Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Call for Unity Against Terrorism

"A teacher comforts a school child as they observe a minute of silence at a Jewish school in Paris to pay tribute to the four victims killed by a gunman at a Jewish school in Toulouse, March 20, 2012." Photo Credit: Reuters.
          By killing seven French citizens, the suspect in the tragic Toulouse murders, Mohamed Merah, has sought—in his own words—to “bring France to its knees.” Merah reportedly joined the Islamist group Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride), whose primary goal is to “protect the honor of Muslim women.” Now that the suspect has been killed, the central point will not be whether Al Qaeda or any other terrorist group claim responsibility for the attack—this is now about our responsibility as global civil society. We, non-Muslims and Muslims across ethnic, religious, and ideological divides, must stand up and speak out against terrorism. We cannot afford to be silent bystanders—a self-styled jihadist cannot be allowed to question our values that create a common bond of humanity. As Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, once said, there are only two categories of people: good and evil. Now is the moment not only to choose where we belong, but also to take action and to defend our values and beliefs. Earlier on Wednesday, President Sarkozy called on his fellow citizens "to unite together to show that terrorism will not be able to fracture our national community." We must extend this call to action beyond national boundaries to all of humanity.
         The question “who was Mohamed Merah,” whom experts describe as a lone wolf and an Al Qaeda jihadi, the nice young next-door-neighbor who turned into an ideologically-driven killing machine, will occupy police and terrorism analysts for many years to come. We at Women without Borders/SAVE believe we have to broaden the analytical spectrum of community and family-based approaches to prevention.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

OSCE highlights need to involve women in efforts to counter violent extremism, terrorist radicalization

VIENNA, 12 MARCH 2012 – Ways of empowering women in countering violent extremism and radicalization that leads to terrorism is the focus of a two-day expert meeting organized by the OSCE today in Vienna.

More than 100 experts in the fields of security, gender and human rights, from government, academia, and civil society, will discuss good practices and lessons learnt from women’s initiatives in tackling the issue.

Maj Britt Theorin, Chairperson of a Sweden-based NGO "Operation 1325" (r) and keynote speaker Detective Inspector Khizra Dhindsa representing the Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales (l) speaks at an OSCE-organized expert meeting with a focus on ways of empowering women in countering violent extremism and radicalization that leads to terrorism, Vienna, 12 March 2012. (OSCE/Mehdi Knani)

“For too long, terrorism has been viewed exclusively as a male problem,” said keynote speaker Detective Inspector Khizra Dhindsa, the national lead officer for Project Shanaz, an initiative by the Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales to engage women against violent extremism and terrorism.

“Structures, advisory bodies and methods were never intended to cater for women’s inclusion in counter-terrorism - therefore they are not effective. It is as if we have been trying to fly on one wing,” she said.

Assia Ivantcheva, the Acting Head of the Human Rights Department of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said governments and civil society have an important responsibility to empower women and to factor in their experiences into counter-terrorism efforts.

“It is only through a gender-sensitive and human rights compliant approach that counter-terrorism measures can be sustainable and effective,” said Ivantcheva.

Elaine Hargrove, Programme Director for the Sisters against Violent Extremism (SAVE) initiative, stressed that women are eager to develop the knowledge and tools to help protect their families, neighbourhoods and societies against the threat of violent extremism and terrorism.

“Women are strategically positioned to help raise awareness about the threat of violent extremism and to empower their communities to reduce the appeal of extremist ideologies,” she said.

The meeting was organized by ODIHR jointly with the Gender Section and the Transnational Threats Department of the OSCE Secretariat. It follows an expert meeting held in December 2011 on the dynamics behind the terrorist radicalization of women and ways to prevent it.

Elaine Hargrove, Programme Director of Sisters against Violent Extremism
at a recent SAVE/Mothers for Change workshop in Tajikistan

 Click on the following link to read the original article by OSCE

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Laurie Penny: That's enough politeness – women need to rise up in anger

The men who run the world have become too used to not being afraid. Let's make them afraid

To get into the UN Commission on the Status of Women, you have to get past several ranks of large armed men. In the foyer, you can buy UN women-themed hats and tote bags, and pick up glossy pamphlets about this year's International Women's Day, but what you can't pick up is the slightest sense of urgency. In the 101 years since the first International Women's Day, all the passionate politics seems to have been leached out of the women's movement.

International Women's Day began as a day of rebellion and outlandish demands – Equal pay! Votes for women! Reproductive rights! – but 101 years later, judging by the invitations in my email inbox, it seems to be more about jazzy corporate lunches, poetry competitions and praising our valued sponsors. At the UN, in a session on body image and the media, delegates (who are meeting this week) applauded politely as a promotional anti-airbrushing video by Dove cosmetics was shown. Cabinet Minister Lynne Featherstone gave a speech in which she condemned the "distorted image of beauty" offered by cosmetics advertisers, and lauded the efforts Dove has apparently made to change this while selling body lotion at £7.49 a tube.

The British delegates present failed entirely to mention that Featherstone is part of a government responsible for putting more women out of work than at any point since records began. Lynne Featherstone and Dove cosmetics claim to be on the side of "real" women, but one suspects that the single mothers whose benefits are about to be cut and the domestic violence victims whose refuges are being closed may not find that prospect terribly comforting.

Graphics by The Independant

A huge cultural change is taking place all over the world right now. Over the past year, from the Arab Spring uprisings to the global anti-corporate occupations, young people and workers have realised that they were flogged a false dream of prosperity in return for quiet obedience, exhausting, precarious jobs and perpetual debt – most of it shouldered by women, whose low-status, low-paid and unpaid work has driven the expansion of exploitative markets across the world. Equality, like prosperity, was supposed to trickle down, but not a lot can trickle down through a glass ceiling.

