Organization Overview & Activities Report 1995-2000
Human Rights Conventions: Summaries
Sharing Methodology & Learning Materials
Dialogue & Discourse
PASSPORT TO DIGNITY
CRITICAL AREA OF CONCERN I AND L: HUMAN RIGHTS FROM
A GENDER PERSPECTIVE
"WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS"
1.All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms...without
distinction of any kind, such as sex…or other status...
7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any
discrimination to equal protection of the law.
23.(1) Everyone has the right to work...(2) to equal pay for equal work.
21.(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his
country…(2) Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 1, 2, 7, 21, and 23.)
I,2.Each State Party…undertakes to respect and ensure…rights…without
distinction of any kind, such as…sex…or other status.
(...) All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals…
(...) All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any
discrimination to the equal protection of the law…[T]he law shall prohibit
any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective
protection against discrimination on any ground.
(International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Part I, Article 2;
Part III, Article 14 and 26)
The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal
right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set
forth in the present Covenant.
(International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Part I, Article 3.)
...The term ‘discrimination against women' shall mean any distinction,
exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or
purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by
women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men
and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political,
economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."
(Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women, Part I, Article 1.)
Human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human
beings; their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of
(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. !, para. 210.)
…The Platform for Action reaffirms the importance of ensuring the
universality, objectivity and non-selectivity of the consideration of human
(Beijing Platform for Action,Chap. I, para. 212.)
Equal rights of men and women are explicitly mentioned in the Preamble to
the Charter of the United Nations. All the major international human rights
instruments include sex as one of the grounds upon which States many not
(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. I, para. 214.)
The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirmed clearly that the human
rights of women throughout the life cycle are an inalienable, integral and
indivisible part of universal human rights. The International Conference on
Population and Development reaffirmed women's reproductive rights and the
right to development.
(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. I, para. 216.)
If the goal of full realization of human rights for all is to be achieved,
international human rights instruments must be applied in such a way as to
take more clearly into consideration the systematic and systemic nature of
discrimination against women that gender analysis has clearly indicated.
(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. I, para. 222.)
Human rights are not worthy of the name if they exclude the female half of
humanity. The struggle for women's equality is part of the struggle for a
better world for all human beings, and all societies.
(UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali,United Nations, 1995)
REFLECTING ON THE PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS
As you reflect upon the quotations from the human rights documents cited
above, what human rights principles do
you find at the core of each of them?
How are these principles applied in your community? Your culture?
Are these principles applied differently in other countries and cultures
that you know of?
For historical and political reasons, the two Conventions framing the
basic ‘International Bill of Rights’ focus on political, civil rights on
and economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand.
Are all these rights similarly treated in our society? If they are treated
differently, which are given most attention?
What reasons are given for the difference? How do those reasons match your
Gender Awareness: a New Phase Of Human Rights
All the areas of concern of the BPFA, correspond to violations of existing
international human rights instruments and standards rooted in three basic
documents which form the International Bill of Rights: the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
The world has changed since the International Bill of Rights was
conceived, partly as a result of its existence, but also as a result of new
technologies. It continues to change. Even as we seek to ensure observance of
existing standards, new problems are identified and new standards are called
for. Human rights are about human beings living human lives They necessarily
have a dynamic, future-oriented quality. They must reflect our continuing
histories, or else they become irrelevant.
An important slogan connected with political developments in the last
thirty years has been the reminder that "the personal is
political", made cognizant by the women’s movement. It was
recognized that women’s rights are not simply a private –personal-
affair, but have ramifications into the essential operations of the state,
society, and the public-political- sphere, as true about any other category
of human rights. CEDAW broke new ground by bringing
together different categories of rights affecting the status of women and
showing how they were related.
Another important contribution of CEDAW has been to activate reflections
about the relationship between the local and the global, as a result
of this double dimension -grassroots, and international - both equally
important in the mobilization of women.
The growing awareness that no vital issue is neutral when it comes to
gender brought about the need to review the existing human standards and
perhaps augment them. We must bring gender awareness to the consideration of
public issues and integrate a gender perspective into all the solutions
proposed to address them.
Gender Awareness and Good Governance
In 1999, the Secretary-General of the United Nations proposed a framework
to stimulate good governance at the local, national and international levels
in conjunction with the process of economic globalization. In this proposal,
companies and business associations were invited to embrace nine principles
in the pursuit of good governance, as an expression of their social
responsibility. These principles are subdivided in 3 categories: human
rights, labor and environment. Reading this framework from the perspective of
gender makes clear the relation between economic development at all levels,
good governance, human rights, sustainable development and women's
Human rights for all, including women:
(a) Access to basic necessities as a universal human right;
(b) Equal access to natural resources (e.g. property rights and rights to
(c) The right to improved living conditions for all including women;
(d) The right to participate in public affairs.
(a) Elimination of discrimination of women with regard to their employment
in all sectors;
(b) Protection from the undesirable consequences of macro-economic
developments for employment opportunities for women;
(c) Protection from the impacts of labor migrations on men, women,
children and families.
(a) Ecologically sustainable environmental management, taking into account
the specific individual and collective interests of user groups, including
(b) Initiatives to involve women in promoting sustainable uses of natural
resources of water and the transfer of behavioral patterns;
(c) The integration of women's knowledge about ecosystems upon which their
The Women’s Human Rights MOVEMENT: A Change of Perspective
Florence Butegwa, an activist from Uganda, pointed out that when you
clearly define women’s needs and perspectives within a framework of human
rights you are indicating that women are not asking for special treatment. At
the same time you are creating a profound change of perspective
[You] are starting from a position of entitlement – (...) you are not
begging or calling upon someone’s benevolence [...but] demanding something
that you are entitled to by virtue being a human being.
That recognition is extremely empowering but it is also transformative
for the women (we) are talking to and working with on a daily basis. When a
woman starts to reflect on what it might be like to have freedom from
violence in the home and in the community, the idea that we are entitled to
that freedom can provide great motivation and energy to get through a
Using the human rights framework (enables) women to transcend national
boundaries ... to access the strategies of the women’s rights movement in
other (...) countries, and to adapt them (...) in our own context. [The]principles
are the same. The way (underlying human rights) have been translated to the
national level may differ, but the basic principles remain the same.
(Florence Butegwa (1997) Women Taking Action to Advance Their Human
Rights: The Case of Africa in- Strategies and Analyses from the ICCL
Working Conference on Women’s Rights as Human Rights Dublin, March 1997
Niamh Reilly ed.)
The Women’s Human Rights Movement: Affecting Social Change
Pramila Patten, a human rights lawyer from Mauritius, offers the following
reflections on the way in which human rights principles have affected the
global movement for women's rights as human rights. She observes the great
challenges that still face us as we try to ensure for all women the full
realization of their universal human rights.
Every human being is entitled to enjoy human rights and to have them
protected by the laws and practice of her/his country of residence. Under
international human rights law, women and men alike are vested with
fundamental freedoms and human rights without regard to characteristics such
as sex, race, or any such personal attributes. Regardless of cultural
particularities, religious tenets and levels of development, women all over
the world are entitled to enjoy human rights. However, it was only with the
International Women’s Decades (1975-1995) and the adoption of the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
(1980) that gender based human rights violations became a significant
Over the past ten years, women from all over the world have launched an
unprecedented international movement for women's human rights. At the 1985
UN World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya, human rights began to
emerge as a key issue for women. Even so, it was hardly mentioned in the
Conference's official declaration or action plan, known as the Nairobi
Forward Looking Strategies.
When the Fourth World Conference on Women met in Beijing in 1995,
thousands of women throughout the world had taken up the goal of achieving
universal respect for human rights . It thus became the framework for the
entire intergovernmental plan of action. Between Nairobi and Beijing (e.g.
at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, the World Conference on Human Rights in
Vienna in 1993, the World Conference on Population and Development in Cairo
in 1994, the Social Summit in Copenhagen in 1995) women's rights activists
challenged the neglect of women and of their rights; they argued that women’s
status could only be improved in any particular country if their rights were
fully recognized and enforced everywhere.
The effect of this activism has been remarkable, especially at the
international level. For the first time in history, governments have
committed themselves to protect and promote women's human rights as a high
priority. In the chapter on violence against women, we tell how governments
acknowledged the widespread use of rape as a tactical weapon of war and
included its prosecution in the mandates of the ad-hoc criminal tribunals
for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The UN Human Rights Commission has
appointed a Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. The UN General
Assembly has adopted a Declaration on Violence Against Women, and the
Organization of American States has established a new regional convention
against violence. Further, in the chapters on institutional mechanisms and
governmental accountability, we describe how UN member states set up
agencies to monitor and implement the provisions of CEDAW and the BPFA.
Yet, despite these and other promising changes in international law and
policy, women’s day-to-day reality, all over the world is characterized by
the denial of their fundamental human rights. Too often, they lack the tools
and training they need to shape and use the human rights system to combat
abuse and advance their rights.
aware of them at all, as abstract and beyond their reach. So, while
activism over the last
decade has clearly made women's human rights more visible, the
challenge now is to make
them more accessible.
Many women are unaware of their human rights, have no knowledge of the
women's human rights movement and see the international human rights
protections, to the extent they are
Awareness of these rights and awareness of the possible use of
international standards to promote and protect them must extend beyond the
international human rights elite to include everyone. Every woman should
know her rights. And every woman should know how
to effectively claim the rights granted her by CEDAW. Human rights
literacy must include awareness of these rights, but most especially the capacity to assert
• Understanding what rights are,
• Knowing which rights have been defined and assured by the world
the various standards and their institutional mechanisms for protection
• Recognizing the legal and political options and alternatives
• Acquiring the skills to shape the necessary strategies and
alliances to assert one’s rights.
