Educating Girls with Disabilities around the World: A Guest Blog

Stephanie Ortoleva photo

My friend, Stephanie Ortoleva, President and Founder of Women Enabled, Inc.

Friday, October 11 was the International Day of the Girl.  To celebrate that day, one of my best friends, Stephanie Ortoleva, wrote about a missing piece of the conversation on educating girls – the education of girls with disabilities.  I thought you’d like to hear what she has to say. Thus this guest blog.

First, a bit about Stephanie. She is the President and Founder of Women Enabled, Inc., a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of woman and girls with disabilities in collaboration with activist organizations around the world.  She is also an international human rights lawyer, advocate, speaker, and author.  You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook and read her papers on the Social Science Research Network.

If you like this blog, you can get more information on this topic from Stephanie.  She has written a chapter in a soon-to-be-published (2014) Sage Publications book edited by Asha Hans entitled “Women and Girls with Disabilities – Global Perspectives” (ordering information will be on the Women Enabled, Inc. website in the Reading and Listening Room). You can also go to the Women Enabled, Inc. website in the “Education and Employment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” section and the Publications Section for several other articles on women and girls with disabilities.

And now, here’s what Stephanie has to say on the education of girls with disabilities….

International Day of the Girl:  Focus on Education – Missing Stories in the Blogs

The United Nations has designated October 11 as International Day of the Girl, with a focus on Education.  But as I read many well-written and strong feminist posts on this issue, the concerns of millions of girls with disabilities are missing from the dialog.  Who are the missing girls?  The deaf girl in India who attends a school for deaf children and who was raped by her teachers.  The blind girl in the United States who wants to be a scientist, but is not permitted to take the classes and who is told a blind person can’t be a scientist, especially not a blind girl.  The girl with a disability in Pakistan whose parents keep her at home and will not even let her attend school because they are ashamed.  These are only a few of the untold stories.  But the statistics about education of girls with disabilities tells an even starker story.

Statistics

Estimates of the percentage of children with disabilities not attending school are extremely variable.  However, in general, children with disabilities are less likely to start school and have lower rates of staying and being promoted in school than their peers without disabilities.  The correlation between low educational outcomes and having a disability is often stronger than the correlations between low educational outcomes and other characteristics such as gender, rural residence or poverty.  The limited statistics that are available indicate that although the literacy rate for adults with disabilities is 3%, only 1% of women with disabilities are literate, based on comprehensive research completed by Harilyn Rousso for UNESCO.  These percentages are significantly lower than those for women in general.

  • The UNESCO Institute for Statistics reports, “In 2008, 796 million adults worldwide (15 years and older) reported not being able to read and write and two-thirds of them (64%) were women.  The global adult literacy rate was 83%, with a male literacy rate of 88% and a female literacy rate of 79%.” In 2010, according to a journal article by Francis  Huebler, this statistic improved marginally to a male literacy rate of 89% and a female literacy rate of 80%, with the percent differential between the genders remaining the same.
  • The World Bank and the World Health Organization Report states that out of the 51 countries included in the analysis, “50.6% of males with disability have completed primary school, compared with 61.3% of males without disability. Females with disability report 41.7% primary school completion compared with 52.9% of females without disability, a difference of 8.9% between males and females with disabilities.”
  • There is a direct correlation between poverty, being a child with disabilities and low education participation, with the girls with disabilities from lower socio-economic backgrounds rarely attending school.
  • Girls with disabilities have the lowest education participation rates of all groups and they have few opportunities for vocational training, all of which further contributes to their low employment rates.

International Law

Under international law our participation is our human right. [These rights are enumerated in both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women]. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in its Article 7 on Children with Disabilities and its Article 24 on Education focuses on the girl child with a disability and her right to education. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), in Article 10, guarantees to all women and girls the right to education.  Furthermore, in several of its General Recommendations, the CEDAW Committee has specifically addressed the rights of women and girls with disabilities. And  the Final Conclusions from the 55th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which focused on women and education and employment in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields, specifically incorporated these rights for women and girls with disabilities.  Thus, the synergy between the CRPD and the CEDAW is a vital tool for advancing our rights in this area.

