Kvinnedagen er en dag som blir feiret over hele verden. Flyktninghjelpen har satt sammen en rekke historier fra våre lokalt ansatte i land fra Sør Sudan og Zimbabwe til Colombia og Palestina. Historiene gir en unik innsikt i noen av utfordringene kvinner verden over møter, mens de samtidig stadfester at kampen for likestilling må fortsette.
A woman from Gaza: 30 years of struggle
By: Wafa Kafarna, ICLA Deputy Project Manager in Gaza
In general, to be a woman means that the number of those fighting for their rights worldwide is increased by one. But to be a woman from Gaza where the Israeli occupation, Hamas local authorities and a conservative family control the place in which you were born, live your life, are educated and where you work is another story.
As a twelve-year girl, my dream was to study engineering at Birzeit University in Ramallah and a father’s promise was given, even though another six sisters and three brothers were still waiting in line behind me. Things changed immediately after finishing secondary school when high levels of unemployment and poverty gripped Gaza and affected thousands of Palestinians, suddenly leading us to look for a job rather than for a university for a 17-year-old girl. Al Quds Open University’s distant learning programme was more of an obligation, but ultimately both work and university studies were achieved.
I believed that a smart returnee Palestinian man with his Egyptian lifestyle was the last resort of the old-fashioned father’s mind set who kept promising to marry his 7 daughters to unemployed or uneducated men, because “faith in God is completed only if you get married!” I did not realize that the Egyptian lifestyle in Gaza would impose new restrictions and constraints on top of what already existed, to the extent that it affected my post-graduate study, work, relationships, way of dressing and even thinking.
A gorgeous baby girl was born as a result of that devastating marriage and three years later, a divorce was the natural, yet unexpected, decision for a 28-year-old mother. My fighting with these two controlling men in my life was enough to destroy the seed of peace that came with that fascinating morning smile and the incredible softness of my heart. But seeing life from that little baby’s eyes makes life’s struggles completely worth it. I will impart all my knowledge, experience, hope and power to that new warrior and future voice of Gaza.
Being a woman in Gaza means you are a mother and father to that seven-year-old lovely daughter and a father to the remaining three sisters and three unemployed brothers. It means working harder and harder to get into that INGO in order to start a professional life. Being a woman in Gaza means having to stop challenging all customs and traditions and to stop defying male power and dominance, by instead focusing on empowering my own skills and knowledge. I have learned a peaceful and reachable alternative where it is enough just to raise my voice and to feel free and enjoy the little independence I do have.
Wherever you are my lady, believe that you are not the only woman in the world who is suffering and that there are millions of women in the same or maybe worse worse situation. The brighter days are not coming yet but they will be lived soon, and in the mean while, we proudly celebrate each 8th March for being a woman.
I love being a woman in South Sudan
It’s important for one to have self-esteem whatever the case it might be. Some people find it hard when it comes to issue about gender and begin comparing their ways of living, yet there is no reverse.
Personally I like the way I am created as a women for many reasons; being a mother is something that is motivating, to be responsible for large group of different people which I didn’t thought of when I was a small child in my parents’ home. I used to love staying with my siblings and relatives. When I grew into a young lady and married off to another community I became a full member and begun adapting new life style which I some time like but challenging in another hand. The first thing was to be the owner of the home that people recognize in my name. That made me proud, sometime given chance to talk in meetings and address some issues involving youth both boys and girls.
Many women in South Sudan face a lot of domestic problem, no time for leisure, the entire responsibility of their homes keep them confined and when certain things/duties are not accomplished, quarrelling and fighting emerge in the family as a result of blame. Majority of women are only kept for production and if by chance they happen to have no children or produce only girls they become a disposal bag for everyone at home. And if one decided to leave the home or divorce what about the dowry? And the children belong to their fathers! Where can a poor woman go to?
The most challenging part is that I as a woman need to be taken care of like any other person. But in most cases it is not possible at all, however I may put myself in the shoe of those women who have no education background. You find that all the house hold work is for women including myself they work their fingers to the bone with less care and no support from their partners. Left to be worn out like an old cloth while their partners keep on maintaining their bodies for new courtship with young ladies to book for marriage.
