that neither she nor her husband had heard when their daughter (Elysée) was abducted at their side. The following morning, while bathing her daughter, she realized that she was raped and then took her to the hospital.

Elysée is a 3 year old from Bushumba who was raped at the age of 2 years, she said she saw a civilian and a soldier “I thought it was our landlord”, they injected a syringe in her body and then rapped her. She only felt the pain when her mother took her to the hospital.

11885311_766978520098387_1005877200170534094_n

Bénite, 12 years old, was raped at the age of 9 years. She loves her grandmother and lived with her for a while, one night her life changed completely, when she heard someone broke into the house, he prevented her from screaming. He was a man whom she knows very well, he took her by force to his place and raped her and then brought her back in the morning to her grandmother’s house. Her mother realized that something happened to her daughter as she was crying for no reason, then she took her to the hospital when she found out who rapped her little daughter, she prosecuted the rapist, who unfortunately was released the same day because of his financial power. Whenever Bénite sees this man, she starts crying, stop eating, and then remain silent, she told her mother she wants to leave Kavumu.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, four women are raped every five minutes. Impunity sways within the country, and despite that government’s acknowledges that its own security forces constitute one of the main groups of criminals, effective restructurings to the security sector have not been endorsed. The country faces a mass of human rights violations which remain dangerous for women and little girls, whom are subjected to all kind of violence every day.

Nowhere is more dangerous for women than the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where women and girls suffer excessively from high rates of violence and extreme poverty during times of conflict since 1996. Even though peace has been established in most regions of the country, but the eastern provinces, still suffer from gender-based violence.

The use of rape and sexual assault to terrify -women and little girls, their families, and their communities- continues until actions are taken to save their innocent lives.
Special thanks go to:

  • To the parents of the victims for their cooperation with us, and for sharing their stories with us.
  • To the Kavumu hospital nursing center for the care provided to the victims
  • To the “Club des défenseurs des droits de la fille”, for their support in the fight against sexual violence and for their continuous promotion for women’s rights.

This report was written in collaboration with Jocelyne SACERDOCE and “Club des Défenseurs des Droits de la Fille/ HPT”