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Arming Sisters…not with weapons, but with the courage and knowledge to fight back.
Upon working with Tahrir Body Guard (a group dedicated to ending sexual harassment in Egypt) setting up compact women’s self defense courses across Cairo, it hit me. Literally, mid joint lock, a light bulb flashed above my head. Sexual assault rates across North America towards indigenous women are at a sickening high.
For every 1,000 indigenous women in a district, 330 of them will be assaulted.
1 in 3 will be raped.
2 in 5 will experience domestic violence.
3 in 5 will be physically assaulted.
The most unique thing about these statistics? 88% of the time, the perpetrator is non indigenous. Meaning one thing: We’re being targeted. Targeted to flawed laws, racism, and deep rooted corruption in the institutions set up to protect and serve the public. Up until recently, 7 March 2013 recently, when the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized including tribal provisions, tribal governments had no authority to properly address cases.
Keep in mind, while the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is a huge step, it only covers our indigenous sisters in the United States, leaving our indigenous sisters in Canada on the same continuing path. Aside from legal protection not being able to cover the indigenous women across Turtle Island, a signed bill, regardless of borders, will not bring down the rate of assault for years to come, or delete the racism and corruption from society.
Back to the light bulb. Compact self defense courses. If they could be set up in Egypt, and laid out to the point where any woman could walk away with valuable information to save her life in the span of a 6 hour class, why not do this across Turtle Island? I couldn’t find a single reason as to why this couldn’t / shouldn’t be done, so I set out with the following aim…
Should this goal be completed, we will directly reach 2,000 women, and thousands more as they share their knowledge. Since this project is run from funding, should funding go over the set goal, courses will continue to move forward as there over 900 reservations throughout Turtle Island, the stops are, to a degree, infinite.
Help us protect our sisters. Because an act of violence against women anywhere, is an act of violence against women everywhere.
Resolution 1325 and the Need to Empower Malian Women
A Brief Overview the Situation in Mali
by The Honourable Mobina Jaffer, Daily News Egypt, April 17th, 2013
Since the beginning of January 2012, an insurgent group has been fighting with the Mali government for the independence of northern Mali, an area known as Azawad. This group, formally known as National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and also referred to as Tuareg nationalists, joined forces with Islamist rebels. By using their combined forces, they gained control of northern Mali in the spring 2012. Consequently, Toureg nationalists have gained independence of Azawad. However, due to conflicting visions with the Islamist rebels, Tuareg nationalists renounced their claim and left the rebels to rule over northern Mali.
In December, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2085, which stresses the need to refine military planning and describes the steps to be taken before an international military intervention in Mali. However, the rebel capture of Konna on 10 January prompted a proactive military intervention by France. At the beginning of the military intervention, France was also supported by African countries. United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium and Canada provided transport and cargo planes. And America focused on communications support.
Currently, French forces are reported to be engaged in heavy fighting in northern Mali. Thus far the intervention has cost France around $133 million. For its part, UN is appealing for $373 million in foreign aid. However, more than just a contribution of financial aid needs to be done in order to deal specifically with the impact that this conflict has on Malian women.
The Impact of Islamist Rebels’ Occupation of the Northern Mali on Women
The Islamist rebels consist of three main groups: Ansar Dine, Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQUIM). They want to impose a hard-line form of Shari’a in Mali. The three Islamist groups do not have concrete or strong ties to each other, but they are united in their aim to spread the Saudi-inspired Wahhabi/Salafi sect of Islam.
While in control of Northern Mali, the groups used intimidation and fear tactics in order to promote their religious beliefs. They amputated limps of people accused of crime and destroyed Sufi shrines. They used sexual violence in order to spread fear across the population. Additionally, the rebels targeted females who work, for disobeying their “laws”, because under the strict application of Islamic Shari’a law women cannot work.
Saran Keïta Diakité, the President of the Malian branch of the Réseau paix et Sécurités des Femmes, an organisation that belongs to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), notes that extremist groups are applying their own version of Shari’a law: “They cut off people arms and beat up women who have had sex outside marriage … while they themselves are raping girls and women and are forcing girls to marry. The first night, [the bride] is forced to have sex with five to six men. It’s not Shari’a.”
In January 2013, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on the situation of human rights in Mali, which covers the period from 17 January to 20 November of 2012. Although it discusses many different human rights violations, it stresses that women in particular have suffered due to an extreme interpretation of Shari’a law by the Islamist rebels. The report cites cases of harassment, abuses and sexual violence due to accusations of being improperly veiled or dressed, or for riding a motorbike.
