Our Network for Peace staff attended many side events of the meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) that took place in March 2013 at the United Nations.
We learned about the importance of the involvement of communities in the mission of ending violence against women. Many of these events also related to the legal aspect to prevent and remedy this type of violence, but in all of them the support of the community were cited as crucial in order to obtain advancements.
Certainly, the creation of laws is an essential part of the change we need. However, courageous action and community involvement are necessary to insure that the laws are implemented. We should not under-estimate the power that organic movements have in the process of modifying behavior and attitudes towards the social acceptance of violence against women and girls.
In addition, an important step in this process is to educate women about the problem and to make them the main agent of change. In many of the side events, the need to educate women about their rights and that violence of any sort should not be acceptable were mentioned as indispensable tools to eradicate violence against women. Unfortunately, it was stated that a considerable number of women who are in abusive relationships cannot even recognize themselves as being violated. Therefore, educating women, men and the whole community about the issue are essential parts of changing behavior and the mentality of a society.
Peggy Ray one of our staff discussed an event in which she participated which shows a good example of what has been discussed. She told us of about a campaign that has made great use of incorporating women and the community as tools to eradicate violence against women in South Asia. She reported about the work of the WECAN campaign that aims to change social norms of acceptance of violence against women by encouraging women to become change makers by their recognition of being violated and then their sharing that recognition with ten other people in the community. The program started in 2004, and reports have shown that the initiative has been quite effective and efficient. To learn more about the program go to http://www.wecanglobal.com .
Surely, WECAN is a good example of how a movement that started within the communities is able to expand and bring the change needed in our male dominated/patriarchal society. In terms of gender inequality, another important aspect of the issue is that many communities have legitimized violence against women by accepting it as part of their culture. However, we should be careful to not misinterpret culture with ancient set behaviors of oppression. Culture should not violate human rights in the first place. Culture should not be preserved at the cost of perpetuating violence against women. In resume, these were our reflections and main ideas that came out of the week of side events of the CSW.
By Taina de Carvalho, intern for Network for Peace through Dialogue