Women, like everyone else, have been duped. We have been persuaded over the past 50 years to settle for a bland, neoliberal vision of what liberation should mean. Life may have become a little easier in that time for white women who can afford to hire a nanny, but the rest of us have settled for a cheap, knock-off version of gender revolution. Instead of equality at work and in the home, we settled for "choice", "flexibility" and an exciting array of badly paid part-time work to fit around childcare and chores. Instead of sexual liberation and reproductive freedom, we settled for mitigated rights to abortion and contraception that are constantly under attack, and a deeply misogynist culture that shames us if we're not sexually attractive, dismisses us if we are, and blames us if we are raped or assaulted, as one in five of us will be in our lifetime.

Feminism, however, has not been a sustained part of this mood of popular indignation. Not yet. One year ago in Tahrir Square, women marching on International Women's Day were sexually and physically assaulted by some of the same men they had stood side by side with during the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Meanwhile, with women and girls bearing the brunt of the financial crisis across the world, the biggest discussions of women's role in the Occupy movement have focused on how to protect them from rapes that have occurred in the protest camps. This week, though, we've seen the first inklings of a women's fightback that is a little less delicate and demure.

What would a radical women's fightback look like? It might look a little bit like hundreds of women and men linking arms on the steps of the Capitol building in the US state of Virginia, where lawmakers are attempting to force women seeking abortions to submit to trans-vaginal ultrasounds – being penetrated with a medical rod – before they can have the procedure.

Last week, riot police in full armour were dispatched to drag the Occupy Virginia protesters to jail as they demanded an end to this insulting attack on women's right to choose. Female protesters are currently being processed by Virginia courts on charges of trespass.

What would a daring feminist cultural shift look like? It might look like two young mothers in a Moscow jail, arrested for flash-mobbing churches with short skirts, guitars and an agenda against corruption and institutional sexism. The members of the punk-rock girl band "Pussy Riot" are currently on hunger strike, after being imprisoned for singing rude songs about Vladimir Putin in public. They face jail-time of up to seven years. It seems that as soon as women stop asking politely for the change we want to see, the crackdowns come quick and hard.

Politeness is a habit that what's left of the women's movement needs to grow out of. Most women grow up learning, directly or indirectly, how to be polite, how to defer, how to be good employees, mothers and wives, how to shop sensibly and get a great bikini body. We are taught to stay off the streets, because it's dangerous after dark. Politeness, however, has bought even the luckiest of us little more than terminal exhaustion, a great shoe collection, and the right to be raped by the state if we need an abortion. If we want real equality, we're going to have to fight for it.

Like the suffragettes and socialists who called the first International Women's Day over a century ago, women who believe in a better world are going to have to start thinking in deeds, not words. With women under attack financially, socially and sexually across the developed and developing world, with assaults on jobs, welfare, childcare, contraception and the right to choose, the time for polite conversation is over. It's time for anger. It's time for daring, direct action, big demands, big dreams. The men who still run the world from boardrooms and government offices have become too used to not being afraid of what women will do if we are attacked, used and exploited. We must make them afraid.

Deeds, not words. Fewer business lunches, more throwing punches. Of course, there will be consequences. Those large armed men aren't just there for decoration, and the suffragettes who had their breasts twisted and their bones broken in prison 101 years ago knew that full well. But they also knew what we must now begin to remember – that the consequences of staying quiet and ladylike are always far more serious.

Click on this link to view the original article published by The Independent:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Update from Tajikistan - SAVE Paving the Way for Mothers' Schools

Workshop participants in a planning session

How many of our readers can locate Tajikistan on a map? It is strategically placed in the heart of Central Asia, and shares a 1400 km border with Afghanistan, a volatile border with Uzbekistan pocked by landmines, and a border with Kyrgyzstan which is not demarcated for stretches on end. Unemployment rates are as high as 80% in some regions, leading over two million Tajiks to search for work in Russia. Many here do not have electricity at home. We met an impressive young Tajik woman whose mother was a math teacher in Tajikistan, but found she could earn more money scrubbing toilets in Russia. She and her husband migrated to Russia to put her eldest daughter through university, which also meant that the eldest daughter suddenly had to raise her two sisters on her own. Last year, five young women killed themselves in a village in Gafurov within the span of one week, due to unhappy forced marriages and desperation resulting from their financial situation. Married women commit suicide to flee violent relationships, although this topic of conversation is taboo, meaning that many women have nowhere to turn to discuss their issues.

The young generation is particularly affected by the lack of employment opportunities, and there are few ways in which to spend their free time. Boredom and lack of perspective seem to increase their vulnerability to radical forces, which offer the youth a sense of brotherhood/sisterhood, financial support, and promises that the afterlife will be better than their present fate.

A view up to the mountains of Tajikistan

Twenty-two female community mobilizers and teachers came together to attend a five-day SAVE Mothers for Change! teamshaping workshop in Khujand, where they gained a strong group identity and announced their commitment to sensitize mothers to their role in combating violent extremism. They reached the joint conclusion to launch “Mothers Schools” in villages in two regions in northern Tajikistan, to provide courses on combating radicalization and to offer classes on a range of other topics of interest, from how to raise children to agricultural techniques. The Mothers Schools will break new ground concerning women’s role in combating violent extremism.

The Panjshanbe Market in Khujand

The women’s dedication and passion for improving their communities was striking; although many of these women never received higher education, their ability to analytically assess their needs and develop potential best practices for implementation holds significant promise for women-driven change in Tajikistan.

In this desperate situation, the youth we are meeting in Dushanbe—young men and women who were educated abroad but have returned to build a new future for their country—provide a ray of hope.

Flash Points: Edit Schlaffer presents SAVE on CBS