Barriers to Participation in Education

Barriers to the participation of women and girls with disabilities in education are based on culture, family structures, societal attitudes and stereotypes, institutional systems, law and legal processes, economic realities, patriarchy and paternalism.  Specific barriers include:

  • Cultural bias – Often, women are denied education because it is believed that they will become wives and mothers and such resources are provided to male children.  But for women with disabilities, are often seen as unlikely to assume such roles, and thus are the last to receive family resources;
  • Double discrimination – Women and girls with disabilities face double or intersectional discrimination based on both gender and disability (as well as other identities) and stereotypical attitudes based thereon further limit our opportunities;
  • Invisibility – Girls with disabilities are often kept in the home and their births may not be registered, making them invisible to the education system, either because of assumptions about our abilities or embarrassment on the part of our families.  Additionally, misconceptions about our abilities may make us invisible to teachers even if we attend school;
  • Violence against women and girls with disabilities – Women and girls with disabilities are more likely to experience gender-based violence than their non-disabled sisters, sometimes because we are erroneously perceived as sick, helpless, asexual, and powerless, or on the other hand, we are seen as hypersexual or just lucky to have sexual experiences at all wherever we can because we are undesirable.  Additionally, women and girls with disabilities living in residential facilities or schools are even more likely to experience such abuse;
  • Pregnancy, HIV-infection and other results of sexual assault and rape – As a result of sexual violence and rape, women and girls with disabilities may become pregnant or contract sexually transmitted diseases from the abuser;
  • Bullying and teasing – Disabled girls are sometimes subjected to bullying and teasing by their peers based on both our gender and our disability, negatively impacting our emotional and cognitive development, as well as causing low self-esteem;
  • Economic resources for education – Male education is prioritized as it is believed that a male child can contribute financially to the family, and women and girls with disabilities are not viewed as worthy of an education since many assume their disabilities will preclude success;
  • Schools in inaccessible locations and/or lack of transportation – Schools that provide special education and/or education for children with disabilities in integrated settings are often located in cities and families are reluctant to send daughters to the city or there is no accessible transport to such schools.  Boys are often seen as more independent and permitted to travel to urban locations;
  • Accessibility to assistive technology and rehabilitation – Men and boys have greater access to such services;
  • Accessibility of school facilities – Often the school buildings and facilities themselves are inaccessible, posing yet another barrier;
  • Accessible toileting facilities and assistance in toileting – Provision of toileting assistance places a particular burden on women and girls with disabilities, especially with respect to menstruation which is often a taboo topic. [In addition,] access to appropriate hygiene products is non-existent or in very short supply, resulting in increased isolation for women and girls with disabilities and further impairs their ability to attend school or work;
  • Availability of special education – Girls with disabilities are less likely to receive special education, in some instances because teachers expect more from boys than girls and sometimes because girls, who may be less likely to act out due to cultural control pressures, are not referred for services based on a learning or other disability.  And even if a girl receives special education services, she may be tracked toward pursuing traditional gender-identified career paths;
  • Competitive classroom climate and teaching strategies – Competitive educational approaches are challenging to some girls with disabilities.  Mainly for the same reasons discussed earlier, like bullying, being outnumbered by males in the classroom, and low self-esteem.  In addition, many teachers are trained to teach more life skills to students with disabilities rather than focus on competitive subjects;
  • Digital divide – Women and girls with disabilities are at the bottom of the digital divide and the least likely to have access to technology;
  • Belief that girls do not do math and science – We are presumed not to have aptitude in these subjects and are steered into gender stereotypical subjects, as well as the “talent myth” which is based on the erroneous assumption that skills in STEM fields are an innate aptitude and cannot be learned;
  • Counseling based on stereotypical roles for women and girls – Counselors often steer girls with disabilities toward gender-stereotyped jobs and generally they are less likely to afford girls with disabilities vocational education. [Also,] many counselors hold the incorrect societal perception that girls with disabilities have limited aptitude or interest in STEM and other challenging subjects;
  • Girls with and without disabilities have limited interaction – Both groups would benefit from such interactions, as they contribute to networking and peer support, and reduction of fear and stigma;
  • Absence of women with disabilities as role models – The invisibility of women with disabilities in educational materials, as educators, in the workplace and in the media creates a dearth of positive role models for women and girls with disabilities; and
  • Shortage of women with disabilities as mentors – Having a responsive and supportive mentor makes the world of difference for academic and professional success and increased self-esteem.

