Category Archives: Post-Conflict/Disaster

Reflections on Being an Abortion Provider

After well over two years with Austin Women’s Health Center providing abortion care and reproductive healthcare to the women of Texas I learned many lessons I’d like to share with you, dear reader, and to leave for myself as a reminder why I must always remain in the fight for Reproductive Justice and bodily autonomy. It was a lot to learn, and will be a lot to take in, so bear with me.

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Austin Women’s Health Center

  1. All women have abortions. Every age. Every race. Every religion. Every class. Every marital status. Every sexual orientation. Every ability. Every education level. Everyone has abortions. Period.
  2. If someone does not want to be pregnant she will go to extreme lengths, even risking her health or life, to terminate the pregnancy. All the ridiculous laws do is make it more difficult for women to obtain a safe, timely abortion.
  3. October 3rd 2014 was the worst day of my life. On that day my colleagues and I were forced to call, and face, patients who had scheduled abortion procedures with us to tell them the state of Texas would not allow it. We referred them to what was (and could be) the only provider in Austin-Planned Parenthood, and providers in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. It was utterly heartbreaking and many times many of us erupted into tears alongside our patients, because even though we were not the ones needing an abortion, we were also furious that Texas had allowed this to happen.20130712_195121
  4. While the cost of an abortion in Austin this year has gone up for the first time since the 1970s, the $600-1,200 it costs to have an ultrasound and terminate a pregnancy is insurmountable for so many individuals and families.
  5. Many, many women have more than one abortion. And that’s totally ok.
  6. A majority of women who have abortions already have children. They get it, they know how emotionally, physically and financially draining parenting is.
  7. The range of emotions around abortion is as varied as the human experience. For some women their abortion is the most difficult, tragic thing they have ever done; for others the idea of being pregnant is laughable and therefore their easy decision comes with overwhelming relief. I’ve learned that people who have abortions feel like they don’t have the right to grieve because they are choosing to end their pregnancies. This is just so wrong on so many levels. There is no “should” when it comes to emotions.
  8. Women expect to be treated like shit by their healthcare providers, both their abortion provider and their regular doctor, because they chose abortion.20130701_112707
  9. It takes an especially thick skin, a sick sense of humor, and a fierce passion to be an abortion provider, whether you’re “just answering phones” or the MD performing the surgery.
  10. All people deserve quality healthcare from providers who respect their choices and their knowledge of what is best for themselves, their families and their lives.
  11. Adoption is not an alternative to abortion. Adoption is an alternative to parenting. A huge number of women who have abortions do so because they do not want to be pregnant.
  12. The smallest bit of kindness, whether from healthcare providers, from friends or family, or just in general conversations about abortion, can make a huge difference to someone facing an unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancy. Try compassion, I promise, you’ll like it.
  13. A majority of folks who have abortions were using birth control when they got pregnant. I’ve talked to patients using every single kind of birth control from the pill to vasectomy.
  14. Don’t trust doctors who tell you that you cannot get (someone) pregnant. The human body is an incredible thing and folks who were told that their endometriosis or bike accident as a kid meant they would never have children can and do. Tubal ligation and vasectomies can and do heal. The only way for sexually active folks to prevent all pregnancy is to only engage in homosexual sex. Now if only we could prevent rape….
  15. The Republican Party does not care about women’s health, nor respect our individual autonomy as human beings, therefore if someone votes Republican they are saying that they too do not care about human rights. If you think that women deserve to make their own medical choices, that all consenting adults have the right to marry whomever they love, and that education and medical care should be prioritized over border patrol and prisons, it’s time to vote with your conscience.Where are the women
  16. Laws restricting abortion, birth control, cancer screenings and access to general reproductive healthcare are not really about women’s health given that abortion is one of the safest procedures in the country. Hell, they’re not even about abortion, or god, or the church, they’re about greed. Forcing women to give birth to children they cannot afford ensures a cheap labor force by perpetuating the cycle of poverty. This ties into for-profit prison systems, lack of solid public education, etc. The whole thing is disgusting.
