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Report from Eurasian Women Leaders Conference: Combating Violence Against Women

I have pasted portions of my report on the strategy session: Combating Violence Against Women, that was conducted at the Vital Voices of Eurasia: A Leadership Summit for Women and Girls, October 16th.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Combating Violence Against Women

Issue to be Addressed:
How the Eurasian community can work together across sectors to combat violence against women.

Solutions Identified:
-Increasing the visibility of violence against women, particularly domestic violence, and bringing credibility to the issue as a violation of human rights through public awareness campaigns, international and regional conferences, media coverage and literature
-Changing cultural attitudes and perceptions of the population through education and advocacy at all levels, including church and family
-Passing gender specific legislation that provides for prevention and adequate protection of victims
-Using hotlines to gather concrete information regarding the current situation on the ground and bringing this information to the attention of governments who may be passive in their handling of the issue
-Training medical professionals to notice signs of abuse
-Training police officials as to how they should respond to reports of domestic violence
-Creating a monitoring infrastructure to ensure that legislation is properly enforced by police and court cases. This can be done through NGOs and special task forces.
-Engaging business to combat the epidemic
-Incorporating self-esteem building programs for youth and vulnerable demographics
-Building shelters to provide safe housing, support, counseling and professional training for victims
-Appealing to unilateral organizations, international organizations to pressure governments that have proven hesitant in passing legislation that protects victims, prosecutes offenders
-Building partnerships with law firms and lawyers associations to acquire legal services for victims
-Building awareness amongst social workers on how to address victims needs
-Civil Society working with collaborating with government’s “women’s committee” (ex. Uzbekistan, see notes from Mavlida)

Major Challenges of Implementing Solutions:
-Combating stereotypes and identifying domestic violence as a violation of human rights rather than a personal/family matter that should not be addressed by governments
-Getting victims to understand their rights, especially in rural areas, and getting them to speak out
- Documenting the prevalence of domestic violence and getting it on the books or bringing it to the forefront of the country’s political agenda
-Maintaining the momentum behind the movement against domestic violence
-Increasing visibility of violence against women and promoting specialization amongst NGOs and government legislation to address the specificities of sexual harassment, rape, domestic violence and other forms of gender based violence.
-Keeping victims from the cycle of abuse and providing them with a means to become financially independent once they have been extracted from the abusive relationship
-Getting government to pass gender specific legislation that defines domestic violence and adequately protects victims
-Holding governments accountable for the enforcement of legislation that prevents and protects victims of domestic violence
-Working with governments to provide specialized services for victims of domestic violence (some participants reported that their government supports victims of domestic violence within umbrella initiatives that cater to other vulnerable communities as well, ex. Homeless populations/ “victims” hotline- see notes from Judit Wirth, Hungary)
-Procuring funding for hotlines, shelters, and legal aid

Best Practices for Identifying the Challenges:
-One may be able to identify the challenges NGOs face in reaching out to victims of domestic violence by comparing the statistics of women who seek NGO services versus the purported number of women who experience domestic violence.
-One may be able to discern how effective existing legislation is by reviewing the statistics on how many cases of domestic violence were brought before the courts/reviewing the work on NGOs who are currently monitoring cases of domestic violence as they go through the justice system
-One may be able to identify challenges regarding the enforcement of domestic violence legislation by reviewing the laws and checking for gender specificity/specialization amongst the different types of violence against women.
-One may be able to identify the fundraising challenges experienced by NGOs by researching the breadth of services offered by NGOs and reviewing the number of shelters/other resources made available to victims

Opportunities for Building on Successes:
-All participants reported that there has been much progress made in combating domestic violence throughout the region in the past 10 years. Additionally, the participants agreed that despite varying cultures, the current situation in each country represented was quite similar. Furthermore, throughout the session, participants discovered that the various NGOs demonstrated different strengths and advancement. This suggests that there is a great opportunity for activists to build on their successes through cross-cultural/national collaborations.

Key Partners or stakeholders needed to implement this follow-up Project:
-International NGOs
-NGO leaders from the region
-Lawyers Associations
-Businesses/Foundations- institutions with access to capital that are interested in developing partnerships

Communication Strategy- how engage decision makers and media:
Many of the participants felt that they could engage governments and media through:
-regional/international conferences (such as the Summit), featuring high level leaders who express their dedication to the eradication of violence against women,
-written materials released by influential international bodies (such as UN) addressing domestic violence/violence against women as a violation of human rights
-use of unilateral organizations influencing/pressuring government to address the issue

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