We need motivation, care and mutual understanding to continue mothering the nation as a whole for the continuity of generation after generations.
Angelica Bello: A life story of resistence against gender violence in Colombia
By: Ana Maria Restrepo, ICLA Bogotá Colombia
Rest in Peace. “I came to think, I say it honestly, I got this for talking too much, for being an activist.” Angélica Bello
In the last 50 years, the Colombian internal armed conflict has resulted in more than five million persons affected by forced displacement and other serious human rights violations.
Women have been the main victims of this conflict. They have suffered catastrophic violations and other conditions of inequality persistent in Colombian history.
In this context, women, as surviving victims of the armed conflict, are mostly forced to assume the role of heads of households. The picture is sharp and painful especially when sexual violence appears to be one of the main weapons of war.
Angelica Bello is an example of the disproportionate impact of the armed conflict on the lives of women in Colombia.
She was forcibly displaced several times with her family, and sadly lived to see the kidnapping and sexual slavery of her children by a paramilitary leader. In addition, she suffered sexual violence by those who wanted to silence her.
These harsh experiences strengthened her activist spirit, and she became a strong advocate for women’s rights. In this task, Angelica fought hard until the end to empower other female victims like her; encouraging them to report the violations suffered, and demand protection by the Colombian state.
Sadly, the life of Angelica was not long enough to fight for her rights, her family’s rights, and the fight against the great suffering that caused so much damage.
Angelica died two weeks ago, and although the authorities claim it to be a suicide, those who knew her, refuse to believe that a woman who reflected so much hope and desire to fight, decided to end her life.
For the Colombian government, her death should be a call to increase efforts to ensure and protect the rights of women in Colombia.
Today Angelica is missing and there is one less voice against violence.
The Local Legacy of International Women’s Day in Iran
By: Mahsa Shekarloo, Education and Livelihoods Programme Coordinator
It was the year 2000, and I had recently moved to Iran from the United States, where I had spent most of my childhood and early adulthood years. My intentions were vague and unformed, but the urge to know more about my home country was strong, especially as it concerned the situation of women. What I did know could be summarized in the two years that I had lived there as a young girl, immediately following the 1979 revolution and at the start of the Iran-Iraq war, when dramatic changes in the country had made daily life alternatively, euphoric, promising, disappointing and terrifying.
At 29 years of age, back as a woman and feminist, I found myself captivated most of all by the professional women in Iran who surprised me with their dedication, seriousness, and drive in their work. While I had been aware of the curtailment of women’s civil rights, the most conspicuous restriction being the compulsory veiling law, I was less aware of the government policies that had generously funded public education and health and which had dramatically improved women’s education and health levels. In many ways, the artists, writers, journalists, publishers, and lawyers I encountered and who strongly articulated for women’s greater social participation, were products of these contradictory but parallel policies.
This was the political period, known as the Reformist period (1997-2005), when social restrictions were being loosened and avenues for social participation were opening. One of the most important public discussions during that time concerned the need for an autonomous civil society and for the expansion of the public sphere, where a multitude of diverse voices and perspectives could be heard. Women were increasingly engaging in these debates, often from a feminist perspective, and were organizing collectively to take independent action.
In February of 2000, I found myself in a coordination meeting among a myriad of women writers, publishers, and journalists who had decided that this was the year that they were going to launch the first public March 8 International Women’s Day celebration in 21 years. The last public commemoration of International Women’s Day in 1979 took the form of a street demonstration by several thousand women to protest the mandatory veiling of women. In the aftermath of 1979, which included further political upheaval and the onset of a long eight year war with Iraq (1980-1988), International Women’s Day was not to be celebrated, except quietly in small numbers and in private homes.
This historical context gave meaning to the tension that accompanied the hope and determination that permeated the coordination meeting that day. In the room sat one of Iran’s first and most established woman publishers, who volunteered to apply for the required government permit and to serve as the focal point to the authorities. Also present was one of the youngest female publishers who had recently made waves by publishing a feminist journal, aptly titled Jens-e Dovom (The Second Sex). What was at stake was the establishment of a public sphere, the making room for public debates about the status of women, and the open and tolerant consideration of alternative viewpoints.