  17. Women trust their doctors… and the internet. Factual, reliable, medically accurate information around abortion and its risks is not easily accessible, especially when doctors are forced by the state to lie to their patients.
  18. Women who have abortions for medical reasons are generally truly heartbroken. They are not looking for understanding or blessings from the Religious Right but silence would be appreciated.
  19. Protesters just piss people off. With the exception of umpires, referees and prison guards I can’t think of any other profession where people are yelled at and have their lives threatened just for doing their jobs.1469799_780493158693927_3089968049188411259_n
  20. A huge number of anti-choice protesters and outspoken opponents of abortion have had abortions!
  21. Most patients who choose to view their fetal tissue after a surgical (machine vacuum aspiration) abortion are shocked by it. Early in the pregnancy, under 9-10 weeks or so, they are shocked by how small it is. Later in the pregnancy they are shocked by what they can identify. As we know many of the photos of fetuses that end up in protesters’ signs were late-term miscarriages so don’t think that at 12 weeks you’re dealing with a newborn, but being able to identify appendages and facial features is normal. Viewing the tissue is an incredibly personal decision, and one that most patients don’t even consider, but anyone reading this who is going to have an abortion, I strongly encourage you to ask yourself what it is you’re hoping to gain from viewing the tissue, and prepare yourself for what you might see.
  22. The medical abortion, abortion pill, Mifeprex, Mifepristone, RU-486, Misoprostal, Cytotec or Cyto–whatever you want to call it–is a long, drawn out process for many people. I would not choose it unless a surgical abortion was unobtainable but for many people, this very safe, very effective method of termination is the preferred choice. For women who live in places where abortion is illegal or practically unobtainable Cyto may be a lifesaver.
  23. The ONLY good thing about a mandatory waiting period and Texas’ requirement that the same doctor who will perform the abortion is the one who does the ultrasound is that it gives patients a chance to meet the staff and the doctor and take some of that initial fear of the unknown away.20130701_122950
  24. Many women do want to see their ultrasound, some even want a copy of it. There are medical reasons for ultrasound dating of the pregnancy, but politicians want to force women to have –and view– vaginal ultrasounds to embarrass, humiliate and shame them. Does humiliating someone into becoming a parent sound like a good idea to anyone?
  25. The sentimentality around getting “a picture of the baby” and the fetal “heartbeat” are overwhelming. We forget, or were purposely never taught, that a single cell can beat like a heart in a petri dish, so the idea that a five-week embryo has a “heartbeat” does not mean what politicians want us to think it means.
  26. LMP vs. conception: When dating the pregnancy the doctor want to know when the FIRST day of a woman’s last menstrual period was, thus LMP. Doctors date pregnancy from this point, not from when a patient thinks conception was, because the date of sex ≠ the date the egg was fertilized. Sperm can live in the human body for up to three days, that’s why Plan B can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex (but seriously the sooner you take it the more effective it is!). Therefore when your doctor tells you that the pregnancy is measuring 6 weeks and zero days, that means roughly one month from intercourse. And at that point the embryo is about the size of a single grain of rice.
  27. Most people feel the need to justify their decisions to the staff at abortion clinics because there is so much stigma around abortion. While I love hearing people’s stories, and they all matter, why you’re having an abortion is none of my business, all I need to know is that you don’t want to be pregnant right now.Bedsider-Birth-Control-Effectiveness-Poster
  28. Women will always have abortions. BIRTH CONTROL WILL FAIL, partners will change their minds or leave or die, pregnant folks will change their minds, illness will come up, jobs will go away, partners will be abusive, etc. Even for women who planned to get pregnant, things can and do and will always come up that make continuing the pregnancy a non-option. Abortion will always be a necessity.
  29. I want science to figure out a way to put a pause button on pregnancy. Of course if the pregnancy is with the wrong person or there are health reasons or if someone simply doesn’t want children pausing it won’t do any good, but if someone just wants to finish school, or get ahead in their career, or make enough money to pay for diapers, being able to pause the pregnancy could reduce the number of abortions.20130701_111334
  30. No one gets pregnant to have an abortion.
  31. Not wanting to be pregnant, or not wanting to parent, or not wanting to be pregnant or parent *right now* does not make you a bad person. Sometimes… a lot of the time, abortion is the responsible choice.

