Category Archives: Power

#womensrights #safeabortion #srhr Sierra Leone Safe Abortion Bill: SIGN-ON Online Letter to Petition Parliament

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Join and support our sisters in Sierra Leone at this critical time by Signing-On this Online Petition.

The parliament of Sierra Leone passed the Safe Abortion Bill sometime in December 2015 and it was forwarded to the President for signature but he declined to sign it.

Arise and stand in solidarity for women’s human rights by signing this online petition, aimed at appealing to members of parliament to maintain their recent positive and progressive vote in favour of the Safe Abortion Bill and to quickly pass the bill into law.

Deadline for the Sign-on on the online petition: 31st January 2016

13th January, 2016

To:     Hon. Sheku Badara Basiru Dumbuya, Speaker
Hon. Chernor M. Bah, Deputy Speaker
Hon  Ibrahim Bundu, Majority Leader
Hon. Leonard S. Fofanah, Deputy Majority Leader
Hon. Bernadette Lahai, Minority Leader
Hon. AnsumanaJaiaKaikai, Deputy Minority Leader
Hon. Claude D.M Kamanda, Chief Whip
Hon. Sidie Tunis, Minority Chief Whip
Hon. Hannah B. Songowa, Deputy Chief Whip
Hon. Jusufu B. Mansaray, Deputy Minority Whip
Hon. Ibrahim S.Sesay, Clerk of Parliament

We write today to commend the Parliament of Sierra Leone for its recent vote in favour of the Safe Abortion Bill and urge quick passage of the bill into law. This landmark bill allows us to envision the elimination of unsafe abortion in Sierra Leone and the many deaths and injuries it causes. With the passage of the Safe Abortion Act 2015, Sierra Leone will join with other African nations as leaders taking the most direct and effective action possible to reduce maternal mortality and affirm women’s human rights.

We in Africa should be ashamed that our women continue to die of unsafe abortion when safe abortion is such a clear and attainable solution. Yet almost all 47,000 women who die every year from unsafe abortion are in developing countries, with African women at the highest risk. Without access to safe and legal abortion, women become desperate and procure clandestine procedures in unsafe settings. The epidemic of unsafe abortion has left women injured or disabled. It has resulted in families being broken by the loss of the mother.

We applaud the Parliament of Sierra Leone for saying definitively through the Safe Abortion Bill that it cannot sit by while women die needlessly from unsafe abortion.Though opposed by a few loud voices, members of Parliament have had the courage to stand firm in protecting the people of Sierra Leone from harm. We urge you to sign the bill into law and begin saving lives now.

With the passage of this legislation, the Parliament will also be affirming its commitment to the Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003), commonly known as the Maputo Protocol. Article 3 of the protocol affirms women’s rights to dignity, life, integrity and security of person and Article 14 protects the reproductive rights of women including the right to safe abortion. Sierra Leone ratified the Maputo Protocol this past summer, and this law ensures that Sierra Leone will meet and lead in its commitments to African nations and peoples.

Again, we celebrate and congratulate the Parliament for its strong and clear steps to protect women’s health and dignity.  Sierra Leone stands as a champion within Africa for women’s health and rights and a model for numerous other countries that are unwilling to take this bold and important step for what is good and right.

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Petition prepared by:-

Ipas Africa Alliance: Contact: Lucy Lugalia: guthriee@ipas.org

SOAWR – Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition

FEMNET – African Women’s Development and Communication Network: Contact: Dinah Musindarwezo: director@femnet.or.ke and Hellen Malinga Apila: advocacy@femnet.or.ke

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16 Days Campaigners CALL for an End to Gender-based Violence and Violations of the Right to Education

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On November 25, 2015, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) will launch the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. Along with over 5,478 organizations and other participants from 187 countries and territories, CWGL is calling for an end to gender-based violence and accountability on the part of policymakers and community members to end violence, discrimination, and inequality.

The 16 Days Campaign is a powerful platform to educate the public and governments about gender-based violence, human rights, and the intersections of political, economic, and social realities.

CWGL is sharing resources, coordinating with global participants on their actions and hosting a social media mobilization with a Twitter “teach-in.” To participate, contact the global coordinator at 16days@cwgl.rutgers.edu and follow @16DaysCampaign. Use the #16Days and #GBVteachin hashtags to join the discussion.

READ full Press Release

For more information, visit http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu.

Women’s Forum: Feminist Perspectives on the Third International Conference on Financing for Development

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By Nyaguthii Wangui Maina*

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July 10th 2015, marked an important day when feminists from around the globe converged in Addis Ababa Ethiopia to share their views, reflect and consecrate their ideas ahead of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.
With a vibrant room filled to capacity by both female and male counterparts, succinct and pertinent opinions were shared on the amalgamated view that the stakes are indeed high for realizing gender equality and women’s rights as development financing is shaped, negotiated and agreed upon in Addis Ababa. A consistent theme that did however run throughout the discussions was that transformation of mindsets was critical in surmounting the structural barriers impeding gender equality.

The forum was opened by Ms Dinah Musindarwezo from FEMNET and Ms Rosa Lizarde from the Feminist Task Force and Women Working Group on Financing for Development, both of them echoing the views and concerns of participants present in the room; that the road ahead was indeed bumpy.

Despite the well known fact of women’s empowerment and gender equality being basic human rights and central to human development, governments and global state actors alike have nonetheless mismatched their commitments with the required financing and policies. If anything, the alarming trend of women’s civil society spaces shrinking globally is a cause for concern and redress. A keen participant added to this point by raising the issue of women at home being excluded from influencing these very processes. “There is a strong disconnect between politics and the economy and women’s voices are missing everywhere, even at home in domestic processes,” she said.