But, most of all, to assure the human rights of women means
understanding the significance of gender to human equality. The concept of
equality means much more than treating all persons in the same way. Gender
is one of the factors that distinguishes among people and makes their
situations different. Equal treatment of persons in unequal situations
will perpetuate rather than eradicate injustice. True equality can only
emerge from efforts, which address and correct all the imbalances, which
favor men above women, one race above another, one ethnic or religious
background over all others. Gender equality demands the correction of
injustices based on sex and the imbalances of power and privilege between
men and women.
Among the goals embraced by human rights education and promoted by
PDHRE are some essential to achieving gender equality. Among them are:
Informing women that they have human rights and are entitled to enjoy
them. Women cannot meaningfully exercise their rights unless they know
they have them. It is through awareness and knowledge that women can
exercise their rights and use national, regional and international human
rights systems to demand protection. Information on women’s human rights
also helps women recognize cultural practices and national laws that
violate their human rights, such as those you may have discussed in your
reflections on the quotations from the human rights documents.
Exposing and combating rights violations based on sex or gender.
Historically, human rights practice has failed to recognize rights
violations in which being female is the risk factor. Some of these
violations are justified on the basis of biological differences (e.g.
reproductive functions). Others are based on gender, or the socially
constructed roles and values ascribed to women (e.g. homemaking). In
either case, despite CEDAW and other human rights instruments, abusive
laws or practices motivated or justified by sex or gender have not yet
gained full international recognition as human rights violations. It is
this lack of recognition that led to the human rights emphasis in the
Beijing Platform for Action. Talking about women’s human rights creates
an opportunity for individuals and groups of women, men and civil society
organizations interested in promoting a life of dignity for all human
beings to work towards recognition of these practices as violations of the
human rights of women.
Shaping a new human rights practice that fully addresses the human
rights of women. Although existing human rights aim to protect all
human beings, male or female, in practice human rights have not been
applied equally. An adequate understanding of how human rights could or
should protect women still needs to be developed and disseminated. Many
advocates for human rights lack familiarity with relevant theory and
appropriate methods to investigate gender or sex-based rights violations.
Standard methods of investigation do not necessarily encompass gender, nor
do they always make the necessary link between the State and action by
private individuals, who are often the immediate perpetrators of
violations of women’s human rights. Another difficulty is that human
rights mechanisms such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
are not set up to provide proper hearings of women’s grievances.
However, a growing number of women’s human rights advocates have been
very adept at the interpretation and application of human rights
standards; and some have been successful at extending the international
protections, such as the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence of
Women, and the Optional Protocol to CEDAW. Still, most of the world’s
women are not aware of the existing mechanisms and how to make use of
them. The purpose of this handbook is to contribute toward building the
human rights awareness essential to achieving gender equality.
(Adapted from Pramila Patten, "Women’s Human Rights",
1999 paper prepared for PDHRE towards Passport for Dignity, 1999.)
Has this country and/or community experienced progress in the advancement
of women’s human rights as described by Pramila Patten?
What is being done in our country? (Our town? our village or
neighborhood?) to expose violations of the human rights of women?
What is being done to educate women about their human rights?
Which of the rights enumerated in CEDAW are now the subjects of legal
protection in this country? Is the protection effective? How do the laws and
the actual practices match?
Are some areas of your life currently affected by discrimination? Which
What form does gender discrimination take in your life?
Ask around you about your friends’ and relatives’ experience. Are most
women aware of their human rights? Do they know what avenues are available to
them to claim those rights?
Have you or anyone you know experienced discrimination as described in the
CEDAW definition? Were there legal or institutional remedies available? Were
they used? If no, why not?
Do you think more protections are needed? In which area? Are they
While the preparation for Beijing stimulated a great deal of activism and
education, the BPFA in turn has stimulated many new initiatives for learning
about human rights. One source to find out about them is the archive of the
CEDAW-in-Action electronic network. Although new contributions have ceased,
the archives are still available online, and make for fruitful reading.
Educating Lawyers About the Meaning of the Law in Russia
- Human Rights awareness is most essential to jurists. Women in the
legal profession and human rights educators have been offering training
for their professional counterparts in various parts of the world. One
example is a seminar held in June 1999 for judges from Russia and
the Confederation of Independent States. Jurists from North America and
Europe also attended. The seminar (48 women and 4 men) focused on the
human rights conventions and introduced many of the participating jurists
to CEDAW: about which many of them knew next to nothing. If they knew
about it, very few had the Conventions, (especially CEDAW) readily
available. Most acknowledged the usefulness of the volume of the major
international standards. Some said that the volume, as their "desk
book", would become a standard reference and that they would use the
Conventions, especially CEDAW in the formulation of their decisions .
(Based on attorney Diane Post’s report to CEDAW-In-Action Electronic
Cedaw in Turkey
A letter from Women for Women’s Human Rights
"I am writing from Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR), an
autonomous women’s NGO based in Istanbul, Turkey. WWHR was established in
1993 as an action research group. Their work has grown to include training
in legal literacy and human rights, advocacy and lobbying, production of
publications and outreach materials and networking ... A more exciting use
of CEDAW is ... a training program called "Legal Literacy and Human
Rights Training for Women." The 15-module program covers a variety
of areas ranging from violence against women to economic rights, from
sexuality to gender-sensitive parenting. We have integrated CEDAW into the
training as an example of an international standard of women’s human
rights. The Turkish translation of the full text of CEDAW is disseminated to
all the participants and this text is used as a reference in various
modules. The training also emphasizes the importance of internationally
binding human rights treaties like CEDAW superseding national law. WWHR has
been implementing this program since 1995 in various parts of Turkey. Since
1998, it has expanded through collaboration with the community centers of
the Directorate for Social Services. It is now being implemented by social
workers of community centers in five regions.
WWHR has also been advocating the integration of CEDAW into the National
Plan of Action for Human Rights Education as one of the main international
human rights Conventions. We are one of the four NGOs sitting on the
Committee for Human Rights Education, which is responsible for the
development and monitoring of the National Plan. As the only women’s NGO
on the Committee we have been advocating the inclusion of women’s human
rights as an integral part of the National Plan.
(from Ipek Ilkkaracan, Coordinator, WWHR. email@example.com.
A Constitutional Commission formed in Zimbabwe: an online debate
Women’s and human rights advocates in Zimbabwe were particularly
interested in the formation in 1999 of a Constitutional Commission which had
a broad six months mandate. This endeavor ended with the submission of the
Commission’s report to the President of Zimbabwe on 20 November 1999. A
commission member saw the Commission’s mandate as authorizing a "rewriting
of the Constitution of Zimbabwe in general, with specific reference to three
pillars of the State, viz: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary
in order to promote good governance and the rule of law." Human
rights provisions were to be addressed in this examination. The Commission
was to hold a series of public hearings during its tenure, and take written
Women’s and human rights groups responded "very
firmly to the decision and appeared prepared to press home a case against
Article 23 of the Constitution." Article 23(1)
prevents discrimination, yet Article 23(3) recognizes
exceptions to 23(1) and consequently allows gender
discrimination in a number of matters, including adoption, marriage, divorce,
burial, devolution of property on death or other matters of personal law, as
well as in the application of African customary law.
Some suggested that an immediate objective of advocates should be to
secure a "redrafting of Article 23 that
breaks down the wall of exclusion which it erects between customary law and
constitutional rights." There was general agreement regarding the
"utility of focusing on standard-setting
work with the international mechanisms as a way of sustaining
international...human rights and political agendas."
Four general arenas for advocacy and input were delineated here:
A. Before the Constitutional Commission: The member cites that
organizing efforts may be of particular use in this arena, yet advocates must
be careful about how direct intervention is framed so as not to undermine the
"domestic legitimacy of groups on the ground." Identity policies
and culture play a significant role in this discussion of reframing African
customary law. The author suggests devising a major submission to the
Commission, to be signed by a broad coalition of groups, which argues from
the perspective of international human rights norms and comparative good
practice. Development of a working group has been suggested in order to draft
a report for the Commission by the end of August.
B. Reporting (cescr, hrc, cedaw)
Based on a previous submission, the author suggests building an analysis
of provisions of additional international legal instruments, which are
violated by the Magaya decision. She suggests that, in addition to citing
provisions regarding the right to an adequate standard of living, a combined
reading of Articles 2, 3 and 26 of the ICCPR would be useful in this case.
There is a request for groups/representatives in New York to take the lead in
C. Standard Setting (U.N.HR Commission/Treaty Bodies) Property
rights and the right to housing could be invoked to bolster efforts to
promote a resolution from the Commission on Human Rights on the Magaya case.
In addition, there was a suggestion for a lobby to secure comments from the
treaty-implementing bodies regarding the protection of human rights in
situations when "customary, statutory and maybe religious norms are all
currently sources of law."
Other developments, however, contradicted this positive move. In the
judiciary realm, there has been a repeated pattern of judges taking a ‘fundamentalist’
view of customary law taken in its most patriarchal form, e.g., in the
case of widows’ rights and women’s rights in general, treating them as
‘junior males’. Although the women’s customary status had its problems,
it also had included customary safeguards, which have been increasingly
eroded or made dysfunctional by current economic processes. Critics of the
judgment were sharply rebuked by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, leading to a
flurry of activities by human rights activists.
