The Women, Peace and Security Act: A Significant Step Forward For Sustainable Global Peace

peace-and-equalityIn a significant step forward for effective global peace building, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Act on Tuesday, November 15th. The act promotes the meaningful participation of women in peace negotiations with the goal of preventing, mitigating and resolving violent conflict.

Four years in the making, the bipartisan legislation acknowledges the critical role that women play in national security and foreign policy. Historically, women have been excluded from or underrepresented at the negotiation table in the U.S. and around the world, and extensive research exists to show that this has likely prevented progress in fostering sustainable peace. For example, a 2015 publication by the International Peace Institute entitled “Reimagining Peacemaking: Women’s Roles in Peace Processes” reported that when negotiations include women, peace agreements are 35 percent more likely to be successful for a period of 15 years or longer.

This type of evidence helped fuel the creation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which has existed since 2011 and is aligned with the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). However, the WPS Act, if passed by the Senate, would establish legislation to ensure that the plan is fully implemented. Essentially, it would turn our action plan into law. Continue reading

The Darkness of Traumatic Brain Injuries: Not Just for Football Anymore

Headaches. Dizziness. Memory loss. Confusion. Irritability. Depression. Aggression.sadness-woman-looking-down

When imagining the people that experience these symptoms, who comes to mind? Based on current events, and potentially life experiences, you’d likely say football players. That was certainly the first group that came to my mind, as I played in college and am an avid fan well aware of the troubling information uncovered connecting the sad stories of many retired NFL players diagnosed with CTE resulting from brain injuries suffered during their playing days. You might also include boxers and/or soldiers in your answer. And all of those answers are correct.  Experts are finally taking note that, for each group, such symptoms may not appear right away but likely are the result of trauma from repeated blows to the head. But the experts’ findings are also true for another group largely forgotten in this discussion and left in the dark.

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GRW in Sarajevo and Berlin

In the last month Global Rights for Women has met with dozens of women from Europe and Central Asia who are all pursuing the goal of ending violence against women. In October we were consultants to a United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women (UNTF) conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Then we traveled to Berlin for the Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) network’s annual conference. It was wonderful to share in the energy and inspiration of the global sisterhood.

At the UNTF conference NGO representatives and others gathered to report on the outcome of grants they received to promote a multi-sectoral response to violence against women. A multi-sectoral response simply means that those who are charged with responding to violence against women collaborate in their efforts to ensure that victims are protected, their needs are met and that perpetrators are held accountable. The participants in a multi-sectoral response may include police, prosecutors, courts, social and healthcare services, and NGO victim advocates. The collaboration can take many forms, from simple referral networks to Coordinated Community Response (CCR), the comprehensive method developed in Minnesota in the 1980’s.

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Breaking the Silence

Though the work of Global Rights for Women focuses on systems change and legal form, we believe that in order to do our work effectively, we have to be continuously connected to the voices and experiences of survivors. In a four-part series on trauma-informed skills, Twin Cities, Minnesota advocate and survivor Sarah Super shares her insights on how we can be trauma-sensitive in our support of survivors of gender-based violence. Read on for the final installment in Sarah’s series. Click here for Parts One, Two and Three in the series.

Survivors of sexual violence surround each of us. I didn’t learn this until I was raped. Before I was sexually assaulted, I could not name one survivor I knew. No one had talked to me about their own experiences of surviving sexual violence, so I assumed sexual violence wasn’t a lived reality for my friends and family.

But I was wrong. In the first six weeks after being raped, I learned firsthand that silence surrounds and protects sexual violence. And I learned why sexual assault was something very few people felt safe talking about: from the failure of our criminal justice system to hold perpetrators accountable to the shame and stigma our community casts on sexual assault victims to the lack of trauma-informed allies. In my own experience, I was discouraged from talking about what happened to me for fear that it would risk the outcome of the court process. I was shamed that I had chosen a rapist for a boyfriend, as one person told me. My life was dissected in attempts to analyze and prepare for whatever defense my rapist’s team of attorneys and supporters might come up with.

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