Empower. Prevent. Protect.
Global Heroes Double Jeopardy: THE INTERSECTION OF HEALTH AND VIOLENCE
Leading LADIES U.S. Ambassadors Deborah Birx and Catherine Russell champion bright futures for children
Alaa Murabit Helping young women find their voices
In partnership with:
FEATURES 22 Leading Ladies: U.S. Ambassadors Deborah L. Birx, M.D. and Catherine Russell champion bright futures for children
Creative Director: Susie Henkel
34 Giving Voice: Alaa Murabit, the founder of the Voices of Libyan Women, helps young women have their say about the future of their nation—and their lives
Contributors: Kelsey Bischot, David Gere and Gideon Mendel, Laura Haft, Kelly Hagler, Richard Johnson, Prianca Pai, Amy Peck, Jay Westcott
42 Sticks and Stones: Photographer Richard Johnson’s “Weapon of Choice” project shows how powerful a punch a word can pack 51 Seeing to Be Seen: Art critic, AIDS activist and UCLA professor David Gere partners with photographer Gideon Mendel to help people living with HIV tell their tales of survival—in the face of violence and HIV
A very special thanks to: Regan Hofmann
60 Strength & Honor: Some of the finest people, practices and things stopping violence around the world
Together for Girls Director: Michele Moloney-Kitts
Senior Program Advisor: Rebecca Gordon Communications and Youth Advocacy Officer/Global Health Corps Fellow: Kelly Hagler
photo by Let Girls Lead
Director of Communications and Operations: Sandie Taylor
The authors’ views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of Together for Girls’ partners
Together for Girls Social Media: Togetherforgirls.org Facebook.com/togetherforgirls @together4girls http://bit.ly/I3gD9H
DEPARTMENTS 5 Notes from the Field: Insight from Together for Girls’ Director Michele Moloney-Kitts 12 Double Jeopardy: Children at the intersection of health and violence 16 Data2Action: How results from the Violence Against Children Surveys help mobilize a national response to prevent and address violence 18 We Hear You: Wise words on what will make the world safer and healthier for young people 84
Hero Up: 11 ways to translate inspiration into activism
86 The Last Word: A thought to remember Cover photo by Amy Peck © 2014
:: Notes from the Field
photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images News
n the year since we last published Safe, the world has erupted in volatility. From the Ebola epidemic to conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, from mass kidnappings of young girls in Nigeria and Iraq to bouts of extreme weather and the natural disasters and food shortages they create, the conditions in which many live are increasingly challenging. As a result, a staggering number of children are displaced, living as refugees or apart from their families, are orphaned or even child brides. Of course, children don’t have to be in extremis to be at risk—violence abounds. Home is an unsafe place for many children, as is the route to and from school, or even school itself. Around the world, in situations both dire and typical, too many children face fundamental threats to their safety and well-being. Fortunately, the spate of recent crises has also engendered remarkable responses from both those charged with keeping the world safe and healthy, and those who live in areas
or situations of high risk. It seems the worse things get, the more heroes emerge and the more innovative solutions are found. This second annual edition of Safe is focused on the 50 people, practices and things that operate at the critical intersection of health and violence—to restore peace and wellbeing to a world turned on its head. Health and violence are connected like a Möbius strip: addressing one has an impact on the other. Violence, including neglect as well as emotional, physical or sexual abuse, has both immediate and long-lasting health implications. There are the obvious ways violence leaves its marks—witnessed in a child who is suffering from post-traumatic shock, fistula, unintended pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection in the immediate aftermath of a rape. But there are also the insidious long-term consequences. Did you know that brain scans of children who are exposed to violence are different from those who aren’t? That exposure to violence affects neural pathways? togetherforgirls.org 5
People who experienced childhood violence are more likely to have chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes and obesity, or problems related to behavioral and mental health issues, including sexually transmitted infections, anxiety, smoking, drug abuse, depression and even suicide down the line. The intersection of violence and HIV illustrates this poignantly. Adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa experience disproportionately high levels of HIV. We now know this is closely tied to the high levels of violence they also experience. Some young women and girls contract HIV directly from an act of sexual violence and others from high-risk behavior caused by the low self-esteem often found in those who have been witness or subject to violence. The testimony given in “Through Positive Eyes” (page 51)—an anti-stigma project co-directed by London-based South African AIDS activist Gideon Mendel and David Gere, art critic, AIDS activist and professor at UCLA—depicts the links between violence and HIV powerfully. When unaddressed, the effects of violence can also lead to its perpetuation. Survivors are more likely to grow up to either commit violence or become victims all over again. For example, children whose mothers are beaten by their partners, are also more likely to experience physical violence, and, in some cases will grow up to either use or be victims of violence. This is what they learned in childhood—and is one of the gravest aspects of violence: it appears to be contagious.
And we now know that the costs go beyond egregious human rights violations with individual and public health consequences—violence costs cities and nations lots of money. For example, children who experience violence and poor mental and physical health as a result, are more likely to drop out of school, less able to be effective in the workforce and more likely to require social services. A new report released by the ChildFund Alliance estimates that the total costs of physical, psychological and sexual violence against children are up to $7 trillion or 8 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product. This is greater than the GDPs of Australia, Canada, India and Mexico combined. Needless to say the cost of prevention is significantly less. So how do we stop it? When correcting any problem, a great place to start is to understand the scope and nature of what you are up against. That’s why Together for Girls—a global public-private partnership dedicated to ending violence against children with a focus on sexual violence against girls, (and the group behind this magazine) is supporting nations around the world to conduct the Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS). The VACS capture data about what types of violence happen, to whom, where and why, and governments use the data for national action to both respond and prevent violence.
In terms of data, we had a terrific year with the release of UNICEF’s landmark publication, Hidden in Plain Sight: A StatisViolence, as Gary Slutkin of tical Analysis of Violence Against Cure Violence has suggested, Children, which draws on data can be seen as an infectious disfrom 190 countries on global ease. A medical doctor and epipatterns of violence against childemiologist who spent a decade dren. This year also saw the first Cambodia’s Violence Against Children Survey Report Launch fighting tuberculosis, cholera VACS released outside of Africa and AIDS epidemics in Africa, Slutkin noticed that violence, with launches in both Haiti and Cambodia. This information in particular gun violence, spread in a pattern similar to that is changing the very nature of the discourse on violence— of infectious diseases. Interestingly, not only are epidemics of globally and locally. health and violence interrelated in their causes and effects— the ways we overcome them may be similar, too. But what is the data without action? And do we have evidence about what works? The answer is yes–and we are learnViolence doesn’t have to be physical to have an impact. As ing more all the time. Ending Violence Against Children: Six photographer Richard Johnson (who experienced violence Strategies for Action, a publication also released by UNICEF, in childhood himself ) dramatically illustrates in his photo provides a strong set of case studies on how to prevent and essay “Sticks and Stones” on page 42, verbal abuse can hit respond to violence. One of these is the Together for Girls every bit as hard as a clenched fist. And many experts agree partnership. Every country that has completed a VACS has that emotional violence may indeed be the most damaging for made important commitments and is moving forward to children, as it impedes their ability to cope with other forms address the issues. Several nations are in full implementation of violence. of national action plans that are beginning to deliver results. 6 Safe. Issue 2
50 global heroes canâ€™t do it alone. Join the Together for Girls community online and help break the silence surrounding violence against children.
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To witness the passion, expertise and commitment of government leaders, educators, social workers, faith leaders and, most importantly, young people taking on these issues... is nothing short of inspiring.
The VACS help political, social service, educational, law enforcement, health-focused and financial leaders make the critical connections between long lasting health consequences at an individual level and how those consequences collectively have repercussions on a societal level. Those who engage in the implementation and processing of the VACS inevitably become invested in developing answers to the problems they unearth. And they trust the data because they were part of the oversight process ensuring its accuracy. They become the strongest leaders and advocates for action. In the struggle to make the world safer, there is a need both for protection, and for empowerment. When political and religious leaders stand against violence, when laws are established, and enforced consistently, it provides the necessary “air cover” for people who are at risk or who have experienced violence to come forward to seek support and help. Creating an environment in which people feel comfortable talking about what happened to them is key. We know that even disclosure in a safe setting can be therapeutic, yet the VACS show only half of Kenyan girls ages 13-24 who had been abused told someone about the incident, only 7 percent sought support and treatment services and only 3 percent received them. This is even lower for boys. And yet we know that if we can get a survivor into care within 72 hours of a rape, medications can prevent the double burden of a possible HIV infection. This raises the issue of the importance of healthcare providers who are a critical piece of the puzzle. While they are central to reducing stigma, preventing violence and supporting survivors everywhere, in countries with high HIV prevalence where violence can also lead to a life with HIV, they are a lynchpin. As U.S. Ambassador Deborah Birx highlights on page 22 (“Leading Ladies”), too often, young people presenting in clinics post-violence are judged, belittled or stigmatized—as if they did something that encouraged the violence. U.S. Ambassador Catherine Russell, who works on a parallel path focused on protecting girls from violence, points out in her testimony (also in “Leading Ladies,” page 22) that the protection of young girls and boys undergirds the strength of a nation.
photo by Tiago Chediak
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It’s an understandable reflex to want to turn away from unpleasant things. But it is the very people who do the opposite who can change them for the better. This attitude is embodied in an exemplary way by our cover subject, Dr. Alaa Murabit (see “Giving Voice” on Page 34). In her work to change age-old thinking about the value and position of young girls and women in her native Libya and the region, she realized she needed to address a core driver of harmful beliefs: modern interpretation of ancient scripture. Her Noor campaign uses language from the Quran to open dialogue about the treatment of women and girls
and the subject of violence. She uses it to broach the reality that men and boys also experience violence, contributing to the cycle. As a pediatrician she also understands that we have to start with young children seeding messages of gender equality and nonviolence in early childhood. She knows that it will take women of multiple generations, stations and positions in life to join with men who share their understanding to succeed in protecting future generations from being stuck in the nexus of violence and poor health. Inspiring doesn’t begin to describe her! Another key moment this year was the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict held in the UK this summer. Who could have imagined leaders from over 100 countries coming together to acknowledge this issue and find solutions? We were thrilled and honoured to have Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, and her husband, Brad Pitt, visit the Together for Girls space. Watching them leave our exhibit with Safe magazine under their arms was extraordinarily gratifying. Her leadership is increasing awareness and understanding of how critical it is to not only address violence in times of conflict, but also through the continuum of people’s daily lives. So all in all, it has been a good year. We have seen both global leaders and community activists mobilize and begin to commit to issues like truly achieving an HIV-free generation by fully embracing the realities, needs and voices of adolescents and ending harmful practices, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting and violence against children. For me personally, however, the highlight was without question the Global Violence Against Children Meeting we hosted with the Government of Swaziland and UNICEF. To witness the passion, expertise and commitment of government leaders, educators, social workers, faith leaders, and most importantly, young people themselves, taking on these issues in often extremely resource-constrained settings is nothing short of inspiring. Indeed, the best and most sustainable solutions come from within nations, communities, and the people. We’re just here to help break the stigma and raise awareness by starting the conversation. It’s up to those of us working in this space, and all of you new to it who wish to help, to take action. I hope you will find inspiration from those who grace these pages. Many of the answers to how we make the world safer and healthier for children are contained here. We welcome you to the fold of heroes.
Global Violence Against Children Meeting in Swaziland
I hope you will find inspiration from those who grace these pages. Many of the answers to how we make the world safer and healthier for children are contained here.
Michele Moloney-Kitts Director, Together for Girls togetherforgirls.org 11
Double Jeopardy: Children at the Intersection of Health and Violence A snapshot of violence against children around the world – and its impact on health Understanding the scale and specific nature of any problem is the first step in addressing it. But that can be hard when the problem—violence against children, especially sexual violence—is a topic many people understandably feel uncomfortable discussing. Yet, the conversations must start for the travesty to stop. Data can help ease us into tough subjects. The facts offer a neutral platform from which to acknowledge there is a problem (or in this case a crisis) and to begin devising solutions. That’s why the “Violence Against Children Surveys” or VACS were launched. These surveys offer the first sets of nationallevel data describing the prevalence of emotional, physical and sexual violence against children. To date, Cambodia, Haiti, Kenya, Swaziland, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe have all released VACS reports. Surveys are underway or are planned in Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. Developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention with strong support from UNICEF and other Together for Girls’ partners, the national household surveys of 13-24 year olds are based on a standard methodology with a core set of questions. Led and owned by national governments, and with technical assistance from Together for Girls partners, the surveys have greatly advanced understanding of the scale and consequences of the problem, the links between violence, gender inequality and HIV, and the circumstances that make children more or less vulnerable to violence.
Comparing scientifically rigorous data across countries provides the ability to build a more complete picture of violence against children worldwide, reflecting the impact in the immediate aftermath of the act of violence and over the continuum of lifetimes, and generations. All forms of violence— including neglect, emotional, physical and sexual violence have the potential to negatively impact the health of a child well into adulthood. For example, evidence highlights that sexual violence against adolescent girls and young women can lead to: physical injuries and disability; unintended pregnancy and associated complications—including maternal mortality. Depression, low-self-esteem and high-risk behaviours from drug abuse to multiple sexual partners can impact both girls and boys who experience violence. One thing that is clear— the effects of sexual violence do not stop when the perpetrator does. And, shame and fear of repercussions/stigma keep many quiet who would otherwise heal through seeking care and feeling secure speaking up. Most importantly, the data have sparked national action from country leaders and civil society. In response to the evidence that there is a serious issue of violence against children within their borders, Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Cambodia have responded by developing actions to mitigate the problem. Prevention is possible and children who get support after experiencing violence can recover and thrive. These countries are leading the way. Here, we highlight some of the startling findings from the VACS and some of the solutions being developed to stop them.
All data is from the Violence Against Children Surveys in Swaziland, the United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Haiti.
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1 iN 4 Girls aND 1 iN 7 boYs EXPERIENCE seXUal VioleNce PRIOR TO AGE 18
oVer HalF OF ALL CHILDREN EXPERIENCE PHYsical VioleNce BEFORE AGE 18
SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN IS eXTreMelY coMMoN AND TAKES MANY FORMS
FOR MANY GIRLS, FIRST SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WAS UNWaNTeD iNTiMaTe ParTNers ARE OFTEN PerPeTraTors OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE Percentage of females 18-24 who reported ﬁrst sexual violence incident prior to age 18 was perpetrated by a boyfriend/partner or a husband
*Among females reporting sexual debut before age 18
TOO OFTEN, VIOLENCE GOES UNrePorTeD aND UNTreaTeD
Help-seeking behavior reported by 18 to 24-year-olds in Kenya who experienced childhood sexual violence
a MaiN reasoN For sileNce? PERPETRATORS ARE OFTEN A close “FrieND” or FaMilY MeMber; OFTEN, SURVIVORS ARE DePeNDeNT oN THe PersoN(s) HUrTiNG THeM OR PERPETRATORS ARE aUTHoriTY FiGUres • For women in Kenya, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, the most common perpetrator of sexual violence is their boyfriend/husband/romantic partner. • In Tanzania and Zimbabwe, about 1 in 3 females who had experienced childhood sexual violence reported the perpetrator was more than 10 years older.
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• In Swaziland, a male relative is the most frequent perpetrator of physical violence against girls. • In Tanzania, almost 6 out of 10 females and males experienced childhood physical violence at the hand of relatives and more than 1 out of 2 at the hands of teachers.
HiGH UNiNTeNDeD PreGNaNcY raTes REPORTED AS A RESULT OF PressUreD or PHYsicallY ForceD seX
cHaNGiNG HarMFUl belieFs aND cUlTUral NorMs WILL NEED TO BE PART OF THE solUTioN • In Kenya, 40% of females and 50% of males believe a woman should tolerate spousal violence in order to keep her family together. • In Tanzania, approximately 60% of females and more than 50% of males aged 13 to 24 years believed that it is acceptable for a husband to beat his wife under certain circumstances. • Females in Swaziland said one of the main reasons they were not reporting incidents of sexual violence was that they were not aware that what they had experienced was abuse.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE LEADS TO AN INCREASE IN NeGaTiVe HealTH coNDiTioNs
Increased risk of negative health conditions given exposure to childhood sexual violence Reports by females 13-24 in Swaziland
SEXUAL VIOLENCE LEADS TO AN iNcrease iN riskY beHaViors THAT HeiGHTeN risk OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES Individuals in Tanzania who reported multiple sex partners in the previous 12 months, reported by 19-24-yearolds who had ever had sex
Results from Violence Against Children Surveys supported by Together for Girls help mobilize comprehensive national action to prevent violence and support those who experience it. Here, we share several poignant examples of how data is driving action in sub-Saharan Africa.
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We hear you Speaking your mind uses your brain but it takes guts. Here, we offer some powerful testimonies calling for a different world — one that would be safer and healthier for girls — and for boys. Pippa Gardner, 24, a survivor and a member of Girlguiding UK and a Young Women’s Forum Delegate, speaks about the need to change the belief that attacks on women and girls are inevitable. Here, an excerpt from her blog on the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts website: Here in the UK, violence against girls and young women is an issue that I believe hasn’t been approached in the right way. Speak to any female student at my university and they will tell you of the existence of attack alarms, a women’s safety bus and other precautionary measures they can take to avoid being attacked by strangers late at night. However, the majority of violence against young women is committed by partners, friends and other known individuals. These measures do nothing to foster a culture of mutual respect between individuals and within society at large. We don’t need to be teaching girls how to avoid getting attacked as though it is inevitable – we need to take action on why violence happens in the first place. I know personally just how it feels to be on the receiving end of violence. I know how it feels to live with 18 Safe. Issue 2
the fear and the repercussions from being assaulted, and I know how difficult it is to walk away from a relationship that has turned abusive. I don’t want anybody else to have to face these problems, though I know so many have and still do have to face them. Awareness of what makes a healthy relationship is an important step for young women to take in order to claim the respect they deserve.