Day 16 of 16 Days of Activism: Nigeria

#Day16 of #16Days–our final exploration of resources around the world for those affected by gender-based violence–leads us to Nigeria. Thankfully the resources available to folks facing violence and discrimination in Nigeria are much more plentiful than yesterday’s exploration of The Bahamas! Unfortunately these resources are much-needed as statistics show that at least one of every three women in Nigeria suffers from domestic violence and in some areas even physical violence against one’s spouse is not considered a crime. As many as 56% of women in parts of Nigeria are also subjected to female genital mutilation-FGM.

International non-governmental organizations, like Pathfinder International and CEDPA, are working in Nigeria to provide reproductive and maternal healthcare due to the astronomical rates of HIV/AIDS in the country. Nationally the Women’s Rights and Health Project engages “community leaders, policy makers, religious/traditional leaders and other stakeholder[s] in the promotion of women’s rights and health.” Their “Gender Based Violence programme is a comprehensive rights and health intervention which engages community based social structures in mitigation, prevention and control, access to Justice for survivors and general support.” They offer counseling services to young couples, provide marriage counseling, and referral services, and hold workshops and training in

  • HIV/AIDS prevention and control
  • Planning and implementation of community level interventions
  • Economic empowerment
  • Gender sensitization and awareness
  • Leadership for community women
  • Conflict Resolution and Management
Prof J. Odey facilitating a Focus Group Discussion with representatives of Women’s Groups at CIRDDOC Community Information Centre, Ikwo

Prof J. Odey facilitating a Focus Group Discussion with representatives of Women’s Groups at CIRDDOC Community Information Centre, Ikwo

The Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) “is an independent, non-governmental and not-for-profit organisation established in 1996 for the protection and promotion of human rights and women’s human rights and the strengthening of civil society. CIRDDOC is also committed to the institutionalization of good governance, gender equality and the rule of law in Nigeria.” Through public outreach, training, capacity building, the media, seminars, conferences, research, public hearings, civic education, counseling, advocacy, litigation, advice on budgeting and MANY other projects CIRDDOC hopes

  • To promote human rights, women’s rights, gender equality, and good governance.
  • To facilitate access to justice and the rule of law.
  • To build capacity of civil society to demand accountability from leaders and policy makers.
  • To facilitate networking, collaboration and partnerships among civil society organisations, and between government and civil society organisations.
The Gender and Transformative Leadership Training in Nigeria from WOCON

The Gender and Transformative Leadership Training in Nigeria from WOCON

The Women’s Consortium of Nigeria holds a United Nations special Consultative Status for their work to enhance the status of women and their commitment to “related feminist goals and ideals.” They focus on human trafficking (in women and children), gender violence, civic education, grassroots advocacy, conferences and meetings, and political empowerment. They also offer a number of resources and explain how you can help. The aim of their work is

  • To monitor the implementation of Women’s Rights for the attainment of equal status of women in all aspects of social political and economic development within the community and the nation at large.
  • To organise and establish resource centres from which individual and organisations committed to feminist goals can share space equipments facilities and information on women issue or matters.
  • To monitor and ensure the implementation of all commitments made by Government Bodies and Agencies through conventions charters regulations geared towards the welfare and enhancement of the status of women.
  • To educate the public on the rights of women and the means of enforcing such rights for the achievement of equality, development and peace.
  • To co-operate with National and International NGO’s and agencies by networking and co-alligning for the achievement of specific goals for the welfare and development of women.
  • To set up temporary abode for distressed girls and women including battered women and to prepare such girls and women psychologically be counseling and other forms of therapy and education for a re-orientation towards attaining a better and more purposeful life in the society.
  • To work for peace Women’s Rights and economic and social justice.

Regionally the West African Women’s Rights Coalition and in Nigeria WACOL- WomenAid Collective, was formed “to promote and advocate for the rights of women in the West African Sub Region using the African Union mechanisms, in particular the African Commission and ECOWAS.” They “are dedicated and committed to helping women and young people in need,” and envision “A democratic society free from violence and abuse where Human Rights of all, especially Women and young people are recognised in law and practice.” They provide shelter and legal aid to those affected by abuse and offer free legal aid hotlines at: 042-303333, 09-2340647, 084-572948 +234-0704-761-837, and +234-0704-761-839. 