The event went ahead as planned, and turned out to be a great success with several hundred people in attendance, and speeches that covered the history of Iranian feminism, eco-feminism, women’s movements in Afghanistan and Bangladesh, as well as stories of local women’s achievements. Many women’s groups were established in the aftermath of that event and they continued to publicly celebrate International Women’s Day for several years to follow. From 2001 – 2006, women’s groups in Iran celebrated International Women’s Day in conference halls, public parks, community centers, and on university campuses to advocate for equality, peace and justice; oppose occupation and war; raise awareness about gender-based violence; promote the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); demand an end to gendered discrimination; and forge alliances with other social groups (such as university students and workers’ groups).
As the celebrations grew more popular and numerous with each passing year, however, the tensions also increased, and clashes with police were not uncommon. Eventually, permit requests for public March 8 events were denied and women’s groups turned to their homes again to celebrate, if at all.
While the ending to this very brief history could surely signify a defeat for International Women’s Day, I think the more important point to take away is that this day has strong roots in Iran, with its own localized history and set of localized meanings. The day has historically been used by Iranian women to celebrate, advocate for, and protest against a host of issues – many local and some international – which they have identified as significant and worthy of public debate in their society. It is these local legacies that give International Women’s Day its relevance and significance throughout the world, because without local ownership, the rest is just fleeting slogans.
Two Voices from Liberia: Challenges and prospects
By: Oretha T. Lah and Gladys A. Tealeh.
My name is Oretha T. Lah.
I am a Liberia woman who has been working on the Gender Based Violence program in Liberia for six years now. Being a woman in Liberia is very challenging; there are many difficulties women of Liberia are faced with. Among them are the more prevalent ones such as unemployment, illiteracy and insecurity.
My first challenge was when I had to leave my husband and children to move to another location for work. During my stay out of home, my husband got into another relationship with a girl who then moved into my home. My husband could no longer communicate with me, he stopped paying my children’s school fees, and my children went in the streets because they were no longer cared for. Savings and other investments we had had together – like our house and car - I was deprived access to. When I tried to address the situation with my husband, he beat me and threw my things out. I became hopeless and contemplated on where to start. However, with the hope of my job, I was able to recover from the situation even though I lost that relationship and everything I had ever worked for up until that point.
Also as a single female working in a different location and living alone, I was exposed to violence with so many men I interacted with on job related matters or personal issues on a daily basis. Either they proposed to have a sexual relationship with me or they attempted to come into my house forcibly, saying they were there for a visit, but actually there to sexually harass me.
Liberia is a country with high traditional barriers for women and girls. It is believed that women can only be housewives and less value is paid to their work. It is culturally unacceptable to report your husband to the police when he beats or sexually abuses you. If you do, it is a clear indication that you don’t want that relationship anymore. Women’s education was denied in the past, so many women in Liberia today are illiterate and the insecurity facing women is very high. Liberian women are exposed to all forms of violence. Girl children in particular, between the ages of three to fourteen, continue to suffer abuses either from their foster parents, neighbours, trusted family members or strangers.
Despite of the enactment of the revised Rape Law in 2006 as well as other domestic relation laws in Liberia, women’s access to justice and security still remains a major challenge. Though women’s participation in leadership and decision making has improved greatly, there is still a need for more awareness raising on women’s rights. We hope for a brighter and better future for our women and girls in Liberia.
My name is Gladys A. Tealeh.
As a female Liberian, working in Liberia can be very challenging. At the recruitment level it is much more difficult for females to get a job because we have not had as many opportunities as men in order to be qualified at an equal level with a male.
It is very challenging working with male colleges because they go with the notion that females don’t merit the job and that we only get jobs on one personal connection or another. Most often when a female is supervising a group of males, it’s very difficult for them to take command. The men claim that the woman is only trying to control them, not taking into consideration the policies of the organisation even if they are aware of the fact that she is right. And if the organization reacts harshly towards the men, they claim that the female has used her extraordinary female power to spoil their job.
Liberian men, please try and accept the orders of a female when she is leading you!
And always please remember that the policies of the organization must take effect and be respected.
THIS TOO IS LIBERIA!
The impact of polygamy on South-Sudanese woman
It is a man’s pride in South Sudan to have more than one wife. A story from Miss X from Eastern Equatoria State.