“In many societies, women and young girls do not enjoy the same health access to health as men, let alone the same rights of opportunities. But a society that does not cure and treat its women and young girls with love and care and with equality will never be a healthy society.” Dr. Nafsiah Mboi, Indonesia’s Minister of Health and Chair of the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
“The global economy is struggling to generate the growth that can provide a better life for us all, and all can contribute, yet women remain blocked from contributing their true potential. This has huge cost: In some countries, percapita incomes lag significantly because women are denied equal opportunity. They represent half of the world’s population, but contribute far less than 50 percent of economic activity. What is needed to change this picture is a concerted effort to open the door to opportunity with what I call the ‘3 L’s’ of women’s empowerment: learning, labor and leadership.” Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, the International Monetary Fund, writing in partnership with UN Women, in Devex
Rebecca Audra Smith, a 26-year-old Brit, created a spoken word response to street harassment. The poem, entitled “We Are All Equal Now,” is Smith’s message to men who harass women on the street: Tell me something real about how it feels to be a man. Mr. Martin King has been singing to me, asking me to try and understand that this is worth shouting for. A girl asks me, why feminism? I say, equality, I believe it’s time to change. She looks at me like I gave her a penny for her pound. I think she wants a stronger answer, I think she needs a louder sound. So, I’ll ask the men who ask me if I have the time of day. The boys who felt me up in school, the society that made me feel this way like I breathe fear, it’s been bred in me since 15th May 1988 to right now where I put my face before my brain. I need to be looked at for the words I want to speak, and we’ll start right here on these concrete streets. I’ll ask the men who have no fear of yelling out to me to: tell me something real about how it feels to be a dude.
Does it feel a heavy burden, do you put up your attitude like it’s a wall to hide behind or threaten from? Why don’t we take an interlude so you can tell me something real about how it feels to be a man. I will tell you, I’m so tired of being “woman,” feeling like half a person. So much time spent in mirrors at eleven I had body dismorphia, either so elephant everyone points or so stick thin I am invisible. I can’t live with this anymore, so sick of trying to make peace in myself, feels like all this world offers me is war. Tell me something real about how it feels to be a bloke. I don’t want a comedian, I don’t need to hear a sexist joke or, “Cheer up love, it might never happen.” You don’t say, here I am reading… it happens every single day. I can’t watch rape scenes on the screen, they remind me of reality, how every human is at stake. Why don’t we put the money where the pain is? We don’t need this much T.V. Why don’t you put your heart where your mouth is…before you start speaking to me. Garang, a 12-year-old boy living at the Internally Displaced Persons settlement in Mingkaman, on the banks of the River Nile offered the following testimony as told to Mercy Kolok from UNICEF South Sudan: I am only twelve, there is nothing much I can do to change my situation but our leaders can do something. They can decide on whether to destroy our future or build the future of this country by investing in the children of South Sudan through education, health care, homes—but most of all peace. I want to live a normal life again and be the child that I am. I do not want to spend sleepless nights worrying about gunshots or about not going to school. I want a good future for myself, my family and my country. All I want is peace. Malwandla Ubisi, 16-year-old from South Africa, submitted this poem to V-girls.org. In response to #BringBackOurGirls, the campaign to relocate the almost 300 schoolgirls taken by the terrorist group Boko Haram. It’s entitled “Let Me Be”: I am always in fear. Always watching my back. Always the main target…Living with the doors locked in my own house. Every sentence has a full stop at the end, don’t you? When will it reach an ending? I want my dignity back. I am known to be the bravest creature on the planet earth. I am gonna show you how brave I am. I want to live with no fear, be able to live with togetherforgirls.org 19
my doors unlocked in my own house. I want to be as free as you are. Let me live the way I want to live. Let me go and live my own life the way I want to. I want to live freely without any fear. Unchain me and let me go. Please let me be. Moonga Mukonka, a 21-year-old from the Copperbelt province of Zambia, is currently studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture at the Copperbelt University in Kitwe, Zambia. The following is his answer to “What’s great about my community?” in a blog he posted on voicesofyouth.org: In my community peace is the common language we all speak. People have the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood which makes it very difficult for someone to be violent. Even people who come to visit find our community their home because of the peace we share. We know what violence brings. Violence brings about sufferings, damage to properties, killing of innocent people especially women and children to mention but a few. In other words, violence is something very bad to any community and therefore it should be avoided. It is my dream that the whole world can be as peaceful as my community so that no man, woman or child should live in fear. We should all embrace the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood.
“If women were fully empowered, we’d be able to move past some of the worst aspects of our male-dominated culture, in a way that would benefit both women and men. For instance, a world with more women leaders can help us redefine success beyond money and power. We need a third metric that places value on our well-being, our health, and our ability to live the lives we want, not just the lives we settle for.” Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post Media Group
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“I believe that we have reached a time when things can really change for girls and women because there are enough women and girls who will no longer stay silent, be complacent, and agree to be led like goats on a leash. With the shifting awareness comes the opportunity to connect with each other in solidarity and action for a better world.” Hafsat Abiola, Civil Rights and Democracy Activist; Founder, Kudirat Institute for Democracy
Fahma Mohamed, a 17-year-old student, created a petition that led to the UK Government responding to FGM. She shared her vision on a blog on girleffect.org Here, her call to get others engaged: While at secondary school, I started volunteering with Integrate Bristol, an organization that works with young people from other countries and cultures to help them integrate in the UK. Through them I became aware of the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), which involves partial or total removal of the genitalia. I believe it is the most fundamental form of suppression of girls and women. Inequality infuriates me, so I knew I had to act. In order to end FGM, we first need to make sure everyone knows about it. There is a ton of relevant information out there and numerous ways for anyone interested to read more about all of the contributing factors. Charities such as Daughters of Eve, Equality Now, Plan UK, Darf (in Scotland) and, of course, Integrate Bristol all have resources that can help too. Once we are informed, then we can educate our peers. One of my frustrations in this area is that adults often underestimate young people’s ability to deal with serious issues. They don’t understand that it’s OK for us to discuss this issue openly. This is why I created a petition, which now boasts over 250,000 signatures. Education is crucial in raising awareness, and to be successful we need leadership from the top. I wanted Michael Gove, the UK education secretary, to see how vital it is to teach about the risks of FGM in schools, and it was a real victory when he agreed to write to every school in the
UK about tackling FGM awareness. If schools are aware of their responsibilities in this area, then they have no choice but to act. Emotional and health support for those who have been subjected to FGM is also very important. People should stop saying “they cut them because they love them”; it puts a burden on the shoulders of girls who then cannot speak up because of misguided guilt. Ensuring FGM victims have a voice and support is vital. I want people to realize that if you campaign for an end to violence against girls and women you are contributing to gender equality, helping end FGM, and creating a better world for us all. Everyone has a part to play to make this happen. What are you waiting for? Jules Spector, the founder and sole author of teenfeminist.com is also a member of the 2013-2014 class of teen advisors for Girl Up, a UN Foundation organization. The American 14-year-old is a freshman at Poly Prep Country Day School. The following is her blog on “Slut-Shaming” from her site teenfeminist.com: My mom asked me the other day to describe slut-shaming, as the concept was confusing to her. It was confusing to me for a while, so I thought I might explain it for those who don’t quite understand it. Slut-shaming is the act of making a woman feel guilty for being sexually active, wearing “provocative” clothing, taking birth control, or even being raped or assaulted. In our society, a woman is described as either a “prude” or a “slut.” If a woman doesn’t agree to have sex, she’s a “prude.” If she does have sex (hopefully only with consent), she’s a “slut.” There is absolutely no way to win in this culture, unless of course you’re associated with a group of people who have the common courtesy to not question/judge a woman’s sexual interactions. I’m writing this as a 14-year-old, so most of this is based on distant observation and opinion. Many girls my age are slut-shamed for the clothes they wear, and the way they interact with people of the opposite gender (or the same gender). In my school, girls are not permitted to wear Bermuda shorts, but the boys are. I don’t understand the reasoning behind that, as Bermuda shorts are not considered “indecent” in most places. Is it because girls’ legs are so distracting to the opposite gender that there will be no focus on learning activities? Can’t we trust males to pay more attention to learning than to their peers’ legs? And if we can’t, why aren’t we teaching the boys to not sexualize women’s body parts and instead we are punishing women for having body parts?
The wisdom of youth To highlight solutions from young people in South Asia, the World Bank recently held a contest called “What Will It Take to End Gender-Based Violence in South Asia?” People could reply via text message, tweets or e-mail. More than 1,200 young people submitted responses; a panel of World Bank experts picked 10 winners. Here, their sage advice: Uday Singh Karhi, 21, Nepal: “Government: Strict laws with implementation. Men: Education on gender equality and laws against its violation. Women: Inform about rights.” Bhumika Billa, 18, India: “Shed conventional femininity notions, spread gender sensitive-education, make women fiery and gritty, launch ’Safe Cities’ campaigns.” Diba Parwez, 18, Afghanistan: “Change in orthodox views, empowerment of females, imbuing righteous values in children, implementation of all constitutional laws for women.” Kazi Sadia Yesmin, 21, Bangladesh: “Break the limit, create equal opportunity! Free & fair participation of women with men in every sphere will gradually end gender violence.” Kelzang Wangmo, 21, Bhutan: “Educate young children, the future generations, about the importance of gender equality so that they acknowledge each other from a young age.” Vandana Rathore, 20, India: “Multi-sectoral approach: value-based education, better laws, speedy justice & rehabilitation & economic opportunities for victimized women.” Bhaskar Jyoti Neog, 25, India: “Female education, opportunity to engage in economic activity, right to inherit and own assets and public discussion on gender issues.” Sudha Subedi, 22, Nepal: “Stop discriminating while rearing children. Make your daughter educated, independent, confident. Teach your son to respect and value women.” Wajeeha Mobeen, 21, Pakistan: “We need to change the thinking of the people. Change doesn’t come just by formulating and imposing laws.” Jeyarajah Sanjeyan, 24, Sri Lanka: “Developing public awareness of ‘zero tolerance toward gender-based violence,’ especially domestic violence.”
LEADING LADIES Ever since the high vulnerability of women and children to the dual epidemics of violence and HIV became clear, two different parts of the U.S. government—one focused on the empowerment of women and girls and one focused on addressing and preventing HIV/AIDS—have worked more closely in concert. Safe talked to the two U.S. Ambassadors—Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell and Ambassador-at-Large and the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Deborah L. Birx, M.D.—who are leading this collaboration. Together, their work helps the world’s most vulnerable women and children overcome the joint threats of violence and HIV/AIDS today— so they may enjoy bright, healthy tomorrows. Fourteen years ago, the United States did not have a global AIDS Coordinator. Nor did it have an Ambassador solely dedicated to the needs of women and girls. The first changed in 2000 when President George W. Bush launched the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The second changed in 2009 when President Barack Obama nominated the first U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. While previous administrations were certainly supportive of the needs of women and girls, the creation of a distinct office at the U.S. Department of State helped raise awareness of those needs—and the U.S.’s commitment to addressing them. President Obama institutionalized the position in 2013, making the Office of Global Women’s Issues a permanent one. Even in today’s hyper politically charged and often gridlocked U.S. Congress, members remain willing to cross the aisle to keep women and children safe from two of the world’s worst pandemics: those of violence and HIV/AIDS. Bold Democratic and Republican leadership have stood behind key pieces of legislation related to these issues, such as the domestic Violence Against Women Act, passed in 1994; the first PEPFAR authorization in 2003, and its subsequent reauthorizations. The connections between violence and HIV are well established. Gender-based violence and HIV are directly linked. Girls who experience violence are three times more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy, and two-to-three times as likely to have HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. 22 Safe. Issue 2
And, they are two times as likely as their male counterparts or boys of the same age to contract HIV/AIDS. In 2013, among the countries hardest hit by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 80 percent of all new HIV infections among adolescents occurred among girls. Beyond the obvious, immediate threat of HIV tied to sexual violence, there are also long lasting ones. Children who are subjected to violence are more likely to engage in behaviors that put them at risk for HIV. The developmental and physical impacts of violence often lead children to have mental health issues, including trouble with self-esteem, all of which can thwart their progress at home, in school, and in society. These factors coupled with choices that are more likely to expose them to HIV and other transmissible diseases as well as unintended pregnancies, undermine the chances they will grow up both physically and mentally healthy. When children contract HIV either from an unaware or untreated mother, or through nonconsensual sex, sex in exchange for food or shelter (“survival sex”) or sex in a forced marriage, they also suffer health and emotional challenges that can leave them more vulnerable to violence. The stigma and discrimination that accompany HIV infection can further crush their esteem and sense of empowerment. As a result, they may not feel capable of extricating themselves from oppressive or painful situations. And so the cycle continues. However, when children are taught early the life skills they
need to avoid or escape from violence and protect themselves from HIV, when they can find their way to attend, and stay in, school, and have reason to believe in the possibility of a successful, happy future, their chances of a healthy and productive life understandably increase exponentially. These things are often mirrored in young women. While a growing number of governments around the world are acknowledging their nations have issues related to the health and safety of their women and children, far too many remain in the dark about the issues, and their solutions. To hopefully inspire more conversations, and more action, Safe talked to the two women leading the charge for the U.S. globally.
Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Global HIV/AIDS in the CDC Center for Global Health. She also served as the Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. The U.S. Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues seeks to ensure that issues relating to women and girls are fully integrated into all aspects of U.S. foreign policy. The office was started under former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and continues to be supported by Secretary John Kerry. At the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict 2014, Secretary Kerry said, “Gender-based violence anywhere is a threat to peace, security and dignity everywhere.” Making the connection between safety for women and girls and the safety of the world is a focus for this office.
PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in history. Since the birth of PEPFAR, the Ambassador Catherine Russell, appointed in 2013, curU.S. government has committed more than $52 billion to rently serves as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global bilateral HIV/AIDS programs, the Global Fund to Fight Women’s Issues. Ambassador Russell hails from the White HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and bilateral tuberHouse; she was Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief culosis programs. In partnerof Staff to Dr. Jill Biden. While ship with governments, PEPFAR serving in that role, Russell spear“Gender-based violence investments have supported lifeheaded an interagency effort anywhere is a threat to peace, saving antiretroviral treatment to develop the U.S. Strategy to for 6.7 million men, women, and Prevent and Respond to Gendersecurity and dignity everywhere.” children worldwide and HIV testBased Violence Globally. It was U.S. Secretary of State ing and counseling for more than released in 2012. Its implementa57.7 million people. A leader in tion is supported by three interaJohn Kerry the global movement to achieve gency committees and an Executive an HIV-free generation, PEPFAR Order issued by President Obama. has contributed to ensuring that more than one million babies have been born HIV-free despite the fact that their mothers In the Clinton Administration, Russell served as Associate are living with HIV (HIV medication also prevents motherDeputy Attorney General. In her current position, she has to-child transmission of HIV). PEPFAR has also been a leader helped launch a number of initiatives addressing violence in recognizing the gender dynamics of the epidemic, investagainst women and girls, including the “Accountability ing resources in areas that may seem at first brush unrelated Initiative”—a dedicated $4 million effort to promote access to the disease, but that address underlying drivers, such as to justice and hold perpetrators accountable to their crimes. preventing gender-based violence and support incomegenerating activities for women and young people. AdditionSince taking this role, Ambassador Russell has also traveled to ally, PEPFAR is integral to the Together for Girls partnership, over 15 countries, including Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, the providing technical support and crucial funding. Democratic Republic of Congo and Guatemala. Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D. is currently U.S. Ambassador-at-Large and the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. A world-renowned medical expert who began her work in the Department of Defense, Birx’s career has focused on HIV/ AIDS immunology, vaccine research and global health. In addition to running PEPFAR, Ambassador Birx oversees U.S. government engagement with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Prior to coming to PEPFAR, she was Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Each Ambassador brings their special brand of expertise to their office. Each is a tireless globetrotter with relentless sense of mission—and unwavering passion. Together, their work helps ensure that many more children and women born into or raised in dark situations have brighter days ahead. Here, Safe talks to each about the important work they do to protect women and children around the world from various types of violence. togetherforgirls.org 23
Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D. SAFE: What is your vision for how PEPFAR might better help the world address the issue of violence among young girls—and boys? AMBASSADOR BIRX: I have been fortunate enough to be part of PEPFAR [since its early days] and to see its evolution. I watched then-Secretary of State Clinton’s Blueprint lay out so clearly—and President Obama really boldly claim—that we can have an AIDS-free generation. They moved beyond simply saying, “These are our targets” to saying “This is what we need to have an AIDS-free generation.” An AIDSfree generation requires that babies are born HIVfree and PEPFAR, working with many partners, is making tremendous progress across the globe in that regard. But after ensuring babies are born HIV-free, we have the task of ensuring babies remain HIV-free, through the breast-feeding period, through their toddlerhood, childhood, young adulthood and throughout their lives. Adolescence is where you really start to see the dichotomy [between girls and boys] and the disproportionately heightened risks for young women. Girls experience twice the rate of prevalence for HIV as boys in the 15-24-year-old age group. There’s real risk to our young women when they are between 10-14 years old. We have to address these risks comprehensively. PEPFAR is looking carefully at what we have been able to accomplish in partnership with host countries searching for areas that need additional resources— and additional voice being given to the issues. We’re very excited about a new model of care for orphans and vulnerable children that will give us a roadmap for how best to keep children safe and protected as well as provide a benchmark against which to measure ourselves. SAFE: The links between HIV and violence are both immediate and long reaching. How are do those connections manifest in what you’re seeing? AMBASSADOR BIRX: It’s such an important part of the response yet it is the part of the response that is the most difficult to wrap your arms around. Approaching HIV as a community and family issue as well as a public health issue is really critical. Violence has to be approached the same way. It took us a while to recognize the depth and breadth of the impact of the HIV pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, it’s taken us a while to translate what we know in the United States about the links between
violence against women and young girls and HIV to a global setting. More work is needed to raise awareness of this issue. Due to the Violence Against Children Surveys, we now know the depth of the problem, we know the impact of the problem. What we’re all searching for now is the answer to what that comprehensive response looks like. SAFE: What can be done to empower women and girls? AMBASSADOR BIRX: In terms of women’s empowerment, it’s valuable to understand how important the community of women is. In [Supreme Court Justice] Sonia Sotomayor’s biography, she talks about how her grandmother had a huge impact on her by helping her feel that she could do anything. No matter how disempowering her environment was Sotomayor felt like she had the ability to move forward and do anything with her grandmother’s unconditional support. Hillary Clinton speaks about the same thing in her book, talking about the role her mother had as a grandmother to Chelsea and how she empowered her. I was fortunate to have a grandmother like that, too. It was the ’50s and there wasn’t quite the same level of opportunity as there is today for women. My grandmother said, “Anything is possible at any time.” That’s the environment we want to create for young women no matter where they grow up in the world. We need to ensure there is a voice around them that allows them to be lifted up. Figuring out how to do that is really what Together for Girls is about, and I think it’s what the larger community is about. SAFE: Data connects the strength of a nation’s women with that nation’s progress, in all ways. Is getting male leaders to understand the connection between healthy, well-educated, empowered women and the power of their nations something you focus on? If so, how? AMBASSADOR BIRX: I have two daughters so I reflect on this all the time: how do we create environments in which women believe in themselves and in their ability to succeed and how do we create the network that supports these young women and allows them to succeed? I had an unusual career in that at each step, I had men who supported my development. It’s unusual to be able to say that particularly as I was working on a U.S. Army base. I really did have people who mentored me, supported me and allowed me to have togetherforgirls.org 25
opportunities to grow. Not every woman has that opportunity. The questions we need to ask are: How do we help accelerate those cultural and societal changes that took us quite a long time in the United States? How do we support those changes along a more rapid timeline in other areas of the world? Whatever the answer, it has to have multiple components.
every level we talked about, from discussions at the highest level with the President and First Lady; to the Parliamentarians with whom we talk about policies and legal frameworks that need to be changed; to those at the community level, where the changes can be demanded (which helps leaders implement them), and where the work is done to ensure helpful policies are enforced.