The Impact of Resolution 1325 on the Lives of Malian Women
The impact of Resolution 1325 and its practical applications on women in conflict zones still depends largely on the willingness of commitment of dedicated individuals and Malian women have demonstrated a strong desire to participate in the decision-making processes. However, the president of the Malian Women’s Rights and Citizenship group Nana Sissako Traore states that “women are being left out of the process.”
Sadly, this is not surprising. Of the 14 peace negotiations co-led by the UN in 2011, only four had delegations that included a woman. In November 2012 however, the UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet noted at the Open Debate of Security Council on Women and Peace and Security that “in spite of their absence from official conflict resolution processes, [Malian] women leaders in the North are using informal channels to call on the leaders of armed groups to participate in peace dialogues.”
Using Resolution 1325, Malian women must demand from their government “equal participation and full involvement” and “increased representation of women at all decision making levels.” When programs for post-conflict reconstruction are created, women can ask for an equal number of women and men in these programs. There is still a significant need for a greater amount of women in decision-making roles in Mali.
Furthermore, Resolution 1325 goes on to recognise “the urgent need to mainstream a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations.” If Mali were to have a large female peacekeeping force, it may encourage the local Malian women to participate in the national armed forces. This would transform the way national armed forces interact with victimised women and ensure that the forces are part of the solution, rather than the problem. Moreover, women and children are more comfortable with reporting the abuse to women in peacekeeping missions, which means UN would have a continuous grasp of the actual situation on the ground.
Lastly, article 8 part A of Resolution 1325 draws attention to “the special needs of women and girls during repatriation and resettlement and for rehabilitation, reintegration and post conflict reconstruction.” The government and international community should provide resettling assistance to Malian working women who were driven out from their home cities due to the rebel’s beliefs that women are not allowed to work.
Senator Mobina Jaffer represents the province of British Columbia in the Senate of Canada, where she chairs the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. Senator Jaffer is the first Muslim senator, the first African-born senator, and the first senator of South Asian descent
Photo from Indian Country Today Media Network http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/
Thunder Bay sex assault, hate-crime probe sharpen focus on native women’s plight
by Gloria Galloway
OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail, Jan. 02 2013
A brutal sexual assault of a native woman in northwestern Ontario that is being investigated as a hate crime has thrown fresh fuel on the fires of discontent being expressed in protests and demonstrations by first nations people across Canada.
A candlelight vigil to pray for female victims of crime was held on Wednesday night at a reserve adjacent to Thunder Bay, where the unnamed woman is recovering. She has told police she was assaulted, strangled and left for dead by two men who hurled racial epithets and denounced indigenous rights.
More Related to this Story
The assault comes at a time when native leaders are calling for a public inquiry to explore the depth of violence against women. Simultaneously, the grassroots Idle No More movement is inspiring natives and supporters to stage flash mob dances and blockades across the country to protest against federal legislation that first nations people say will hurt their communities, and native leaders are calling for a national day of action on Jan. 16 to support a hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.
The Ontario assault was far from an isolated incident. At least 600 aboriginal women and girls have gone missing or been murdered in Canada in the past two decades. Native leaders say the number of victims actually runs into the thousands.
“It is systemic discrimination,” Michéle Audette, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
Joyce Hunter helped arrange the Thunder Bay vigil and is a lead organizer of the local branch of Idle No More. “We were reminded when this attack occurred that oppression takes many forms, and it is a very strong and potent reminder that there is so much work still that needs to be done in order for first nations people in Canada to achieve the parity that we are looking for,” she said.
Idle No More protests continue to erupt. On Wednesday, part of Portage Avenue in Winnipeg was blockaded for several hours.
Chief Spence, who has been on a hunger strike for 23 days, is demanding a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and first nations leaders to discuss treaty rights. Chief Wallace Fox of the Onion Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and Chief Isadore Day of the Serpent River First Nation in Ontario have written to Mr. Harper to affirm their “complete commitment” to Ms. Spence, to support Idle No More, and to warn of the plans for the national day of action.
The letter is the result of telephone conferences with chiefs across Canada over the weekend, Mr. Fox said. It says the native leaders will appeal to the international community, including U.S. President Barack Obama, to press the Canadian government to “correct the relationship it has with the indigenous peoples.”
Meanwhile, police in Thunder Bay say they have a full team of investigators on the assault, which the unnamed victim says took place last Thursday night as she was walking to the store. “We are treating this very seriously and this is a major investigation for us,” said Chris Adams, a police spokesman.
The woman said she was walking down the street when two white men in a green car pulled up beside her.