Let’s spread the facts and then, let’s change them!

An activist fights breast ironing, a ritual mutilation practice of girls in Cameroon

I say NO to breast Ironing: Picture that appeared on the original article at The Grio I SAY NO TO BREAST IRONING: Picture that appeared on the original article at The Grio.

This is part of the global violence that is occurring against women. Breast ironing is a form of torture and it must end. I’m glad Friends of UNPFA is helping to raise awareness about this torturous treatment of young women in Cameroon. For more background info, see Gender Danger’s posted videos on the problem at http://www.youtube.com/user/GenderDanger.

Powerful UN CSW57 Document on Ending Gender-Based Violence Created

On March 14, I wrote a blog entitled “The “Unholy Alliance” that May Defeat Comprehensive UN Call to End Gender-Based Violence.” I talked about an alliance between the Vatican, Iran, Russia and a couple of other countries that were attempting to eviscerate the comprehensive plan being created at the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) to end gender-based violence and fully comply with all of the universally agreed-upon agreements (treaties, resolutions, and statements). These previous agreements include the Women’s Rights Treaty (commonly known as CEDAW or the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (1993)) as well as the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).

I am happy to say that this didn’t happen.  Thanks to the bloggers, news media, Tweeters, NGO’s attending CSW57, and several official Member States, the amendments to the document were voted down on Friday during the final day of the 2-week convention.

Iran was the only country that voted against the final, comprehensive document. The Vatican did not get to vote because of its status as a “Permanent Observer State” rather than as a voting “Member State”. And Russia backed down and voted for the final document along with all of the remaining UN Member States.

People around the world heard about these attempts to deny women and girls safety from all forms of violence.  We spoke out and acted.

As a result, unlike last year, we FINALLY have a strong document that

“condemns in the strongest terms the pervasive violence against women and girls, and calls for increased attention and accelerated action for prevention and response.” (Source)

This document has a strong prevention focus since the best way to end violence against women and children is to stop it BEFORE it happens.  It also addresses inequalities in the political, economic, and social spheres that engender violence. And it takes action to provide services and justice for victims of violence around the world.

Ms. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women summarized the comprehensive coverage of this powerful statement to end this type of human rights violation in her closing statement of the conference:

During the past two weeks, discussions centred on matters of urgency to people around the world — eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, ending impunity for perpetrators, fully engaging men and boys, and advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality to prevent and end these human rights violations….

Important and timely matters were addressed — ending child and early forced marriage, protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and providing justice and critical services for survivors of violence.

There were debates on ending sexual violence in conflict, tackling human trafficking, protecting sexual and reproductive rights, and on the role of culture, religion and the family.

You had many intense late-night negotiations, going over every single word and paragraph, debating long and hard in order to come to [this] strong agreement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, immediately after CSW57, released a statement showing the commitment of the United Nations to fully implement this new document. It says, in part:

Violence against women is a heinous human rights violation, global menace, a public health threat and a moral outrage.  No matter where she lives, no matter what her culture, no matter what her society, every woman and girl is entitled to live free of fear.  She has the universal human right to be free from all forms of violence so as to fulfill her full potential and dreams for the future.

States have a corresponding responsibility to turn that right into reality.  The Secretary-General hopes that all the partners who came together at this historic session and others around the world will now translate this agreement into concrete action to prevent and end violence against women and girls.  The United Nations system is fully committed to leading this global effort.