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Project Alert on Violence Against Women opened the first battered women’s shelter in Nigeria, Sophia’s Place, back in 2001. In addition to shelter they offer legal aid and counseling services. Other work focuses on research and documentation and human rights education. They can be reached by phone at 234-1-8209387, 08052004698, and 08180091072, and by email at projectalert@projectalertnig.org and info@projectalertnig.org. Check out their blog here and join the conversation on Twitter with #speakupendabuse. 

So many inspirational organizations exist in Nigeria and around the world that are striving everyday to end gender-based violence. The message of today’s International Human Rights Day is #HumanRights365 because everyone deserves all their human rights every single day of the year. It’s truly been my pleasure to virtually travel the globe as your tour guide over these past 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence! If you or someone you know needs help escaping abuse what we’ve learned is that it’s imperative you speak up. There is help- it’s here.


Day 8 of 16 Days of Activism: Ireland

#Day8 of #16Days leads us to Ireland, where the population is no stranger to violence, starvation and hardship. After centuries of fighting between the Catholics in Ireland and the Protestants in Northern Ireland, finally an uneasy peace has persisted since 1998. Unfortunately for the women of Ireland that peace has not spread to their homes, with one-fifth of women in Ireland suffering from physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. The Irish Immigrant Support Center explains that immigrants experiencing domestic violence are likely to be approved for their own independent legal residence, and has created a guide for immigrants while pushing the Irish legal system to make significant adjustments in how DV is handled in the courts. In September this shocking article disclosed that some women in Ireland are waiting four months to get a protective order against their abuser.

 

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Women’s Aid “a leading national organisation that has been working in Ireland to stop domestic violence against women and children since 1974″ operates the country’s National Freephone Helpline from 10am-10pm everyday (except Christmas) at 1800 341 900. “The Helpline is available free of charge to everyone in the Republic of Ireland. The Helpline is for:

  • Women who are experiencing, or who have experienced, domestic violence.
  • Friends and family seeking to support women and children who are experiencing, or who have experienced, domestic violence.
  • Professionals supporting women and children who are experiencing, or who have experienced, domestic violence.”

As this research shows children in Ireland are also severely impacted by domestic violence. One in Four is an organization dedicated to helping survivors of sexual violence, especially those who were victimized as children, heal. Safe Ireland is another organization working to make Ireland safe for women and children. It is an umbrella organization with a network of 40 domestic violence services throughout the country, 21 of which offer 24/7 emergency shelter. They also offer court accompaniment, outreach and advocacy. “Domestic Violence Support Services have a wide range of skills and experience to respond to a range of women and children’s needs. These include

Safety Related Needs

  • Supporting women with ways to protect them and their children from their partner/ex partner
  • Safety Planning for women and their children
  • Support with managing contact with a partner/ex-partner

Child Related Needs
Information and support for women with:

  • Schooling for her children
  • Custody and access for her children
  • Child welfare and protection issues for her children
  • Getting emotional support for her children
  • Health care for her children
  • Play/recreation activities for her children
  • Understanding the impact of domestic violence on her children

Practical Needs
Information and Support with:

  • Legal Protection
  • Jobs and Work
  • Training and Education
  • Health Care
  • Benefits and Finances
  • Housing and Accommodation

Emotional Needs
Support with:

  • Understanding the impact of domestic violence on her
  • Healing emotionally from her experiences
  • Understanding the causes of domestic violence
  • Making decisions about her life

Men in Ireland suffer from domestic violence as well, as do men in all countries. The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence estimates that 6% of Irish men suffer from severe physical abuse and 88,000 men in Ireland have been abused at some point in their lives. Amen is an organization dedicated to helping male survivors of abuse; they operate a Helpline available Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm at 046 9023718 and offer counseling, support groups and court accompaniment. An organization which tackles the other way in which men are involved in domestic violence MOVE Ireland, Men Overcoming Violence, “is a structured group work programme for men who are or have been violent in an intimate relationship. The programmes are designed to help the participants take responsibility for their violence and to choose to behave differently in the future.”

