- Philanthropy and Feminism
- filia, a Daughter of the Women`s Movement
- Women Activists for Social Change
Since 2009, women in Chechnya have had to wear a headscarf if they want to hold public office or study at the university, and girls have been ordered to wear a headscarf if they want to attend school. In summer 2010 men on the streets attacked women they found were not dressed appropriately. filia issued a press release on state-legitimised acts of violence against women on 10.9.2010.
In this misogynous climate shaped by government-ordered Islamisation, women are claiming human rights for girls and women at high personal risk.
Example 1 – A new Role for the Chechnyan Women
Being able to take part in public road traffic independently is a novelty for more than forty women in Grozny. Only 2% of the women in Chechnya have a driving licence.
Changing the role of women in a publicly visible manner and thus supporting them in their self-reliance is the clever strategy behind the project “A new role for the Chechnyan woman” operated by the organisation of human rights activist Libkan Bazaeva “Women’s Dignity” in Grozny. The women greatly enjoyed driving through the streets of Grozny – with a large filia logo positioned visibly in the window, accompanied by not purely friendly looks.
The Chechnyan woman’s name “Iman” means “respected woman”. This is the name that Inna Ajrapetjan from the women’s organisation “Sintem” in Grozny gave to her project that filia supported. The objective was to open up discussions about violence against women and girls in public arenas. The women of Sintem used the method of a Forum Theater. A situation is introduced in a brief theatrical sketch– for example a man strikes his wife because she does not offer him hot tea. When the woman is lying on the ground, the actors stop and work out possible solutions together with the public. Sintem operated in this way at schools and universities. Discussions evolved in which women and men were able to report on their experiences of violence – a crucial step in the direction of publicly stigmatising violence as a problem and creating new concepts of men and women living together.
Three times a week Inna together with her colleagues Taita Junusova and Renata Masaeva from the organisation Zhivaja Nit (Thread of Life) drive by car to remote schools in the mountain regions. After classes they work there together with groups of girls between the ages of 10 and 16. In role games, the girls try out their scope for action in order to get to know, protect and claim their rights.
filia has been supporting the project “Girls without fetters” since 2010 with a three-year strategic grant. The girls love these lessons, even though they have to give up their own free time for them and although many of them still have to perform housework for their family after the lessons: At the end of a project lesson there is a knock on the door. We call “come in”. To our amazement two seven-year old girls appear. Good little girls wearing the mandatory headscarf, they stand at the door. When we ask them what they want, they say courageously and with a good measure of self-confidence, “we too would like to learn what rights we have. When will you be coming to us?”
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In the mountainous conflict region of Samegrelo (Georgia) on the border with Abchasia – where since the war many refugees have been and still are living provisionally – the organisation “Merkuri” managed at first try in February 2010 to bring together 13 women’s organisations and jointly establish the “Gender Network Samegrelo”. “
Already in mid-2010 the networked groups were working at several levels on five concrete joint projects. For example women from ten organisations take part in street actions to support female candidates for the regional elections. “The level of solidarity, communication and coordination has risen very steeply and the level of rivalry has dropped”, reports Nana Todua of Merkuri.
Together the women’s organisations can approach new donors. It is becoming clear that the organisations are confronted with different challenges, depending on their growth phase. The smaller organisations, especially those in remote mountain regions, lack basic knowledge and skills, for example in fundraising. The larger organisations in the towns and cities are struggling with management problems. The groups are therefore starting to share their expertise in peer training sessions on strategic planning, project development and lobbying work.
For us German women particularly it is an inconceivable practice that the Slovakian organisation is addressing:
Poradña pre občianske a l’udské práva (Center for Civil and Human Rights) in Košice in Slovakia is working against forced sterilisations of Roma women in hospitals, for example following a caesarean section. Since 2002 the women of Poradna have been documenting cases of forced sterilisation of Roma women, bringing those affected together and bringing cases before the court.
In 2004, with the support of Poradna, eight women sued Slovakia before the European Court of Human Rights. They had been denied access to their medical records and actions brought before Slovakian courts had been unsuccessful. On 28 April 2009 in the case of K.H. vs Slovakia the European Court found against Slovakia and the country has thus been compelled to recognise that forced sterilisations of Roma women exist and to make corresponding compensation payments!
The judgement became effective during the project term of the filia grant, and in January 2010 compensation was paid to eight women.
Poradna also uses international lobbying work to assert the human rights of the women. The personal stories and experiences of the affected women were submitted to United Nations Committees in two reports that Poradna co-authored. In October 2009 the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT)demanded that Slovakia have the cases of forced sterilisation of Roma women examined by an independent commission. A Roma activist travelled together with a representative of Poradna to the 76th session of the UN Committee Against Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva in February 2010. The final recommendations of both committees have become the basis for further advocacy work by the activists.
Example 1: People buying bread rolls for their breakfast in Hamburg at the end of November 2010 no longer found the name of the baker’s shop on the paper bag. In its place was a photo of a crouching woman and the heading “Violence is not an option”. The most dangerous place for women is still their own home, so this action by the work group “Violence against women and girls Hamburg” was all the more effective. This action led to consolidation of the network of 27 associations, 13 supporters and 86 bakeries belonging to the Hamburg guild, and invited all bread roll eaters to watch out and intervene in this thematic area.