Supreme Court Issues Warning / Letter-Writing Campaign
In May 1999, the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe sent a letter to a number of
women’s and human rights organizations that had criticized court
decisions. The letter (signed by Acting Assistant Registrar) issued a
formal warning to legal practitioners and others who "indulge in
gratuitous and unfounded insults to the Judiciary, and in public
demonstrations against the Judiciary", in " contempt of
court." (While) "no action will be taken at this time"
against those organizations sending the critical letter, it is "
assumed that the Chairman of each organization takes full responsibility
for the content of the letter."
A letter-writing campaign was launched by groups inside Zimbabwe
(supported by groups outside the country) requesting that letters be sent
to Zimbabwe’s government officials, the Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights, the CEDAW Committee and the U.N. Human Rights
Committee to "prevent further degradation of women’s human rights.
A member from the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy posted
information regarding work being done with members of the CEDAW Committee
regarding Zimbabwe. CRLP worked with two CEDAW members to draft and send a
letter to the Zimbabwe Constitutional Commission.
The letter describes the urgent need to ensure gender equality in
accordance with the Women’s Convention in Zimbabwe, calls for the repeal
of Article 23 (3), which is the clause within the anti-discrimination
article that allows discrimination against women under certain
circumstances, and calls for the addition of a clause to the Constitution
which would prohibit discrimination grounded in interpretations of
customary law. This new clause would position the Constitution as the
supreme law of the land, and would effectively prohibit any form of
discrimination against women. The letter was signed by Dr. Charlotte Abaka
of Ghana and Justice Sylvia Cartwright of New Zealand.
(Full text of the Supreme Court
letter as well as the Urgent Action Alert in CEDAW-In-Action/ July, 1999.
Sources include the Sisterhood is Global Institute web: firstname.lastname@example.org
Human Rights Education in Jordan
As described in the manual Claiming Our Rights: A Manual for Women’s
Human Rights Education in Muslim Societies, the idea of a human rights
education project specifically designed for women in Muslim societies
originated around the Sisterhood Is Global Institute (SIGI) in 1993 and was
elaborated over several years. During those years, the geographical spread of
SIGI’s activities grew wider as did its focus. Starting from the "
need to develop models that could use indigenous ideas, concepts, myths and
idioms to explain the rights contained in international documents", the
ultimate goal is "(the empowerment of) grassroots women to articulate
and demand their human rights through interactive communication at home and
through the political process in the community and society. "
The SIGI program launched in Jordan in 1995 reflects the preparatory work
and the concerns articulated in Beijing. In a collaborative relationship with
Mizan, a human rights law group that provides legal aid and counseling for
women as well as research on pertinent legal issues, SIGI/Jordan wants to
serve as a resource center for information about human rights violations,
networks, strategies, and advocacy. The resource library of reference books,
magazines, newsletters, and statistical studies for use in advocacy is open
to the public. SIGI/Jordan also commissions the production of participatory
HRE tools (stories, songs, and videos.)
The Women's Human Rights Education Program in the Muslim World is
at empowering women to evaluate and reinterpret their religious and
cultural texts, myths, traditions, and folklore, in a manner which enables
them to defend their basic human rights. It is also directed towards
strengthening the capacity of women's rights organizations to promote and
protect women's human rights in the target countries.
Workshops provide concrete guidelines , and promote dialogue among women.
Themes relevant to their daily lives reflect the concerns articulated in
* women's rights and responsibilities within the family
* women's rights to subsistence
* women's rights to autonomy in family-planning decisions
* women's rights to bodily integrity
* women's rights to education and learning
* women's rights to employment and fair compensation
* women's rights to privacy, religious beliefs, and free expression
* women's rights during times of conflict
* women's rights to political participation
ASSESSING POSSIBILITIES FOR CHANGE
Does your society’s set women’s rights apart from human rights?
How is this segregation done: By law? by customs?
Is the segregation outspoken? is it a ‘fact of life’ that no one
really talks about?
Does it affect all women? if not which women are most affected?
Describe particular examples of gender-segregation.
How do women respond to segregation?
Are there human rights which men enjoy as a matter of course while women
have to make special effort to get them acknowledged?
Are there areas of life where women are expected to act through the
intermediary of men? What are the obstacles to women’s autonomy?
What does the Constitution of your country say about women’s rights? How
does reality match the Constitution?
Are you aware of any lawsuit(s) currently in process regarding women’s
human rights? What is the issue? Which rights are affected?
Do lawyers generally know of CEDAW and other legal instruments dealing
with women’s rights? If they wanted to find out about CEDAW, could they
easily find the relevant texts?
If an ordinary person, for instance a friend or a relative, wanted to find
the relevant documents could they easily find them? Are there legal clinics
for women? Where are they? When are they open? What activities do they offer?
The Declaration of Human Rights From a Gender Perspective
One of the most exciting developments has been the drafting and diffusion
by CLADEM – Latin American Organization doe the Defense of Women’s Human
Rights, of a new Declaration of Human Rights from a Gender Perspective.
It has sometimes been said that human rights develop in a kind of ‘generational’
process, the first ‘generation’ of human rights being political and civil
rights, the next ‘generation’ being economic and social rights - from ‘universal’
(gender-neutral in principle but male-dominated in fact) to ‘pluralistic,
reflecting men as well as women’s experience. While the historical
evolution of human rights can be read this way, there have been many
questions about the fruitfulness of this concept of human rights, primarily
because it is impossible to dissociate these various rights. Political and
civil rights are indispensable for any successful claim to one’s economic
rights. On the other hand, in the absence of economic and social rights,
political and civil rights is little more than a mask. The CLADEM document,
however, starts from the premise that until now the human rights system has
derived most of its energy from the historic memory of the revolutionary era,
specifically the French Revolution, in its achievements as well as in its
shortcomings and betrayals.
Susana Chiarotti, The Coordinator of CLADEM, mentions that the initiative
was inspired by the actions of the French women Olympe de Gouges, who in 1792
wrote and presented to the French National Assembly her Women’s and
Citizens Declaration of Rights, for which she was later condemned to die on
the guillotine in 1972:
(...) drums rolling during the French Revolution; long skirts of
taffeta and cotton... women yearning for equality... joined together as a
collective force and raised the flag of human rights... women struggling
for women...In the Women´s Clubs, around 1792, in Paris, Etta Palm,
Theroigne de Mericourt, Pauline Leon, Claire Lacombe, Olympe de Gouges,
dared to demand equality of rights. However, these yearnings for equality
were repressed. In November, 1793, a decree was promulgated prohibiting
the existence of the Women´s Clubs. Olympe de Gouges paid for the
initiative with her life. The rest were sent to prison or exiled.
What is it then that can move Latin American women to write a
Declaration of Human Rights From a Gender Perspective? Could it be that
they haven’t heard the trumpets announcing the end of the story?
(...) The catastrophic discourse that currently exists cannot prevent
us from revising national and international laws that are applied and
continue to be applied to us. For this reason, we have allowed ourselves
to discuss theories, to revise legal texts, to examine the right to human
vice versa, to construct a new model to un-learn and re-learn. This is the
task that CLADEM has been working on for the past several years and of
which this Declaration is an example.
How was this idea of writing a Declaration of Human Rights From a
Gender Perspective born? In 1992, women from different organizations,
assembled at the Latin American Preparatory Conference of the Vienna
Conference on Human Rights, decided to rewrite the 1948 Universal
Declaration of Human Rights from a male-centered Spanish language to a
female-centered Spanish language.
Considering the impact of this SIMPLE CHANGE OF PRONOUN in the
Declaration of Human rights, someone then asked "Why not write our
own Declaration of Human Rights?"(Susana Chiarotti communication to
Four years later, after intensive drafting, revising and feedback from all
over the world , a preliminary text was presented to the UN Human Rights
Commission in Geneva. The Commission asked CLADEM to reduce their text to
1500 words, allowing it to be accepted as a NGO document, at the March 1998
session as a kind of 50th anniversary gift to the UDHR.
Declaration of Human Rights from a Gender Perspective:
A Contribution to the 50th Anniversary of the UNIVERSAL
DECLARATION of Human Rights
In December 1998, the United Nations will commemorate the 50th
Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Knowing the
great significance of this event, CLADEM (The Latin American and Caribbean
Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights), along with other regional
and international organizations, has developed a proposal aimed for
adoption by the Member States of the United Nations. The year 1998 is the
occasion for States to renew their commitment to human rights and to
incorporate perspectives regarding gender and ethnicity that have gained
prominence since the adoption of the Universal Declaration fifty years
ago. In the same way that the 1948 Declaration has constituted an ethical
code for the second half of the Twentieth Century, we consider it
necessary today, on the threshold of the new millennium, that States
approve another document aimed at the international protection of human
rights, in order to integrate advances in human rights thinking and
experience since 1948, without invalidating in any way the achievements of
the Universal Declaration.
CONSIDERING that the contemporary formulation of human rights emerged
within a historical context in which the concept of the human being was by
and large limited to that of a male, Western, white, adult, heterosexual
and owner of assets,
CONCERNED that because of this limited conception of the human being,
the rights of women, indigenous people, homosexuals and lesbians,
children, the elderly, disabled people and other groups have been
CONVINCED that a holistic and inclusive concept of humanity is
necessary for the full realization of human rights,
REAFFIRMING the indivisibility, universality and interdependence of
BELIEVING that, in the present context of mounting poverty, inequality
and violence, it is crucial to strengthen and guarantee the full validity
and interconnectedness of environmental, reproductive, economic, social
and cultural rights,
STRESSING that the following Declaration in no way reduces the validity
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nor of any other
international human rights instrument, and that it does not authorize
activities contrary to the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political
independence of States,
WE THEREFORE SUBMIT TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AT ITS 53RD SESSION the
present draft declaration for its consideration in the elaboration of a
Declaration for the 21st century.