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Folks needing legal advice can get the basics for free from Free Legal Advice Centres at their walk-in clinics or by calling 1890 350 250 Monday to Thursday from 9am-5:30pm and Friday from 9am-5pm. Similarly the Crime Victims Helpline offers free support by phone at 116 006 and via text at 085 133 7711. They operate Monday – 10am-7:30pm, Tuesday to Friday – 10am-5pm and Saturday and Bank Holidays – 2-4pm.

Finally the Rape Crisis Network Ireland “is a specialist information and resource centre on rape and all forms of sexual violence with a proven capacity in strategic leadership. We are the representative, umbrella body for our member Rape Crisis Centres who provide free advice, counselling and support for survivors of sexual abuse.” They have an impressive repertoire of best practices for rape crisis center guidelines, and work to prevent sexual violence from an evidence-based approach.

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Ireland’s dedication to stopping gender-based violence is impressive but obviously still not enough. Hopefully the work of these impactful organizations will speed up the process of creating a lasting peace in Ireland, from the front lines to the home front.


Day 7 of 16 Days of Activism: Jamaica

#Day7 of #16Days falls on World AIDS Day. According to UNAIDS Jamaica’s current strategy to combat HIV/AIDS is “Making Human Rights Real” but despite huge successes from the program–“Since 2004, with the introduction of antiretroviral treatment, AIDS-related deaths in Jamaica have dropped by 41% and mother-to-child transmission of HIV has fallen from 25% in 2004 to below 5% in 2011”–budget cuts from the government could hinder that progress. And despite being slightly out-of-date the Ministry of Health does advertise free HIV & Syphilis testing at mobile clinics and is working to empower women to be “smart women” and have condoms at hand.

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The smart women of Jamaica are banding together in many ways. Jamaica Youth Theatre has crafted a two-minute video in the hopes of helping to Stop Violence Against Women to add to their repertoire of socially conscious flicks on everything from unintended pregnancy to sexual assault to HIV. Do Good Jamaica is a network of non-governmental and community based organizations (like Women’s Media Watch Jamaica and the Association of Women’s Organizations in Jamaica) that help in all kinds of ways.

In March Jamaica had the honor of hosting the second annual Caribbean Conference on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality. The conference looks like it was a fantastic learning and networking opportunity as it had clinical training for healthcare providers, training for activists using social media, a workshop on “Gender and human rights-based programming to address gender-based violence (GBV) and HIV in LGBT communities,” and discussions on the historical roots of gender-based violence in the Caribbean, disaster and violence against women, best practices in gender mainstreaming, the challenges of dealing with police officers who are abusive to their partners, the role of male engagement in ending gender-based violence, and much more.

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Popular Jamaican dancehall artist Ishawna made headlines in October when she disclosed to the public that her well-known ex-fiancé had been physically abusive, and to the surprise of many the country rallied around her, empowering other men and women to speak out against domestic violence. The unfortunate level of violence in Jamaica is not limited to intimate partner violence but violence against children and other community violence is rampant as well. Jamaica’s domestic violence law can be found on the Ministry of Justice website but the Bureau of Women’s Affairs seems to be much more 21st Century as it “is mandated to mobilize the Government to address the problems that confront women, given the impact of patriarchy and sexism.”

wi-logoOne group fighting ferociously to update Jamaica’s laws regarding domestic and sexual violence is the 30-year-old Woman Incorporated. They also operate the country’s national Crisis Center Hotline at 929-2997 for survivors of domestic or sexual violence, and participate in advocacy and public awareness campaigns. This article explains how the laws surrounding rape within marriage have changed over the years, but at the time of publication marital rape is still not criminal in Jamaica. Other laws they are working to change include the definition of rape/sexual abuse of a child, as well as laws regarding parental rights when accusations of child abuse are at hand. 

current jamaica laws

 

Women’s Resource and Outreach Center is another organization in Jamaica promoting gender equality and combating violence against women; one way they do this is by advocating for quotas through the 51% Coalition. They also organize trainings to empower women in leadership roles:

Under a programme funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), WROC executed a training programme ‘Strengthening Women’s Leadership in Jamaica (SWLJ)’, which was designed to address concerns highlighted in a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded gender research project that showed that little progress has been made in the last decade for women serving on boards and commissions in Jamaica. Training sessions were conducted with ninety three ladies for appointment to public and private sector boards and commissions as well as school boards. A database with the profiles of the 103 ladies trained was later developed and a printed publication was presented to key public and private sector organizations/leaders.

