WPSN-C event: Yasmin Sooka speaks about women’s rights and violence in Sri Lanka

UN Photo - IDP Camp in Sri Lanka

Residents of the Manik Farm IDP camp await the arrival of the United Nations Secretary-General in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka. Photo credit: Eskinder Debebe/United Nations.

On May 8, Yasmin Sooka, a South African human rights lawyer and activist, will be speaking about women’s rights and violence in Sri Lanka at a brown bag lunch. The event is free and open to the public, and will be held from noon-1pm at Amnesty House, 312 Laurier Avenue East in Ottawa.

This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about women’s rights issues in Sri Lanka and for those who want to stand in solidarity with Sri Lankan women as they assert their rights.

Yasmin is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, and also served on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She is known internationally due to her assistance in writing two significant reports concerning human rights in Sri Lanka.

One of these reports is the Panel of Experts’ report on Sri Lanka issued in April 2011. This document advised UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the issue of accountability with regard to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

The other report is An Unfinished War: Torture and Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka, May 2009-March 2014 issued in March 2014. This report is based on the testimony of 40 women and men who were witnesses to violence in Sri Lanka and concludes that their credible accounts establish a prima facie case for post-war crimes against humanity. These crimes involve torture, rape, and sexual violence by the Sri Lankan military five years after its defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009. Despite the conclusion of the military conflict, continued human rights violations have taken place, and still happen, in “a climate of impunity” and “absence of accountability” – endorsed at the “highest level” of government.

The event will be co-hosted by Amnesty International, Nobel Women’s Initiative and the WPSN-C.

Film: War on Women

UN Photo - Survivors of sexual violence in DRC - by Marie Frechon

Women in a shelter for survivors of sexual violence in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo credit: Marie Frechon/United Nations.

War on Women” is a powerful, 15-minute film by award-winning filmmaker Dearbhla Glynn. Featuring testimonies from sexual violence survivors and perpetrators, as well as insights from analysts and activists, the film explores the impact of sexual violence and the culture of impunity that allows this violence to continue in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It also offers insights into how this situation might change.

The film was produced by the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), a UN-supported news agency devoted to humanitarian news and analysis. Based in Kenya, IRIN produces content in 6 languages, serves 82 countries and has won several awards for its coverage of health issues and climate change.

Unfortunately, the UN will cease funding IRIN in December 2014 and its future is in doubt. For more information, please see IRIN’s website or the petition to maintain the agency’s funding.

WPSN-C Membership Drive

WPSNC LogoToday is the last day of our membership drive, so if you haven’t signed up yet, we’d be happy to hear from you!

The WPSN-C is committed to addressing issues of women, peace and security, and to providing a forum for exchange and organizing between members. As our “Member Spotlight” series has shown, WPSN-C members have a wide range of expertise and experience, and everyone brings something unique to the network.

Thank you to everyone who has shared our call for new members. We’ve had a great response so far and are looking forward to working with our new colleagues!

Member Spotlight: CFUW is a multi-issue advocacy organization that supports women’s rights

WPSN-C - CFUW at CSW 2014
CFUW and IFUW members at the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2014.

The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization with over 100 CFUW Clubs located in every province across Canada. Since its founding in 1919, CFUW has been working to improve the status of women, and to promote human rights, public education, social justice, and peace.

CFUW is the largest affiliate of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), the leading girls’ and women’s global organization run by and for women, advocating for women’s rights, equality and empowerment through access to quality education and training up to the highest levels.

CFUW advocates for policy changes at the federal level and encourages its member Clubs across the country to work with their local politicians and communities to advance the mission of the organization. CFUW determines its policy position on issues through a grassroots resolution process that engages members at the local level and by a vote at its Annual General Meeting.

The promotion of peace and security is a key aspect of CFUW’s advocacy, with members supporting policy resolutions related to women, peace and security, peace education, peacekeeping and banning landmines. The CFUW was a founding member of the Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada in 2012 and continues to be actively involved in the network.

The WPSN-C is a great way for CFUW to stay “plugged in” to women, peace and security issues globally, and to keep on top of how the Government of Canada is implementing and promoting women’s participation in peacebuilding. This enables CFUW to keep its membership informed and to decide when to encourage stronger action from the Canadian government.

For instance, due to its participation in the WPSN-C and knowledge gained through this network, CFUW has called for the Government of Canada to ensure that Afghan women have an integral role in creating lasting peace in their country, including meaningful participation in Afghanistan’s peace talks.

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If you would like to join the WPSN-C or have questions regarding membership, please email us at wpsncanada@gmail.com or visit the Become a Member page.

Member Spotlight: Kristine St-Pierre is consultant on gender, peace and security

WPSN-C Member - Kristine St-Pierre

WPSN-C Steering Committee member, Kristine St-Pierre, is a consultant who offers training on women, peace and security issues.

Kristine St-Pierre is a Gender, Peace and Security Consultant who has worked with international and national non-governmental organizations and governments around the world. Her focus is on facilitation and training, particularly for members of the military and police who are being deployed as peacekeepers.

From 2007 to 2013, Kristine worked with the Pearson Centre. This independent organization was mandated to support Canada’s contribution to international peace and security through education, training and research until its closure in November 2013.

Through the Pearson Centre, Kristine offered courses and seminars on gender, peace and security issues in Africa, Latin America and North America. Among her most notable projects were: pre-deployment training on sexual and gender-based violence for female police officers from Nigeria who were about to be deployed as peacekeepers; supporting the development of a gender policy for the police peacekeeping divisions in Benin and Burkina Faso; and working with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations on the development and delivery of standardized curriculum that integrated gender perspectives into the work of UN military personnel.

Currently, Kristine is finishing a Master’s degree in journalism at Carleton University. She published an op-ed, A Shaky Commitment to Women, in the Ottawa Citizen in 2013, and a background paper titled Implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Peace Operations: Overview of Recent Efforts and Lessons Learned through Peacebuild in 2011.

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If you would like to join the WPSN-C or have questions regarding membership, please email us at wpsncanada@gmail.com or visit the Become a Member page.