It was really extraordinary to watch the First Ladies get together at We had a great woman who came to the First Ladies meeting at the the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. It was the second time First Lady U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit who talked about issues of care and Mrs. Obama and [former First Lady] Laura Bush got together in treatment in Kenya and how though there had been changes to polia dialogue in front of African First Ladies [the last time was last cies, legal framework and women’s rights [on the national level], at summer in Tanzania]. It seems like a small thing, but it’s a huge the community level, [those changes] hadn’t changed the dialogue. thing because it’s not the norm in many counThe actual legal frameworks were not being utilized tries to have a First Lady from a prior adminisin the new ways they were intended. It is critical When one of us tration sit down with a First Lady from a current that policy is implemented on the local level and isn’t welcome, administration and have a dialogue. Having that communities see that is being done. that example is very important. Getting our none of us are female Congresswomen working with female We talked about the real-life experiences that welcome. Parliamentarians around the world is also really women with HIV have and how they became key. As is having our community leaders and HIV-positive, from childhood marriage, to gencommunity NGOs working with their counterparts around the der-violence within the family to other situations. So many of the world to build those same types of leadership and organizations reasons women contracted HIV were linked to violence. Hearing everywhere. these stories from a woman in a country where laws exist to help avoid these situations highlighted that even when the protective, SAFE: Many people—including those who work in health care setlegal framework exists at the national level, if it’s not adopted on tings—want to avoid addressing sexuality, whether consensual or the community level, it doesn’t work to keep girls safe. forced, in adolescents girls ages 10-14. What roles can healthcare workers and systems play in addressing the intersection of violence and SAFE: Can faith-based organizations help with this translation? health, particularly sexual health among young girls? AMBASSADOR BIRX: Yes. Some faith-based organizations and AMBASSADOR BIRX: The health system has to support women’s churches have had a critical role in bringing that issue into the empowerment. I ask young, adolescent women what keeps them light of day. If those conversations happen at both the highest from the health system, they often will say that if they go in with levels of faith-based organizations and at the community level it any kind of issue or a problem, they’ll be confronted with a queswill have great impact. Leaders within the community need to tion like “Why do you have that?” instead of having it addressed. embrace that young women are experiencing terrible violence and They often face disempowering comments and negative, shaming need to make it part of their jobs to help communities address it. treatment. We have to ensure health care is accessible and encouraging to young women. We talk a lot about making health care SAFE: When it comes to keeping children safe, it’s always a question of accessible to key populations but we have to understand that the balance between offering them outside protection and teaching them most vulnerable and key population in sub-Saharan Africa right self-empowerment. How does PEPFAR strike this balance in its work? now is young women. That is the largest risk group. Having diaAMBASSADOR BIRX: In our focus on gender-based violence logues [about that reality] in addition to having a multi-sectoral prevention activities, we work really hard on the policies, laws approach is important if we’re going to accelerate the cultural, and legal protection for people at risk. But those laws are most community and societal changes that have to happen to end the effective when they receive inside support at the community level. violence against women and girls and boys. For example, if we had a coalition of older women who said that they wanted to protect their own young girls, that would be great. SAFE: PEPFAR was built to address HIV, but as we have seen with What happened in Nigeria [when Boko Haram kidnapped over its ability to address cervical cancer among women in Africa, it can 200 schoolgirls] helped raise everyone’s awareness of how powerful do so much more. How is the actual infrastructure and health care it is when the mothers, grandmothers and aunties band together workforce of PEPFAR being used to address the intersection of violence and say this isn’t acceptable anymore. The voice of the community and health? must continue to bring the issues forward. We need community AMBASSADOR BIRX: We’re mapping all of those pieces now. leaders who are willing to help young women exercise their rights. Together for Girls’ Violence Against Children Surveys, led by the Engaging various generations of women is critical if we are to have U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been enora truly comprehensive response. We need coalitions of groups at mously enlightening. Their data is helpful for the discussions at the local level (as well as local political leaders) willing to take these
26 Safe. Issue 2
issues on and protect their young women. As well as ensure that the way young boys are raised makes it clear that violence against girls is unacceptable behavior. SAFE: It seems we’re in a moment when the world is finally awake to—and prepared to address—this issue of violence against women and children. What is your sense? AMBASSADOR BIRX: I think we’re in exactly the same moment that we were in the late ’90s with HIV when there was a community of groups at all levels ready to solve the problem. The response to HIV started with the advocates and activists raising awareness of the devastation caused by the disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Day lighting the problem helped compel then-Senator Frist (R-TN) and then-Senator Kerry (D-MA), at that time, to write the first legislation [to help people with HIV] even before the birth of the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] and PEPFAR. We’re at a similar moment in terms of people’s willingness to see how global violence is disempowering women and how young men raised thinking it’s acceptable perpetuate the cycle. I’m hoping we can capture this moment in the same way we did with HIV. Certainly it’s a matter of funding but it’s also a matter of focus and making addressing violence and gender equity a priority within all of our programming. It’s also about taking a comprehensive approach—just as we did with HIV where we made sure there was prevention programming, care programming and treatment programming. We need to make sure we have all elements of our programming wrapped around young women and young boys ensuring that they have a different experience growing up, so that we can see different outcomes. That’s going to take a cohort moving together that says this is important to us. These moments come and go in global awareness and it’s up to all of us to capture this moment and to translate it into a new reality for young women and young boys around the world. SAFE: What have you learned about fighting HIV that can inform our response to violence? AMBASSADOR BIRX: The biggest thing I learned from HIV is the role of stigma and discrimination and how that leads to disempowerment and how that totally changes anybody’s ability to be their strongest self. Like these laws that are occurring in sub-Saharan Africa that alienate groups by creating the sense that they’re not welcome. When one of us isn’t welcome, none of us are welcome and it has an unbelievably disempowering impact on the community. In terms of HIV, we’ve made such progress on prevention and treatment. We’re even making amazing progress on vaccine development—a thing we thought was so difficult. But we continue to have unbelievable levels of stigma and discrimination around the globe that we have to address. We have to address them for HIV, especially for young women to ensure they have access [to testing and treatment.] And we have to address them for violence. SAFE: Can we do this? Can we make the same kind of difference
against violence that we have against HIV? AMBASSADOR BIRX: Not only can we but we have to. We just have to ensure that this happens. There are enough voices that could create the choir so that the change happens. And it can’t be a one-off effort. It has to be a constant drumbeat of awareness and change to achieve the outcome we all want to see. PEPFAR has invested so much in this issue [of combatting violence] but we have to take another big and bold step forward if we’re going to get control of the pandemic and if we’re going to give voice to the issues that are creating an environment where young women are at heightened risk for HIV. Their disproportionate risk for HIV is driven by disempowerment, driven by gender-based violence and a whole series of issues. But if we’re going to achieve an AIDS-free generation, we have to address the very nexus of these infections in young women. We’re at a critical place right now with the violence issue—and in terms of opportunities for women on a global scale. The response started with former Secretary Clinton’s focus on this and her creation of the Office of Global Women’s Issues in the U.S. Department of State, and is continuing with Ambassador Russell’s focus on these issues. It will take a combined effort, from First Ladies, to female Parliamentarians, to women leading in their communities to make things better. The response also needs to include male leaders willing to take up this cause in the same way. It is a special moment in time and it is our responsibility to capture it. This is also a time of renewal for those of us who have been working at this a long time; it’s a time to recommit to the issues so that we can transform them. We’re in a race. We have a unique chance to control the HIV pandemic, but there is a lot of complacency. Together, we have to push up the last big hill or we’re not going to get control of HIV/AIDS. To do it requires that we integrate these wonderful pieces of the response that can help protect women and children. It is critical to link our efforts with the women’s groups and the women’s research groups. Research studies help us get the additional insight that we need to change things, as well as offer a different voice to the conversation. SAFE: What would you want a young woman affected by violence to know? AMBASSADOR BIRX: That we’re going to help articulate her pain so that others don’t experience it. And that we’re going to be part of helping others through this and finding a solution, both for her, and also to prevent this from happening to others. No matter where I have traveled in the world, I have seen that people who have experienced this kind of pain are the first ones to stand up and say “let’s stop this in others” and that has always driven me forward. Early on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, watching HIVpositive partners come forward and hold the hands of their dying partner, knowing that that same fate awaited them, not thinking about their own needs in that moment, had a profound impact on me. Seeing that, how could you not want to do more? How could you not want to be more and drive forward in a new way that really has an impact? togetherforgirls.org 27
Ambassador Catherine Russell SAFE: How did you begin to work on the issue of gender-based violence? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: When I was on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I had the privilege of working on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)—a landmark piece of a legislation that focused on the protection of women in the United States. After that, I moved to the Justice Department, where I served as Associate Deputy Attorney General. I then took several years off and during that time got involved with an organization called Women for Women International. This gave me the opportunity to travel to countries, where I was able to see both the incredible things women were doing, but also the many challenges that they face, including violence. This led me to wonder what more the U.S. could be doing to address violence against women around the world. My experience on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) kept popping into my mind, so I came back and talked to then-Senator Biden who had authored the legislation and championed its passage in Congress. By then, Senator Biden had become the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so he decided to apply the lessons of VAWA and start working on what came to be called the International Violence Against Women Act, or IVAWA. In developing IVAWA, we thought about how to harness the resources of the U.S. government that were already being spent, but apply them in a more targeted fashion. IVAWA essentially requires the U.S. government to select a number of countries with high levels of violence against women, and to work on prevention and response to that violence in a really comprehensive way. That means doing things like training police to recognize signs of violence within families, and ensuring that resources like domestic violence shelters exist for women in need. After that, I worked on the 2008 Presidential campaign with then-Senator Biden’s wife Jill and eventually served as Dr. Biden’s Chief of Staff. In that role, I continued to work on strategies to prevent violence against women and also ways to empower women and girls from the White
House. One of the great things we were able to do was work on an important document issued by President Obama called the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally. SAFE: What were the reactions from other governments to this strategy? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: Across the world, people look to the United States as a leader on these issues. There are other governments that are taking leadership roles as well. For example, the UK is doing important work in protecting women and girls from sexual violence in conflict. But countries are interested in our work and they want to hear from us about what we have learned through our efforts. Our resources support many programs around the world that work to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. There can be sensitivities around gender-based violence in some countries, particularly the issue of intimate partner violence. Sometimes other countries don’t want to publicly acknowledge the problems they are struggling with, especially not to a diplomat from another country. We always make the point that women in every country face these problems. The United States has spent money and time trying to figure out how best to address these problems here, but we have not solved it. Rather, we want to share what we’ve learned so far and to learn from other countries’ experiences. When we position it that way, nations are often interested in what we bring to the table. We all should learn from each other; these issues are complex. I don’t know if it’s something we will ever completely eradicate but what we want to show is that you can make a difference if you address the issue comprehensively. If you train your police and train your prosecutors, if you provide support services for women, then you can have a great impact on reducing genderbased violence. Understanding, of course, what we are trying to do is prevent this violence from happening in the first place. togetherforgirls.org 29
SAFE: How does the response to violence strike the right balance between protection and self-empowerment? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: We want to ensure women are safe so they can take advantage of opportunities that are available to them. I don’t like to treat women as victims. I know when women are secure, are provided with educational and economic opportunities, and have the freedom to make their choices, there’s no limit to what they can do. There are cases, particularly in conflict situations or disaster areas, where women are specifically targeted, or find themselves in very unstable situations where women and children tend to be at higher risk for violence. In those situations, protection is critically important and we need to take additional steps. SAFE: Data suggests that both a secondary school education and programs that support women’s economic empowerment such as micro-grants, help to ensure girls are safer. In an ideal world, all girls would have both. But if you could only provide one of those two things, which would it be and why? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: I would always choose education. Education is the lynchpin. I always say to the girls I meet on my travels: an education is something no one can ever take away from you, and it will help you take full advantage of the economic opportunities that are available to you. They may face very challenging situations in their countries, but more than anything else, a solid education allows girls to take the best advantage of whatever lies ahead. Education opens up the world. This is not to say that economic empowerment is not critical. But an education improves economic outcomes. So if you provide a young woman with an education, she can get a microloan but maybe she can also run a company. A great education is a big part of the American Dream. It’s what helps our kids get ahead. Kids in other countries deserve it, too. SAFE: What would you recommend to the average person who would like to get involved? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: Some people may want to donate money to organizations that are doing great work. Others may want to get more personally involved and volunteer. Some people may want to be really active on social media. That’s tremendously helpful. We’ve seen the impact of that, as well as of traditional responses like writing letters. There’s a role for anybody who wants to help and people should engage in ways that feel most comfortable for them. It can all make a huge difference. Members of Congress will call us and say, “I’m hearing from my constituents about child marriage” or “I’m hearing from my constituents about a certain rape case in the news, what can we do?” People should never underestimate the power of their voice. 30 Safe. Issue 2
I think people do care, and want to do something. Consider the global response to Boko Haram’s kidnapping of the 200 Nigerian schoolgirls. The many campaigns around the girls have allowed people to express how upset they are. It is a powerful statement to have millions of people take to social media and say, “This is wrong. We want to make that known.” SAFE: Is the desire on the part of men to suppress women an inevitable, natural force in the world or is it culturally grown? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: Boys do not come into this world with the notion that girls are inferior or should be beaten or suppressed in any way. That’s not how my son naturally sees the world. Somebody would have had to teach him that. All of us need to understand the importance of teaching boys that girls deserve the same opportunities as they do. It’s important that we address societal norms that value girls less than boys and change them. It takes a lot of work to change cultural norms, including in the United States. When then-Senator Biden and I were working on the Violence Against Women Act [which addresses issues facing women domestically in the United States] he would tell stories he’d heard from women, such as one where a woman called the police because her husband was threatening her. The police told the woman to have her husband take a walk around the block to cool down. He also asked her whether she really wanted her husband to spend the night in jail since she has children. Over time, through changing the laws and having many discussions, we’ve helped people understand that domestic violence is always a crime. The police are now trained differently to understand how to handle these types of cases. So much of the violence we see against women and girls is rooted in societies not valuing them. For whatever reason, men and boys are often valued more than women and girls. Girls are not offered the same educational opportunities or the same level of health care. That’s why it’s important for us to support both education and economic opportunities for women and girls, which then allows them to become self-sufficient. SAFE: What can be done to encourage male leaders to see the empowerment and protection of their women as beneficial to their power, their country, themselves? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: More and more, there are people in many countries who see the value of women’s full participation in economies and in politics. Research shows that increases in women’s economic participation can raise a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which is good for everyone. Japan’s GDP would increase by nine to 16 percent, Australia’s by 11 percent, the Eurozone by 13 percent and the
Middle East, Northern Africa, and South Asian countries by 25-30 percent. We look for people who understand the positive impact of women’s participation, work with them, and support their efforts. We get a lot of inquiries from governments who want to work with us and who want to do better. I choose to see the positive, and there are a lot of forces for good around the world. There are amazing people, who get no recognition even though they toil for years doing amazing things. Those are the people I get to meet when I travel, and I’m just humbled by what they do, especially given the struggles they face. A lot of them are people who faced violence or challenges themselves, and they take that and try to do something really positive with it. SAFE: What roles do men and boys play in the solutions to violence? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: Men and boys are a critical part of the solution. Violence is not a women’s problem. It’s a societal problem—and it needs to be addressed by everybody in the society. Men need to understand, which I think many do, about how critical women are to the success of their country.
Department. We have an office of almost 30, amazing, truly committed people but we’re finding that when we can identify staff in other parts of the State Department who are supporters, it exponentially increases our ability to get things done. One thing that has been very helpful is that Secretary Kerry issued a document, which we call gender guidance to every employee of the State Department. Basically, it instructs all employees about how best to address gender issues in their work. When the Secretary did this, it demonstrated his commitment to women and girls and sent a strong signal throughout the organization, not just in Washington, but across the globe at our Embassies and Consulates. He made it clear that this is something everyone needs to be paying attention to; that it’s not an option to consider it; that it’s an important part of our foreign policy. I don’t take credit for putting this all in motion; Secrei know when women tary Clinton and my predecessor Ambasare secure, are provided sador Verveer, did a tremendous job and with educational and we’re continuing the tradition.
economic opportunities, and have the freedom to make their choices, there’s no limit to what they can do.
Protecting women then is not just “doing something nice”; it’s in everyone’s interest. The health, the welfare, the economic growth and the stability of countries and communities are all tied to the well-being of their women. Ensuring that women and girls are fully able to participate in a society at every level helps that society— and everyone who is a part of it, including men.