Though there aren’t a huge number of organizations or resources in Jamaica dedicated to ending gender-based violence, it looks like the ones who are there are doing great work. Let’s hope many more future leaders get a head start soon too!


Day 6 of 16 Days of Activism: South Africa

#Day6 of #16Days explores the help available in South Africa, the callously misnamed “rape capital” of the world. Certainly South Africa has an abhorrent track record of sexual assault, especially so-called “corrective rape,” (whereby some misogynist tries to rape lesbians into heterosexuality,) but most countries have embarrassing rates of sexual assault. Hell, any sexual assault is embarrassing.

With a history like theirs though South Africans have taken to the streets and created an astounding number of organizations aimed at bettering society for everyone. The Gender-Based Violence Prevention Network has member organizations in numerous cities throughout the country. The Advice Desk for Abused Women may be reached at 27 31 204 4922. The National Network on Violence Against Women may be reached at 27 012 312 7541. The Women’s National Coalition of South Africa may be reached at 27 11 331 5958 / 331 5958 and beijing@wn.apc.org.

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Lifelines has a Gender Based Violence Helpline- toll free line 24hrs/7days per week for more information and counselling: 0800-150-150; an AIDS Helpline: 0800-012-322; and a National Counseling Helpline: 0861-322-322. Women’s Net is another organization that has information about violence against women, as well as many other topics from gender budgeting to governance to HIV/AIDS.

There are some very specialized programs in South Africa.

Agenda Feminist Media is “committed to giving women a forum, a voice and skills to articulate their needs and interests towards transforming unequal gender relations. We aim to question and challenge current understandings and practices of gender relations.”

African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town “is a feminist research unit, committed to political work on the African continent. We focus on writing, publications, research processes and partnerships, network-building and participative learning.”

The Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation has a gender-based violence program which “seeks to understand the root causes of gender-based violence in all its forms in society and to develop strategies of violence prevention for use by civil society and government.”

Childline–08000-55-555–is “an effective non-profit organization that works collectively to protect children from all forms of violence and to create a culture of children’s rights in South Africa.”

Paralegal Advice for Family Law and Violence Against Women. They have information on everything from abortion to marriage, divorce, and custody to death.

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Rape Crisis is an organization dedicated to ending the shame surrounding sexual assault. “Rape Crisis has a vision of a South African criminal justice system that supports and empowers rape survivors in all of its interventions. Until such time as this vision becomes a reality we provide that support and empowerment. We believe that the rape survivor is the key to a successful conviction and that her empowerment is based on safety, respect, support and the ability to make informed choices as she embarks on this difficult and challenging journey.”

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The Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development provides counseling, training and pubic awareness and advocacy. The Institute “provides counselling through three mediums face-to-face being the most prominent, but telephonic and e-mail counselling services are also used. We thus reach a wider spectrum of people.We are able to provide these services to women and their children for free.”

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People Opposing Women Abuse is a “feminist, women’s rights organisation that provides both services, and engages in advocacy in order to ensure the realisation of women’s rights and thereby improve women’s quality of life.” They use a multi-faceted approach to reach their goals.

1. SECTOR CAPACITY BUILDING AND STRENGTHENING

As an organisation that has been in existence for 29 years, we recognise the need to increase the knowledge and capacity of women’s groups in rural and peri-urban areas where traditionally, access to services such as the Criminal Justice System and clinics are a major challenge.
Due to requests for POWA to open offices in their communities by women’s informal groups, we resolved to empower women within their own communities through the concept of ownership. As an organisation, we therefore provide training, education and mentorship for women’s groups to understand the women’s rights discourse as well as formalise and develop services that respond directly to their particular needs in regards to violence against women.
We currently provide this service to 6 women’s groups in 5 provinces (Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Northwest and Gauteng)

2. LAW REFORM

A critical part of engaging in improving the rights of women is influencing national, regional and international policy. As an organisation, we have therefore developed a department that actively writes and makes submissions to parliament on issues that relate directly to our core issues. In addition, we provide expert support to government institutions regarding creating gender sensitive spaces for all women.
From the grassroots perspective, we actively engage in rights education to women’s groups and organisations thus mobilising women’s voices to create the appropriate attention to women’s issues and cause the desired effect of reforms for better laws for the protection of women.