So now I say, THANK YOU! Thank you for creating this statement. It is one more step  towards realizing the rights, dignity, and humanity of girls and women throughout the world.

Picture of Joanne Tosti-Vasey standing with sign that says "I AM Ending Violence"

Joanne Tosti-Vasey “Refusing to be Silent” and calling for an end to gender-based violence

The “Unholy Alliance” that May Defeat Comprehensive UN Call to End Gender-Based Violence

Last week, on International Women’s Day (March 8), I participated in the 24-hour Global Tweet-a-Thon to end gender-based violence.  This event was held in conjunction with the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) that is being held in New York City.  The theme of this year’s session is the “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”

I participated as a host for one hour of this event to facilitate the global conversation between people around the world and those attending the unofficial Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) programs at the UN as well as to send a message to the official UN delegation. Our message was that advocates around the world are looking for a strong draft statement calling for the full elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls as directed by the theme of this two-week conference.

Here are a few of the many tweets I sent out that either addresses the situation of violence in countries around the world OR that calls on governments, including the UN, to create best practices to end gender-based violence:

@JoeBiden “40% of all mass shootings started with the murderer targeting their girlfriend, or their wife, or their ex-wife.” #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013

The first sexual experience for 24% of women in rural Peru was forced. #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013

In Latin America & the Caribbean, abused women reported higher incidents of miscarriage and induced abortion. #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013 (Source)

In South Africa, women who were abused by their partners are 48% more likely to be infected with HIV than those who were not. #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013

To #EndVAW, governments must enact legislation that addresses violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. #CSW57 #IWD2013

To #EndVAW governments must fully fund health services for survivors of violence, including #HIV screening & emergency contraception. #CSW57 #IWD2013

To #EndVAW, governments must ensure girls and women have access to abortion in cases of rape and incest. #CSW57 #IWD2013

Providing young people with human rights-based, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and information helps #EndVAW. #CSW57 #IWD2013

Respecting, protecting, and fulfilling girls’ and women’s sexual rights can minimize the violence they face. #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013

Promoting girls’ and women’s sexual rights is a key tool to #EndVAW, address women’s inequality, and achieve sustainable development. #CSW57 #IWD2013

Domestic laws to #EndVAW should align with international best practice and reinforce the protections found in #humanrights treaties. #CSW57 #IWD2013

And

There is no country where women and men are equal in all spheres of life. You have the power to can change that! #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013

That last tweet is a call for individuals, organizations, countries, and the United Nations to pull together to create and execute a comprehensive plan to end gender-based violence and fully comply with all of the universally agreed-upon agreements (treaties, resolutions, and statements), including the Women’s Rights Treaty (commonly known as CEDAW or the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (1993)) as well as the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000)

I had hoped the draft document that is supposed to be finalized and signed on March 15 – the final day of the two-week deliberation – would help strengthen these treaties.  Instead on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, I received an email from two NGOs – the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutger’s University and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific)—indicating that

“the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is wavering in its commitment to advance women’s human rights as demonstrated in the constant negotiation of the language in the outcome document.”

The next morning, I saw a New York Times editorial called “Unholy Alliance.”  This article clearly lays out what was going on in the official deliberations.  Apparently, the Vatican (which, btw, is a “Permanent Observer,” not a “Member State”), Iran, Russia, and a few other Member States have spent the their entire time at CSW57 trying to eliminate language in the draft communiqué to “duck” their obligations – and thus the obligations agreed to by most of the world – to eliminate all gender-based violence.

Their excuses?  Religion. Custom. Tradition.

What are they objecting to specifically?  Any reference to abortions or contraception.  Any mention of reproductive or sexual health. Any reference to forced sex as rape by either a spouse or other intimate partner.  And even any reference to women’s rights in general from the aforementioned international agreements; in this case, they claim that either religious or cultural traditions must take precedence over ending any form of gender-based violence.

These “reservations,” by the way, are the same reservations raised by essentially the same countries at the 56th session of the CSW conference in 2012.  As a result, that session ended without any agreement and women, once again, were left without a comprehensive UN plan to help improve their lives.

