No Woman, No Peace

mother and child refugees in Dadaab Kenya

© UNHCR/B. Heger

Just moments ago U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a comprehensive new plan by the U.S. government to help protect women and girls in conflict zones and ensure that peace processes include women.

The new plan by the Administration is the first ever U.S. national action plan and Executive Order to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.   Often dubbed “the women’s resolution,” UNSC Resolution 1325 recognizes that significant action is needed to protect women and girls from armed conflict and include them in peace-building.  States have been asked to create a national action plan to specifically address the issue of women, peace and security.

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No More Rapes: End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Haiti

After she moved into a makeshift shelter in Dessalines Square, Champ-de-Mars, Haiti, “Suzie” and her friend were gang raped in front of their shelter.

 “After they left I didn’t do anything….I don’t know where there is a clinic offering medical treatment for victims of violence.” 

Because she was blindfolded, Suzie didn’t go to the police because she didn’t know who the men were that raped her.  She told Amnesty International that the police patrol the streets, but she’s never seen them inside the camp.

In the Haitian camps there are many women and girls like Suzie. It is therefore vitally important that both the international community and the Haitian government take immediate action to treat the issue of violence against women as a priority for the humanitarian and reconstruction effort in Haiti. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

New bill to end violence against women:"An act of compassion.."

I was honored to attend the event to mark the re-introduction of the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) on Thursday February 4th.  There was quite a turn out – politicians, activists and advocates all committed to ending the global scourge of violence against women and all gathered to celebrate the long awaited introduction of this landmark legislation. 

The bill  is a comprehensive response to this global human rights violation that places women’s rights at the center of United States foreign policy and supports programs which have been shown to reduce rates of violence – including education, health, legal reform, economic opportunity and public awareness raising programs.  A bipartisan team of sponsors from the House and the Senate were represented at the event and they were joined by two important  women who had first hand experience of confronting violence against women.  Humaira Shahid, an editor and legislator in Pakistan, was behind groundbreaking legislative reform to defend the rights of women in Pakistan, including a resolution to abolish acid attacks, amendment of criminal laws to increase protection of women from domestic violence and the Women’s Protection Act.  As Humaira put it during her speech ”..women are the untapped reservoir we should invest in to bring real change…and I-VAWA is the way to do it” 

The other guest of honor was our very own Amnesty activist Irene Safi Turner.  Irene has worked on gender issues in Central Africa for almost a decade.  She made a moving speech on the value of I-VAWA to women like those affected by the conflcit and violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  “The legislation will bring a sense of hope and purpose for thousands of Congolese women victims of violence who are traumatized and stigmatized by their community” she said “The International Violence Against Women Act is an act of compassion and solidarity”.

(C) Alexandra Robinson. Sen. John Kerry, Rep Schakowsky and Humaira Shahid applaud Irene Safi Turner after she spoke at the IVAWA introduction event.

(C) Alexandra Robinson. Sen. John Kerry, Rep Schakowsky and Humaira Shahid applaud Irene Safi Turner after she spoke at the IVAWA introduction event.

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Parliamentarians Debate Women's Rights

© Jeronimus van Pelt; Former ‘Comfort Women’ lobby for parliamentary resolutions against violence in the Netherlands

© Jeronimus van Pelt; Former ‘Comfort Women’ lobby for parliamentary resolutions against violence in the Netherlands

The Inter-Parliamentary Union is bringing together members of parliament from around the world this week for a conference on “A Parliamentary Response to Violence Against Women”. During this conference, parliamentarians will discuss the role they can play in ending violence against women. The legislature can play a critical role in ending abuses and achieving rights for women, particularly by introducing laws that fulfill the “three ps” – prevent violence, protect survivors of violence and punish perpetrators of violence.

In our own United States Congress, there is a bill to end violence against women around the world, the International Violence Against Women Act. I hope that our Members of Congress will be inspired by the debates amongst their international parliamentary counterparts gathered in Geneva this week, and moved to support the International Violence Against Women Act. But, it is more likely that they will be inspired by their constituents in their own back yards. That’s where you come in.