I. RIGHTS OF IDENTITY AND CITIZENSHIP
1. All women and men are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
2. Every individual has the right to enjoy all human rights, with no
distinction based on race, ethnicity, age, sex, sexual orientation,
physical or mental disability, language, religion, political opinion,
national or social origin, economic position, birth or any other
1. All human beings have the right to their own identity as
individuals, as members of groups with which they identify, as members of
a nation and as citizens of the world, with the degree of autonomy and
self-determination in all these spheres necessary to preserve their
dignity and sense of self-worth. This right to identity shall not be
negatively affected by marriage.
2. Slavery, servitude, and the traffic of women, girls and boys in any
form, including those which take place within family relationships, are
1. All human beings have the right to equal and equitable participation
in labor, political and social organizations, as well as access to
elective and non-elective public posts.
2. All States shall eliminate obstacles to the full and equal enjoyment
of citizenship rights by women. In particular, women shall be able to
acquire citizenship without discrimination and to exercise the same rights
as men to participate in all spheres of public and political life of the
1. All human beings have the right to express ethnic-racial diversity
free from prejudices based on cultural, linguistic, geographic, religious
and racial discrimination.
2. All human beings have the right to protection against ethnocide and
1. Indigenous Peoples have the right to autonomy and self-determination
and to the maintenance of their traditional political, legal, educational,
social and economic structures and ways of life.
2. Indigenous Peoples have the right to the maintenance of commercial
and cultural relations and communications across national borders.
3. Indigenous Peoples have the individual and collective right to
participate in the decision-making process of their local and national
People belonging to ethnic, racial, religious or linguistic minorities
have the right to establish their own associations, to practice their own
religion and use their own language.
II. THE RIGHT TO PEACE AND TO A VIOLENCE-FREE LIFE
All persons have the right to a violence-free life and the enjoyment of
peace in both the public and private spheres. No one shall be subjected to
torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. All
forms of violence against women constitute a violation of their human
rights. Violence shall not be used to deny people their right to housing,
in particular through forced evictions.
1. Migrants, displaced persons or refugees, and persons disadvantaged
because of gender, race, class, ethnic origin, age, convictions or any
other condition, have the right to specific protective measures against
2. All human beings have the right to live free from armed conflict.
3. Acts of a particularly egregious character perpetrated against women
and children in situations of armed conflict, including murder, rape,
sexual slavery and forced pregnancies, constitute crimes against humanity.
1. Every citizen has the right to a national budget aimed at
sustainable human development and the promotion of peace by their
governments, including measures towards the reduction of military
expenditure, the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, the
reduction of armaments to the strict needs of national security, and the
reassignment of these funds towards development.
2. Women and representatives of disadvantaged groups have the right to
participate in the process of decisio- making in the field of national
security and in conflict resolution.
III. SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
All human beings have the right to autonomy and self-determination in
the exercise of their sexuality, which includes the right to physical,
sexual and emotional pleasure, the right to freedom in sexual orientation,
the right to information and education on sexuality, and the right to
sexual and reproductive health care for the maintenance of physical,
mental and social well-being.
1. Women and men have the right to decide on their reproductive life in
a free and informed manner and to exercise the voluntary and safe control
of their fertility, free from discrimination, coercion or violence, as
well as the right to enjoy the highest levels of sexual and reproductive
2. Women have the right to reproductive autonomy, which includes access
to safe and legal abortions.
IV. RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT
1. All human beings have the right to enjoy the benefits of sustainable
human development, in accordance with the Declaration on the Right to
2. Decisions regarding national priorities and allocation of resources
shall reflect the nation’s commitment to the full realization of
economic, social and cultural rights, including physical and mental
health, education, freedom from poverty, adequate housing, food security,
equal and equitable access to land, credit, technology, clean running
water and energy.
Every woman and man has the right and responsibility to raise and
educate their children, to carry out housework and to provide for the
needs of the family, including after separation or divorce.
1. Everyone has the right to gainful employment; the free choice of
work; protection against unemployment; safe, equitable and satisfactory
working conditions; and an adequate standard of living.
2. Everyone has the right to enjoy the same opportunities and treatment
in relation to: access to services of vocational training and employment;
job security; remuneration for work of equal value; social security; and
other social benefits, including rest and leisure.
V. ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS
Trans generational responsibility, gender equality, solidarity, peace,
respect for human rights and cooperation among States are the basis for
the achievement of sustainable development and the conservation of the
1. All women and men have the right to a sustainable environment and
level of development adequate for their well being and dignity.
2. All women and men have the right to access technologies sensitive to
biological diversity, essential ecological processes and life conservation
systems in industry, agriculture, fishing and pasturing.
1. All persons have the right to participate actively in local,
national and international environmental management and education.
2. The environmental policies shall aim to:
a) Provide consumers with suitable information, comprehensible to
persons of all ages, linguistic origins, and degrees of literacy.
b) Promote the elimination of chemical products and pesticides, which
are toxic and dangerous for the environment, reducing health risks that
affect people both at home and at work, in urban and rural areas.
c) Foster the manufacturing of products that are sensitive to and
respectful of the environment and that apply non-polluting technologies.
d) Support the recovery of eroded and deforested lands, of harmed
hydrographic basins and of polluted water supply systems.
(Document No. E/CN.4/1998/NGO/3,
Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations-- Geneva also online
Human Rights and Democracy
Depend on the fulfillment of the human rights of women
The need for an integrated approach to women’s rights was brought out
upon the occasion of a worldwide process of review, the ‘Beijing+5 reviews’,
by another member of CLADEM –the Peruvian Virginia Vargas– She looked at
the issues of women’s rights as an integral part of all human rights, in
the specific context of Peru. (Peru was then on the eve of hotly contested
elections, in the last stages of the Fujimori government.)
Peru has a highly developed set of governmental mechanisms for the
promotion of women. Its Women’s Ministry is supported and complemented by
several specialized gender-related agencies and offices. These institutions
are unquestionably a response to a solid tradition of women’s activism and
an exceptionally active women’s movement in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The
international climate of the 1980s and 90s, in turn, encouraged these
institutional developments. But the fact remains that these agencies were
initiated by governments that were in some respects quite repressive.
For all practical purposes, the ‘women’s institutions’ are very
strong. They benefit from unquestionable support from the authorities. They
are an integral part of the government. And yet, writing in 1999, Vargas felt
that in the long run, for women’s rights to thrive requires that democracy
as a whole, for men and women, be made secure in Peru:
Women’s human rights need the framework of a thriving democracy in
which all citizens’ human rights, men’s as well as women’s,
political, civil, economic and social rights would be served. Peru in the
1980s was the stage for intense mobilizations, street actions and
solidarity movements, which brought into the open the linkages between the
public and the private spheres. The 1990s brought a new and growing
presence of women throughout the globe and provided the chance to create
new networks, new knowledge. New spaces, new forms of action have enriched
the political and cultural landscapes of the country.
In this new social environment, negotiations with public powers led to
the creation of new institutions for the protection and promotion of women’s
interests. There have been unquestionable advances by and for women in the
country’s public-political spaces. This, is turn, has made their
activities more effective, enlarged the spaces they occupy and made
possible a diversification of strategies in defense of women’s human
The institutional dimension has also made possible legal advances, the
creation of electoral quotas and other mechanisms aimed at reducing the
distance between women’s enormous capacity for public participation and
their historic absence from the spaces where decisions are made. Within
NGOs, new spaces of negotiation and cooperation have opened up, in which
issues like reproductive rights and violence against women could be
tackled. Coordinated and unified work made possible the advancement of
women’s human rights. The very existence of an institutionalized
feminine presence makes it possible to transform collective demands into
democratic guarantees. The very concept of democracy is enriched by the
presence of ‘alternative power’. There is a climate of permanent ‘democratic
At the same time, institutional fragility increases citizens’
insecurity in the face of all kinds of violence, especially violence
against women. The ruling model of development is one that threatens
ecological balance, destroying many economic activities that allowed women
to support their families. Women’s role as traders is undermined by the
advent of global markets. An economy that forces men to become migrant
laborers is not an economy that encourages democratic participation. An
economy that humiliates men encourages violence against women. An economy
that does not guarantee the quality of life of all persons, and of women
in particular, such an economy is ‘destructive of the environment’, no
matter what appearances may be. An economic model that systematically
transgresses against the welfare of all results in the devaluation of all
social citizenship, as corrosive as currency devaluation.
Ultimately it is problematic to develop a whole system of institutions,
spaces for negotiation and areas of coordination, while leaving untouched
a political and cultural context of repressive authoritarianism, the
permanent violation of political, economic and civil rights.
It is important that the ‘feminist’ vision clearly be seen in the
context of a ‘transversal’ vision, cutting across boundaries of
gender, ethnicity, geography, age and class, with an understanding that
the long-term defense of women’s rights passes through the expansion of
democracy, and the end of the multiple injustices in Peruvian society.
Anything else inevitably would end up making women’s human rights
hostages of undemocratic regimes, putting into question the very ‘right
to have rights’.