3. RIGHT’S EDUCATION

Part of the responsibilities of all branch offices is to engage with their surrounding communities in rights education. This process is done through community meetings , community conversations and formal workshops on understanding Human rights with specific focus on women’s right and access to justice.

4. REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL STRATEGIC ADVOCACY

POWA recognises that South Africa has a comprehensive constitution, a good legal framework and numerous agreements and policies that are set out to protect women’s rights. These agreements are not only national, but regional (SADC), continental and international.
Part of the failings regarding the protection and access of women’s rights is the limited knowledge of the document framework, capacity and skills to implement and domesticate the substance of the agreements set out by the state.
POWA conducts preparatory workshops and information sessions to enable organisations to learn and choose to engage in the regional strategy. We also work towards creating report back or feedback sessions on activities of such meetings and thirdly, we work towards creating round table discussions for strategies of calling for state accountability on emerging issues.

5. SHELTERING AND COUNSELLING

As an organization, we provide individual face-to-face counselling, group counselling and telephonic counselling to women whom have experienced violence. In addition, we provide child play therapy for children who reside in our shelters of safety with their mothers.
Women can access our counselling through our branch offices. We currently have 6 satellite offices and 2 confidential shelters. Our offices are strategically located in areas for women from economically disadvantaged communities and women from the Johannesburg inner city for easy to access services.
As we provide free services to all women in South Africa, we ensure that access is not an additional challenge to the already overwhelming challenges for women to access their rights. This approach assists with the reduction of women’s vulnerability due to economic/financial dependencies that play a huge role in violence against women. Our activities address issues of safety and security that are fundamental to rights for all in South Africa.

With all of these fantastic organizations working so hard in South Africa, hopefully a violence-free future is awaiting all South Africans regardless of sex, gender, race, age, dis/ability, sexual orientation, or religion.

 


Earning a Living Making a Life

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As longtime readers will know, for the past two years I have worked for two different causes I am equally passionate about. People who aren’t my co-workers are often surprised by how much I love the work I do. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to pour themselves into doing what they love, and fighting for something they believe in, so with that in mind I’ve compiled a list of not-for-profit organizations, both in Austin and elsewhere, so that any of you, dear readers, who want to commit yourselves to working for change, can have a starting block from which to do so. Keep in mind a lot of non-profits or non-governmental organizations may only have volunteer positions or internships, but it’s a great way to gain experience and get your proverbial “foot in the door.” Don’t forget to check your local Craigslist and Idealist listings too. In no particular order, here’s a partial list (come back soon for more!) of organizations I have bookmarked on my computer to get you started:

Survival International- The global movement for tribal peoples’ rights

Native Planet- Preserving Cultures, Empowering People.

Minority Rights Group International- Working to secure the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples.

International Women’s Tribune Center- Connecting women globally for social change

Population Action International- Healthy Families, Healthy Planet

PeopleFund- Creating economic opportunity and financial stability for underserved people

Equality Texas- Envisioning a state where all Texans are treated equally, with dignity and respect

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation- Transforming the lives of urban children living in poverty through better health and education

Foundation Communities- Creating housing where families succeed in Austin and North Texas

Guttmacher Institute- Advancing sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis and public education

Fellowship of Reconciliation- Working for peace, justice and nonviolence since 1915

CARE- A leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Travis County- Speaking up for children who have been abused or neglected

Open Democracy- Free thinking for the world

Transcending Boundaries- Providing education, activism and support for persons whose sexuality, gender, sex, or relationship style do not fit within conventional categories

National Network to End Domestic Violence- Dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists

Colorlines- News for action

Women’s Information Network- Democratic. Pro-choice. Women.

