Discussion on forced marriage with activists

20161117_190702.jpgDr. Annie Bunting, director of the Conjugal Slavery in War (CSiW) Project was in Ottawa on November 17, 2016 along with five activists researchers from five countries in Africa. They are Amelia Cooper of ADWANGA in Liberia, Zawadi Mambo of SOFEPADI in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Godelieve Mukasarasi of SEVOTA in Rwanda, and Rosaline M’Carthy of Women’s Forum in Sierra Leone.

The discussion highlighted a number of key recommendations for donor countries such as Canada. Highest on the list of recommendation is the need for funding of local women’s organisations directly. The speakers described numerous instances of duplication of the work of local organisations by large UN agencies, who are the main recipients of the funds by Western government, including the Canadian government. Some also stated instances of UN agencies asking for and using their information and data for their own reports. While the speakers believe there is value in funding UN agencies, they believe local organisations have a clear advantage when it comes to working directly in the communities, including remote and hard-to-reach communities. Longer-term funding was also mentioned as imperative in building the capacity of local organisations, including local human rights defenders and activists researchers, and ensuring that they can become more functioning in the long term.

20161117_170424The speakers also presented findings from an earlier project, in which more than 250 interviews were conducted with survivors of conjugal slavery and forced marriage in each of the five countries. These findings will inform the work of the CSiW project going forward.

They include:

  1. The fact that there is very little information and research on the distinct needs of children in conflict born out of rape. It was mentioned that the needs of these children are quite different from those of other children, and that their experiences also differ by country. As most of these children are young adults now, the project will attempt look at what has happened to them.
  1. The importance for women of economic empowerment and their ability to support themselves and their children, was found to be in some cases more important than getting justice and reparation. This has important implications for the work conducted with women survivors and the need to understand specific needs and priorities of women in different contexts.
  1. The lack of research on male victims of conjugal slavery or forced marriage and on the role of fatherhood in war and peace.

The research raised interesting questions, including how conjugal relationships in time of war relate to these same relationships in time of peace, how religion rationalizes particular relationships between men and women, and the monitoring value of international instruments.

For more information on the Conjugal Slavery in War (CSiW) Project you can visit the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diaspora at http://tubman.info.yorku.ca/research/researchers-talk-about-forced-marriage/.

Written by Kristine St-Pierre, WPSN-Canada Steering Committee Member

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