The rights of women matter to both men and women. The defense of human
rights opens us to other forms of solidarity and other sensibilities. The
reform of the State, decentralization, the consolidation of democratic
governance, the reform of education, the independence of judicial power,
the reduction of military budgets, governmental accountability all these
are connected to women’s human rights as much as reproductive and sexual
rights or abortion. To endanger one is to endanger all of them
(Translated and adapted from Virginia
Vargas El feminismo peruano al fin
del milenio in- C.M.P Flora Tristan Chacanera- revista de la
Red Mujer Rural #25, 9/99 www.fempress.cl/210/revista/npe.html
Women’s Human Rights
the Gateway to All Human Rights
In the following story we see the circle being closed. Not only are women’s
rights being won, but in the process, whole communities, women, men and
children become involved. It is made clear that, by advancing women’s
rights, the rights of all are being promoted.
When the deputies of Senegal's Parliament voted to ban Female Genital
Cutting (FGC) in December of 1998, their vote took place under the proud gaze
of a group of women and men from the villages of Malicounda, Medina Cherif
and Ker Simbara. The experience of these villages and the role played by
these individuals had been important factors in creating a powerful wave of
feeling about FGC throughout the country. In truth, these villagers were the
'parents' of that decision. Two of them in particular had walked from village
to village in blistering heat, had talked to village assemblies, listened to
the ‘excisors’ (the women who performed the ritual surgery), swayed
community leaders, helped reassure them that the end of FGC did not have to
make them the laughing stock of their neighbors, or traitors to their
Arguably, the decision would have come sooner rather than later, given the
state of legal opinion at this point. There was a wave of similar decisions
throughout French-speaking West Africa: Togo's law had been passed in October
1998; in July the Ivory Coast's Minister of Family Affairs had initiated a
law proposal; Benin and Burkina Faso were in the process of doing so. In
Mali, there had been a very visible action by 13 women practitioners from the
Mopti region. In a public event, they had voluntarily handed over their
excision knives. In this powerfully symbolic ceremony, echoed by a
governmental pledge to work to eradicate the practice these older women from
the blacksmith caste had abandoned a substantial and respected livelihood in
a venerable, traditional function. They had given up their main source of
income with the somewhat tentative promise of an alternative career as
traveling FGC and AIDS educators. Having once been the representatives of the
adult world at the initiation of young women, they now hoped to become
educators about the medical dangers of continuing the practice of genital
cutting. But Malian society was not ready for them yet. Despite this public
commitment, a year later, the subject of excision remained taboo in public
discussion, and human rights organizations felt it unwise to 'push the issue'
too hard with their constituencies.
However, something truly unique had happened in Senegal; it was a
genuinely popular initiative, built up over several years, which successfully
pushed the discussion of FGC into the open arena. At every step of the way,
the men and women whose lives would be affected by the decision were fully
involved in the initiative. Furthermore, these villagers’ struggle to stop
FGC was an organic outgrowth of a program of human rights education conducted
by TOSTAN, a Senegalese NGO for women's health education, based in Thies, an
area of longstanding political, union and women’s activism.[ Thies was the
scene of famous railroad strikes in 1905 and again in the 1940’s, as well
as market-women’s demonstrations in the 20’s against taxation and against
colonial rule. One of the earliest sections of the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme
in French West-African colonies was founded there before WWI]
First health became perceived as a human right. And then women’s
right to health became connected to all other human rights. Over the
years, TOSTAN had developed a program that combined basic education in
national languages with practical development issues, providing rural
people with the resources to improve their standard of living while
fostering increased confidence in their way of life. More than literacy,
this program offered participants the tools to tackle such community
issues as health, hygiene and the environment.
The use of national languages had been an important step, empowering
women to speak up in their homes and communities, as well as facilitating
intergenerational communication and solidarity. With a female illiteracy
rate of 74.9 percent in 1990, rural women were a prime target for TOSTAN’s
participatory approach growing out of concrete, relevant experiences from
daily lives rather than from abstractions.
The classes became a women’s leadership training grounds. Yet men are
not excluded: nearly one-third of the participants are male, and the story
of Ker Simbara illustrates how critical their contribution is in
alleviating the burdens that women (and the community) bear.
Problem-solving skills originally applied to health problems were
transferred to financial and material management skills, management of
human resources and small businesses. The methodology also was used to
reach out-of-school children with curricula that covered reading, writing,
math, problem solving, health and hygiene, nutrition, family management,
children's rights, history, geography, education for peace, leadership
skills and group dynamics. By the mid-1990’s it was felt that many of
the problems to be dealt with were in fact symptoms of a lack of general
knowledge of human rights and responsibilities both on the women’s part
and on the part of the entire community. It was decided from the start
that in order for the program to thrive, it would need, not only to inform
the village women of their rights and responsibilities through a process
of active education, but also to help them appropriate these rights by
using their own stories and experiences, then providing a nurturing space
(the classroom) to work together on strategies to find solutions by using
these human rights and thus help achieve changes rooted, both in the
construct of universal, indivisible, interconnected human rights and in
the social, cultural and economic environment in which the women live.
Social Transformation in the Villages
The basic education class provided the setting for creative approaches
to domestic violence: class discussions led to a women’s delegation
going to the offender's home accompanied by the Village Chief and the Imam
(Muslim religious leader). There, they performed a street-theater skit :
it showed that people, especially women and children, have a fundamental
human and universal right to be protected from physical violence. Without
directly accusing the man, the women, supported by respected male village
leaders, made their point through theater.
The effectiveness of the tactic encouraged the women to perform the
play in front of the entire community, followed by extensive community
discussions. An early Childhood Development module built around the
framework of universal children's rights led the community to re-think the
practice of sending girls away for domestic work at very young ages. The
plays and songs opened village-wide discussions and a special
consciousness-raising day on the subject of human rights, hosted by
village leaders and government officials, resulting in the curtailment of
And so, when finally the subject of Female Genital Cutting came up, it
was already part of a comprehensive approach to human rights. Dealing with
the women’s rights was part of dealing with all human rights, including
health and sexuality. As a result of what is now widely known as the Pledge
of Malicounda (spring 1997), the traditional spring ceremonies of
girls’ initiations were not performed in Malicounda, for the first time
in the community's history. By November 1997, a neighboring village,
Ngerin Bambara became the first village in Senegal to completely prohibit
In the village of Ker Simbara, the inhabitants felt that they could not
stop the practice without consulting their kin in a far-flung network of
clansmen's villages. So for a period of eight weeks, two men who had taken
part in the TOSTAN program (one a program- facilitator and the other a 66
year-old Imam, Demba Diawara) walked from village to village to discuss
the negative effects of female circumcision with local people. The fact
that Demba Diawara was an older man of religion was crucial. He himself
had been one of the early students in the literacy classes, and knew how
difficult it is to stop a tradition. The men returned convinced of the
importance of what they had heard and what they were doing. They assisted
the women of Malicounda, Ngerin and Ker Simbara in calling an
inter-village conference in Diabougou.
In February 1998, three representatives of the village chiefs and two
women representatives each from thirteen different villages met for two
days to discuss the problem and formulated the Diabougou Declaration,
a pledge by 8,000 villagers to cease henceforth genital circumcision of
Word of this initiative next traveled to the Casamance region of
southern Senegal, where a different lineage (the Pulaar lineage, who
practiced genital circumcision on 88 percent of girls) banded together for
a similar conference attended by representatives from 18 communities, by
health workers and by the highly respected Imam of Medina Cherif, who
assured the women that the Muslim religion does not require girls'
circumcision and guarantees women's rights to health and human dignity.
Many women spoke of the harm wrought by this practice. One lamented the
death of her two girls following the operation; and a traditional
"cutter" admitted that a girl had died in her village the year
before. Other women spoke of problems at childbirth and of painful sexual
relationships. Once again, the meeting ended with a proclamation
renouncing the practice. Thirteen other Malicounda-area villages joined in
February of 1998, and 15 more vowed to end FGC on June 1, 1998.
Meanwhile, the president of Senegal had put the issue on the front
burner of the National Assembly’s legislative program, and on January
13, 1999, the National Assembly passed the law against FGC.
(Based on Molly Melching Reports from TOSTAN-Thies to PDHRE,
Closing the Circle: From WOMEN’S RIGHTS to a Human Rights City
MOVING POWER TO HUMAN RIGHTS
Human Rights Cities are a historic initiative in which a whole community
examines traditional beliefs, collective memory and aspirations as related to
the Universal Declaration of human rights… --Guided by the commitment made
and obligations undertaken by their governments - having ratified numerous
human rights conventions- all its governing bodies and community institutions
and groups, learn about human rights as related to their daily lives and
concerns.. --to assure that all the laws, policies, resources and
relationship in the community maintain the dignity and serve the well being
of all its members.. –Moving to develop a sustainable Human Rights City.
One of these cities –seven to date all over the world- is Thies Senegal.
TOSTAN a Local Senegalese organization, through its work on FGC which
involves whole communities, women and men alike, moved to develop Thies as a
Human Rights City including Human Rights Villages integrating human rights in
all parts of daily life through human rights education for social
Early in 1998, ten villages in the Thies area had named themselves ‘Human
Rights Villages’. This commitment came as the logical development of
several years of holistic learning about human rights leading to
community-sponsored efforts to abandon the practice of female genital
cutting (FGC) and to the now famous Malicounda Pledge. Eventually
more than 100 villages adopted the "Human Rights Villages"
The following year, 1999, the city of Thies, with 250 000 inhabitants
imitated it activities as a Human Rights City. The activities started in
11 neighborhoods –out of 57. In 2001, in its third year, the Thies Human
Rights City has reached out to additional neighborhoods, bringing the
total number of neighborhoods involved to 37. By 2002, the full population
of Senegal’s second largest city will have ongoing activities to enforce
social responsibility guided by the human rights framework.