“They called her squaw and dirty Indian as she was walking and they were throwing things at her from the car, pieces of garbage and cans,” said Christi Belcourt, a noted Canadian artist who is a friend of the alleged victim and is speaking on her behalf.
The woman says the men then stopped the car and pulled her by her hair into the back seat.
“She tried to fight back, but there were two of them and the one was stronger than she was and he sat on her and they drove her to the outskirts of Thunder Bay,” Ms. Belcourt said. “They said what they were going to do to her as they were driving and she started to panic and she was fighting back, but they overpowered her.”
The men told her they had done similar things before and would do it again, Ms. Belcourt said.
“And they told her, as they assaulted her, that ‘you Indians deserve to lose your treaty rights.’ They wouldn’t have said that if it wasn’t for Idle No More,” Ms. Belcourt said.
“Psychologically, she is traumatized,” Ms. Belcourt said of her friend, who does not want her name made public because she is afraid the men will track her down and kill her when they find out she didn’t die.
The vigil in Thunder Bay was organized with heavy hearts but also lots of hope that change may be coming, Ms. Hunter said.
Ms. Audette of the Native Women’s Association said an inquiry is necessary because Canadians “need to know that it’s happening in their own backyard here in Canada. We hear that it happens a lot in Mexico or India, but it is happening here in Canada because we are aboriginal and we are women.
“There are at least 600 other women who are of first-nations descent who have experienced that kind of violence, and their killers are still walking free today,” she said, “and it’s so disturbing that that kind of violence has gone unanswered in a real and meaningful and honest way.”
Indian protesters hold candles during a vigil in New Delhi on Saturday, December 29, after the death of a gang-rape victim. Authorities erected security barriers throughout New Delhi's key government district after two days of street battles following a woman's gang rape on a bus on December 16. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has appealed for calm and pledged safety for women and children.
From Facebook: posted by Alice Walker Film
23-year-old Delhi student endearingly referred to as "Braveheart" transitioned "peacefully" on Saturday, Dec 29th (local time) at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital. Please hold her in the light as she makes this journey and may her death serve as a catalyst to shift from a rape culture to a culture free from violence against women. #onebillionrising
Also, read the powerful speech delivered by Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) on "Freedom without Fear":
"The last thing I want to address are the people who say not to mix politics with rape. We cannot disregard politics as insignificant; we do need to talk about politics. There is a culture in our country that justifies rape; that defends the act through the words of people like KPS Gill who said that women who dress provocatively invite rape, and many other such high ranking officials like him. If we are to change any of this, we need to politicise the issue of violence against women, find out what women are saying about what is being done to them. The government has to listen. Just shedding a few crocodile tears within the confines of the Parliament is not enough, it is not enough to scream ‘death penalty’ and wind up the issue. I find it funny that the BJP is demanding death penalty for the rapists, when within it’s own constituencies it gets goons to chase down girls who wear jeans or fall in love with members of minority communities — saying that women must adhere to ‘Indian sensibilities’, or else. We need to create a counter culture against this ultimatum. We need to create a counter politics, one that asks for the right for women to live freely without fear."
Read the rest of the Hindi to English translation of her speech here:
RAPE VICTIM DIES IN SINGAPORE, AN ENTIRE NATION MOURNS
New Delhi/Singapore, Dec 29 (IANS)
The unnamed and unidentified gang-rape victim who became the face of courage against savage odds died in a Singapore hospital Saturday, leaving all of India stunned and shaken with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee echoing millions in saying her death should not be in vain.
In the dying days of the year, the young physiotherapy intern lost her battle for life far away from home in a Singapore hospital - 13 days after a trip to a south Delhi mall to see a film with a friend ended in her being brutally tortured and raped by six men in a moving bus.
She was left, stripped and bloody, virtually for dead on that cold December night, so grievously injured that her intestines had to be taken out. Now she is dead.
The six accused, including one suspected juvenile, are in jail and all of society in the dock. All six will now face murder charge.
The woman, only 23, passed away peacefully at 4.45 a.m. with her family and Indian diplomats by her side, Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital official Kelvin Loh said. The trauma was "too severe for her to overcome", he said.
Eight specialists had struggled to save the doughty woman, whose father had to sell his ancestral land to fund her education.
"She had suffered from severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain," Kevin said. "We are humbled by the privilege of being tasked to care for her in her final struggle."
"The girl of course was unconscious... I must say they (the family) bore the entire process with a great deal of fortitude and a great deal of courage," added India's High Commissioner to Singapore T.C.A. Raghavan.
Questions also arose on why she was shifted to Singapore when her health was so precarious. And the government was the target. For lax policing that led to the incident and for taking the risky decision to move her.
