“Poverty wears a woman’s face” as governments fail them

November 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

An woman attacked in the DRC by rebels Pic from World in Witness at blogs.ushmm.org/WorldIsWitness/updates/601/

Violence against women is the single biggest threat to peace, according to a report released today by Women for Women International.

The country director for Nigeria, Ngozi Eze, will launch the report called Gender, Conflict and MDGs officially tonight at Amnesty International’s headquarters.

 MDGs (or Millennium Development Goals) are being missed by a very long way, according to the report, which makes grim reading.

 Research with organisations based in conflict zones with a particular focus on Nigeria, has concluded that:

  • Development and Security agendas are not linked
  • Violence against women is the single greatest impediment to development and peace
  • Economic empowerment is key to women’s recovery from conflict
  • Women continue to be left out of formal peace processes
  • Work on security, conflict prevention and peace-building needs to be informed by local realities and women’s needs.

 Women for Women, which helps women in areas of conflict worldwide to rebuild their lives, concluded that the main obstacle to women’s economic empowerment is the lack of security – both inside and outside the home. Other obstacles are the lack of opportunities to market goods, limited movement outside the home due to cultural attitudes and a lack of social protection when work is not possible.

 To me, the key fact to take away from the report is that women’s participation in the 16 peace processes since 2000 has really been minimal. Particularly, five cases are noted – Somalia (2002), Cote D’Ivoire (2003), Nepal (2006), the Philippines (2007) and the Central African Republic (2008) – where no women participated as signatories, mediators, witnesses or negotiators.  The report sums up: “In spite of their contributions to community reconciliation and peace, women are chronically under-represented in security, justice and public sectors, which all play a key role in peace-building.”

 There is a good list of recommendations to help tackle these problems, and some are being put into practice or helped on their way by this inspirational organisation. But worryingly, most involve money or investment of some kind. This might be what’s needed, but it is also something that is not forthcoming in many warzones.

 Today is the International day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I wish it was as easy as a one day event. The sobering challenges in this report have not seen progress in the first ten years of the Millennium Goals aiming to eliminate poverty, but let’s hope this important piece of work gets the attention it deserves and helps to bring about some changes.

“Sadly, in times of war a woman’s burdens only get heavier, her vulnerabilities more pronounced. She remains locked in poverty, often losing the protection of home and husband, coping with fear and suffering devastating rights violations and violence, including torture, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and mutilation. Despite these grim realities, she brings enormous energy, leadership and resilience to protecting families and rebuilding fractured communities. “
–          Kate Nustedt, Executive Director, Women for Women
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