Sep 292010
 

As most of you know, I don’t generally do book reviews, but the trailer for Gloria Feldt’s new book, No Excuses, 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, caught my attention and while I haven’t read the book, I’m totally sure it is a must read and here is why.

For a long time now, whenever I talk about the impact that militarism has on women’s lives, I talk about the concept of power.  I try to point out that militarism is predicated on the concept of power over but that true empowerment comes from power within (our own inner strength) and power among (our sense of community, that we are all in this together).  That said, check out this trailer for Feldt’s new book:

What Gloria is saying about moving from power over to power to is elegant and eloquent and truly expands the way we frame our understanding of power.  Her list of 9 ways is perceptive and thought provoking and clearly opens up a very productive  path towards discussing substantive ways to change the damaging power paradigm that confronts us every day and I”m chomping at the bit (can you tell I’ve been living in horse country for too long?) to get a copy of this book and learn more.

Share
 September 29, 2010  Posted by on September 29, 2010 1 Response »
Sep 262010
 

FPN Director Lucinda Marshall speaks about UNSCR 1325 (photo by Josh Cook)

On September 21, I had the privilege of making a presentation at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, WI on the  importance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 as part of their celebration of the International Day of Peace.  The presentation was co-sponsored by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom as part of their Advancing Women As Peacemakers Program in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of UNSCR 1325.  Below is a web-version of the material I presented on the importance and context of 1325. I am indebted to everyone who made this presentation possible.

———-

Resolution 1325 addresses for the first time the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and recognizes the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building as well as the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security. It is binding upon all UN Member States.

Key Provisions of UNSCR 1325 include:

  • Increased participation and representation of women at all levels of decision-making.
  • Attention to specific protection needs of women and girls in conflict.
  • Gender perspective in post-conflict processes.
  • Gender perspective in UN programming, reporting and in Security Council missions.
  • Gender perspective & training in UN peace support operations.

The passage of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security by the Security Council of the United Nations 10 years ago was an historical accomplishment that resulted from the hard work, courage and determination of women throughout the world who insisted that we should have an equal role in bringing and maintaining peace in our global community.

While much work has been done to implement 1325, the results so far are discouraging. Since 2000, women averaged 7 percent of negotiators in five major U.N. peace processes. Fewer than 3 percent of the signatories in 14 peace talks were women.  For a comprehensive look at efforts to implement 1325, please see this checklist on progress made on implementation of 1325.

To truly understand why 1325 is so important, we need to take a look at the impact of militarism from a gendered lens and ask what is it about military conflict that makes women particularly vulnerable?

———-

Several points to consider:

Wars are not fought on battlefields anymore–they are fought in cities and towns and villages. Civilian casualties now make up as much as 70% of the total casualties of any military action.  Since women and children are the majority of these civilian populations, they make up the majority of civilian casualties.

In  warfare, women’s bodies frequently become part of the battle ground over which opposing forces struggle. Their bodies are often considered the spoils of war, or invisibilized under the catchall euphemism, ‘collateral damage’.

It is important to understand the primary ways in which women are sexually victimized as a result of militarism, which include:

  • Rape/Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Slavery/Trafficking
  • Forced Marriages and Pregnancies
  • Femicide

Other factors that make women particularly vulnerable include: the loss of homes, being separated from family (especially men who may have provided protection), becoming a refugee (and not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of refugees from conflict are women), and loss of jobs and income leaving women  to resort to desperate means such as prostituting themselves to put food on their family’s table.

Finally, it is important to remember that violence against women does not end when the fighting ends.  We’ve all heard reports of rapes committed by U.N. peacekeepers, of soldiers who come home and assault or murder their wives and in a minute we’ll look at what this means in Iraq now that we’ve declared an end to combat operations.

———-

Before we go any further however, I want to talk about how I usually approach talking about militarism. When I talk about militarism, I tend to focus on U.S. militarism for 2 reasons.  The first is because we have the biggest military in the world, so our actions rather literally pack the biggest punch.

Secondly, most of us are U.S. citizens, we live here, and it is important to look first at the impact of our own actions and how we can change them before examining those of others.  So when we talk about 1325, we should consider that becoming more aware of its potential in addressing conflict and pushing for its use by the U.S. can have an enormous impact.

I do want to note however that it isn’t just us, although our inaction in conflicts such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Darfur, the DRC and so on makes us complicit in these atrocities.

  • Rwanda Genocide–As many as 500,000 women raped
  • 64,000 women raped during conflict in Sierra Leone
  • 40,000 women raped in Bosnia/Herzogovina
  • 4,500 Rapes in just 6 months in one province of the DRC
  • Hundreds of women raped every day in Darfur

In any case, it is precisely because of these incredible, large numbers of victims that we know that violence against women is systemic to militarism.