I am appalled. Gender-based violence is a crime against humanity.  Whether that crime is perpetrated by a government (for example, when military units carry out gang rapes and other gender-based war crimes for ethnic intimidation, ethnic cleansing and terrorizing a community).  Or when that crime of violence is perpetrated by individuals.

After learning all of this, I contacted the National Organization for Women (NOW) chapters in Pennsylvania.  Within 24 hours, Pennsylvania NOW along with South Hills NOW (Pittsburgh area), East End NOW (part of Allegheny County just east of Pittsburgh), Northeast Williamsport NOW, Ni-Ta-Nee NOW (my chapter here in Centre County), and Montgomery County NOW all co-signed the letter created by CWGL and IWRAW Asia Pacific.

This letter was signed by 281 organizations from 57 countries and 129 people from around the world and delivered to the conference on March 14.  FYI, since some of the organizations do not include the country of origin in their names, there may be — and probably are — more than 57 countries represented on this letter.

Here’s the letter that we signed.

IWD Statement on Concerns of Women’s Organizations Over Negotiations on CSW 57 Outcome Document 3-14-13

I along with all of these organizations and individuals want to see a comprehensive UN program to end violence against women and girls.  We want to strong enforcement of all international agreements.

Patriarchy has no right to quash human rights.  Let’s hope that the official delegates hear our voice and stop this “unholy alliance.” If allowed, the result will be more, not less gender-based violence.

If not, then I believe that like last year there should be no UN document signed by the United States or any other Member State participating in the 57th CSW conference.  Going forward with a strong plan to end all forms of violence is the best plan.  Going backwards is appalling and should not be condoned.  Better nothing than something that moves us backwards.

Let’s just hope they hear our voice and “do the right thing.”

How Can Research be a Catalyst for Change to End Gender-Based Violence (in English y españoles)

From March 4-15, advocates are gathering at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York City to urge governments to fulfill commitments to eliminate violence against women and girls.

Over the next week and a half, advocates are supporting this conference via the use of social media—including blogs, tweets, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to name a few—to spread the word about both the CSW meeting and to call for an end to gender-based violence.

Since today is International Women’s Day, thousands, if not millions of people are participating in this call to eliminate global gender-based violence by participating in a global Tweet-a-Thon.

Advocates who are Tweeting and who are participating at the 57th CSW session are documenting the incidence and impact of all forms of violence against women and children to [bear] witness to the human rights abuses that far too many women experience daily worldwide,…”  This documentation “also helps to understand the prevalence, nature, and root causes of such abuses so that [countries, advocates, and service providers] may be more effective in stemming [all forms of violence] through laws, policies, and prevention and response programs.

Blogs are also focusing on this issue. One of them, originally published by IPPF/Western Hemisphere Region, states that documentation and research on violence is all its forms  can then be a catalyst for change.

As a policy analyst and advocate for civil and women’s rights with a research background in work and family issues I fully agree.  So I thought you, my reader, would like to see what Jimena Valades, Program Officer – Safe Abortion at IPPF/WHR has to say.

In an effort to make this as accessible as possible, I am presenting this blog in both English and Spanish.  First, here’s the reblog of the English version:

How Can Research be a Catalyst for Change?

Jimena Valades, Program Officer – Safe Abortion

If an act of violence is perpetrated, but is never reported or documented, did it happen at all?

Of course the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. There are many reasons why survivors may not report incidents of violence, including fear of retaliation, stigma, or disillusion with law enforcement. Surveys from Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Peru show that up to 20% of women experience sexual assault, yet few to none report it to police. Many of the survivors who do report incidents of violence are met with ineffective judicial systems that parlay impunity or data monitoring systems that act like black holes, swallowing up the evidence of the tragedy they have endured. Either way, we know that whatever statistics we do have about gender-based violence reflect just a fraction of its harsh reality.

Yet, the larger point remains: there is critical importance in documenting acts of violence against women and girls – systematically, carefully, and over time. Collecting data on the issue not only bears witness to the human rights abuses that far too many women experience daily worldwide, but also helps to understand the prevalence, nature, and root causes of such abuses so that we may be more effective in stemming it through laws, policies, and prevention and response programs.