The TOSTAN Human Rights training module proposed the creation of a
Human Rights Committee in each neighborhood. Through the efforts all
residents are mobilized several nights a week to learn their human rights
and to work to respect and protect these rights in their daily lives.
Among the first effects of the process was that in several villages women
were able to claim their human right to land to obtain the
allotment of parcels of land to grow crops of their choice. Numerous
activities are undertaken in each of the neighborhoods to assess the
immediate human rights needs of its members.
Facilitators in each neighborhood ask the participants to develop a
collective vision for the community, challenging them to identify the role
of community education in setting, objectives to reach that vision. They
discuss each participant’s own responsibility, the need to respect human
dignity and the need for sustainable development for the benefit of all.
The international instruments for Human Rights are being studied.
Participants are also learning techniques for discussion and mediation.
The average attendance at each neighborhood class has been about 50
residents who form the core of the group. Sometimes, as many as 100 people
attend the meeting.
Asking communities to describe their goals for the future of their
community (e.g. imagine your community in 5, 10, 15 years...) was often
extremely moving. And many facilitators have been asked to repeat that
session several times over the months.
The Human Rights Education phase was very successful, with high level
of attendance, from 54 to 1430 participants per session and very diverse
audiences. Participants gave thoughtful responses to question raised
including the philosophy and moral concepts of Human Rights
When asked about the project’s impact in their neighborhood, the
members of the Sampathe community testified with passion to the programs
capacity to bring people to work together for a common goal. They
described their neighborhood as one with 10 different active associations
who had never worked together, and individuals who had never set foot in
their neighbor’s home... Now, they claim, the entire neighborhood has
met together for the first time, without regard to differences in age,
sex, political beliefs etc. Community wide dialogue based on cooperation
is taking placed and innovative solutions are being adopted.
Children between the ages of nine and eighteen, upon learning about
education as a human right, realized that many of their friends did not go
to school because they were not registered at birth. In response, they
created small teams that went from house to house in the eleven
neighborhoods, retrieved the necessary information and registered the 327
children. Next, a committee of these young activists went to the Mayor’s
office to request that more schoolrooms be made available for these
Neighborhood members acting on the belief that work is a human right
identified the extreme poverty of widows in their community and pooled
funds to buy sewing machines and millet grinders for these women, together
with training and small loans to open their own small businesses.
Education and vocational centers have been opened for several hundred
young women who had not attended school. Each center has a small store
where cloth, food, and crafts made by these young women are sold (proceeds
go to the maker of the item). As part of their learning about rights and
responsibilities, each of the young women attending the
"schools" has to pay 300 Saifa to become a "bone fide"
Men and women in several of the neighborhoods learning about health as
a human right joined hands to clean up the mountains of garbage and
established norms for garbage disposal and informed the community
accordingly. They also called on the Mayor’s office to assume
responsibility for garbage collection.
We thus have a clear demonstration of the fact that by paying attention
to women’s human rights in an integrated framework, the whole spread of
human rights is opened up to this community.
(Report by Abdoulaye Cisse Coordinator of the Human Rights City of
Thies – UN Habitat II Conference, New York, June 8, 2001 - Human
Rights Cities workshop facilitated by PDHRE)
CREATING A VISION
As you read the stories of the CLADEM Declaration of Human Rights and
the Human Rights City of Thies, can you visualize e your own community
involved in this kind of process?
What would it take to start working with men at expanding the vision of
the whole community using the insights developed by women?
What issues could you start working with? Who would your allies be?
What would it take to involve children and adolescents in your vision?
What issues would be shared with them?
The Human Rights of the Girl-Child
The last ‘Area of Concern’ of the BPFA is devoted to the girl-child,
whereas earlier instruments spoke of ‘child’, children’, ‘and young
persons’. The girl-child is connected to the increasing attention to ‘culture’,
‘civil society’, i.e., the many ways in which discrimination is built
into the very fibers of a person’s being from the very beginning of life.
It seemed increasingly important not to remain at general statements about
"full development of the human personality" as it says in the UDHR
(article 26) or about the "special care and assistance" owed
"motherhood and childhood" (UDHR art.25) , but to point out clearly
the specific ways in which girl-children are discriminated against. If as,
the UDHR’s article 26 says, education "shall promote understanding,
tolerance and friendship", attention must be paid to the ways in which
children’s treatment breeds misunderstanding, intolerance, hatred among the
from the human rights instruments...
26.(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human
personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26)
10. (3) Special measures of protection and assistance should be taken
on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination for
reasons of parentage or other conditions. Children and young persons
should be protected from economic and social exploitation. Their
employment in work harmful to their morals or health or dangerous to life
or likely to hamper their normal development should be punishable by law.
States should also set age limits below which the paid employment of child
labour should be prohibited and punishable by law.
(International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Part
III, Article 10)
Discrimination in girls' access to education persists in many areas,
owing to customary attitudes, early marriages and pregnancies, inadequate
and gender-biased teaching and educational materials, sexual harassment
and lack of adequate and physically and otherwise accessible schooling
facilities. Girls undertake heavy domestic work at a very early age. Girls
and young women are expected to manage both educational and domestic
responsibilities, often resulting in poor scholastic performance and early
drop-out from the educational system. This has long-lasting consequences
for all aspects of women's lives.
(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 71)
Both the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on
the Rights of the Child guarantee children's rights and uphold the
principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of gender.
(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 216)
In many countries, available indicators show that the girl-child is
discriminated against from the earliest stages of life, through her
childhood and into adulthood.
(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 259)
Girls are often treated as inferior and are socialized to put
themselves last, thus undermining their self-esteem. Discrimination and
neglect in childhood can initiate a lifelong downward spiral of
deprivation and exclusion from the social mainstream. Initiatives should
be taken to prepare girls to participate actively, effectively and equally
with boys at all levels of social, economic, political and cultural
(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 260)
REFLECTING ON THE STANDARDS
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA) makes a distinction
between the human rights of women, and the human rights of the girl-child?
Why do you think this distinction is necessary?
Does your society make distinctions between ‘woman’ and ‘girl-child’?
What are the criteria? Are they the same as those described in the BPFA?
Are girls and boys treated the same way in your community, your culture?
To what extent do the descriptions of the girl-child’s experience in the
BPFA match your own experience?
The Girl-Child: Avoiding Vulnerability
Girls suffer many of the same discriminations as women: lack of adequate
health care and nutrition, illiteracy and limited educational opportunity, a
wide range of social discrimination, oppressive exploitation of their
labour, sexual exploitation and abuse, and various forms of violence. The
status of the girl-child and the conditions under which most of them live
make them the most vulnerable of all human groups. The future of the
girl-child is crucial to the possibilities for the achievement of gender
justice and equality.
Her continued vulnerability would presage a hopeless future for the human
family. Her unfolding as person of dignity and strength would promise a
world in which all people might enjoy all human rights. Yet only in the past
decade, largely due to UNICEF and child advocates, has the plight of the
girl-child been a focus for international human rights concern. Her
well-being must become a major priority for all economic and social
planning. Attending to the promotion and protection of the human rights of
the girl-child will contribute to reducing the vulnerability of all the
Earth’s poor, oppressed and exploited.
The authors of the International Bill of Human Rights sought to give
girls and women their own identities, but they were paddling against the
powerful current of history.
That course has been shifting, and in the past 15 years the world has
witnessed major breakthroughs. Two international instruments - the U.N.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
and the Convention on the Rights of the Child - have established an
unprecedented legal basis for the rights of girls and women.
However, discrimination still deprives many girls of even their most
basic right: the right to live. Those that do live face a host of other
obstacles. Girls in developing countries receive less food and poorer health
care than boys. Yet the girl-child also shoulders a heavier share of
household duties and is expected to help care for her siblings.
In some parts of the world, girls are subjected to harmful traditional
practices (such as those addressed in the chapter on health). They marry
sooner than boys, and the strain of early childbirth shortens their life
expectancies and hinders opportunities for education or employment. In many
societies, girls must have a dowry to be married and are thus viewed by
their families as economic liabilities. It is not surprising, then, that
cultural proverbs from all over the world stress the joy of giving birth to
a boy versus the misfortune of having a girl - a value judgment that is
passed on from one generation to the next.
Despite the nearly universal ratification of the U.N. Convention on the
Rights of the Child, children and adolescents remain invisible to policy
makers and human rights issues are often discussed in ways which exclude
children and adolescents.
In many countries available indicators show that the girl-child is
discriminated against from the earliest stages of life, through her
childhood and into adulthood. The reasons for the discrepancy include, among
• Harmful attitudes and practices, such as female genital mutilation,
• Son preference that results in female infanticide and prenatal sex
• Early marriage, including child marriage,
• Violence against women,
• Sexual exploitation,
• Sexual abuse,
• Discrimination against girls in food allocation,
• Discrimination in other practices related to health and well-being.
Girls are often socialized to put themselves last, thus undermining their
self-esteem. Discrimination and neglect in childhood can initiate a lifelong
downward spiral of deprivation and exclusion from the social mainstream.
