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Grassroots Approach to Ensuring Safety for Women and Girls

Fri, May 17, 2013

Book Excerpts

By Mahnaz Afkhami & Haleh Vaziri
In Victories Over Violence: Ensuring Safety for Women and Girls
A Practitioner’s Manual
Order at www.learningpartnership.org

As awareness and indignation have increased particularly during the last century, governments worldwide have enacted legislative and other prohibitions on violence against women and girls in their countries. States have also worked to together to formulate international laws addressing gender-based human rights violations.

Despite these positive legal developments, however, implementation and enforcement of national and international laws on violence against women and girls are at best challenging tasks for three main reasons.
First, in various countries, gender-based human rights abuses are not defined as such but rather are considered and justified as cultural and/or religious practices integral to a society’s history and identity. Women and girls who reject female genital mutilation or speak out against so-called honor crimes, for example, are taking on society’s long-standing, widely accepted and typically male guardians of culture and faith. They risk not only further physical harm but also ostracism by their immediate families, houses of worship and communities.

Moreover, is most countries, women have less access to the political and legal systems than men. Whether reporting a case of spousal battery to the police, struggling to leave an abusive husband or lobbying for legislation on domestic violence, a woman is likely to confront unequal power relations on every turn.

Finally, to ensure the implementation and enforcement of any law but particularly one that will overturn the established order requires resources. Yet women operate at an economic disadvantage in their efforts to escape, eliminate and/or address the consequences of gender-based human rights violations. Sadly and bluntly stated, living a life free of violence costs more money than many women have or can earn in a marketplace biased against them.

Indeed, a vicious circle is at work: Women and girls are easy targets of violence because men assume the gate-keeper role vis-a-vis cultural and religious values, resisting new ideas that may subvert their authority and privilege. For those women and girls who reject gender-based abuse as a normal part of everyday life, there are few avenues of redress that are not littered with political and economic obstacles.

Educating for Safety and Peace Guidelines
Consequently, the gaps between passing legislation and operationalizing the human rights of women and girls remain. Perhaps the most significant effort to close these gaps centers on education in the sense of both consciousness-raising and the development of professional expertise. Grassroots educational endeavors must help communities fully grasp the extent of violence and the short- and long-term harm done not only to victims but also to the society at large.

This educational tool, Victories Over Violence, is now in your, the faciltator’s, hands to design and create a productive and enjoyable learning experience with the workshop participants.

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About Mahnaz Afkhami

A lifetime advocate for the rights of women, Mahnaz Afkhami works with activists across the world, especially in Muslim majority societies, to help women become leaders. She is Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP), Executive Director of Foundation for Iranian Studies...more