SAFE: How does your office help do that? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: We’re trying to get better and more current data about how often violence happens and where it happens. That information will help us strategize about how best to address violence. One of the things the U.S. government is focusing on is eliminating female genital mutilation. We understand this is happening even to girls who live in the United States. We’re hearing that parents are taking their daughters to other countries to have it done— which is something called “vacation cutting.” Parents can actually be prosecuted here in the United States if they take their daughters overseas for this purpose. We need to understand where this is happening and what the prevalence rates are to respond to it. The overarching and maybe the hardest thing we’re trying to do is to continue to integrate gender equality and a focus on women and girls into everything that goes on at the State
In terms of specifics, we’re focused on several things. One is continuing our work on gender-based violence. We want to continue to find ways to address it both in conflict and non-conflict situations, working with other countries and partners to make sure the U.S. government’s efforts are as streamlined and as effective as possible. We’re looking to identify a few countries where we can really focus our efforts and see what works when we can have that level of focus. That process is ongoing. It would be a tremendous step forward. That was one of the ideas in the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), which hasn’t yet passed. We need to address violence in a holistic way. It’s hard to do that unless you really focus in a few countries and see what works. It’s a big world, and if you try to do everything everywhere it won’t work. The idea is to select a few countries where we can coordinate our efforts with everyone else who is working there and see if we can have a really dramatic impact on decreasing violence. We want to demonstrate the concepts we believe in, to make it clear that the goals can be met. And that the progress can be measurable and sustainable. At the same time, we are focused on including women in conflict avoidance, conflict resolution and peace building. Women often bring unique perspectives to the discussions, and we need to make sure that women are included in all of our efforts to build peace and resolve conflict, so that we aren’t constantly faced with addressing the devastating impacts of war and conflict. We’re continuing to look for ways on the togetherforgirls.org 31
economic side to increase women’s participation in the workforce. That’s going fairly well and will continue because we’re making some inroads across the government. I was just in India with Secretary Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. She has really embraced this and so has Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew. We’re working with partners across the government who understand the importance women have in the economies of all countries around the world. The last area is a focus on adolescent girls. We really want to keep adolescent girls in school because education is important in and of itself. Also, keeping girls in school keeps them from getting married at such a young age and avoids the horrible impact of early marriage and pregnancy. We are really committed to seeing how we can address this problem. The United States and other partners around the world have had a real success in keeping children in primary school, but there is a drop off for adolescent girls when it comes to secondary school. SAFE: How important is it for young women and girls to see women, like yourself, in positions of power and influence? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: I think it’s very important. When I travel, I always try to meet with girls. When they ask me what I do and about my background, I always turn back to them and ask what they want to be when they grow up. It’s so interesting, a lot of them say (and I’m sure more say this than if I weren’t there) “I want to be a lawyer too.” I think it is helpful for them to see examples of women doing the kind of work that they are interested in, and also helpful to see women who have pursued their particular career goals. This is especially true with STEM where it’s helpful for girls to see examples of women working as scientists and in technical and computer fields. Without examples, it may not enter their minds to become a scientist, or it may, but it may not be something they feel they can actually do. The one person in my mind who really does this better than anyone is Mrs. Obama. When she travels, and young girls see her, they are so inspired. Especially for girls of color, it is so powerful to see that a woman who looks just like them can do the amazing things that she’s done. To go to Princeton. To go to Harvard Law School, to be the first in her family to do that, to really succeed on her own, and to be the First Lady, and be so admired by both women and men, and to do such great work. All of us have to understand we have that ability to inspire people, but I think she’s by far the most amazing about it. It’s something to see. SAFE: You recently traveled to Zambia, the DRC and Sierra Leone with Dr. Biden. Were there things you experienced that particularly inspired you? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: It was so wonderful to be with 32 Safe. Issue 2
Dr. Biden again. She comes at these issues from such an interesting perspective. She teaches at Northern Virginia Community College and, she certainly understands the value of education. I think for her, it was an interesting and eye-opening trip, and it was fun to be a part of that. For me, the trip confirmed what I already knew, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was really incredible to see Dr. Denis Mukwege, a well-known gynecologist who repairs the terrible physical damage that can occur to women who have been victims of violent rape. We saw him at his hospital, and were able to see the women and girls who he has treated and who adore him. He spoke about being a doctor who saw the ravages men were perpetrating on women’s bodies. I don’t think he could really believe at first what he was seeing. I think what struck him was not just that these women and girls were raped, but they were raped for the purpose of destroying them, destroying their ability to reproduce. It is such a shocking concept that anyone could be so purposefully barbaric and brutal. A lot of times, because of what has happened to them, the women and girls leak urine because of an injury called fistula, and then they are ostracized from their communities. Dr. Mukwege not only repairs fistula injuries but he talks very compellingly about the political situation and how it is important to address the issues these women and girls face. His clinic provides a range of services. The clinic now has legal services on site so that if the women are inclined and have the ability to identify those who hurt them, they can get help in bringing a case. The clinic also offers economic counseling. It’s what I’ve always been interested in: providing a whole range of responses to the violence in the same place. SAFE: What would you say to a young woman who was looking ahead in her life but didn’t see a lot of bright spots? AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: A few things. One: always try to keep in mind what matters to you and try to do your best, even with all the things that are swirling around you. Try to find someone who will support you. For lack of a better word, find some sort of a mentor, who believes in you. The mentor doesn’t have to be a woman, it could be anybody. As I said, some of the most important mentors for me were men. Find someone who believes in you and will support you. And finally, I would say: know that there are people, myself included, who really care about you, and are pulling for you, and are working to support what you’re doing. Photographs of both Ambassadors were taken at the DACOR Bacon House by Jay Westcott. dacorbacon.org, jaywestcott.com
Giving Voice Dr. Alaa Murabit, the 25-year-old founder of The Voice of Libyan Women, helps young women have their say about the future of their nation—and their lives—in post-revolutionary Libya. She believes the fundamental changes she is trying to affect are ultimately the key to sustainable peace and security in Libya and the region. The fact that she is making incredible headway in a country still torn by conflict gives hope to women and girls everywhere. At the age of 15, Alaa Murabit, who was raised in Canada, returned with her parents to Zawia, Libya. When the revolution began in 2011, Zawia was among the first Libyan cities to rise up. Like many Libyans, Alaa, then in medical school, imagined changes brought by Muammar Gaddafi’s fall. She was eager to experience life in a democratic Libya. But while the oil-producing desert state was eventually freed of a despot, it remained (and remains) wildly unstable. To Alaa’s dismay, she found that while women and girls had been integral to the revolution, once the initial fighting stopped they were expected to return to the limited roles they lived in under the dictatorship. “Rather than being embraced and allowed to be a part of the conflict resolution and management and peace building—all of which are incredibly important when it comes to ensuring women’s rights are properly seeded in a new democracy and government, for the ways they influence political leadership, legislation and economic opportunities—we were told more or less to go home,” said Alaa. “That made me react.” React is a modest word for her efforts. Today, Alaa is known the world over for her efforts to peacefully support the rights of women and girls. She was recently named an Ashoka Fellow, the first from Libya, and appointed to the Global Civil Society Advi34 Safe. Issue 2
sory Group of UN Women as well as to the Advisory Board of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325: Women, Peace and Security Global Study. As we went to press, the BBC named her one of their “Top 100 Women” in 2014. She has spoken at events around the world—including the re-opening of the United Nations Security Council Chambers in 2013 and Tina Brown’s “Women in the World.” Alaa recalls how, in 2011, when the revolution started, “It was the first time I saw men and women work together. People were seeking their dignity through the best means possible— uniting to rid themselves of a dictatorship. But immediately after the revolution, as people were trying to rise to power, they looked around them and tried to break down what they saw as the easiest group to unite against. It wasn’t necessarily the weakest group, but rather a group that aspiring leaders knew the rest of society would help contribute to suppressing. Unfortunately, in a society as patriarchal as ours, that group was women and girls.” “Women were the foundation of the revolution,” said Alaa. “Because as much as the men wanted to fight, they also needed the support systems that women provided. Later, some people said sarcastically, ‘Oh the women cooked and cleaned and transported things.’ I don’t think what Libyan women did during the revolution was anything to mock. If you don’t have the weapons being transported
photo by Amy Peck ÂŠ 2014
then you can’t shoot them, and if the food isn’t cooked then the soldiers don’t eat and can’t fight. The role of women so often tends to be overlooked or categorized as supplementary. I don’t think that’s very fair.” When Alaa moved to the country in 2005, the culture of fear was so deeply embedded in the people that it resulted in a lack of initiative and civic responsibility. “My desire to participate in the revolution was not based on my feelings towards Gaddafi per se nor on the people he allowed to ‘thrive’ here. I didn’t live here at the peak of his violence. I never experienced the horror. I only heard stories from my parents.” she said. “For me, it was the feeling that after
When we make it clear that the men who are perpetrators are like this because someone treated them like this, perhaps even a woman, it helps to start a different kind of dialogue.
Illustration by Jasmin Zaied
this revolution, I would be able to be anything I wanted to be. And, growing up in Canada, that was something I took for granted. What motivated me in this revolution was my desire to be a contributing member of society. Given the political climate and the limitations before the revolution, I felt my role would always be restricted.” In 2011, at the age of 21, Alaa founded The Voice of Libyan Women (VLW). “I wanted to create change,” Alaa said. “And when I approached people, they would say, ‘You and who else?’ So I started VLW as a vehicle for that greater change.” Today, it comprises 13 full-time staff members and 700 volunteers around the country. And the ranks are growing daily.
:: The day we first called Alaa for this interview, a mechanical voice insisted that all circuits were busy. The day’s headlines portended the wrong kind of evolutions for the fragile, nascent government; Islamic militants—Ansar al-Sharia entities, the same ones who claimed responsibility for the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi and who now controlled the city—had moved west towards Tripoli. Khalifa Hifter, the general allegedly trying to lead Libya towards stability, had been recently publicly criticized by the governments of France, Italy, Germany, the UK and the U.S. for his counter attacks on Benghazi. A joint statement issued October 18, 2014 by those nations stated: “We consider Libya’s security challenges and the fight against terrorist organizations can only be sustainably addressed by regular armed forces under the control of a central authority which is accountable to a democratic and inclusive parliament.” While Libya has been freed from the rule of a dictator, it remains a country in flux. As is the case 36 Safe. Issue 2
in many nations recovering from the overthrow of a regime, the government, military and police force have not been firmly established. The fact that Libya remains a country in transition means it remains vulnerable to the side effects of various forces seeking control. The day we first tried to contact Alaa, the rebels were on the move, and the phone lines were down, again. None of this seemed to deter Alaa in the least. In fact, her desire to found VLW was driven precisely by what she saw around her—unnecessary suffering caused by endless violence. To her, the uncertainty that comes with dramatic shifts that are happening in Libya now are windows of opportunity to invite people to think in new ways. And in doing so, hopefully bring balance, inclusive and sustainable peace and security to an otherwise volatile country. “It’s important to understand the role the political system plays, not just for women, but for everyone, when talking about women’s rights,” she said. “When someone’s rights are taken away, they see the way to personal success is through marginalizing others. So the limitations placed on women’s rights are magnified not for cultural or religious reasons only but generally magnified by this need to serve one’s self. It’s a very, very bad quality that humans have but they have it everywhere.”
Almost every essential thing you learn, particularly about the way you treat other people, you learn quite young. VLW is designed to bolster the rights of women and girls but it does so in untraditional ways. Rather than going head-tohead with those who oppose the idea, VLW and its leadership peacefully address the things that drive that opposition and by doing so, engender dialogues that result in mutual understandings of needs, and the discovery of some common ground where progress can be made. What is unique about Alaa’s approach is her desire not to blame or attack men and boys, but rather, to make them an integral part of the solution. By not singling them out as the source of the problem, she hopes they will feel more comfortable coming together to work in partnership with women,
for their mutual benefit, as they did during the revolution. Alaa made the point that change agents need to be talking to boys as much if not more than girls, especially when they are young. “In a lot of societies, it’s more difficult to talk to boys, especially as they get older. When they get to a certain age, it can be hard to get them to sit and talk with women about women’s rights as it can be seen as emasculating. But when they’re 7 or 10 years old, you can have a much more open dialogue with them. We’re trying to help create a different kind of young leader and the only way we can do that is to be there before they set their minds on certain ways of thinking.” When asked about how young is appropriate to begin to seed the messages of gender equality, Alaa said, “We start at elementary schools. If we could, we’d start at nurseries. I’m a budding pediatrician by training so I’m well versed in the importance of your milestone years. Almost every essential thing you learn, particularly about the way you treat other people, you learn quite young.” Beginning in preschool, Alaa suggests you can talk about how everyone is equal and how girls should have the same rights as boys, and teach both boys and girls to respect everybody. The message can be as simple as: treat everybody as you would like to be treated. And then in first and second grades, you can talk about more specific things. And by high school you can talk about things like resolutions that have passed to support minorities or to support women. “It’s key to teach kids about human rights in general,” she said. “There is no country in the world, developed or developing, that does enough to teach kids the importance of respecting one another and that has put us in the position we’re in with so much violence and discrimination around the world, especially against women and girls. We teach them a lot about getting good grades and getting a good job and making money but we don’t necessarily teach them about being a good person and that how you treat people is more important than all of that.”
:: Alaa says that when she first started VLW, their mandate was extremely different than today. “My knowledge at the time of women’s rights and empowerment organizations was basically limited to insight I was able to gain from research,” she said. “I searched online: What leads to societal changes in the togetherforgirls.org 37
perception of women’s rights? And it seemed to be two things: political and economic empowerment. And I was like, done, that’s what we’re going to go for.” For the first year, VLW focused very strongly on those things. Alaa says of their early accomplishments, “By all regards, we did a phenomenal job. We had 33 members of Parliament who were women, out of those, we personally trained seven; we helped form a women’s caucus, we created a women’s charter (which won an award for one of the best ideas for women internationally) to be used in the upcoming Libyan constitution; we had women entrepreneurs and small businesses around the country supplying large government contracts. In no regards did we feel that what we were doing wasn’t relevant. But I did feel like it wasn’t enough because it was not creating social change which was the point of the organization and our goal.”
There is no country in the world, developed or developing, that does enough to teach kids the importance of respecting one another and that has put us in the position we’re in with so much violence and discrimination around the world, especially against women and girls. “We realized that the cultural environment in which we were working was a deterrent to women’s empowerment. And that culture is unfortunately propagated through misuse, misinterpretations and manipulation of religion. Realizing that unless we address this, we couldn’t expect to create substantial change we started to find verses in the Quran that highlighted the rights of women and girls and we began to use them to map programs,” said Alaa. That led to VLW’s first campaign: the International Purple Hijab Day Against Violence. In an effort to raise awareness of violence against women and girls, every February 13, women wear purple scarves and men wear purple ties. “It helps combat the idea that women’s rights and Islam are mutually exclusive, which is the message frequently propagated,” said Alaa. “We wanted to show that women’s rights were exactly in line with the principles of the Quran, and we proved it by basing the campaign on the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) himself.” VLW followed that up with the Noor campaign. It shed light on women’s security concerns in Libya and was the largest 38 Safe. Issue 2
campaign that had ever been conducted in Libya by civil society or government. (It is now being replicated in nine countries throughout the region.) It too referenced religious language to open up dialogue about the treatment of women and girls, and the subject of security in general. It went a bit deeper, exploring the notion that men and boys were also subject to violence themselves. “We started out with a media campaign based on verses from the Quran and sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) on billboards, in TV commercials and on radio reaching every city throughout the country,” said Alaa. “The first wave of the campaign was intended to start conversations; to get people talking about it a little bit and thinking about the ideas before we came to their schools, their places of work and local community settings.” After the three month media campaign, VLW conducted a survey about women’s roles and rights and how they are perceived. It focused on domestic violence and violence against women—and how the misinterpretation and misuse of faith play a role in that. The results have been presented to the Libyan Government. “In a period of just three years, the mission of VLW evolved from being focused on political and economic empowerment leading to social empowerment for women, to focusing on education, awareness and dialogue which would result in social empowerment (resulting from education and dialogues that help shift it) and ultimately to greater opportunities for women,” said Alaa. “We realized the change had to start at the foundation for it to be indigenous, realistic and sustainable and that the foundation is based on changes in cultural and societal attitudes.” “I know that this approach will take longer,” she said. “But in order for change to be realistic and sustainable it has to be indigenous and rooted in a cultural and societal shift.”
:: Alaa gives much credit for her success to her “phenomenal family.” “In the Middle East, and especially in Libya where society is centered around the family unit, without the support of my parents I could not have done what I’ve done,” she said. “Here, your merit is based on your honor and the respect you have for your parents and elders. So no matter how passionate I felt, if my father was to say that he didn’t support me, it would completely disqualify anything I did or said. Especially anything to do with women’s rights.” Her ten brothers and sisters were also very supportive, as was her group of friends. “I don’t know if my friends agreed with
the principles I was pushing at the time, but they trusted me enough to feel I was doing the right thing,” said Alaa. Alaa learned the art of finding common ground in the midst of dissent—as well as her skills of diplomacy—at the dinner table in her home. “Growing up, as you can imagine in a family with that many children, there were a lot of opposing views on a lot of things,” she said. “I have really intelligent brothers and sisters, bless them. We would sit and debate ideas and what’s allowed The Voice of Libyan Women to be a success and what’s allowed me to gain the support of people who were initially my strongest opposition has to do with what I learned at my family’s dinner table about the importance of respect and listening in discussions.” “It’s important to realize that people are opposing you not because they are evil or because they hate women or don’t want women to have rights but because they genuinely don’t understand what you are asking. ‘Women’s rights’ as an idea is not always understood,” said Alaa. “I don’t mean that in a patronizing way at all. I mean that gender equality is something that is not talked about frequently, it’s not something we teach in classes, it’s not often a conversation people have at a dinner table.” It took me a few very uncomfortable conversations to realize you need to look at everyone as a potential partner. It is key to ensure men and boys are part of the conversation and feel like partners rather than the problem,” said Alaa. “I know it’s much easier to talk to like-minded people and to get them on board, but it’s much more necessary to talk to people who are seemingly opposing you. You can go to likeminded people in the 11th hour and get their support, but you need to be sure you have opposing people with you from the very beginning. You’ll find that it will make others feel comfortable enough to join your cause as well,” she counsels.
Alaa created networks and worked with established cultural and community leaders to strengthen their understanding of gender equality and what she meant when she talked about women’s rights. “It was important to support and engage with these leaders because they’re the ones who can disseminate a message and get people to trust it and they can do it much faster and reach many more people. When the messages comes from a community leader, it has authenticity and the community embraces it,” she said.