Two recent examples of how U.S. militarism impacts women are instructive.

———-

One of the justifications for our invasion of Afghanistan was to liberate Afghan women.  As Human Rights Watch pointed out last year, that has been an abysmal failure.  Today:

  • The majority of Afghan women are vulnerable to violence in their homes. Violence against women is definitely not just something that we can say is because of the Taliban.
  • The judiciary system provides scant recourse for survivors of that violence. If there are no witnesses to these crimes, the women can be convicted of adultery.
  • Victims are often jailed or murdered.  Women who face domestic violence can be pushed to tragic extremes, including suicide; self-immolation is often the method of choice.  The burn hospital in Herat recently reported 90 cases of self-immolation in an 11 month period. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where the suicide rate for women is higher than for men.
  • 70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages often before the age of 12.  There are actually markets where women are bought and sold.
  • Going to school is risky for girls because of fire bombings and acid attacks.
  • The assassinations of several prominent women leaders have gone unpunished.
  • And finally, women and children frequently find themselves in the line of fire during military actions.  In addition, obtaining food and shelter or medical care, finding a hospital to deliver a baby can become all but impossible when there is fighting going on.

And in Iraq, again we used the justification of liberating women as a reason for war.  And while we’ve declared an official end to combat there, for Iraqi women, the war is far from over:

  • 740,000 widows in Iraq due to the last war with little or no means of support.
  • Many women have become refugees in Jordan and Syria, often away from families who could provide protection and support.
  • The new Constitution, which we gave our blessing to gives precedence to Islamic law over civil law.
  • Honor killings have increased dramatically.
  • Sexual Trafficking where women are  being forced to prostitute themselves to feed their families, or are being sold to sex traffickers has increased dramatically.

———

But it is not only civilian women who are at risk.

According to several studies, 30% of women in the U.S. military are raped while serving, 71% are sexually assaulted and 90% are sexually harassed. It is believed that 90% of sexual assaults in the military are never reported. As one Congresswoman noted recently, women serving in the military are more at risk of being harmed by their fellow soldiers than by any enemy.

It’s also important to note that the problems described apropos of the military also apply to women working for private contractors such as KBR/Halliburton, Blackwater (now known as Xe), etc. which is very relevant since while we are officially withdrawing combat troops from Iraq, there are still many, many private contractors there.

———-

So that gives you some context about why 1325 is so important.  Before I close I do also want to note that in addition to 1325, there are a number of other vehicles that in part address the impact of militarism on women and the need to include women in conflict resolution.  They include:

CEDAW (1979) which stands for The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and defines violence against women as a violation of women’s human rights and is often described as an international bill of rights for women. As of August, 2009, 185 countries had ratified CEDAW. The United States is one of the few that have not yet ratified it, along with countries such as Iran and Sudan.

Resolution 1820 (2008), urges all parties to armed conflicts to immediately stop acts of sexual violence against civilians and calls for the protection of women and girls from all forms of sexual violence.

We also have the International Criminal Court which was created in 1998. It classify sexual violence as a war crime and provides a means by which perpetrators can be held accountable. The U.S. however, opposes the ICC and does not participate.

And finally, here in the U.S., the bipartisan International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) was reintroduced in Congress last February. It would be the first of its kind to comprehensively incorporate US foreign assistance programs to help stop gender-based violence and poverty, promote economic opportunities for women, halt violence against girls in schools, and ultimately empower women.

———

Those are some of the tools available to us on an international and national level, but you and I—we’re not members of Congress or delegates to the United Nations.  So the thought that I want to leave you with is what we—those of us here today—can do to change this paradigm.  I like to frame this in terms of what I call the Peace Agenda, not the War Agenda, because after all, isn’t peace what we say we are trying to achieve?

Make Violence Against Women a Part of the Peace Agenda:

  • We need to make the connection between the othering that enables militarism and the othering that enables sexual violence.
  • We need to take intimate violence as seriously as the other violences of war.
  • We need to admit that sexual violence is a tool of war. When men go to war, women and children are overwhelmingly the innocent victims.  We need to own up to this and make it a front and center issue.

We need to make a fundamental paradigm shift away from Power Over thinking and move towards partnership thinking.  Rather than seeing others as adversaries, let’s look at how can we partner to create solutions and make meaningful and just relationships.  Then we will be truly empowered.