She wedded in the church and has four children. ”During our time girls were not allowed to go to school. So I remained illiterate,” she says. She got married to her husband when she was only 15 years old, that was the time she lost her mother and she was living with her step mother. Because of illiteracy her husband decided to marry another woman who brought a lot of misunderstanding in the family. She was abandoned with her children in the village. The woman bewitched her daughter and she became mad.
Culturally she had no voice since she was married and the dowry had been paid to her family. Her husband did not bother to educate her children instead he forced her daughters into early marriages. Unfortunately one of her daughters was infected with HIV/AIDS being the fifth wife in the marriage and died the third year of her marriage. The other girl became barren and could not produce as a result of the step- mother who took her pans and promised her never to have children.
She is not supposed to correct the husband whenever he goes wrong. Her work is to make sure that she feeds the family with the little money she gets from brewing local beer. After two years the husband decided to marry two more women, the man ended up with six women and twenty nine children without education. Some of them became street children and others started coming back home with unwanted pregnancy.
Four of these women died of HIV/AIDS and left her with nineteen children to take care being the first wife. The husband who divorced her some times back came back home infected with HIV/AIDS ready to die in her house. Culturally being the first wife she had to receive him and take care of him until he dies as required by the culture and the community she lives in. She is taken to be the man's property and not allowed to go back to their home because her dowry had been paid and has already been used by her clan members so nobody is ready to pay back the dowry.
This is the situation of women in some areas of South Sudan once you are married you are the property of that man, you are not allowed to make decision, you should not address the public with what you are going through. You have to humble yourself and be like a sheep going to be slaughtered. However the government is working hard to see that there is equality among women and men by allowing NGO to come and rescue the situations for instance working on sensitization and education of the public on attitude change towards women. Such as gender base violence, women involvement in every aspect of life.
NRC CÔTE d´VOIRE
By: Safiatou Alabi, PC ICLA NRC Cote d’Ivoire
With my training in Law, I began campaigning to protect and promote the rights of women from a young age. In 2006, still a University student, I was a member of the Women Lawyers Association of Côte d'Ivoire, where I actively participated in training, conferences, and campaigns to promote and expand women’s rights. My interest in the question of equality between men and women has shaped my commitment to help identify discriminatory laws in the Ivorian legislation, as well as to help organize a symposium entitled, "Equal rights and de facto inequality." At the same time, I was a volunteer at the Office of the International Catholic Child (BICE) on a project to support the fundamental rights of girls in domestic service, many of whom are subjected to humiliating treatment from their employers. For my Masters degree in Human Rights, I wrote a thesis on "Rural women and land ownership in Côte d'Ivoire: the case of the West."
In 2008, I was able to bring my experience in promoting and protecting women’s to NRC Cote d’Ivoire as a Counselor in the Information, Counseling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) project. In 2010, I was promoted to the post of Assistant Project Manager, and then in 2012 I became the first woman to become national staff Project Coordinator in NRC Cote d’Ivoire. My professional advancement within the organization has been an opportunity for me to prove that women are able to hold positions of responsibility and manage them well. As a Project Coordinator, I do my best to coach my female colleagues so that they too can take on management positions.
Following the post-election crisis in 2010 and 2011, many women were forced to flee their homes and their farmland and find refuge in neighboring Liberia. In 2012, with the support of my colleagues, we were able to assist returning women to regain access to their farmland, allowing them to provide for their children and rebuild their lives. In our projects, my colleagues and I prioritize aiding women peacefully resolve land disputes through mediation. We also educate women about their right and obligation to get birth certificates for their children. (Many women are misinformed and believe that only the child’s father can register a child). This year, therefore, we have decided to mark International Women's Day by a local campaign to assist women to register their children.
I am lucky that I have not encountered major obstacles in my career due to my gender, except for the fact that some of my male colleagues consider me as a "feminist". This doesn’t constitute a problem for me and I still continue my personal and professional struggle for the promotion of gender equality within very conservative Ivoirian context, which still adheres to a "dominant sex". I believe that we have a duty to continue the work of our predecessors and not give up despite the obstacles. Each of us in our own way can help promote gender equality.