:: Alaa’s approach is that of a diplomat, not a rebel. “I have been in many rooms where I have been strongly opposed by both the men and women in the room and after having a genuine conversation about what the issue is, we make progress,” she said. “For example, men might say, ‘We don’t want women in public roles because we fear for their safety and security. This is not a safe country.’ That might be their reasoning. My job as an advocate is to ask him to rethink that idea while extending a grape vine by acknowledging his concerns. In that case, I said, ‘Okay, you’re worried about women’s security and safety, I understand and respect that. I think it’s great that you want to protect the security of your citizens. How about we ensure women have safe transportation to and from work and that there’s increased security in the building, for both the women and the men’. I have found that when I am willing to work with people’s beliefs rather than oppose them or make them feel archaic we are able to accomplish more.” Science and data are also helpful in her efforts to persuade.
“So I started by going to the people who I knew opposed me and listening to their experiences, understanding what their worries were. Because obviously there were worries; that’s why they opposed so strongly.” togetherforgirls.org 39
“I’m very much a data oriented person,” said Alaa. “I have a very scientific nature. Back to how my family debated when I was a kid, you needed to bring facts. It wasn’t enough to say, ‘Well, I feel like women’s rights are important.’ That didn’t count. You needed to bring hard statistics.” Alaa said that when she first started this work, she noticed that when activists would discuss women’s rights the messages would be rooted in emotion, such as “Women are upset because they feel they cannot contribute equally”. “I watched a lot of the politicians around the table losing interest. They said they understood that women didn’t feel they were contributing their best but wanted to know how it was their responsibility as leaders. They felt they were providing everything they should provide,” she said. “At VLW, we don’t center the conversation around what people feel. We discuss the facts and figures,” she said. “And if we do not have them, we research them.”
“When we are asked, ‘What’s the big deal if women don’t work? We say, ‘Well if women work they increase their family’s income by an average of 20 percent. If you increase many families’ incomes by 20 percent imagine what will happen to the community and what will happen to the city. If you increase the cities’ incomes, then you have more money to build infrastructure and roads, and to create better hospitals and schools. If you have better hospitals you have better health care, if you have better health care, you can offer better benefits and policies for each citizen. You have to build a tangible vision so people feel it is in their benefit and interest to support you as well.” She also reminds of the need to be pragmatic and to understand the reality of what’s happening on the ground in places where you hope to effect change. “It’s important for outside groups to understand that things may not be as they imagine 40 Safe. Issue 2
on the ground,” she said. “When we are asked why we aren’t pushing for a particular piece of legislation or highlighting international conventions, we remind people of the need to understand that right now, Libya doesn’t have the ability to implement—we don’t have the police force and we don’t have an army. So new legislation isn’t going to help a lot of women for many years. What they need now are the basics. They need their kids to be able to go to school safely. They need a partner who’s working with them and who cares about their interests and who is willing to include them in creating long-term solutions. We tend to forget people’s actual daily struggles while we go for these big things and headline news stuff, that’s not really fair for the people we are working with—and for.” Asked how the ongoing political strife and fighting affected her work, she said, “We focus very heavily on conflict resolution and peace building. Obviously everyone has to take into effect the political situation when they’re working in any security climate. It has in some ways limited our movement. But it has also forced us to be more creative. For example, with the Noor campaign, VLWs core team was supposed to go to all 33 cities and conduct seminars ourselves. Because security had disintegrated that became difficult, so we conducted regional workshops and through them created city teams from each of the 33 cities. That way we had community teams and a leader in cities where there was nearly no civil society, or few who had worked on women’s rights before. Teams were composed of teachers, businesspeople and students all working together and that would never have happened if we hadn’t been forced to think of solutions that were out of the box. For me, the challenging environment is a way to engage more people in creative ways. It’s about examining the situation you’re in and doing the best you can with it. It’s made us a stronger, more capable organization as a whole.”
“It is key to ensure men and boys are part of the conversation and feel like partners rather than the problem.” “For the Noor campaign, to ensure there was a unified message we had national pamphlets with the same information for all teams. But people tend to be more passionate and dedicated when they have more ownership, they take more responsibility when they feel like it is theirs. So we asked each team to create a name and logo and we put that name and logo on the
brochures we delivered to their city—so it was customized. They gave the pamphlets out in schools and businesses…for anyone receiving the pamphlets and the seminars it served as a message coming from people within the community. It helped the local community response to hear from someone who they knew, respected and had grown up with, maybe someone who taught them, or who they had done business with or trusted, rather than someone from a different city or community or women’s rights organization.”
another little boy, we need to stop his teacher from hitting him and in order to do that we need to stop her husband from yelling at her, and so on.”
“If you go into a room of men and say, ‘You are the problem you are the ones who do this...’ what kind of reaction do you expect to get? We really focus on the fact that violence is a cycle, that it affects everybody and point out ways it can be stopped. The solution is always in the problem.”
One of Alaa’s core strategies is to highlight the cycle of violence, in order to break it. “When we talk about violence against women we tend to focus on the obvious or physical abuse and focus less on emotional forms,” she said. “For us, with the Noor campaign and Purple Hijab day, we tried to reinforce that this was not the only type of violence. We tried to point out that violence is anything that reduces your ability to feel comfortable in your own home and own body, or own space.” “We’ve been taught since childhood that if somebody’s being violent, then they are a perpetrator or ‘bad guy’. When you say that about women’s rights you will have all these young men and boys feel as though their character is being attacked,” she said. By showing the cyclical nature of violence that spans generations and involves men and women, girls and boys, she hopes to make both genders part of the solutions. “In our commercials, we show a scenario where a young woman is making coffee for her husband in the morning and he doesn’t like the coffee and yells at her (this is to show violence is about more than hitting). Then we show her going to school. She’s a teacher. A young male student rolls up a piece of paper and throws it at her. So she puts her chalk down, goes to the kid, picks him up by his collar and yells at him. This kid then, a six-year-old boy, is playing soccer with his friends. The ball hits him and he goes up and hits the kid who kicked it. It was intended to show that we’re not talking about violence against women only, we’re talking about domestic violence and community violence, and the effects of violence—against everybody.” “When we make it clear that the men who are perpetrators are like this because someone treated them like this, perhaps even a woman, it helps to start a different kind of dialogue. By understanding the reason behind it, you can identify a solution to it,” she said. “So to stop a little boy from hitting
Violence is anything that reduces your ability to feel comfortable in your own home and own body, or own space.
:: Perhaps the most striking thing about Alaa is hearing such sage wisdom come from such a young woman and witnessing her patience, and dedication, to a long-haul effort. “I have no doubt the change we seek will take a long time. I have no idea whether it will happen in my generation or the next. But I do believe that the only way it will happen is by changing people’s fundamental beliefs. My generation tends to be very impatient. We want things to happen now. We see on TV what’s happening in the rest of the world today and we want to get those things today, too. But it takes a long time to get society to change. We need to work really hard to secure women’s rights in our generation but we also must understand that it may take longer than we would like. This will not happen overnight,” she said. “And that’s okay.” Asked how she feels about the dangers inherently involved with trying to initiate core change in the midst of a brutally violent country, she said, “I realize we’re all here for a pretty limited time. The only things that will stay once you’re gone is what you do and what you say. So while I am here I need to be worthy of the space I take. I need to be as impactful as I can and do the very best I can do. For any reason, if you’ve been given an opportunity by God to work on a hard issue and help people understand more about it so they are willing to work on the issue with you, you owe it to God to do so because He gave you this opportunity. I may not think I’m the best person for this work, but because of His wisdom, this opportunity is in my lap. It is my responsibility. That’s what it comes down to.” Illustration and billboards are from various awareness campaigns produced by The Voice of Libyan Women, vlwlibya.org. togetherforgirls.org 41
Sticks+ Stones Photographer Richard Johnson’s “Weapon of Choice” project shows that words can pack a powerful punch. The age-old adage goes like this: sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me. Evolved thinking and scientific studies on words used as weapons have revealed that the impacts of verbal and emotional abuse are every bit as painful to the psyche as harsh physical force can be to the body. Hurling slurs or insults or bullying with language can leave deep psychological wounds prone to scarring. And, as physical violence often follows verbal and/ or emotional abuse, words can be just the first of many tools an abuser wields against a subject. There is a particularly disturbing correlation between sexual slurs (such as “slut”) and the onset of sexual violence—ranging from revenge porn to sexual extortion to sexual battery.
frequent method.” Johnson’s stepfather abused his mother, too. “By verbally and emotionally repressing my mother, he prevented her from having the strength and will to do things to help her children and herself.” Johnson recruited his subjects with a single Facebook posting. The casting call? “Children between the age of 5 and 17 for a quick shoot with a little make-up for a series on verbal abuse.” Many people—and children—answered. Some are survivors themselves, others, the children of parents who survived violence but who broke the chain by sparing their own children. Still others had seen the lasting effect of lashing tongues and wanted to help break the silence around the issue.
A desire to illustrate the parallels—and links—between verbal, emotional and physical abuse drove photographer Richard Johnson to create the images on the following pages. A makeup artist rendered the stinging, bruising effect of disparaging comments and Johnson captured their effect.
Collectively, those who created and participated in the “Weapon of Choice” project challenge the adage that restraint in the face of a verbal attack is the best defense. Turns out, crying out publicly against vicious taunts—as Johnson and his subjects have done—may be the best way to stop them after all.
Johnson, who grew up with six brothers and sisters in an underprivileged home in New Jersey, is a survivor of multiple forms of violence. He says, “We were all exposed to every type of abuse but verbal seemed to be by far the easiest and most
To get involved with Richard Johnson’s “Weapon of Choice” project, go to: hurtwords.com or facebook.com/weaponofchoice project. All minors who have participated in the project were represented by a legal guardian.
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seeing to be Seen
A collection of images taken by people who contracted HIV through violence, or because of its aftermath. “Through Positive Eyes” is a collection of photos taken by people around the world who are living with HIV. Some of them contracted HIV through violence; others experienced violence because they are living with HIV. Welcome to the world as seen through the eyes of people living with HIV. London-based South African photographer and AIDS activist Gideon Mendel, who has chronicled HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa since 1993, co-directed this project with David Gere, art critic, AIDS activist and professor at UCLA. Mendel’s vision has always been one of empowering his subjects, rather than portraying them as victims or objects of pity. “Through Positive Eyes” aims to address key themes of the AIDS epidemic, including widespread stigma, extreme social inequality and limited access to life-saving antiretroviral medication. More than 30 years into the AIDS epidemic, medicine exists that can both save people’s lives and stop the spread of the virus by lowering people’s viral loads to undetectable levels, rendering them virtually non-infectious. But of the 35 million people living with HIV/AIDS, only 13 million are accessing the medication. Likewise, there is a growing body of evidence about how to both prevent and respond to violence, and yet
investments in strategies and interventions are tiny in comparison with the magnitude of the problem. One of the main reasons people do not access HIV testing and treatment is due to fear of experiencing the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease. The same is true for survivors of violence—and for the many who live with both. Self-blame and fear about how they will be treated if they share what happened to them, prevents them from seeking the care and support they both need and deserve. And for young people, the barriers are even greater. This must change. Art is a powerful way to tell stories and help overcome stigma. People in six countries (Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Russia, India and the U.S.) and on five continents have participated, creating personal photo essays and sharing their testimony. These images and stories have been used to create local and international advocacy materials including exhibitions, short films, a book and a website (http://throughpositiveeyes.org/). Here, you will meet five young people from the series whose lives have been touched by both the epidemics of HIV and violence. They are all double-survivors and undoubtedly doubly heroic. togetherforgirls.org 51
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Ilsa is the name I have given myself. Now that I’m 18 years old I feel empowered, and my decisions are legally recognized. What I want is to feel fulfilled and productive, in order to take the next step toward becoming a transgendered woman. I wish my family understood me better, but we became distant from each other when I told them I was gay and that I liked to dress as a woman. At that time, I didn’t want to live anymore, I didn’t take care of myself, and that included not only not wearing condoms, but also not feeding myself. I felt I was just causing problems. I lost weight until I got sick and ended up at the hospital, where they administered an HIV test. I was 16 years old. The doctor informed my parents of the diagnosis. To them it was harder to learn that I had HIV than to learn that I was trans, although they think that one thing led to the other. The first time I dressed as a woman I felt I was another person. My gestures no longer provoked laughter. I don’t care any longer about the way others react. No matter what I do, I am a person who matters. I’d like to share three pictures from my collection of twelve. In the first one, which I took in the main square of Mexico City, I show myself as a transgendered woman. I express something very natural in me. I took the second photo when I was doing my make-up, and a third one with my mom and my nephew at our house in Queretaro, because I can’t separate my family from myself.
When I learned I had HIV, I thought that all feelings and emotions and doors would now be closed to me. After a while, I learned that HIV is only one part of me, that I have no reason to crumble down (rather-fall apart or fall to pieces), that I have many other life options. I am a hairdresser. I love combing and cutting hair, and making people up. The beauty shop where I work stands between a mechanic workshop and a ceramics factory. At the beginning I felt a bit afraid in such a masculine environment, but little by little people grew fond of me. I have a strong character, but thereâ€™s a part of me that feels very bothered and hurt, because I thought I could count on all my familyâ€™s support. Nevertheless, today I see an IliĂĄn who is more sure of herself, who wants to face the world and say that HIV is just one more experience that can be transcended. The world is quite large and there is room in it for all of us. Photography awakened my consciousness and my sensitivity to the things that surround us. I noticed shapes, colors and diversity. But above all I became aware of my inherent empathy with nature, with butterflies. I am very drawn to them because of the metamorphosis I initiated in myself, to finally be free.
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I am a victim of rape. When I was raped, they shot me. They left me for dead. I lay in the hospital three months in a coma. Then when I woke up, the doctor found I was pregnant and he told me I have AIDS. This was 1994. My mom did not allow the doctor to do an abortion because it was late already. I was three months pregnant. I was 14 at the time. When my daughter was nine she tested HIV-negative. I began helping other women whose children are HIV-positive, and pregnant women who are waiting for Nevirapine treatment to save their children. I was fighting because I know the pain a child goes through because of this virus. I wanted to make sure that children coming after mine got better medication, and that they would receive better care in the hospitals and clinics. I have experienced a lot of stigma, including from my own family, though not from my mom. When I was not at home they would say to my child, “You and your mom, you’re going to die, because you have this disease.” Or “Don’t disclose, because you are destroying the name of the family.” Was I supposed to be quiet then? This was hard for me because I needed relief. There was something inside my heart—I was feeling guilt. That’s why I decided to disclose my status. I want to tell other people who are HIV-positive to live their lives openly. Don’t care about anybody else. Just live your positive life. You will become stronger and stronger and stronger again. Telling my daughter about my HIV status, and about her past, was hard for me. She began to ask me, “Mom, where is my father?,” because other children at school had fathers. I decided then to tell her. First, I went to buy something nice for her which I knew she would like. Then we sat down and talked. I told her, “There is something I want to tell you. I need you to understand. I need you then to support me, and I will support you.” And then I told her everything. “Don’t feel ashamed,” I said. “Don’t be scared of any person. Don’t be scared of anyone. Just make sure you live your life. Be proud.” At school one day, the teachers set the children an assignment, “Write something about heroes, like Mandela.” When I was checking my daughter’s books, I saw that she had written about me. I said, “Why do you write that I’m a hero, not Mandela or Jacob Zuma?” She said, “No. They are not my heroes. My hero is you. Whatever difficulty I have in my life, you are always there for me. You are my hero. I will never talk about some far away person. I want to talk about you.” That’s why I love her so much. Sometimes I tell my daughter, “I will not die until you finish your school and your university. I know there will be the day I am supposed to go and die. We will wait until that day.” But I’m telling you, I pray to God, “Please, God, can you give that power and strength to make my child to grow before you call me?” Meanwhile, I will stay strong. I’m not the dying type.
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Jazmine, Los Angeles Back in 2008, when I was 16, I was having stomach problems. I went to the hospital and the doctor said I had a cyst on my ovary and he was going to remove it. When he did the surgery, he found an infection in my womb, so he ran more tests. After a week of being there, some doctor came and told me, “Oh, you’re HIVpositive,” and walked out the door. I didn’t know I was being tested for HIV. I was heart-broken. It was about to be my senior year, I was playing varsity basketball. I decided to be home schooled instead of finishing and going to prom and doing all the fun stuff you do in senior year. I missed my senior year, but I’ll get over it. I got HIV through unprotected sex with my ex-boyfriend. I told him, “If I have it, I believe you do, because you’re the one I lost my virginity to.” And he’s like, “Don’t talk to me anymore.” I was trying to make sure we were both on medicine, that we were both okay. But he doesn’t want to come to terms with it. It bothers me still. The house where I stay, everyone there is HIV-positive. At first, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. But then I had a horrible break-up and the people where I live were very supportive. They’re like my aunties and big sisters. I got a tattoo of the word “Love” where the L is an HIV ribbon. I got it because I think I’m still lovable, even having HIV. I still go out to parties. I put my freak ‘em dress on. People think that people with HIV are dirty. I remember telling this boy and he was like, “What! You can’t have HIV. You don’t even look sick.” I don’t have to look sick to have HIV. I’m straight, I had sex, I got HIV. It can happen to anybody. A few of my co-workers at Home Depot know that I’m HIV-positive, and they’ve all been supportive. But it’s not like you just go up and say, “Oh, you know, I’m HIV-positive,” and keep walking. After doing this photography project, I want to go out and make people more aware of HIV. We’re not different. We’re not this weird group of people. We’re just like you.
:: Malala Yousafzai
Strength & Honor Meet Safe’s 2014 list of Global Heroes. They are 50 of the finest people, practices and things stopping violence against children around the world today. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. It’s an old and simple adage, but it’s true. There is something in the DNA or experiences, or both, of certain people who are drawn to address the needs of others. These people are essential for helping to balance the chaotic and sinister aspects of the world. Without them, darkness would prevail. Because of them, light shines through, even in places where others have lost hope for a better life. Some of our heroes survive atrocities and heal by working to spare others similar fates. Some choose to leave their sanctuaries, willfully putting themselves in harm’s way to protect and empower others. All of them work to give voice to the voiceless.