Initiatives should be taken to prepare girls to participate actively,
effectively and equally with boys at all levels of social, economic,
political and cultural leadership.
The BPFA also points out that adolescent girls are particularly
vulnerable, physically, socially and psychologically. They are often
exploited and socialized to (be) self-effacing. They may receive conflicting
and confusing messages on their evolving sexuality, their gender roles and
may be subject to abuse and exploitation. Many are considered adults at the
onset of puberty, or even before, and may face early marriage, premature
pregnancy, removal from school and coercion into commercial sex work. The
adolescent girl often falls between the cracks of her family's
understanding, her community's support and her government's policies and
Among the determining factors, which accentuate the vulnerable situation
of adolescent girls, beyond the tradition ally low status accorded to girls
and women from birth, we find the following:
• The slow pace of dissemination and implementation of the Convention
on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women;
• Poverty in the high proportion of female-headed households and poor
access to basic services;
• Lack of social policies which recognise the situation of adolescent
girls and the girl-child in general;
• Urbanization, the social impact of globalisation and structural
The rights of adolescent girls should be seen as an integral part of
human rights and girls be enabled to develop fully and contribute to all
spheres of life. They need to be given the skills and knowledge, which
contribute to their self-esteem in order to become more self-reliant and be
active participants in society.
Some groups of adolescent girls require special protection. They include:
• Girls with disabilities, further exacerbated as they become
adolescent and often neglected in favor of younger siblings;
• Girls in armed conflict, including combatants and refugees;
• Girls orphaned through AIDS, maternal mortality or conflict;
• Daughters of migrant women-workers s subject to sexual abuse due to
their mothers’ absence
• Sexually abused girls including victims of incest, rape, forced
prostitution and sexual harassment;
• Girls suffering from the aftereffects of Female Genital Cutting (FGC)
or suffering from fistula, subsequently ostracized, and devalued for their
inability to be wives or mothers;
• Girls obliged to bear children at young age who are more likely to
suffer from maternal morbidity or mortality as well as a curtailment of
• Girls affected by the dowry or 'bride price' systems;
• Girls abducted by men, including soldiers, for marriage or sexual
• Girls used as subjects of child pornography which may cause them
• Girls working under hazardous and exploitative conditions;
(Excerpted from Pramila Patten, The Girl-Child, 1999 unpublished.
report to PDHRE)
IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEMS: CHALLENGING THE VULNERABILITY
When we talk of a person being ‘vulnerable’, we mean that they have
one or more weak points which makes it harder for them to fight off physical
or psychological assaults from the external world or from other people.
Review the conditions of girls in your community/your country: what are
the points that leave them vulnerable? What kinds of hurts are they exposed
to? How do these interfere with their full development?
Are these the vulnerabilities and obstacles noted by Pramila Patten? if
they are different, list them with their possible causes.
Why Pay Attention to GIRL- Child?
In theory, the combined effects of the International Bill of Rights, CEDAW
and the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be sufficient to ensure
the human rights of girls and adolescents. In practice, evidence shows that
in three important areas: health, nutrition and education, girls are
chronically at a disadvantage. In any case, all violations of children’s
human rights affect not only their own futures, but also the future of their
societies, sometimes for several generations.
Looking at things from a strictly economic point of view, a report
published by the World Bank in 1995 pointed out the high yields of investing
in girls’ education. These included increased participation by women in the
higher income producing modern sectors of the economy; higher use of reliable
family planning; lower maternal mortality as well as lower infant and child
mortality; higher immunization rates and improved sanitation practices.
The report also pointed out that mothers’ education is a predictor of
children’s educational opportunity, and especially of girls’ educational
opportunities: a mother with even a few years of education is more likely to
appreciate the value of sending her own children to school. Research in some
countries indicated that each additional year of formal education completed
by a mother raises her children’s educational attainment by an additional
one-third to one-half year.
At first reading, it might seem like a simple cause and effect
relationship. However, the report also pointed out the economic factors that
worked against girls’ education. Thus, where poverty is endemic and
opportunities for income generation limited, demand for girls’ education
remains low, because children’s contributions in household tasks (water
collection, food preparation, childcare etc.) are more valuable to the
survival of the family than several years of schooling in societies with high
unemployment rates, restrictive labor laws, discriminatory wage structures
etc. The report also made clear the importance of factors like students’
feeling that their education is relevant to their life, the quality of
teaching practices, the adequacy of the schools’ physical infrastructure,
the existence of a supportive governmental strategy for education.
What this indicated to the careful reader was that apparently simple goals
like "promote girls’ education" are inseparable from the
promotion of all adults human rights.
Similar conclusions could be drawn regarding other aspects of
Poverty and the Fate of the Girl-Child
In many communities, the fate of the girl-child is determined at an age
when she is powerless to alter the decisions being made about her life. Even
the right to life continues to be denied to girls in many areas that practice
female infanticide. The dowry system deeply rooted in the culture and customs
of many Indian communities has been getting harsher and more exploitative as
the young women’s in-laws use the dowry system as a way to supplement
stressed family finances in otherwise failing economies. In African dowry
systems, it is the bride’s own parents who rely on her marriage to
supplement the family’s budget. In both cases, the girl-child is treated as
a transient guest in her own home and pressured to marry too young.
Extreme poverty is one condition of the prevalence of child labor.
Children employed under inhuman working conditions may be bonded by their own
parents for the advance of a badly needed loan. The challenge then is to
relieve the little girl from bonded labor contracts without jeopardizing the
survival of their families. This could mean alternative access to credit for
fathers and mothers, allowing children to be relieved from bonded labor
contract by extending credit to their parents. Provision of production credit
to poor women strengthens adult employment and keeps at bay hunger and
starvation. This, in turn, eases the pressure on children to earn for their
families. At the same time, action may be taken against employers who abuse
the children who work under them. Night schools for working children
established by the union provide basic education along with a much needed
nutritious meal in the evenings.
(Drawn from miscellaneous reports to the newswire ISP, by the Kenyan
journalist Judith Achieng)
Catalysts in the Process of Change
A report from the Commission on the Status of Women that is reproduced
further down mentions the need to involve maximum cooperation between and
among governmental and non governmental bodies, NGOs and voluntary
associations working simultaneously at various levels. One example of such
collaboration is provided by the Help! Girl-Child Education Project
(HGCEP) in Nepal, where the children themselves are involved as important
part of the network in situations of geographical isolation.
(Help! Girl-Child Education Project
[HGCEP] c/o IWCE Putalisadak, Kathmandu, Nepal.)
HGCEP was designed by the Institute for Women, Children and Empowerment
to protect and promote the girl-child’s right to education, training and
skill development. In Nepal, there are 3.8 million girls under the age of
16 , only 22% of whom are literate. Many parents are ignorant of the
benefits of education. Deep-rooted cultural and religious practices,
stereotyped notions, unemployment, poverty, the male dominance in Nepalese
society have greatly impeded girl’s education. Interventions of HGCEP
include: general awareness raising, launching various campaigns on the
girl-children’s issues at the national and international levels, and
creating a national and international network in order to effect the
locally based monitoring system. HGCEP works with the Women’s
International League for Peace and Freedom, which has a network of 35
HGCEP grants scholarships to girls from very traditional societies and
from areas prone to trafficking and prostitution. Scholarships are awarded
for the duration of the girl-child’s schooling with the effect that they
complete their education. The hope is that the scholarship will provide
incentive for parents in the region to send their daughters to school.
The Institute for Women, Children and Empowerment has created a Child
Network, which facilitates and mobilizes children in all 75 districts of
Nepal to strengthen child to child networking. The main objective and
activity of this network is to bring together children and victims of
violations from different situations and conditions for sharing their
stories and for understanding of their rights and interests under the
Convention on the Rights of the Child and other related child legislation
in Nepal. The network also works towards their effective participation in
all activities at home, schools, and the communities affecting their
lives. At present, the largest majority of children in Nepal live in the
rural areas, and they lack access to information about the rights of the
child and the benefits that they equally deserve to share. The child to
child network will help to establish children’s own network in villages,
schools, and communities as well as at municipality and district levels to
demand for the best realizations of their rights.
In the following case, we hear of a woman who struggled personally to
educate herself. With the help of supportive parents, she claimed her rights
and grew up to be an activist for gender equality. With the help of an NGO
she is working to create what she calls an "army of literate
Pakistan’s New Army: Girls in School.
As a teenager, Zohra caused her family to be virtually ostracized by
their neighbors in their village, Sachedino Shaikh, in the Sindh region of
southern Pakistan. Her sin? She was a student.
Braving a distance of 10 kilometers on foot with her younger brothers
to the nearest high school, Zohra was the only girl among 500 students.
Because of the social system in which boys and girls are allowed only
minimal contact, she could not even have a male friend.
But Zohra was determined to become a doctor. Her dream was to start a
clinic in her hometown that would prevent the many annual deaths caused by
snakebites and epidemics.
"I felt lonely in my school as I was not allowed to play games
with my class peers," Zohra recalled. "But I was determined to
face the challenge."
Zohra never made it to medical school. But now aged 22 and -- to her
parents' dismay -- still unmarried, she is curing another of her village's
problems. She is teaching in a primary school for girls recently opened by
a local non governmental organization. Here, in a two-room concrete
building, 30 girls learn how to read and write. Zohra is confident the
school will be upgraded to a high school.
