Keeping 1325 Alive: Four Strategies to Reduce Sexual Violence in Conflict: South Sudan

Today’s blog post will address an article by Spangaro et al., (2015) entitled ‘Mechanisms underpinning interventions to reduce sexual violence in armed conflict: A realist-informed systematic review’ and will apply it to the local South Sudan context.

Sexual violence is used as a tactic of war in many conflict areas worldwide, by both military and rebel groups, and even within and by the humanitarian community. The direct consequence that sexual violence has on victims is catastrophic, traumatic and life-long. Many victims are unable and/or unwilling to access treatment centers, and receive psychological support due to factors such as lack of awareness of available services, social stigma surrounding sexual assault, and mistrust in existing resources. This can perpetuate the traumatizing experience resulting in the possible untreated physical trauma, STI or HIV infection, as well as the short and long term psychological effects. Preventing and protecting against sexual violence is key, however, providing survivors of sexual violence with treatment that fits within the cultural context of the community is just as crucial. There are a number of mechanisms of intervention that dominate most strategies to reduce sexual violence in conflict and to provide treatment to survivors, and this post will discuss 4 of them. Continue reading “Keeping 1325 Alive: Four Strategies to Reduce Sexual Violence in Conflict: South Sudan”

Sexual assault, UN peacekeeping, and the Code Blue campaign: part 2

Read part one

Canada’s Response

On June 4, 2015, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, issued a statement condemning in the “strongest terms all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peace operations.” The statement goes on to express outrage over the delay in UN investigations and to welcome the announcement of the UN efforts to address sexual abuse and exploitation.

While Canada presses the UN to “do more to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse and to fully investigate any allegations against UN peacekeepers and staff,” one cannot ignore the irony and shallowness of these statements. The statement focuses on negative action, rather than offering any assistance moving forward. However, at this point, it is questionable if Canada would even have the capability to assist with this process. Canada’s own military and RCMP are both currently facing public scrutiny as reports and lawsuits are exposing ‘toxic’ environments for women and members of the LGBT community. Continue reading “Sexual assault, UN peacekeeping, and the Code Blue campaign: part 2”

Sexual assault, UN peacekeeping, and the Code Blue Campaign: Part 1

When the UN becomes the protectors of predators, instead of the prosecutors of predators, that destroys me because I believe in the UN and I believe in the power of the UN to make change.”

Theo Sowa, CEO of African Women’s Development Fund.

by Sara Walde, WPSN-C intern and MA candidate in International Development and Global Studies (with a specialization of feminist and gender studies)

The recent launch of AIDS-Free World’s Code Blue Campaign could not hacodeblueve been timelier. Revelations of child sexual abuse, perpetrated by French, Chadian, and Equatorial Guinean peacekeepers, were made public not a month before this global campaign to end immunity for UN peacekeeper sexual violence was announced. The knowledge of these horrific acts, involving hungry and homeless boys as young as eight, was never meant for public consumption. Indeed, when high-level UN officials gained knowledge of these abuses, they did the unthinkable: nothing.

Internal UN documents received by AIDS-Free World reveal severe gaps in the UN’s ability to adhere to its ‘zero-tolerance’ policy. These documents showed that by mid-July 2014, at least 12 UN officials were made aware of the abuses that occurred that spring. These officials also knew that no action had been, or was scheduled to be, taken. It wasn’t until senior aid worker Anders Kompass learned of the crimes that something was done. Seeing the UN’s failure to act, Kompass provided an internal report to French authorities, who subsequently thanked Kompass and launched an investigation. Senior level UN officials then began to be interested. However, as AIDS-Free World notes, the interest wasn’t in justice and care for the young boys; it wasn’t in ensuring more children weren’t harmed; and it wasn’t in condemning and persecuting the paedophilic peacekeepers. Rather, the sole focus was on Kompass’ actions concerning the leaked documents. Continue reading “Sexual assault, UN peacekeeping, and the Code Blue Campaign: Part 1”

Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights: Presentation by Jess Tomlin, executive director, MATCH International

The following is the prepared remarks presented by Jess Tomlin, executive director, MATCH International, at the Senate Human Rights Committee on June 11, 2015. Video is also available.

Thank you very much, Madame Chair, and good morning to all. I would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to appear before you today.

My name is Jess Tomlin, the Executive Director of The MATCH International Women’s Fund. We have been supporting women’s movements globally for nearly 40 years and our funding now comes entirely from individual Canadians. We are Canada’s only international women’s fund and we strive to channel more resources directly into women-led, community-based organizations that serve women and girls. We support organizations in more than 25 countries globally. Because of this, my remarks will focus on the vital role women’s organizations are playing across the broad spectrum of peace and security.