The definition of a hero is someone who, in the face of danger, adversity or from a position of weakness, displays courage and the will for self-sacrifice for some greater good of humanity. The definition was once limited to displays of martial courage or excellence but has been extended to include a more general moral excellence. The defining qualities of heroism include: honor, nobility, bravery, compassion and fortitude. togetherforgirls.org 61
Each and every person on this list, or those behind the practices and things we celebrate, embodies those characteristics. As we compiled the list, several themes emerged. Men are stepping up in a major way. After all, if violence is seen as a communicable disease and a learned behavior, then boys who both witness and experience violence contribute to its spread. The men on these pages acknowledge their own vulnerability and are standing up—as equal partners with women—to model a different approach to conflict, anger, and frustration and uniting their communities in a stand against violence.
That person could be you. Which is why we followed the list with a set of ways you can engage in taking action to stop violence. We hope you will feel so inspired that you join the efforts featured here, or start your own. This list could never be comprehensive. It is not the 50 biggest heroes but 50 people, places and things that represent a cross section of the astounding efforts and ideas keeping children healthy and safe around the world. They are not listed in any order of merit, but rather, alphabetically. In our eyes, they are all equal in their greatness.
It’s interesting to note how increased use of technology and The list contains some well-known faces and some unsung media, including social media, are helping people become heroes. Our hope is that Safe, and discussions around this list, more aware of the issue, and more involved. Consider the will help build connectors between leaders at all levels, and tens of millions of people who participated in the global social allow best practices to be shared between groups and efforts. media campaign #BringBackOurGirls in an appeal to resolve the kidnapping of nearly 300 young Nigerian schoolgirls— The people, practices and things on this list exist on six of the girls who we have to note are still missing as we go to press seven continents (we apologize if we have missed heroes on despite all the efforts of the global community. Josephine Antarctica…please connect us with them if we have). They Kulea, a young woman in rural Kenya range in age, approach and experiwho, despite her relatively remote and ence. But they share several things: a Often, it just takes highly traditional community had a vision for a safer, healthier world for cell phone! There she saw images and girls and boys; a game plan for how one very bold person stories on her cell phone that led her to make that happen that works in to generate an to want to move beyond her pastoral measurable ways; a willingness to go life and attend college. At university, against the grain to create change; a essential response. she realized that the traditional tribal dynamism that allows them to engenpractice of “beading” (where girls too der support in the face of resistance young to be eligible for marriage in the Samburu tribe are and opposition; the skills of a diplomat, grand orator and given to men of “warrior” age for sexual acts; a tradition that leader. And perhaps, most importantly, the strength to tackle leads to many unplanned pregnancies, health issues and the some of the worst and most difficult problems of modern spread of HIV)—a practice she was taught to embrace—is times. harmful and needs to be stopped. After getting her degree she returned to her village, which now serves as her hub for The answers lie in breaking the cycle of violence, helping enlightening people in neighboring villages to stop the practhose who have survived it heal from that experience and not tice. Or arguably, without global media, a story such as Malala repeat it, and of course preventing it from happening in the Yousafzai’s would not have led to the worldwide surge of supfirst place. port for her activism. And of course, the coverage of these stories—written by professional and citizen journalists—helps Which brings us to another element that seems to be essenfuel the advocacy and response to it. It is harder to deny these tial in stopping violence. Ensuring that children can go to travesties and to have these horrors placed squarely in front of school—safely; that they can be at school—safely—from you again and again and turn away. pre-school through secondary. Schools as places of learning, development and non-violence is our dream for all children. This brings us to another theme we saw in our heroes: a willingness to walk straight into the fire, without fear and to risk It is never too early, or too late, to teach people the value themselves for the safety of others. It is also amazing to see of equity and respect for others. For their ability to do just how their acts of courage spread—like wildfire—to others, that, and all the other incredible ways they prevent, stop and inspiring them to follow suit. Often, it just takes one very address violence, we salute this year’s list of heroes and conbold person to generate an essential response. gratulate them on their powerful impact. 62 Safe. Issue 2
The Scribe—Sohaila Abdulali: Born in Bombay, India, Abdulali was gang-raped when she was 17. She came forward with her story when she was 20 and after getting her master’s at Stanford University, worked on sexual assault issues as a writer, counselor and activist. A 2013 op-ed she penned on rape referencing her own attack broke New York Times’ circulation records. She wrote, “We have spent generations constructing elaborate systems of patriarchy, caste and social and sexual inequality that allow abuse to flourish. But rape is not inevitable, like the weather. We need to shelve all the gibberish about honor and virtue and did-she-lead-him-on and could-he-help-himself. We need to put responsibility where it lies: on men who violate women, and on all of us who let them get away with it while we point accusing fingers at their victims.” She wrote this op-ed after her initial disclosure was republished without her knowledge. Writing as a 20-year-old, she said, “My feminist friends all assume that I am concerned about women’s issues because I was raped. This is not so. The rape was one expression of all the reasons why I am a feminist. Why compartmentalize rape? Why assume rape is only an unwanted act of intercourse? Are we not raped every day when we walk down the street and are leered at? Are we not raped when we are treated as sex objects, denied our rights, oppressed in so many ways? Her fortnightly column focused on women in the 21st century called “Mind the Gap” runs in Mint, an Indian newspaper. She continues to use her words, and experience, to keep others from the fate she endured. Sohailaink.com, livemint.com
The Brave Heart—Ruzwana Bashir: The co-founder and CEO of Peek.com, a San Francisco-based travel company, is an Oxford University and Harvard grad with a long pedigree of business wins. She has been on too many “best ofs” lists to name here. The reason we put her on ours is that at the pinnacle of her public notoriety she decided to go public with her history of abuse to prevent it from happening in others. We applaud all those brave and selfless enough to come forward; it’s particularly notable when those who have recently drawn the spotlight use it for the greater good. In an article this past August in The Guardian Bashir disclosed the sexual abuse she experienced as a child. She said, “I am coming forward to publicly share my own story in the hope that I can encourage others to do the same and tear down the wall of silence that perpetuates further abuse.” Her words were a response to the Rotherham report that chronicled extensive abuse of children, mostly girls, some as young as 11, who were gang raped by men, largely from the British-Pakistani community. Her testimony, and that of others, led to the arrest and incarceration
of her attacker. At the end of her testimony in The Guardian, Bashir quotes Edmund Burke, ‘‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing.’ Let’s not be those people,” she said. Bravo for Bashir for taking her own words to heart. @ruzwana, peek.com The Man—Jimmie Briggs: An American freelance journalist and teacher, Briggs is the founder of the Man Up Campaign, an international non-profit to end violence against women and girls. The campaign engages youth in a global movement to end gender-based violence and advance gender equality through youth-led initiatives aimed at transforming communities around the world. Launched at the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative in collaboration with Vital Voices Global Partnership, it gives young people a voice in developing models of change that successfully address violence. Using the universal platforms of sport, music, technology and the arts Man Up has brought youth delegates together with artists, athletes and activists at the inaugural Young Leaders Summit in Johnannesburg in South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup and at subsequent summits in London in 2012 and at the World Cup in 2014. Briggs is the author of Innocents Lost: When Child Soliders Go to War, a book about the abuse of child soldiers as well as many articles about violence against children. In 2010, Briggs received the GQ Award for their Better Man, Better World Competition. There aren’t many bigger, and better, than Briggs. @briggsjimmie, @manupcampaign, Manupcampign.org Twitter Hashtags That Are Making A Difference— #BringBackOurGirls and #YesAllWomen: Twitter hashtags tied to violence made a splash in 2014. #BringBackOurGirls was created by Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim Abdullahi in response to the kidnapping of almost 300 schoolgirls by the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram (whose name in the Hausa language means “Western education is a sin.”) The ‘tag went super viral (4 million tweets since July) but use of #BringBackOurGirls has started to wane. And the girls are still missing. One U.S. Congresswoman, Frederica Wilson (D-FL), is resuscitating the hashtag to refocus the world on the unresolved case. Her efforts are gaining traction. #YesAllWomen allows users to share examples or stories of misogyny and violence against women. It was created, in part, in response to the Twitter hashtag #NotAllMen, which was an argument that “not all men” are misogynists or would be violent against women and girls. The point of #YesAllWomen is to raise awareness of the fact that while certainly not all men are misogynistic, virtually all women and girls experience some form of discrimination, sexism and/or verbal or physical violence in their lives. Tweets on this handle say things like “‘I have a boyfriend’ is the easiest way to get a man to leave you alone. Because he respects another man more than togetherforgirls.org 63
:: Elba Cabrera and Emelin Velรกsquez Hernandez
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you #YesAllWomen” Within four days of its creation, the hashtag was used 1.2 million times. #BringBackOurGirls #YesAllWomen
later, the UK partnered with UNICEF to co-host the Girl Summit, which mobilized efforts to end FGM and child marriage. Gov.uk, Theguardian.com, Girlsummitpledge.com
The Girls Who Lead—Elba Cabrera and Emelin Velásquez Hernandez: Emelin and Elba are Mayan girls from Guatemala who star in a short film called “Poder” directed by Lisa Russell (and narrated by Jennifer Buffett of the NoVo Foundation) for Let Girls Lead. Elba and Emelin live in the Western Highlands of Guatemala where just 14 percent of indigenous girls finish school and more than half are mothers before 18. Elba and Emelin, then 16 and 13 years old, with 13 other girls, learned to advocate for different lives for themselves through Let Girls Lead’s advocacy program. They hosted community dialogues and rallied parents, spiritual leaders and teachers to support girls’ education and health. They drew up a political strategy, then asked their mayor to implement it. When he ignored them, they took to local media until they were heard and policies were changed. Let Girls Lead is building a global movement of champions who empower girls to go to school, stay healthy, escape poverty and overcome violence. Clearly, it’s working wonders. @letgirlslead, letgirlslead.org
The Stacked Deck—Cards Against Street Harassment: Lindsey (who keeps her last name private), a 28-year-old Minneapolis woman filmed herself confronting the men who hassled her in the streets. The resulting video was watched by 1.5 million people on YouTube. An article on Mashable explained “Lindsey first decided to take action against street harassment when a man stood behind her on an escalator and started to flick her hair, asking ‘Hey blondie, where are you going?’ When she asked why he didn’t just say ‘hello,’ he began screaming that she was ugly and not cute enough for him anyway. ‘That’s when I realized it’s clearly a kind of gender abuse,’ Lindsey said.’” Part of her response was to design cards women can hand to men who are harassing them. The cards, which can be downloaded and printed from her website say things like, “Have you ever had one of those wonderful days, when everything seems to be going right and there’s a little skip in your step for no particular reason? Well, I was having one of those days until you felt the need to comment on my appearance.” Each ends with the same three sentences: “It’s not a compliment. It’s harassment. Next time, keep it to yourself.” @cardsagsthrsmt, Cardsagainstharassment.com
photo by Let Girls Lead
The Great Britains—David Cameron, DFID, The Guardian, Former British Foreign Secretary William Hague: From the leadership of its prime minister who called for a national strategy to address the sexual targeting of young people online, to the efforts of the Department of International Development that disperses millions globally to fight violence and end harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), to the Pulitzer-prize-winning Guardian newspaper which does some of the finest and boldest reporting on violence in the world, to the fact that it hosted two global summits on the issues this summer, the United Kingdom is the virtual center of the universe for the work of pushing back against violence. Former British Foreign Secretary William Hague co-chaired the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict this year with Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The summit in London was a platform for discussing how collective efforts could make the world safer and healthier. A month
The Man of Peace—Jimmy Carter: In his new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power, the 39th President of the United States calls the discrimination and abuse of women and girls “the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge” of our times. In an interview on The Huffington Post with Marianne Schnall Carter, he said, “It’s perhaps the most important single issue that I have ever addressed—certainly since I left the White House. Keeping my country at peace and promoting human rights around the world was important when I was president, but nothing has ever affected me more, or convinced me more, that the abuse is horrendous, and that very few people are doing anything about it, and that maybe my voice can convince people to join with us, join with the Carter Center, join with each other and let’s correct some of these most horrendous abuses.” @cartercenter, Cartercenter.org The Grafiteira—Panmela Castro: The 32-year-old Brazilian graffiti artist healed from personal experiences with domestic violence through her street art. The streets of Rio de Janeiro— and the graffiti murals she paints there—allowed her to reach other women with messages of hope, survival, justice and recovery. She has since taken her show on the road, spreading her colorfully painted messages of hope from Paris to Prague, Vienna to Berlin, Johannesburg to Jerusalem. A graduate of the School of Fine Arts at the Federal University of Rio de togetherforgirls.org 65
Robin Marchant / Contributor / Getty Images
:: Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin
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Janeiro with a Master of Arts as well, she uses her work as a backdrop for workshops and lectures focused on gender equality. She is the creator, founder and president of NAMI Network, an organization that uses the genre of urban arts to promote women’s rights. @panmelacastro, Panmelacastro.com The Powerhouse—Helen Clark: The Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and Chair of The United Nations Development Group (UNDP), is the former Prime Minister of New Zealand; in that role, she was a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize the highestlevel women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development. A long-standing champion of the rights and health of women and girls, at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London in 2014, Clark said, “Violence against women and sexual violence exist in all our societies, and are often related to structural factors which drive gender inequality more broadly…Where there is conflict, these factors are exacerbated. Governments everywhere need to take meaningful steps to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and to address the scourge of sexual violence in conflict and in societies supposedly at peace too.” Under her bold leadership, UNDP works in conflict and post-conflict settings to improve women’s security and access to justice. She will be pivotal in ensuring the rights of women and girls are explicitly part of the Sustainable Development Goals—new guidance for global development, slated for 2016. With Clark on watch, we can all sleep better at night. @HelenClarkUNDP, UNDP.org The Wonder Women—Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Melinda Gates: Hillary Rodham Clinton has long championed the rights of women and girls. Her daughter, Chelsea, has followed her footsteps to their eponymous foundation— The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation—where she now sits as Vice Chair. Lately, HRC has further upped her game on women and girls. Her comments at this summer’s Senator Harkin Steak Fry in Iowa challenging the National Football League to address domestic violence wielded by its players, including the need to integrate female leaders and managers, was just one recent example of her willingness to use an “all eyes on her moment” to make a bold statement about women’s empowerment. As if the star power of Hillary + Chelsea wasn’t enough, the pair have teamed up with Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to gather and study data on the global progress of women and girls and the gaps that remain. The project, called “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project” will aggregate data from traditional sources, like the World Bank, as well as less tradi-
tional ones, such as Google, to document progress made by women in the world since the United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing. The date culled for “No Ceilings” will be used to create a 21st century agenda to accelerate full participation for women and girls globally. Madame President, anyone? @HillaryClinton, @ChelseaClinton, @ClintonFdn, Clintonfoundation.org, @melindagates, @gatesfoundation, Gatesfoundation.org The Solution Finders—Days for Girls International: Days for Girls hygiene kits spare young women from having to use leaves, mattress stuffing, newspaper, corn husks, rocks, or anything they can find, as sanitary supplies so that they can go about their daily lives, and go to school, when they are menstruating. A global, grassroots network of thousands of volunteers and supporters on six continents have made and distributed reusable feminine hygiene kits to women and girls in 75 countries—also on six continents. Collectively, their efforts contribute to more dignified, free and educated women and girls. Some kits are made elsewhere then delivered via local non-profits; others are made by women and girls in need, supported by Days for Girls. @daysforgirls, daysforgirls.org The Guys That Get It About Harassment— #DudesGreetingDudes: Hollaback, an organization focused on ending street harassment and intimidation of women and girls made a short film of a young woman walking the Manhattan streets documenting what it’s like to be the subject of unwanted attention. The answer? In 10 hours, the woman experienced more than 100 instances of street harassment from catcalls, “how you doings?” to nonverbal communications. The started a tsunami of social media conversations, a fair bit of controversy (Why weren’t any of the men white? Were racial angles at play?)—and a rush of parodies. One of those parodies—#DudesGreetingDudes, launched by comedian and entrepreneur Elon James White—addressed the core issues that women aren’t asking to be taunted, and feel threatened when they are. The meme switches the tables on catcalling, showing men what women feel like by asking men to imagine if men said the things they say to women—to each other. Things like: “Hey handsome. Why you wearing them short sleeve shirts if you didn’t want me to comment on your arms?” #dudesgreetingdude,; @ihollaback, Ihollaback.org The Petitioners Against FGM—Jaha Dukureh and Fahma Mohamed: Dukureh, a 25-year-old survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM) from Gambia who moved to the U.S. spearheaded a petition on Change.org calling on U.S. President Barack Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services to commission research into the scale and severity of FGM in the U.S. as part of a global campaign to end FGM. With more than 200,000 signatures, Dukureh togetherforgirls.org 67
headed to Washington, D.C, where she met with the more than 50 members of Congress who supported the petition. The research is underway. Having jumpstarted the response in the U.S., Dukureh has headed back to her native Gambia to hopefully replicate her success there. Seventeen-year-old Fahma Mohamed took a similar approach in to addressing FGM in the UK with her Change.org petition calling for then-Education Secretary Michael Gove, to write to all schools to ask teachers to take any action necessary to protect the children from this practice. Within three weeks, she had attracted more than 230,000 signatures and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon joined the campaign, calling on global media to help stop FGM. A month later, Gove agreed to write to all schools and the Welsh and Scottish Education ministers said they would do the same. @JahaENDFGM; @FahmaEndFGM The Men who Protect Boys from Violence—First Step Cambodia: First Step Cambodia (FSC) was launched in 2010 to respond to the needs of boys and young men and their families at risk of, or affected by, sexual abuse and violence. It was a response to the first research study on sexual violence against boys conducted in the country (research since further supported by the Violence Against Children Survey that was launched in October in Cambodia) that showed that boys are also affected by, and sometimes even more stigmatized because of, sexual violence than girls. FSC’s advocacy materials are used in community settings to help Cambodians understand the severity of sexual violence against boys and to teach people how to respond appropriately. It has partnered with local NGO M’Lop Tapang and the children attending their arts center on the production of a short film “I Will Believe.” FSC Executive Director Yaim Chamreun said, “We wanted to work with local children, as part of our commitment to child participation, to produce something that would connect with them and also feed into the Cambodian culture of communicating important messages through use of music and song.” The film has been shown at conferences in New York and G8 events in London as well as to inspire children and their supporters to lift the veil of secrecy from the sexual abuse of boys. Chamreun said, “‘I Will Believe’ is transforming the way that people see this issue and respond to children.” First-step-cambodia.org