The school's goal is to lower Pakistan's staggering illiteracy rate for
women. According to official figures, Pakistan's overall literacy rate
last year was 38.9 percent. Half of all men are literate compared to only
27 percent of women. In the villages, literacy figures are even lower. In
the rural region of Sindh, less than one percent of all girls can read and
Many non governmental organizations working in the education sector
believe that Pakistan’s problem of illiteracy is, if anything,
understated. Declining economic conditions in Pakistan continue to
encourage child labour. Rather than attending school, many children are
sent to work to supplement the family income. Moreover, the government's
definition of literacy is vague. For example, anyone who can read from the
Koran is considered literate, although many do so from rote without
understanding the meaning of the words.
Another cause of illiteracy is that many schools in villages are not
segregated by sex. Indeed, over the past two years, cutbacks have
prevented the government from opening new separate girls' schools. While
girls are permitted to attend the predominantly boys' schools, many
parents are loath to have their daughters study in a coed atmosphere.
Therefore, they prefer to keep them at home.
Indeed, Zohra never would have gone to school without the full support
of her broadminded father, Nawaz Shaikh. The turning point for Shaikh, a
farmer, came through his contact with Alfalah Welfare Trust, a non
governmental organization of doctors, businessmen and philanthropists
based in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi. Years later, this very same
organization would fund the new girls' primary school where Zohra now
Shaikh, who worked as volunteer in the Trust, learned firsthand the
benefits of education while visiting the houses of Alfalah Welfare Trust
members in Karachi. A particular influence was the Badar Siddiqui, the
Trust's chief and a social worker, which convinced Shaikh that education,
for both men and women, was critical.
But it wasn't easy. Shaikh's neighbors said his actions brought
dishonor upon the entire village. He broke many local taboos, including a
"As our forefathers did not send girls [to school], so why should
we?" one woman said.
Others complained they needed their children to work. "We do not
have enough to eat... how can we send our children to school?" said
another mother. Girls help both their fathers in the fields and their
mothers in the kitchen.
Others were fearful that their daughters -- who are engaged at an early
age, sometimes even from birth -- would, if educated, be unacceptable to
future in-laws who themselves are illiterate.
"My relatives socially boycotted our family and disconnected
relations with us," Shaikh said. "But I did not pay any heed to
these things, because I knew that I was not doing anything wrong."
Zohra made the best of her high school education. With good grades, she
was accepted to an intermediate college located 100 kilometers away from
her village. Since the family could hardly manage to bear boarding
expenses, she simply commuted daily.
"I used to cover the distance by bus. I was leaving home before
dawn and returning by dusk," Zohra said.
This continued for a year until Zohra's excellent academic performance
convinced the college principal and teachers that she could forgo her
theory classes and attend practicals only on specific days in a week. A
former teacher, who herself had a bachelors degree in science, began
tutoring her at home for the science examination Zohra needed to enter
Though Zohra passed the examination, she did not do well enough to gain
admission to medical school. It was a great setback for the 18-year-old
who for days simply could not face the reality that her life-long dream
had been shattered. But she found a new mission upon learning that Alfalah
Welfare Trust established a primary school for girls right in her own
As the school is in one of Pakistan's remotest areas, trained female
teachers from other parts refused to join it. Zohra could be employed as a
teacher despite having no formal training. She also enrolled in the
teachers' training program at Allama Iqbal Open University.
Zohra is now producing an army of literate girls from her village and
nearby villages. But it is still an uphill battle to allow daughters to
get higher education. It takes more than schools to change century-old
thoughts and customs.
(Shujauddin Qureshi Pakistan’s New Army: Girls in School. in
Win Magazine,Women’s International
Media Skills for the Empowerment of Girls
Networking and various skills of communication and information are
essential capacities to be cultivated in young women and girls, so that they
can be full and equal participants in society. A vigorous response to this
was mounted by the Kosovar women whose pioneering work with Radio 21 is
described in the chapter on media. The following is an account of their
program to empower and capacitate adolescents.
In 1995 the Centre for Training in Journalism and Conflict Resolution was
established in Kosova. As of mid-1999, more than 80 girls participated in
workshops on journalism and conflict resolution led by Kosovar eminent
journalists. The centre trains girls in journalism, photojournalism, radio
journalism, electronic mail (e-mail/internet) and in conflict prevention,
management and resolution skills. Some of the girls also attended trainings
in conflict resolution in Sweden - Farnebo school, in radio and TV journalism
in Tirana, organized by PressNow, in Budapest sponsored by the Olaf Palme
Institute in Zurich in advocacy and civil society building sponsored by STAR
project of Delphi International, Center for Civil Society.
The training programs aim to prepare the girls to work toward changing
society through media. Many of the trainees are now engaged in Kosovar media,
some of them are still continuing to write for the Centre’s monthly
Girls Are Strong, Courageous And Resilient
We know that women are able to confront and survive hardships, sustain
their families, hold their communities together. These qualities are not born
of age but of circumstance. Inspiring the expression of these qualities in
girls is one way in which women are seeing them through crises and developing
the strength of their future womanhood. Here is one example:
Cegrane [Macedonia] is a small village in the valley, where mostly
Albanians live...Cegrane camp means a thousand and thousands of yellowish
white tents...There are a lot of children. UNICEF organized tents for
school. Elementary schools have 5 shifts from 8 a.m. for two hours. In the
tents they have boards and benches. Famous actors from Pristina children
theatre Dodona played a performance on the rocky ground in May. 4,500
children were watching, applauding and jumping.
The Women’s group, Motrat Qiriazi from Pristina, in 1994, started
with its work to support girls in rural area Has on Kosovo. In May, 1999
they continued to work in Cegrane. Feminists from Pristina and their
friends from England, Sweden and other countries organized a big tent for
women only. A group for girls, a group for women, daily meetings of local
coordinators, training in film and amateur photography, and English
lessons are held here. Two times a week here in the tent hairdressers are
doing their job. Ten feminists work there every day...
In the women’s tent, after half an hour, there wasn’t any space
left, everything was full, the places around, on the floor, 120 girls from
different parts of Kosovo. The tent full of girls, a lot of them cut their
hair recently, lot of them have been coming to these workshops more than a
few weeks, some of them are here for the first time, incredible energy, no
space left. Igballa Rogova, feminist from Pristina, who coordinates the
group activity raises the energy: Let’s shout: Vajzat= jan forta = The
girls are strong, once, another time, louder. What a joy! Were we
empowered as girls together with our friends to express through our own
voices? Then, talks, exchanging information, debates on male violence and
some unpleasant situation that can occur in the camp. Then a role-play is
going on. How to defend ourselves from an intrusive man? But this time a
man role performed feminist Nazlie Bala from the Pristina Women’s Group
Elena. She was so convincing and so likable that in fact everything ended
in laughter and screaming, because every one liked her way of intrusion.
The girls are laughing. It is so hot in the tent. Then they start singing.
A song of Drenica and Kosovo is a favorite one. At the end there is tape
player (with batteries). Dancing is beginning while Albanian folk music is
playing. In the middle of the day, in the middle of the tent, with no
space to move, girls without addresses, whose parents were forced to throw
their identity cards into plastic bags when in May they were deported to
the border, with Serbian police as an escort, girls who are longing for
their homes, girls who were hungry and threatened for days, girls
exhausted from being displaced from their lives, like many other girls
from Croatia or Bosnia or Palestine, here they are, they survived and they
(Autonomous Women’s Center Against Sexual Violence, Belgrade Circulated
by Women in Black at weekly vigil, New York, June 30, 1999.)
Palestinian girls learn political skills
Lobbying with Young Women is a pilot project initiated by WATC, a
Palestinian women’s NGO for women’s advocacy and legal training, and
co-sponsored by the DIAKONIA Institute. The project is expected to prepare
future women leaders that would carry the message of women’s rights in the
process of building a civic democratic society in Palestine.
Preparations... included identifying criteria for the selection of the
young women to participate in the program. WATC approached its member
organizations as well as different political groups represented in WATC, to
nominate candidates. As a major component of the project, intensive training
was conducted to change the traditional attitudes about women’s role in
the society. It also aimed to strengthen knowledge about human rights,
leadership and communication skills. Qualified trainers were selected to
conduct the courses.
The West Bank was divided into five main areas: Jerusalem; the North; the
Central Region; the South; and Jericho. Jericho was added as a fifth area in
response to the demand of women activists in the town who approached WATC to
be part of the target group. The women were trained on Gender Awareness,
Lobbying Skills, Communication Skills and Leadership Skills. Currently, WATC
is undertaking a general evaluation of the training courses conducted
involving the young women in the evaluation process.
(Palestinian Women’s WATC Newsletter, Winter 1997-1998, p. 6.)
ASSESSING POSSIBILITIES FOR CHANGE- GETTING INTO ACTION
!. Observing the facts.
Within your study group have each person choose one aspect of the
Based on your own experience and observations describe the present
situation of girls in your society, in respect to health, nutrition,
education, self-image, access to decision-making .
Are there grave violations of girls’ human rights? of what kind are
2. Identify weak points.
What kinds of programs now exist in your country and/or community
specifically addressed to the girlchild?
Do they deal adequately with the weak points you have identified?
How might they be improved?
3. Interview persons active in NGOs that deal with girls’ situations.
What do they do? what are the biggest problems they encounter? what
resources do they have?
Prepare a report to bring back to your group.
4. Identify some girls and women in your community who have overcome
substantial obstacles to become educated, productive citizens or to tackle
particular injustices when they were young women. Interview them. Write their
stories into booklets.
to Table of Contents
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