The body will be flown back Saturday evening in a special aircraft.
Details of the funeral rites for the woman, who united the entire nation in anguish and grief, were not revealed.
As introspection continued on the vulnerability of women, the legal framework to prevent aggravated sexual assaults and ways to stem such crimes, there were tears and protests. From politicians, celebrities, students and domestic workers. Men and women, everybody was a stakeholder.
Calling the young woman -- who had been communicating with her family till almost the end and said she did want to die -- "a true hero", the president said she "symbolizes the best in Indian youth and women".
"At the same time, let us resolve that this death will not be in vain," he added.
The prime minister spoke out in almost the same words - that it was up to "us all to ensure that her death will not have been in vain" and India becomes "a demonstrably better and safer place for women to live in".
The government said it would take urgent steps to crack down oncrime against women and fast-track the prosecution of the accused.
"...Our impotence stares us in the face. May SHE become the wake-up call our country needs. We must soul search. Female foeticide; inequal access to nutrition, education, health; no decision making powers; dowry demands; rapes rampant. INDIA WAKE UP," is what actress-activist Shabana Azmi said.
In a rare moment of unanimity, India's civil society agreed.
Though there was a virtual lockdown in Delhi's city centre, protesters gathered at Jantar Mantar area close by. A policeman had died in one angry protest in the capital and Delhi Police was clearly taking no chances.
But the mood was more sombre this Saturday morning. A stunned silence had taken over as people gathered in their hundreds to show their solidarity with the woman who had fought so long and hard. There was the realisation that this could have been any of them, or their friends, sisters and mothers.
And it not just in Delhi. In Lucknow, in Mumbai and in Bangalore, where a mother tried to hold back her tears: "I have a daughter and I don't want this to happen to her."
Was this India's wake-up moment?
CALLS FOR GREATER GUN CONTROL AFTER MASS SHOOTING AT SCHOOL
by claudinezap, The Lookout, 2012-12-14
The horrific shooting at the Newtown, Conn., elementary school that left multiple people dead, including, it's believed, 20 children, has re-ignited the gun control debate.
Public figures immediately jumped in to offer condolences, while others called for new restrictions. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was "shocked and saddened" by the tragic shooting. He said society should "unify" to "crack down on the guns." And New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said "immediate action" was needed.
Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was gravely injured by a gunman in Tucson in 2011, wrote on Facebook: "The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws—and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) tweeted, "No words can console the parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook. We share our prayers and our grief over these horrifying events."
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey of New York added to the call for gun limits, saying in a statement, "Our expressions of sympathy must be matched with concrete actions to stop gun violence."
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose state experienced both the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and the shooting at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater in 2012, offered his support in a statement: "The shooting in Connecticut is absolutely horrific and heartbreaking. We know too well what impact this kind of violence has on a community and our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are immediately with the families of those killed. We can offer comfort, but we all know the pain will stay forever."
Avaaz - Tell the NRA: ENOUGH
Rosemary Brown's calls for truth-telling in response to the murder of 14 women in Engineering School:
Rosemary Brown spoke at the unveiling of Marker of Change on December 6, 1997 and we want to share her words with you today. Rosemary was a passionate advocate for women's rights:
"On December 6th, 1989, the promise was made ... no more secrets, no more lies, no more euphemisms.
"From now on the crime of the killing of women would bear its true name, and we would make every effort to ensure neither our generation nor the ones following after would ever forget, or ever allow the crime of the killing of women and girls to slip into the shadows again.
"The fourteen lives lost on that day became our marker for change."
Canada's National Day of Action and Remembrance
on Violence Against Women
This period of action and remembrance began on December 6 1989 when 14 women, many of whom were young engineering students, were massacred at L'Ecole Polytechnique of the University of Montreal because they were women.
One of the many strategies to end violence against women is fostering women's self defense. Women and girls are offered ways to protect themselves and one another by participating in workshops in Canada, Kenya, and indeed everywhere in the world.
UNDER ONE SKY
A documentary celebrating women in the martial arts
Under One Sky turns the whole genre of martial arts films on its head as it explores the physical and spiritual nature of the arts as practised by women. At a women's martial arts camp on the BC coast, women from all over North America explore an extraordinary range of martial arts. They fight collaboratively; and through their discipline, strength, joyfulness and sheer determination, it becomes evident they are on a journey of self-discovery.
Please view the entire film online, right here!
And please share this link with anyone who may be interested, especially young women and girls.
ROSE is dedicated to the promotion of violence prevention and the remembrance and honouring of women and girls who have been murdered or are missing.
By remembering our sisters everywhere we work together to prevent violence.
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