Example 2: “It could be anyone. It could be any one of us. It should not be any of us.” was the subtitle of the travelling exhibition “Half of heaven – 99 women and you”. The exhibition shows portraits of 99 women – women without and women with experiences of violence. Women aged from 16 to 99. Schoolgirl, housewife, nurse, sound engineer, physician, cashier, hairdresser. From Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Turkey, Palestine, Israel, the USA. From Bielefeld, Berlin, Huchenfeld, Heidelberg. The exhibition does not portray victims, but instead shows respect for the experiences and stories of women. In June 2012 filia presented the very successful travelling exhibition in Hamburg.
What does politics for girls’ and women’s rights actually mean today? And how do those that it is all about – the girls – see this? Within the context of its 10th Jubilee celebrations, the Federal Association (BAG) Girls Politics invited them to join in a photo campaign entitled “A picture of us”. “This is up to you! With the variety of your ideas, concepts and opinions. Make them visible for us. Show yourselves and us what you think is important for girls and women.” More than 150 photos from 23 girls’ facilities in Germany were submitted and used to produce postcards and posters. The photos were presented to some 150 participants and international guests at the conference marking the BAG Girls Politics Jubilee in the Grand Hall of the Berlin House of Representatives. www.maedchenpolitik.de/html/10_bag_foto.html (Slide show with the photos submitted)
There is bad news about war every day. The initiative “visionews” approaches from the opposite direction and reports on successful stories of peace, reconciliation and more from about 60 countries of women working for a peaceful world with gender equality.
“Visions are a type of medicine that can lend fantasies and free thinking room to expand once again… they represent something like a moral horizon towards which we can direct our endeavours and aims”, it says on the website.
filia supported the kick-off phase of the project. We have already frequently joint in projects concerning the UN Resolution 1325 – by supporting the “1000 PeaceWomen Across the Globe” and promoting the “Roadmap to 1325” Conference.
In 2012 Visionews has received the Alternative Media Award in Nuremberg.
The body of Eudy Simelane was found in April 2008 by a stream running through an open field, in sight of the corrugated iron huts of KwaThema Township near Johannesburg in South Africa. Eudy Simelane was a young woman living openly as a lesbian, a former player in South Africa’s national women’s football team and an activist for human rights of lesbians. At the age of 31 she was raped by a group of young men aged between 18 and 24, badly maltreated and murdered.
Acts of violence and murders precipitated by sexual orientation, known as “hate crimes”, are frequent in South Africa. However, in view of the strong homophobia present among all sectors of the population they are not prosecuted as such. “Act to end Hate” – under this slogan a federation of South African human rights organisations initiated a campaign to denounce murders of lesbian women in their country. The activists of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project in Johannesburg hoped that the murder would be recognised as a hate crime committed for homophobic motives. They mobilised over 200 people who set up their tents in front of the court during the hearings and demonstrated for this.
Regrettably the hope was not fulfilled. As one of the accused took the entire blame on himself and the judge did not want to recognise any homophobic motives, this did not constitute a leading case. However, Equality Project is continuing to work further… www.equality.org.za
Women are the pillars of society To enable women to play a major role in the reconstruction process after the earthquake in Haiti on 12 January 2010, filia launched a call for donations. By 31 March 2010 we had received donations totalling € 24,257.11 from 95 donors. “I was waiting for such a call”, one donor wrote to us.
The money was forwarded without any deductions to the crisis fund of the world’s largest women’s foundation, Global Fund for Women. The Global Fund for Women has been supporting women in Haiti in their struggle for debt relief, clean water, education, freedom from violence and for human rights since 1991. With over $ 100,000 the foundation supported women’s self-organisation, including organisations analysing the needs of women on the spot and distributed relief supplies.
Within one week after the earthquake women set up the “Myriam Merlet Feminist International Solidarity Camp” in Jimani on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It was named after the Haitian feminist Myriam Merlet who was killed in the earthquake. The camp coordinated the distribution of aid funds and goods to the women’s groups and set up a medical station. With support from the Global Fund, the “Feminist International Radio Endeavor (FIRE)” began to broadcast from the camp.
filia’s STRATEGIC GRANTS aim to give project partners “a bag of possibilities”: promising a grant amount over several years gives the women planning security and enables them to view longer-term developments in their projects.
The women’s network Veliko Srce (Big Heart) in Bosnia was the first strategic project and is now entering its third grant year. The women’s network has developed to become a political force in its region. Coordinator Halida Jahic attends municipal council sessions in Gradacac and has been invited to the Ministry of Agriculture in Sarajevo as an expert on organic farming. Before the elections in 2010 the network co-organised the campaign “101 reasons to elect a woman” for greater participation of women in regional politics.
Over 4000 women are integrated into the network through their women’s groups. On 20 October 2009 Veliko Srce received the “Active Citizens of Europe 2009” award from the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina for its civil society commitment. Civil society and democratic processes still require strong and persistent women actors in Bosnia, a country still characterised by a lack of transparency and abuse of power.
In 2010 filia’s Foundation Board approved the third strategic grants – for the Chechnyan organisation “Thread of Life”.