Two years ago, The MATCH Fund launched a global call for proposals to take the pulse on the state of women’s organizations around the world, many of them in conflict-torn countries. We received nearly 1,000 proposals, the large majority of which asked for funding to combat violence against women. Of these proposals, we received $3 million worth of requests from women’s organizations working specifically in conflict-torn countries. We were able to fund only 7.  I’m here today on behalf of the others.

When I last spoke to this Committee in March 2014, I shared that the average annual income of a grassroots women’s rights organization is only $20,000. This figure drops to $12,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Today, let me also highlight that:

  • 48% of these organizations never receive core funding for day-to-day necessities such as turning on the lights, powering the internet, or providing a modest salary for staff members.
  • It is, therefore, no surprise that 1/5 of grassroots women’s rights organizations regularly face the heartbreaking decision to close their doors due to financial shortfalls.

Yet, these are the organizations that have the greatest positive impact on women living in conflict. When they close their doors due to a lack of funding, women cannot access valuable services. These are the women that stand in the way of the side effects of violent conflict in its many ugly forms- Early forced marriage, trafficking, rape and other extreme forms of sexual violence.

I implore the committee to see the work that women do at the grassroots as an essential part of brokering peace. I will illustrate this by drawing on examples of women’s rights organizations that The MATCH Fund currently supports.

  • During the 2014 protests in Ukraine, women’s organizations were the ones staffing hotlines and volunteering at pop-up medic centres. It is also these women’s organizations that are working hard to mitigate the rise in trafficking. Since the onset of the conflict, 1 in 10 Ukranians know someone who has been trafficked;
  • In the Democratic Republic of the Congo,1.7 million women in a 2011 survey reported having been raped, most often by armed combatants. Midwives of a South Kivu women’s organization noticed that a significant number of the pregnant women with whom they worked were carrying the child of their rapist. Due to the midwives unique position within the community, this organization provided midwives with training to deliver trauma services to these rape survivors.
  • In Colombia, sexual violence is widespread and has been used by all sides in the conflict as a war strategy. A recent study situated the impunity rate for these crimes at 98%. Women’s groups worked tirelessly to pass a new law last year to protect survivors and to improve access to justice.

In spite of the fact that these organizations run wide and deep, responding in ways few others can, they remain the most underfunded asset in the international peace and security effort.

In April 2015, Canada announced an additional $5.5 million to address sexual and gender based violence in fragile and conflict-afflicted areas. As the most recent Government Progress Report on Canada’s Action Plan specifically states, “the empowerment of women in decision-making processes, including for conflict resolution, is central to Canada’s foreign policy.” This is a welcome and necessary commitment to be sure.

However, of the organizations that received this funding, not one of them is a women’s rights organization- and by that I mean an organization working within the community, led by women with the focus of supporting women and girls. We cannot empower women if we are unwilling to increase our direct support to women-led organizations in conflict zones.

I implore the committee: Canada must commit in a significant, long-term way to grassroots women’s rights organizations as they are essential assets in building lasting peace.

To conclude, I would also like to echo my support for the Global Acceleration Instrument for Women, Peace, and Security, which is on track to launch this fall.

This instrument is just one of the many ways we can work together to put much-needed funding into the hands of women in conflict areas. Propping up these organizations will ensure higher success in brokering peace and in keeping people safe.

Thank you for your time today, and would be happy to answer any further question members of the committee may have.

Thank you.

Julienne Lusenge and the situation for women in eastern DRC

by Monique Cuillerier,
Membership & Communications Director,
World Federalist Movement – Canada

On Tuesday, January 20th, Julienne Lusenge, President of Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development (SOFEPADI), provided an account of her experience mobilizing women in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to a group in Ottawa.

Current situation

Lusenge provided a very helpful overview of the ongoing conflict in eastern DRC, particularly in Beni, in North-Kivu province. She described the area as largely agricultural — the current conflict has prevented people from getting to their fields, resulting in a lack of both food and money for the local population.

The government’s response has, unfortunately, been a military one. United Nations peacekeepers (part of the MONUSCO mission) are based in the area, but there is a general lack of confidence in them and their ability to protect civilians. Meetings between civil society organizations and various levels of government have been held and some agreements have been reached with regards to addressing the levels of violence. There remains, however, a general lack of interest in addressing peace and security issues from politicians.

Continue reading “Julienne Lusenge and the situation for women in eastern DRC”