A new UN report, which the BBC reported under an uninspiring title "Women face bias worldwide - UN", is out. No kidding? Of course women still face bias worldwide. Do we need a new report to still lament that "70% of the world's poor are women and they own just 1% of the world's titled land". I thought we established that half a century ago. Shouldn't we by now start looking at changing policies to improve the situation of women?
While I'm still on a roll being cynical, let me ask what the UN has done for women lately through its agencies - UNIFEM and UN Division for he Advancement of Women? I am aware of all the awareness endeavours that the UN is making, but I still believe that we have to move towards making some fundamental policies globally. Other human rights abuses cause an international out cry, get air time on television etc, but we are still talking about discrimination of women as if we just found out about it.
Professor Ali Mazrui, a renowned African scholar has an interesting article here entitled Kenya: Battle of the Sexes - a Historical Paradox.
In this article - which is the first part of a two-part article - Prof. Mazrui explores the various theories explaining the underlying problems of gender-based power struggle.
Photo: Personal website of Prof. Mazrui
First, among humans, the senior partner in the creation of new life is the female -woman the mother. Second, the senior partner in the destruction of life is the male -man as the warrior. Third, it is the power of destruction that has given the male dominion over the female -man as the ruler. The argument here is that the origins of male dominance do not lie in economic but in military specialisation. Women till the land, the means of production. They control the womb, the means of reproduction. But they do not control the means of physical coercion -spear, the bow and arrow and, later, the gun.
The R.O.S.E. Fund is a national non-profit organization committed to assisting victims of violence against women regain their self-esteem. The organization conducts an annual celebration to recognize the strength and achievements of survivors of domestic violence. The next event scheduled for October 9, 2007 at the Fairmount Copley Plaza, Boston, MA. More information here. For more information contact Jone Victoria at email@example.com.
Face the Issue's website asks the questions we all are scared of asking ourselves. Listen to Halley Berry's, herself a survival of abusive relationship, short but powerful narration on violent relationships.
The reasons why people don't realize that they are in abusive relation is complex. What I learnt and got stuck with me is that the abuser is "launching a campaign" against the abused. Often, the abuse begins subtly - ignoring, scolding, insulting, verbally abusing, controlling, jealousy.... All red flags of an abusive relationship.
Here are the questions that Face the Issue help us ask.
What are the symptoms of abuse?
Does your mom, dad, sibling, girlfriend or boyfriend:
• Seem like two different people, constantly switching between two personalities? • Act extremely jealous of others who pay attention to you, or use jealousy to justify his/her actions? • Make fun of you, put you down, or embarrass you in front of other people? • Control your friends and/or your behavior emotionally or sexually? • Have a history of bad relationships or past violence, always blame his/her problems on other people, or blame you for "making" him/her treat you badly? • Push, slap, bite,kick or choke you? • Try to get you drunk, high or messed up or try to get you alone when you don’t want to be? • Try to control you — by being bossy, not taking your opinion seriously, making all of the decisions about who you see, what you wear, what you do, etc. ? • Threaten to kill you or commit suicide? • Talk negatively about people in sexual ways or talk about sex like it’s a game or a contest? • Stop you from seeing or talking to friends, family or limits your outside involvement?
You know you are in a abusive relationship if you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be in an abusive relationship.
Do you know anyone who might be in an abusive relationship? Do you know someone who should learn about these "red flags"? E-mail this article to them. You never know, you may save a life.
What’s in a name? The politics of portraying victims of violence against women
There was this video I watched while taking a training course to become an advocate for battered women. It is about a Caucasian woman from an upper class who was in an abusive relationship. Throughout the short clip, the woman kept on mentioning that she didn't get out of the relationship because she didn't see herself as a battered woman. She thought the term "battered women" applied to law class and mostly black women. Of course, she had 1001 other reasons why she stayed in the relationship.
However, the main story of this woman was that she didn't even know what to call herself or the situation she was in. Admitting that she was a battered woman would mean seeing herself as a law class and uneducated woman, which was not her.
If battered women themselves have a problem with the term because of the image associated with it, what chance is there to effectively teach potential victims and abusers about VAW?
Sokari brought to my attention a recent UNIFEM public service announcement video "Let's end violence against women". A London-based advertising agency produced the video for UNIFEM. The images that stayed with me from the promo video are women living in extreme conflict areas, all women of color and all obviously from a non-Western culture. To me it's yet another wrong depiction of a wide-spread problem as the problem of those poor, far away, less fortunate, less educated… people. The danger with this type of half-accurate portait is that it obscure the reality and send out a wrong message – it's "their" problem not mine type of obscurity. Ask any advocate working to raise awareness about the challenges of VAW, and you will hear that it's making people understand the magnitude,the different forms of the problem, the red flags, the fact that it's a campaign by the abuser against the victim and so on.
Ironically, the video states that 1 in 3 women is a victim of some type of violence against women - globally. And yet, it failed to show the diverse type of women who are affected regardless of economic status, education, race, religion, geographic location etc. It would have been an eye-opener if there were also images of women in business suits and brief cases, doctor’s gowns….
Just out of curiosity, I checked out UNIFEM/USA's website to see if they have any projects in the USA. Typically, the site talks about the plights of those far away women in Afghanistan and Darfur. Nothing about, for example, domestic violence in the US. You search the site for "domestic violence in the US" and you get a page sounding like "web-searching 101 - fool!" I thought the 1:3 ratio of abused women was world-wide not jut poor countries-wide. I really wonder why UNIFEM/USA won't have a single project on VAW in the USA. Why?
What you can do Write UNIFEM and urge them to come up with a more powerful and more accurate public announcement. As it stands, their recent video pushes the problem to somebody else denying the urgency of the matter at all levels. Write your concerns to:
Ms Noeleen Heyzer Executive Director 304 East 45th Street 15th Floor New York, NY 10017 UNITED STATES Tel: +1 212-906-6400 Fax: +1 212-906-6705
While you are at it, also ask why UNIFEM/USA doesn't support any VAW projects in the US?