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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A Reflection on Event with Gloria Steinem

Last week, Global Rights for Women celebrated our 2nd anniversary with over 500 friends – old and new – at the Hilton Minneapolis. We were thrilled to have the support of various community partners and to raise money to support our international work to end violence against women and girls.
We were thrilled to be joined by Gloria Steinem, who shared her perspective on the pandemic of violence against women. Her wisdom and insights motivates and regularly informs and inspires our work. If you missed the conversation, check out the live recording on our Facebook Page.
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Our vision is a world without violence. This is a time of great change and progress for women in our world. We value your partnership as we embrace this opportunity. Thank you for being a part of our community and working with us!

Everyone Suffers When Violence Keeps Girls Out of School

Malagasy School girlsAround the world children are returning to or starting school for the first time. For many families the beginning of the school year is a time of hope and excitement.  Children are looking forward to meeting new friends, learning and trying new activities. What we so often forget amongst the bustle of new school supplies and first day pictures is that millions of children all around the world go without an education.

2013 estimates indicate that 59 million children did not have access to an elementary school education, over half of these children are girls. Lack of education has long term detrimental effects on everything from the ability to find and secure work to child and maternal health. A good education is critical to the development of children and to the sustainable development of societies. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said; “There is no tool more effective for development than the education of girls.”
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The Impact of Violence on the Incarceration Rate for American Women

This post is part of an ongoing series on the intersection of law and how it interacts with violence against women, illuminating how it is equally critical to make effective implementation of law, as well as the legislation itself, a priority. For background and the inspiration of this series, start here.

Although the American public has focused its attention lately on criminal justice reform, the prison population in the United States still continues to grow. In fact, statistics reveal that the number of incarcerated American women has increased by more than 700 percent from 1980 to 2014—nearly 1.5 times the rate of men.

Woman handcuffsIt should come as no surprise that mass incarceration takes a toll on our society, not only costing the United States roughly $80 billion a year on corrections expenditures, or hindering an individual’s ability to meaningfully contribute to society, but also impacting Americans outside the prison walls. Seventy-five percent of prisoners have a hard time finding employment once they are released. When a family member is incarcerated, nearly 65 percent of families cannot afford to pay for basic necessities, like food and housing.

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Zika & HIV: The Connection to Violence Against Women

image-20160128-27180-f7kk2aWhile it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think about epidemics like Zika and HIV/AIDS, there is a strong relationship between infectious disease and violence against women. This relationship goes in two directions: epidemics tend to cause an increase in violence against women, and gender based violence tends to facilitate the spread of infectious disease.

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Probation: A Key Element in an Effective Coordinated Community Response

In March of this year Global Rights for Women hosted NGO advocates and public officials from Lithuania, Latvia, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan for a workshop in Minnesota on Coordinated Community Response (CCR). CCR is a method of implementing laws and policies that prioritizes victim safety and offender accountability for domestic violence within a social change framework. CCR guides communities to build interventions that respond effectively to victims’ actual experiences. In a CCR, agencies such as police, prosecutors, courts, probation and victim advocates work together to create policies and procedures for collaboration and communication. CCR originated in Duluth, Minnesota and has been implemented all over the world.

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How Allies Can Support Rape Survivors: Avoiding the Denial, Shame, Minimization that Perpetuates Rape Culture

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 third installment in Sarah’s series. Click here for Part One and Two in the series. 

bd00582c5786f906cd4611657e370677In all human relationships, there are expectations that feel healthy to assume: your caregiver should protect you; your spouse or partner should love you; your friend should be supportive of you; even a stranger walking past you on the street should respect you – your space, your body, your human dignity. This is the unspoken human contract for how we should treat each other and be in relationship.  

Perpetrators of gender-based violence follow this unspoken contract most of the time, which allows the community to be deceived in believing perpetrators are people worth trusting all of the time. When a perpetrator commits an act of gender-based violence, it is an extreme and horrific deviation from the way they behave with most people most of the time. When they do this, they not only abuse a person’s human rights, but they also betray the very relationship they have with the victim; they betray what it means to be family, to be a friend, a partner, a colleague, a leader, a coach, a teacher, a human being. The victim, who most often knows and trusts their attacker, is left to pick up the pieces when trust is shattered, questioning, “Is there anyone I can trust?”  

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