It is crucial that we look at conflict resolution from a gendered lens.  When we discuss the impact of militarism and how to end it, we are simply not looking at the full picture unless we include the ways it affects women and also listen, really listen, to women’s voices  when we look towards resolution of conflict and the creation of peace and I believe that 1325 is one of the best tools we have for truly creating a women-inclusive peace and am grateful to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) for all their work in working towards its implementation.

———

For a further discussion of 1325 particularly in the context of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq, here is the interview I did on these topics on Pacifica’s KPFK’s Feminist Magazine.

Also, to learn more about 1325 and the organizations that are working to promote its implementation, the following links may be useful.

Share
 September 26, 2010  Posted by on September 26, 2010 Comments Off
Sep 212010
 

Feminist Peace Network Director Lucinda Marshall will be interviewed on  Pacifica KPFK’s Feminist Magazine at 10pm edt/7pm pdt Wednesday evening, September 22.  She will be discussing the importance of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and other related issues with Melissa Chiprin.  You can listen live here and the show will also be archived.

Share
 September 21, 2010  Posted by on September 21, 2010 Comments Off
Sep 192010
 

When it comes to media, gender parity is still a long way off. Women’s voices are under-represented and our lives are under-reported. From the Fourth Global Media Monitoring Project (2010):

  • 24% of the people interviewed, heard, seen or read about in mainstream broadcast and print news are female.
  • Women have achieved near parity as givers of popular opinion in news stories. At the same time, less than one out of every five experts interviewed is female.
  • An analysis of media coverage on selected issues of special concern to women contained in the Beijing Platform  for Action reveals such issues receive an  average of less than 1.5% media attention each.
  • Almost one half (48%) of all news stories reinforce gender stereotypes, while 8% of news stories challenge gender stereotypes. Women tend to be portrayed in their roles as wives, mothers, etc. News stories by female reporters are almost twice as likely to challenge gender stereotypes than stories by male reporters.
  • Only 12% of news stories highlight issues of gender equality or inequality.
  • Only 9% of news stories mention gender equality policies or human and women’s rights legal instruments.

Discouraging to say the least.  Which makes programs like Global Girl Media all the more exciting.  This excellent organization empowers high school age girls from under-served communities through media, leadership and journalistic training to have a voice in the global media universe and their own futures.

In the long run, it is unquestionably projects like this that will change the damaging and inequitable media paradigm.

Share
 September 19, 2010  Posted by on September 19, 2010 Comments Off
Sep 162010
 

Every now and again, I get in a mathematical frame of mind.  So today I offer you this math problem:

(.13 x 1,000) x 365 = ?

I’ll give y’all a few minutes to get out those calculators…okay times up.  Everyone come up with 47,450?

Now let’s talk about what that number is.  Every day, 1000 women fall victim to maternal mortality, about 365,000 women per year (although some put that figure higher, nearer 500,000/yr.). Almost all of those deaths are preventable.

According to the United Nations, there are three things we could be doing to stop maternal mortality, they are:

1. Strengthening health systems

Women are more than just mothers, and improving the health care they receive throughout their lives improves their health as mothers, too.

It doesn’t get donor support because compared to targeting a specific disease, health system strengthening is not as sexy. (And takes a while to explain.)  Improving the Ministry of Health’s ability to allocated health care funds is nowhere near as photogenic as distributing prenatal vitamins.

2. Improving access to safe abortion

Unsafe abortion accounts for 13% of maternal deaths. When you add that to the number of women who die giving birth to unwanted pregnancies, it becomes clear that access to safe abortion would radically improve the health of mothers.

Access to safe abortions doesn’t get funded because abortion is incredibly controversial, and no donor will be associated with it.

3. Supporting access to contraception

It’s safer not to be pregnant than it is to be pregnant. Across the board, in all circumstances. You know what helps with that? Contraceptives.  Yet 200 million women around the world want to control their family size and have no access to contraception.

Contraception does get donor support, but it’s hard to improve access because there are so many barriers. The barrier might be access to a health care provider, money, or a whole pile of other things. For example, even if a woman can easily get free contraception from a provider, she may not be allowed to use it by a husband or mother-in-law. Use of contraception is tied to women’s roles in society, and that doesn’t change overnight.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that 13% might not sound like all that big a number but it translates to 47,450 women  dead every year because we can not get our collective act together to provide them a safe way to end their pregnancies.  We need  to quit thinking of abortion as something that is too controversial to be included in discussions of how to provide global reproductive health.  The truth is that it is essential and tens of thousands of women are dying every year because we refuse to accept that truth and it is time, once and for all, for that to stop.  Learn more about Millennium Goal 5, Improving Maternal Health here.

Share
 September 16, 2010  Posted by on September 16, 2010 1 Response »