Ms Rosa Lizarde of the Feminist Task Force, and Ms Dinah Musindarwezo of FEMNET

Ms Rosa Lizarde of the Feminist Task Force, and Ms Dinah Musindarwezo of FEMNET

As the forum began with discussions on the issues at stake in the Financing for Development negotiations and strategic interventions on ways to overcome global obstacles for gender justice and sustainable and equitable development, Ms Lakshmi Puri, deputy Executive Director of UN Women, urged the audience to consistently remember that there can never be enough gender in these discussions. “The political declaration from CSW59 committed member states to support and provide a safe environment for women and girls, however, making all stake holders accountable is pertinent; the private sector has a massive role to play too,” she said. Ms Puri also urged for cohesive interventions in pushing for gender equality. “We must show solidarity between women from the north and south to push our common agenda forward.”

The forum took place in five consecutive sessions. The full program for the women’s forum can be seen here.

Session 1 highlighted the Red Flags for Women’s Rights around the Third Financing for Development Conference and the Post 2015 Development Agenda. An infographic on some of the key areas raised by experts from the Women’s Working Group can be seen below:

Womens major group red flags

Session 2 included five thematic discussions on the red flags highlighted. These were as follows: Tax Justice & Domestic Resource Mobilisation; Private Finance; International Public Finance; Debt, trade, systemic issues and technology; and Follow up and Review.

Session 3 included a plenary session where there were report backs from the thematic group discussions. Thereafter discussions by simultaneous working groups on FfD3 regional priorities took place.

The final session included reflections dubbed, ‘Morning after Addis. What comes next?’  This was a very participatory discussion which encapsulated both stock-taking and looking forward in the horizon for feminist and women’s organisations looking at where they would find themselves post-Addis; a look at the links with Post 2015 and other processes at the regional and global level; and what in fact the Addis outcome could mean for the Post 2015 process. This session was summarised by the highlighting of the existing opportunities at regional and global level to advance the links between women’s rights and the FfD agenda.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Emma Kaliya (FEMNET Chairperson) and the Women Working Group co-coordinators echoed the same sentiments. After all is said and done and there is sufficient mobilisation of resources, how will these resources be used to enhance gender equality? What does the governance architecture look like? How will we consistently and persistently mobilise ourselves to ensure that women’s rights are at the heart of development? Yes investing in women makes economic sense, but the current economic model in and of itself undermines addressing women’s rights as basic human rights.

*Ms Nyaguthii Wangui Maina is a blogger; connect with her on her blog Musings of A People and on Twitter @nm_wangui.

Let’s Talk about Power, Violence and Men in Crisis

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By Sam Rosmarin*

This week, hundreds of Kenyans marched in downtown Nairobi chanting “My Dress, My Choice” in response to recent violent public attacks on women. On the surface, these attacks focused on the indecent attire of the victims, while the march focused on the freedom of women to dress how they please. While I laud the marchers for putting this issue into the public space, I can’t help but think their slogans are misguided. By centering their slogans on dress, the activists allowed Kenya to slip into the wrong conversation: a debate on morality and appropriate attire.

These conversations aren’t inherently bad, but I believe they are wasted opportunities to confront the real issues of power and violence.

When a mob of men strips a woman naked for being “indecent” in public, this is an act of power not morality. Let’s be honest: if it were truly about the moral horror of seeing too much skin, this mob of men would have thrown a blanket to cover the victim instead of exposing even more of her skin. If this were truly about morality, men wouldn’t be drawing parallels between a women in a mini-skirt and a bank asking to be robbed. Echoing many other voices, one man tweeted: “You intentionally seduce the male folk with your attire, deprive them of the treasure, yet cry foul when raped. #MyDressMyChoice is ridiculous!” Our first reaction to such a quote is probably to point out his objectification of women and his misplaced entitlement. “How dare men feel sexually entitled to women’s bodies,” we say. As activists and as citizens, we need to dig deeper and realize how powerless someone must feel to come to that conclusion. A viewpoint like that is forged in the societal fires of patriarchy – a forge that tells him what a real man is (powerful, dominant, virile) and warns him of what a real man is not (weak, compassionate, impotent).

Exerting power through violence is a surefire way to demonstrate your masculinity and, as one commentator rightly pointed out: “power-as-violence is the central organizing principle in the Kenyan public sphere.” Changing the status quo requires us to place these dynamics of power and violence at the center of our outrage and to form our solutions around dismantling this destructive nexus.

What does a focus on power and violence mean in practice? How can we adopt better advocacy practices?

In general, we should:

  1. Focus our slogans on the key issue: violence. “Freedom From Violence” is a more accurate slogan than “Our Dress, Our Choice” because the real transgression was the violent reaction, not the moral judgment.
  2. Focus on the roots of masculinity to encourage our societies to critically analyze the expectations we place on men. The dozens of men participating in these marches is a good sign, as well as an entry point to a broader conversation.
  3. Find non-traditional allies, particularly in religious institutions. Make it difficult for opponents to hide behind religious texts and other static documents that are open to broad interpretation, but claimed definitively by one side.
  4. Build from the bottom by supporting women’s expanded participation in traditionally male spaces such as politics and corporate businesses. This leverages power structures created by men.
  5. Finally, help your opponents visualize an infinite pie that expands with gender equality. Argue that everything from individual sex lives to national economic growth will improve with gender equality and freedom from violence.

*Sam Rosmarin is a strategy advisor based in Addis Ababa. Follow him on Twitter: @SamRosmarin