The Climber of Peaks—Shannon Galpin: Her organization educates and provides opportunities for girls and women in conflict regions, including Afghanistan. In the early years of her work, she visited a women’s prison in Kandahar. She told Forbes magazine, “The thing that was really striking to me [was that] I felt completely 68 Safe. Issue 2
photo by Judi Aubel
The Justice Bringer—Mahfuza Folad: The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission documented that in 2013 at least 150 Afghan women set themselves on fire to avoid being trapped in a marriage with an abusive partner. Since 2008, Executive Director Folad’s Kabul-based Justice for All legal aid clinic has offered women “Western-style divorces” as an alternative to self-immolation. Folad and her team assist women and girls as they navigate the new government-led judicial system, created in the aftermath of American-led military involvement. (Before, the only courts were those run by the Taliban.) Thanks to Folad, women wishing to leave forced marriages or abusive partners can seek their freedom without being punished. Divorces granted by Islamic clergymen often took away women’s money—and children. Folud ensures women get away from those who are hurting them while holding on to the things that can keep them happy, healthy and safe. She has worked with the Ministry of Higher Education and Afghan Women’s Judges Association and participated in conferences and seminars around the world. Jfao.org
:: The Grandmother Project
helpless. I was not in a position to help these women in any real, tangible way.” But, she changed her mind, realizing she could use her unusual position as a non-Muslim woman from the West who was seen as gender neutral by the men in charge to advocate for the women she met in that prison, and other places, many of who had survived rape and other forms of abuse. She has used her outsider status to set up midwifery and literacy programs in rural parts of the country, helped install computer labs in schools and set up kindergartens in women’s prison for their children (who are with them in prison), to help them avoid abuse as they grow up—a risk that diminishes in direct proportion to how much, and how well, they are educated. @Mtn2Mtn, Mountain2mountain.org The Philanthropic Fashionista—Frida Giannini: The creative director of Gucci co-founded Chime for Change with Beyoncé and Salma Hayek Pinault. The global campaign to revolutionize women’s education, justice and health was driven by Giannini’s feelings about the harsh things faced by women and girls. In Marie Claire, she said, “Discrimination and violence against women are not things that are happening in just, say, Afghanistan. They are happening everywhere.” Chime for Change operates around the world, in all places where women face grave threats and need bolstering. We love their line: “Because none of us can move forward if half of us are held back.” Chime is making sure many more women embrace their self worth, and help others appreciate their value. #chimein, @chimeforchange, chimeforchange.org The Producers—Girl Be Heard: The group’s mission is to use theatre to empower young women (ages 12-21) to become brave, confident, socially conscious leaders while exploring their own challenging circumstances. The theatre collective provides a safe environment in which girls write, direct and produce theater productions under the guidance of professional directors, playwrights, actors, activists and intellectuals. The educational program helps girls find and use their voices to cope with difficulties like gun violence, sex trafficking, forced child marriage, teen pregnancy and violence against women and girls. We love their philosophy: If a girl can change her own life, she can change the lives of girls everywhere. Indeed. @girlbeheard, Girlbeheard.org The Good Gang of Girls—Girls For a Change: Through Girls for a Change (GFC), young girls develop the ability to speak up, be decisionmakers, create visionary change and realize their full potential. GFC helps young women increase their confidence in their voice and convictions, develops their life-skills, and improves their ability to identify paths and resources within their communities that can contribute to positive change and break cycles for a lifetime. GFC cultivates girls so they may become active leaders and passionately 70 Safe. Issue 2
engaged citizens, impacting not only their own neighborhoods but also their nations. The program pairs 5-15 girls with adult women specially trained to serve as volunteer “coaches,” then get busy problem solving. The girls of “Girl Action Team #5” at Henderson Middle School in Richmond, VA conducted a rally at a local community center to end violence and sexual assault against women. It included guest speakers from community organizations working on the issue, information about local resources and a self-defense workshop. The girls used local media to spread the word about emmatheir event. @Girlsforachange, Girlsforachange.org The Citizen Journalists—Global Girl Media: From South Africa to Morocco to the United States, Global Girl Media empowers teen girls from under-served communities, giving them professional media training so they can have their say in the global media—and about what happens in their futures. A coalition of women broadcasters and journalists, hungry for a counterpoint to sensationalist news coverage that often hinges on violence, celebrity or disaster, formed the group. By nurturing the anchorwomen and editors of tomorrow, Global Girl Media helps give voice to millions of young women, pulling girls from the digital divide onto center stage. @globalgirlmedia, Globalgirlmedia.org. The Sages—The Grandmother Project: The organization focuses on the health and well being of women and children through culturally-grounded, intergenerational community programs. The Grandmother Project leverages the respect elders garner, especially in non-Western societies, to help support and guide younger generations. They know that an invaluable, pre-existing resource—grandmothers—can play powerful roles in education, shaping values in young people, helping them develop mutual respect between genders, deepening social cohesion. Their work with young women and girls helps keep them safe from early and forced marriage, teenage pregnancy, female genital mutilation and cutting, and HIV/AIDS, among other concerns. Grandmotherproject.org The Three Saints of Bangui—The Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyame-Gbangou, Imam Omar Kobine Layama, and Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga: The French daily, Le Monde dubbed these three faiths leaders working on the front lines in the Central African Republic saints for their efforts against some of the worst violence we see in the world today. Imam Omar Kobine Layama, president of the Central African Islamic Community; Dieudonné Nzapalainga, the Archbishop of Bangui; and Nicolas Guérékoyame-Gbangou, president of the Evangelical Alliance of the Central African Republic (CAR), have traveled through their homeland and around the world in an attempt to set the record straight that the violence in the CAR affecting so many women and children
:: Emma Sulkowicz
courtesy of New York Magazine
:: The Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyame-Gbangou, Imam Omar Kobine Layama, and Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga
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is not driven by religion, but rather, pursuit of power. They took their message that Christians and Muslims have lived peaceably together in the CAR to the Vatican, meeting with Pope Francis (and the Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro) this past summer. Their hope is that the Holy See will further promote peace in their country. When not spreading their good words, they promote “peace schools,” where children of all religions study together, and mixed healthcare centers where all can feel safe when seeking medical treatment. The Braintrust—Sejal Hathi: Most young people go to school to learn how to change the world, then go try to do it. Hathi is doing both, at once. Though just 22, she has already been the co-founder, global ambassador and former director of strategic partnerships at girltank and the founder of Girls Helping Girls. The latter connected 30,000 in girls in 22 countries to help them help each other achieve their goals. Girltank identifies girls with potential to become high impact leaders. Following those endeavours, she launched a social venture capital campaign fund S2 Capital, which invests equity and debt in entrepreneurs under the age of 30 in low-resource countries. Currently, the former molecular biology student at Yale is pursuing a combo M.D./MBA. at Stanford University. We can’t wait to see what she does next with all she learns…@sejalhathi,; S2cap. com, girltank.org
Anadolu Agency / Contributor / Getty Images
The Safe Haven—HELP USA’s Scholarship Fund for Survivors of Domestic Violence: The fund recognizes courageous women and men who have overcome homelessness, often brought on as a result of abuse. The Scholarship Fund supports graduates’ educational and professional pursuits as they work to build better lives for themselves and their families. HELP USA offers the safe housing, counselling and employment services needed by survivors of homelessness and domestic violence to regain their dignity and quality of life. “We’re strongly dedicated to supporting those affected by domestic violence, which impacts one in four women in the U.S. today and continues to be one of the leading causes of homelessness,” says Maria Cuomo Cole, Chairman of the HELP USA board. “It is truly an honor to see our graduates of our domestic violence program empowered for the next steps in their lives.” Cuomo Cole’s brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, founded the organization in 1986. @HelpUSA, Helpusa.org
The Very Special Envoy—Angelina Jolie: Actor, ambassador, activist, Jolie has worked tirelessly as the Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In June 2014, she co-chaired the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict with former British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Integrally involved in the work, she uses her fame and beauty to heighten awareness of violence against women and children in conflict zones. A powerfully articulate and outspoken voice this issue, the mother of six has traveled to tens of countries, frequenting war zones. She regularly visits with survivors of rape and other types of violence. In Glamour this summer, where she was featured as one of six “role models for a better world,” she said, “Everywhere I went…rape was the silent killer. But it became quickly clear to me that these women were not just the collateral damage of war. Rape was a strategic, organized scheme to destroy entire communities. This is not a woman problem. It’s a crime against humanity.” Thankfully, she’s on the case. @Refugees, Unhcr.org The Girl-led Revolution—Just Yell Fire: Created by teens, for teens, Just Yell Fire™ is a movement of 1.5 million girls across 64 countries who work to empower their fellow girls to know their rights, stand up for themselves, be aware of the dangers they face and escape violence when trouble finds them. Dallas Jessup, the CEO who founded the organization when she was 15 said, “Just Yell Fire™ is taking on a crisis: violence and abuse against young women and girls. The numbers are horrific: 1 in 4 becomes a sexual assault victim, 1 in 3 face dating abuse, and too many encounter random violence, date rape drugs, hate crimes, or traffickers. We believe every girl has the right to live a life free of fear, abuse, or violence and we’re fighting back.” Don’t miss their “Dating Bill of Rights.” Genius. @dallas_jessup, Justyellfire.com, Dallasjessup.com The Man Who Fights For the Rights of Women and Girls in the Middle East—Anthony Keedi: The psychologist who runs the “Engaging Men and Boys Programme” of the Abaad-Resource Center for Gender Equality in Beirut, Lebanon said, in an interview with The Guardian in June, “When one man questions his use of violence (in any form – physical, verbal, emotional, or economical), it is proof that people can change. If people can change, and enough of them do, then societies can change. Countries can change. The world can change. Even if that may take lifetimes, it can happen. Every little change gives that hope, and that is what helps anyone to keep progressing in the face of adversity.” Keedi’s work with Abaad aims to help people reconsider gender stereotypes. It also works to alter what men and boys consider “acceptable” behavior toward women and girls as a means to reduce violence against them. He also works with Iraqi and Syrian refugees to raise awareness of gender-based violence. @AbaadMENA, Abaadmena.org togetherforgirls.org 73
The Ritual Buster—Josephine Kulea: As Founder and Executive Director of the Samburu Girls Foundation in Kenya, Josephine and her organization rescue young girls from harmful cultural practices in rural communities in Northern Kenya. Named the UN’s Person of the Year in 2013, Josephine is a registered nurse with the Nursing Council of Kenya and was awarded a Mandela Washington Fellowship by the U.S. President’s Young African Leaders Initiative. She plans to use lessons from her fellowship to further her efforts to end child exploitation and abuse. She was supported to go to college by her parents; when she left her small, rural village, she realized there was something wrong with what was happening there. Now, she’s trying to change harmful rituals such as Samburu girl-child beading, which is a communitysanctioned, non-marital sexual relationship between Samburu men in the “warrior” age group—young adult men—and young Samburu girls who are not yet eligible to be married. It is one of the major cultural practices influencing the spread of HIV among the tribal Samburu community of Kenya and is a barrier to primary formal education, especially when the girl becomes pregnant. Josephine works not only to ensure young women are freed but also that the sons and daughters who were born because of beading grow up in a generation where cultural traditions no longer fly in the face of health. @JosephineKulea The Precious Stone—Rachel Lloyd: When helping rescue a 12-year-old girl in Harlem from a pimp who was keeping her drugged and abusing her, Lloyd, the founder and CEO of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) was told by the police that the girl was old enough to walk out on her own. Lloyd said in Marie Claire, “Rather than being seen as victims, [girls in the sex industry] are seen as willing participants in their own abuse.” This helped lead her to lobby New York State to pass the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act in 2008. The law handles children in the sex trade as victims, not criminals, offering them support and aid for their recovery rather than incarcerating them, a move that further reduces their chances of escaping the industry when they eventually return to the outside world. To date, 12 states, including New York, have passed the law. Through GEMS, Lloyd, who was sexually exploited as a teenager, has helped hundreds of young women ages 12-24 who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and develop to their full potential. @GEMSGIRLS, Gems-girls.org. The Commander—Lieutenant General David Morrison: The Chief of the Australian Army describes himself as a “feminist.” He eloquently advocated for gender equity at the closing plenary of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London in 2014. Excerpts from his remarks 74 Safe. Issue 2
distill his vision. “To end sexual violence in conflict is a great endeavor and at its heart stands the soldier and the choice that he will make, when all is at its most elemental—a simple, terrible choice—to be a protector or a perpetrator. I have said ‘he’ deliberately, for the world’s armies are overwhelmingly male institutions. I have deliberately excluded a third choice—to be a bystander while others commit sexual violence. There are no bystanders—the standard you walk past is the standard you accept…Armies that revel in their separateness from civil society, that value the male over the female, that use their imposed values to exclude those who don’t fit the particular traits of the dominant group, who celebrate the violence that is integral to my profession rather than seeking ways to contain it—they do nothing to distinguish the soldier from the brute…I am no sociologist. I have no anthropological training, but I am certain of this: we live in a world where the squandering of women’s talent, the traducing of their potential, is a global disgrace.” Nothing we can add to that. Except our thanks. The Good Doctor—Dr. Denis Mukwege: Founder and Medical Director of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Dr. Mukwege operates on women who have been raped and mutilated by armed men, restoring their health and dignity. As a child, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated physician and Congolese national hero was inspired while watching his father, a Pentecostal pastor, visit the sick. He chose to practice gynecology and obstetrics after seeing women suffer complications during childbirth because they had not received adequate medical care after sexual trauma. Today, Panzi is known worldwide for its treatment of survivors of sexual violence and women with severe gynecological problems. Named African of the year in 2009 by the Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust, Dr. Mukwege has spoken before the United Nations General Assembly on the issue and travels abroad to raise awareness of the situation in Eastern DRC. The European Parliament awarded him their highest human rights accolade, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, in October of this year. @denismukwege, Panzihospital.org The Model—Noella Coursaris Musunka: Founder of the Georges Malaika Foundation, Musunka was born in Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Seeing how rape was used a weapon of war led the model to affect change through her own storytelling and actions. When her father passed away at five, she was sent to live with relatives in Switzerland, where she got an education, and was hired as a model. She traveled the world with brands like Agent Provocateur, Virgin and Apple; along the way, she used her access to diplomats and people of influence to help change public opinion. She founded the Georges Malaika Foundation
photo by Christopher Ferguson
:: Ruzwana Bashir
:: Dr. Denis Mukwege
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in her father’s honor. The U.S.-based organization helps Congolese women get ahead through education. They help girls secure the resources necessary to go to school. She is also building schools herself. She spoke about the violence faced by women in the Eastern Congo in front of the Parliament of the DRC. She is a model in more ways than one. @GeorgesMalaika; Gmfafrica.org The Ambassador—Liam Neeson: The Irish heartthrob and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador is the spokesperson for #ENDviolence, a global initiative led by UNICEF calling for an end to all forms of violence against children. The campaign hopes to shine a light on the invisible horrors of violence and abuse that undermine the lives of millions of children. It debuted with a public service announcement featuring Neeson calling on people to take collective action, to join in existing efforts with those already active on the issue. This year, the initiative recently released Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children, which draws on data from 190 countries to show global patterns of violence against children in its multiple forms – ranging from physical violence to sexual and emotional violence. The data report was launched jointly with the publication, Ending Violence against Children: Six Strategies for Action, which provides a set of examples on how to prevent and respond to violence. @UNICEF, Unicef.org/endviolence
Scott Baldauf / Contributor / Getty Images
The Voices of Their Generation— Teen-led Media Like Ni Nyampinga and Yegna Project: Yegna, an all-girl Ethiopian acting and pop group is the brainchild of Girl Hub, a strategic collaboration between the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Nike Foundation. The 5-member group produces videos and performs on Ethiopian radio in a biweekly drama and talk show for young women, addressing issues like forced marriage, isolation and teen pregnancy. Their aim? To positively shape the budding minds of the young girls in the 20 million person audience of Sherger FM in Addis Ababa. Ni Nyampinga is Rwanda’s first teen magazine, written by teens, for teens. Also supported by Girl Hub, the girls are trained to write,
report and photograph; the resulting editorial empowers their young readers to learn, connect and explore the opportunities around them. @NiNyampinga The Seamstress of Hope—Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe: The Director of the Saint Monica’s Girls Tailoring Centre in Gulu, Uganda since 2001, Sister Rosemary has helped more than 2,000 young girls recover from violence, specifically those formerly held captive by warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Many of the girls were abducted, raped, tortured and forced to kill their own family members as soldiers in Kony’s army. In the safety of her sanctuary, women literally, and figuratively, sew their lives back together after having had them torn asunder by violence. Many of the girls are shunned and persecuted by people in their villages; Sister Rosemary teaches them to support themselves by tailoring, catering and other skills. Time magazine named Nyirumbe one of their 100 Most Influential People in 2014. @Sister_Rosemary, Sewinghope.com The Dignatarian—Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin: As Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Osotimehin, who is also a doctor and the former Health Minister of Nigeria, ardently defends the reproductive health and rights of young women around the world. While the topic of girls’ reproductive health can be a lightning rod issue, Osotimehin works to help people understand that the prickly topic is an essential piece of the puzzle of the sustained health and peace of the world. When asked by IPS news correspondent Joan Erakit how he and UNFPA respond to women and girls in conflict areas, especially pregnant women or those who have faced violence and abuse, he said: “That’s something we do superbly...Today, we are looking at Gaza, we are looking at Syria, we are looking at Iraq, we are looking at the Central African Republic, at South Sudan, at old conflict areas...We cannot forget the Internally Displaced Persons who have existed for so long in northern Kenya, in the Zaatari camp in Jordan; these are areas where we work actively. We offer three types of responses: services for girls and women to prevent gender-based violence; services for the survivors of GBV so they can receive care for physical assault and services for their emotional and psychological support so they are reintegrated back into society. Our flagship programme, before we expanded to all of this, was recognizing that women in conflict areas have dignity needs. Very few people think of women and their regular needs in war and conflict, so we provide them dignity kits, to enable them to preserve their health and dignity.” @BabatundeUNFPA, @UNFPA, unfpa.org The Engaging Read—A Path Appears: The husbandand-wife-writing-team of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, who co-authored togetherforgirls.org 77