World Pulse- Connecting women’s voices to transform our world

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The Center for Health and Gender Equality (CHANGE)

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The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault- to create a Texas free from sexual violence

The National Domestic Violence Hotline- Over 17 years of advocacy, safety planning, resources, and hope

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Three Women, Three Struggles

Originally posted on In Women’s Hands, the following post will serve as an introduction to my trip to Bosnia and the amazing friends I made there.

The flag of Bosnia & Herzegovina at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery. Photo by Morrarovic Photography

With different goals reached through the use of various tactics in distinct circumstances, it may be difficult to see the similarities in the nonviolent struggles that Leila Seper, Advija Ibrahimovic, and Iltezam Morrar are actively involved in. While their situations are diverse, they are each struggling somehow for the same things: equality and justice. Fighting for justice, in its many forms, is not just an option for these three dedicated women and the activists by their sides– it is a necessity.

The other commonality among them is their age: all of them represent the new face, the next generation of women activists. Skilled in social media, willing to face risks, and aware of the fact that the more people who understand their struggle, the broader impact they will have, Iltezam, Advija and Leila have accepted that changing the world — locally, nationally, and globally — is a daily responsibility.

Leila is an expert in using humor to explain Dosta!'s serious work. Photo courtesy of Dosta!

Leila Seper, an outspoken member of Sarajevo’s young and expanding activist community, uses her quirky sense of humor, and the brand recognition of Dosta!, to actively demonstrate to Bosnians of all ethnic and religious groups that they must fight for equality and human rights. An active supporter of worker’s rights, student rights, environmental protections and women’s rights, Leila takes on every challenge with conviction, enthusiasm, and a sense of humor.

Advija enjoying some rare downtime. Photo by Morrarovic Photography

Advija Ibrahimovic, the youngest member of the Women of Srebrenica Association, has learned the skills of successful activism from some of the most seasoned activists in Europe – the Women of Srebrenica. Fighting for legal justice, accountability, and recognition of the horrors that took place during the Srebrenica genocide that left her and her siblings orphans, Advija has also been educated as a nonviolent action trainer by the Alternatives to Violence Programs. Chosen to represent the Association during the 2003 unveiling of the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery, where she stood alongside President Bill Clinton, Advija’s upbeat, confident demeanor is contagious.

Hajra Catic, President and Founder of the Women of Srebrenica Association with Iltezam. Photo by K. Spangler

Iltezam Morrar, a wise-beyond-her-years medical student from Palestine currently studying in Sarajevo, draws on her family’s long history of nonviolent action in the continuing struggle against the Israeli occupation. Hearing her grandmother, father and uncles tell stories of their nonviolent activism during the First Palestinian Intifada, Iltezam became inspired to join the struggle at the age of 15. Her actions, and those of her fellow villagers in Budrus, quickly became exemplars for the next generation of Palestinian activists following the success of the Just Vision documentary highlighting their nonviolent struggles against the wall.

In the process of learning to identify with seemingly disparate women and reminiscing about nonviolent successes everyone went away with fresh insights and inspiration, as well as new friends. Leila taught us to keep a sense of humor even in the face of injustice, and to work with the authorities whenever possible to reassure them violence is not an option. Advija taught us that persistence pays off, and that even the humblest of citizens has the power to affect international politics when using the right methods. Iltezam too, taught us the importance of tenacity, and the need for clearly stated objectives when battling a much stronger opponent.

Leila, Iltezam and I watch as the International Commission on Missing Persons makes a positive DNA match to a fragment of remains found in a mass grave from the Srebrenica Genocide. Photo by K. Spangler

Each woman came away from our gathering with something different. Leila explained, “I get motivation from these meetings, when I see their [Women of Srebrenica] strength to fight.” Advija agreed, “You have to be determined. That’s the example for me.” Iltezam summarized everyone’s feelings in her own way, “I’m honored to be here to learn from these women.They are so strong, and we have so much to learn from them. They never give up.”

Our meeting proved to be a unique opportunity to learn, share and grow, and the inspiration from each woman’s struggle is sure to be a source of strength for each of us for years to come. And that’s exactly what we hoped for.


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