the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Half the Sky, have teamed up again to create, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, a new book that offers readers advice on how to engage in efforts to resolve the world’s most vexing issues, such as violence against women and children. If Half the Sky made an airtight case for empowering women and girls—and how the whole of society benefits from strong women and girls and gender equity— A Path Appears made a similarly compelling case for overcoming scepticism that the world’s problems are intractable. In Humanosphere Kristof said, “There’s a national debate right now about inequality. It seems to us that many of the roots of that inequality have to do with lasting pathologies created by a lack of opportunity, especially in early childhood. Maybe the best way of addressing that inequality is through various childhood interventions. We hope to cast a spotlight on some of the early childhood interventions that we think have pretty robust evidence of effectiveness, impact.” @apathappears, @half, @nickkristof @wudunn, apathappears.org The Man of God—Pastor Alexis: We asked Tearfund, a founding member of ‘We Will Speak Out’, a coalition of faith-based groups, international aid agencies and individuals committed to see the end of sexual violence (SV) in communities worldwide, to give us a platinum example of their coalition’s good work. They thought immediately of Pastor Alexis Musonera, who lives in Burundi in the African Great Lakes region. After a training conducted by Tearfund on transforming attitudes about masculinity and how places of worship can be turned into centers for care, Pastor Alexis Musonera let it be known in his community that he is the “go-to” guy for solutions to violence. When called by women and girls in the first hours after sexual assault, Pastor Alexis Musonera visits them at their homes. In a booklet he has with him always, Alexis carries the names of all who have come to the church for support—and notes on how the church responded. He also carries a cell phone. Everyone in the community knows his number. Tearfund related that in at least one case, Pastor Alexis Musonera received a call in the evening about a girl who had been raped; by daybreak, thanks to his help, the rapist had been caught. By breakfast, the perpetrator was in prison. @tearfund, @WeWill SpeakOut, Tearfund.org, Wewillspeakout.org Beauties Against Bullying—Hollie Robinson and Jackie Turner: Turner, a former Miss England who was also a Miss World contestant, was brutally taunted for her looks as a teen. At 30, she has returned to the beauty pageant world to help aspiring models handle similar bouts of bullying. Turner helps ensure young girls are not so overcome with emotional abuse that they drop out of school, as Turner nearly did. Robinson was also bullied at school. She was punched, kicked—and sent an e-mail containing 200 signatures suggesting she kill herself. For two years, she was physically sick each morning and suffered panic attacks at school. Her world turned around in 2009 when she was scouted to compete in her first beauty contest. She won and went on to win Miss West Lancashire and Miss Blackpool in 2011. Since, she has founded the Miss Anti-Bullying Pageant to help raise awareness of young people bullied into ill health. Pretty is, as pretty does. @MissHollieRob @MissJacquelineT, Facebook/MissAntiBullying The Evidence—The Sexual Violence Research Initiative: As we know good data propels action, which is why we are so impressed with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI). Initially hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO), SVRI moved to the Medical Research Council in South Africa in 2006. 78 Safe. Issue 2
photo by Tadeu Scaf
:: Panmela Castro
photo by Prabu Deepan/Tearfund
:: Pastor Alexis Musonera 80 Safe. Issue 2
The global research initiative aims to promote good quality research around sexual violence, particularly in developing countries. Its experienced and committed network of researchers, policy makers, activists and donors ensure that the many aspects of sexual violence are addressed from the perspective of different disciplines and cultures. Data collected by SVRI helps ensure dollars and efforts are put behind those prevention efforts and services that have the most impact on the most people. By gathering the data about sexual violence from programs and approaches around the world in one place, SVRI has created a hub for researchers, policy-makers, activists and donors. By connecting the various pieces of the puzzle, SVRI helps solve the most vexing drivers of sexual violence. Svri.org The Songstress—Sister Fa: The Senegalese rapper is a campaigner against female genital cutting (FGC). A survivor of cutting herself, she leads “Education Sans Excision” (Education without Cutting) tours around the world using workshops in schools based around art to stimulate discussion about human rights, and, from there, about FGC. In a piece she wrote for Thomson Reuters Foundation, she said, “In Guinea, girls are frequently stitched up after they are cut – a practice called infibulation…In each place I stopped I met the whole community: men, women, young people, councillors, administrators and education officials. Involving everyone is important if we are to end the practice. In Guinea over 90 percent of girls and women have been cut. In Dounkiba I asked the women why cutters continue this practice despite all the calls to abandon it. They said some cutters had stopped, but had then started again because there was still demand for their services. Others had resumed cutting because they lacked any alternative income. The women said there must firstly be a strong publicity campaign about the harm caused by FGC. Secondly, alternative jobs must be created for cutters, for example in agriculture…This trip has shown me that lack of resources—not a lack of will—is often the barrier to ending female genital cutting.” Her work is supported by the Orchid Project and links in with the Senegal-based non-government organization Tostan. @sister_fa, @OrchidProject, @Tostan, Sisterfa.com The Voice—Sir Patrick Stewart: The actor well-known for his roles in Star Trek and X-Men and his prolific roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company grew up in an abusive household (his father’s violence against his mother was driven by PTSD from time spent in WWII) and related specific experiences from his youth when he spoke on behalf of Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women Campaign. He is also a patron for the UK’s national domestic violence charity, Refuge. He also supports the Armed Forces charity Combat Stress. @SirPatStew, amnesty.org, refuge.org.uk, combatstress.org.uk
The Students and Teachers Who Stand Up Against Rape on Campus—Emma Sulkowicz: In May, the U.S. Department of Education first released its list of 55 schools under federal investigation for mishandling sexual assault allegations. Survivors, students and teachers have responded in remarkable numbers. One notable case is that of Emma Sulkowicz, a senior at Columbia University, who began carrying her mattress with her everywhere she went to protest Columbia’s lack of response to her report that she was raped in her college dorm room. Her senior thesis—called “Carry that Weight” is based on her efforts to get the University to respond differently to students’ reports of assault. As we go to press, an additional 21 colleges and universities have been added to the list of those under investigation. The White House has even responded. In September, President Obama announced “It’s On Us,” a nationwide public service campaign aimed at urging young people to do more to stop campus assault. Carryingtheweighttogether.com, Itsonus.org The Real Men—Those Who Wear the Real Men Campaign T-Shirt: Created by Women’s Aid, a UK-based charity that has Sarah Brown as a patron and actor Keira Knightly in its ads, the Real Man Campaign asks men to take a pledge to stand up to violence against women and children, to buy— and wear—items supporting the campaign logo to raise awareness and to take action in the response. To date, 31,815 real men have signed up for the pledge that says a “real man” doesn’t hit, abuse or control, that he doesn’t hurt the ones he loves and that he makes a difference. Many high profile men around the world are sporting the shirt designed by Debenhams’ Henry Holland, including actor Ian Somerhalder. @womensaid, realmencampaign.com, womensaid.org.uk The Bishop—Rt. Rev. Ellinah Wamukoya: As the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Swaziland, she is the first woman to be elected as a bishop of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and of any of the 12 Anglican provinces in Africa.. Speaking this year at the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women as deacons and priests in the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in Jamaica, Wamukoya said, “As women, we have something to contribute to the Church, even though we hear many stories where females are still being shut out in our churches today. However, we must start to acknowledge the pain of ignored talents in Christ and come together to address it. We are free and no longer entangled to Church doctrines and traditions. God has bestowed upon us an awesome responsibility, which is to change the world. Let us go out there and give, give and give.” We say, Amen. The Voice of a New Generation of Feminists—Emma Watson for UN Women’s HeForShe Campaign: Best togetherforgirls.org 81
known for playing the budding sorceress Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series, Watson is UN Women’s new Goodwill Ambassador. In September of this year, she gave a speech at the United Nations to help launch UN Women’s new “HeForShe” campaign, inviting men to join the movement for gender equality. In her proper British accent, she extended a formal invitation for the boys to join the fight for gender equality. Her highly quotable speech (such as: “I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there’s one thing I know for certain, it is that this had to stop.” and “It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals.”) roused global conversations about precisely what feminism is, and isn’t. @EmWatson, @UN_Women, heforshe.org The Quiet Hero—Whitney Williams: The founder and CEO of williamsworks, Williams leads the firm’s work with inspiring individuals and organizations to create lasting change in the world., and resources, to create and implement game-changing initiatives. In addition to the impact she has on the world through williamsworks, Williams co-founded the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) with actor Ben Affleck. As part of its larger advocacy and grant-making work, ECI funds Congolese organizations to support survivors of rape and sexual violence, including through counseling, health, education and legal support as well as income generating projects. She currently serves as vice chair of the first U.S.-based advocacy and grant making organization focused solely on working with and for the people of eastern Congo. She Williams is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. A signature of her work is the sustainability of the projects; a personal signature is her remarkable humility in the face of all she has achieved. @EasternCongo, williamsworks.com, easterncongo.org The Nobel Laureate—Malala Yousafzai: The 17-year-old Pakistani activist has become a household name the world over since being shot by Taliban rebels on her way to school. What Mahatma Ghandi did for peace and Martin Luther King did for race, Malala is trying to doing for girls’ education. She is campaigning against those who wish to intimidate young women from seeking the educations that allow them to pursue the same types of opportunities for economic advancement and societal and political power as men. She spent her last birthday in Africa appealing to Nigerian leaders to rescue the nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. In October, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and promoting young people’s rights, including the right to an education. She shares the award with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian child right’s advocate and an activist against child labor. She is girl power, exemplified. @malalafund, Malalafund.org The Missing, and the Lost—The Children We Will Not Forget: There are some very important heroes who we must acknowledge. We don’t know each of their names, or where they are. That is the point. They are gone. Taken from the safety of their homes, their schoolyards, their communities, their families. They are the many girls and boys around the world who have been forcibly separated from their familiar worlds. Whether the Nigerian school girls taken by Boko Haram, the Iraqi girls taken by ISIS to be given as “spoils of war” to their military leaders or the 43 Mexican students who were on their way to a protest and who are believed to have been killed by drug gangs with police collusion, or the literally millions of children who suffer hidden from the sights of global media, there are far too many incidents of innocent youth being abducted, abused or murdered. It is these children, and others who may be next, who drive our work, and the work of so many of the global heroes. We don’t want to live in a world that treats our children like this and we know you don’t either—so we hope that you will consider becoming part of the solution. Together, we can help ensure the health and safety of the world’s children. On the next page are several wonderful ways to get started.
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Kevin Mazur / Contributor / Getty Images
:: Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe togetherforgirls.org 83
Hero Up Feeling inspired by Safe’s List of 50 Global Heroes? Put that motivated feeling to use and become a hero yourself by getting involved in any—or better yet, all—of the following ways. No matter where you live, there are opportunities to engage with organizations in your community—find a local empowerment group; a shelter for women and children; be a mentor; and above all be an informed voice against violence! The following are some of the opportunities we found to play a part in ending violence again women and children while working in support of some of the heroes and organizations you just read about.
Teach the power of school for girls—and learn from girls who fight for the right to learn. Girl Rising is a global campaign for girls’ education started in 2013. Help break the cycle of poverty by introducing the Girl Rising curriculum to a local educator or school, or host a screening of the eponymously titled “Girl Rising” film, which is all about the challenges school-aged girls face around the world. The curriculum is designed to help students understand the issues surrounding girls’ education in the developing world. To do it: girlrising.com. In collaboration with the Global Women’s Institute at George Washington University, the Malala Fund launched the Malala Curriculum Project. The curriculum developed for high school and university students is designed to integrate themes addressed in Malala’s book I Am Malala into existing courses. The curriculum features a guide to student activism and tools to create community-focused movements. To do it: globalwomensinstitute.gwu.edu/malala-curriculum-project.
Make hygiene kits for girls in need. In many countries, menstruating girls don’t have access to sanitary pads and as a result have to miss school several days each month. Days for Girls has a kit—with patterns and instructions—that shows you how to make washable feminine hygiene kits. These kits recoup up to six months of a girl’s productivity in just three years of use. Volunteer to sew or make the kits to give girls across the globe the opportunity to live healthier, happier, safer and more dignified lives. You can send your kit to a local chapter or directly to Days for Girls International. If you are working with a local organization or are interested and willing to provide training on reproductive health, hygiene, safety and how to use and care for kits, Days for Girls can partner with you to get kits to you. To do it: daysforgirls.org.
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Picture It! Illustrate what gender equity means to you. Twenty years ago, leaders came together in Beijing to discuss the future of women’s empowerment and rights. The result? The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action—a landmark international agreement to achieve gender equality and empowerment of women and girls adopted by 189 nations. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the declaration, UN Women invites you join the conversation happening via their Empowering Women – Empowering Humanity: Picture It! campaign for gender equality. Picture It! invites you to imagine what gender equality and women’s empowerment look like and post images of that vision to social media. This is how it works: Visit the Beijing +20 “Get Involved” page, download your favorite image and share it with your own message. If you’re short on time, you can also use one of the tailored messages—just copy and paste. Don’t forget to add your Facebook or Twitter profile picture to the campaign! And follow along on Twitter @ #Beijing20. To do it: beijing20.unwomen.org.
Advocate! Show your selfie to help ensure that the rights of women and girls are included in the next version of the global development agenda. In 2000, all UN member states adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—and agreed to try to achieve them by 2015. The MDGs called nations to address issues such as poverty, the spread of disease and access to education—but the specific needs of girls were not spelled out in the MDGs. As the deadline for the MDGs approaches, a new set of targets, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are in development. The Girl Declaration was written to ensure that the needs of girls are factored into the next generation of the global development agenda. A synthesis of the insight of 508 girls living in poverty and the expertise of
more than 25 of the world’s leading development organizations, the Girl Declaration is intended as a tool to stop poverty before it starts in a new generation of young women. Advocate for the inclusion of girls’ rights and needs—and voices—in the Post-2015 Development Agenda by reading and supporting the Girl Declaration. To do it: http://www. girleffect.org/2015-beyond/the-declaration. UNFPA and the Global Poverty Project have teamed up to ensure that adolescent voices are a part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Another way to ensure you lend your voice to the call to have the rights of girls be a focus of the SDGs is to join the global #ShowYourSelfie campaign on Twitter. Let the world know that you want your voice heard—one selfie at a time. To do it: showyourselfie.org.
Carve a new path, and get busy changing the world. Aimed at helping those who wish to make a difference get meaningfully involved in any of the various efforts to improve the human condition and state of our planet, A Path Appears is the latest joint effort from journalist superstar Nicholas Kristof and his Pulitzer Prize-winning wife and fellow journalist Sheryl WuDunn. The pair reimagines the concept of charity. You can organize a book club or organize a watch party when the PBS special based on the book debuts in January. To do it: apathappears.org.
Share your story and support the full participation of the world’s women and girls. No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project is an initiative led by former First Lady and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter, Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton, to advance the full participation of women and girls around the world. Working in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, No Ceilings has launched a data-driven evaluation of the gains women and girls have made globally over the past two decades—and the gaps that remain. Take their survey and become part of the answer. Sharing your experiences can help develop solutions for the challenges faced by women and girls. To do it: https:// www.clintonfoundation.org/our-work/no-ceilings-full-participation-project.
Use the power of theater to change the world. Girl Be Heard’s mission is to use theater and the arts to empower young women to become brave, confident, socially conscious leaders while exploring their own challenging circumstances. By teaching young women to write, direct and perform theater productions under the guidance of professional directors, playwrights, actors, activists and intellectu-
als, Girl Be Heard helps young women raise awareness about issues affecting women and girls globally. Form your own Girl Be Heard collective to introduce the program into your local school, community center or neighborhood. To do it: girlbeheard.org.
Help empower your African sisters—by shopping. Sisters United is a for-profit fashion business designed to promote nonprofits like Saint Monica’s Girls Tailoring Centre in Gulu, Uganda. Sisters United distributes unique, beautiful handbags and accessories made by young women and survivors of war in Uganda and South Sudan. The business not only provides a much-needed job to these women, it also offers a chance to live a meaningful and dignified life in the aftermath of war. To do it: sistersunited.com.
Make art that matters. With the mission of speaking up for fatherhood and caregiving, MenCare provides poster templates to showcase your own photo, slogan and story of what it means to be a father. Share your support for gender equality and active fatherhood to your online and offline community. To do it: www.mencare.org/Additional-Pages/Make-the-Posters-Your-Own.aspx.
“Orange Your Neighborhood” to end violence against women and girls. The Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign has proclaimed the 25th of each month as Orange Day—a day to highlight and take action against violence against women and girls every month. Each month, the campaign recognizes specific themes relating to the issue and provides a menu of actions and messages. This year, from November 25 to December 10, the campaign calls on you to Orange Your Neighborhood and organize and participate in activities demonstrating that everyone has a role to play in ending violence against women and girls. To do it: http:// www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-againstwomen/take-action.
Redefine what a “real man” looks like. In 2010, Women’s Aid launched a national campaign asking both men and women to spread the word that ‘Real Men’ do not abuse women—not physically, emotionally, sexually or financially. Support the “Real Man” campaign by signing the pledge and standing up to end violence against women and children across the globe. Want to challenge others to become a Real Man? Purchase an “I’m a Real Man” or an “I’m a Fan of a Real Man” T-shirt and advocate for the cause in real-time. To do it: www.realmancampaign.com.
:: The Last Word
iolence against children is a serious human rights, social and public health issue V in many parts of the world and its consequences can be devastating. No country is immune, whether rich or poor. Violence erodes the strong foundation that children need for leading healthy and productive lives and violates the fundamental rights of children to a safe childhood. Violence against children is never justifiable. Nor is it inevitable. If its underlying causes are identified and addressed, violence against children is entirely preventable. Violence is often perpetrated by the very people children love and in places children ought to feel safe. Most children never talk to anyone about their experiences nor do they reach out for help. When they do, they encounter many challenges. It’s time to move from research into action. Collaboration, coordination and commitment are needed across sectors and entities—health, social welfare, education, justice—and at all levels—national, provincial, district and lower levels. Development partners, civil society, the private sector and individual citizens all have important roles to play. Together, we can stand up for zero tolerance on child abuse and violence. Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi Minister, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Kingdom of Cambodia
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