While numerous country-level studies on gender-based violence in Latin America and the Caribbean exist, there is a need for more current and comprehensive national prevalence data, as well as qualitative research into causes, and risk and protection factors. In short, we need to do a better job uncovering the full picture of gender-based violence in order to most effectively address it. Further, a persistent lack of comparability between national studies in the region has hampered the ability to draw broader, meaningful conclusions.

How do we zoom out to the bigger picture to understand violence regionally? How can we share successful prevention and response strategies across countries and globally?

A new study released in January by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) attempts to answer these questions by re-analyzing studies from 12 countries in the region. For the first time, data reveals a broader and more in-depth picture of both the prevalence and nature of violence region-wide.

While globally it is estimated that one in three women will experience physical, sexual, or psychological violence in her lifetime, this rate is both higher and lower across different areas of Latin America and the Caribbean. For instance, more than half of women who have been married in Bolivia reported having experienced some type of violence by their intimate partner during their lifetime. This rate of intimate partner violence reported was lower, just 17%, in the Dominican Republic. Emotional abuse of women by intimate partners is also common in the region, and is closely linked to the incidence physically abuse. Nearly half of women in Nicaragua reported experiencing emotional abuse by a partner in their lifetime.

While more information is needed, we are just now beginning to uncover a picture of the complex root causes and risk factors for violence against women in the region. After controlling for a number of factors, PAHO researchers found that the risk factors most closely associated with violence by a partner include being divorced or separated, having a high number of children, and if a woman’s father was abusive to her mother. This seems like an odd grouping, but it’s a key finding because it can help direct our attention father up the causal chain of violence, to focus our programming efforts on critical risk factors.

Documenting the stories of women who experience various forms of violence, qualitatively, is also important. Last year, the Nobel Women’s Initiative led a fact-finding mission to Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala to document violence against women – in particular sexual violence perpetrated by the state and the mining industry against women’s human rights defenders. Women from these countries stepped forward courageously to provide testimony, oftentimes at their own peril, of their experiences of violence – with their sisters bearing witness – enabling new nuanced documentation of this epidemic.

There have also been other efforts across Latin America to support increased reporting of violence among survivors, such as through the increased establishment of all-women police forces and courts specialized to address violence against women issues.

There are many reasons to be hopeful that increased data can help catalyze meaningful change, though there are reality checks left and right. While 97% of countries in the region have laws on domestic violence, fewer than half include explicit references to marital rape. In November, after decades of advocacy, the Law Against Violence Against Women was passed in Nicaragua. Yet, the country recorded 85 femicides in 2012, and new instances of sexual violence across the region make the news every day.

Despite the persistence of these abuses, the importance of documenting violence against women and collecting sound data remains. As data collection improves and more studies are done about this epidemic at the country and regional level, we may actually see something that seems like an uptick in violence against women. This may or may not actually be the case. Since gender-based violence is so hidden and often under-reported, the more we dig, the more we will find. An accurate picture is essential and pivotal to the achievement of our end goal: eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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A partir de marzo 4-15, defensores se reúnen en la 57 sesión de la Comisión de la Condición Jurídica y Social de la Mujer (CSW) en Nueva York para instar a los gobiernos a cumplir los compromisos de eliminar la violencia contra las mujeres y las niñas.

Durante la siguiente semana y media, los defensores están apoyando esta conferencia a través del uso de medios sociales, incluyendo blogs, tweets, Facebook, LinkedIn y Pinterest para nombrar unos pocos, para difundir la palabra acerca tanto a la reunión de la CSW y para pedir el poner fin a la violencia de género.

Como hoy es el Día Internacional de la Mujer, miles, si no millones de personas están participando en esta convocatoria mundial para eliminar la violencia de género mediante la participación en un mundial Tweet-a-Thon.

Los defensores que son Tweeting y que están participando en la 57 ª sesión de la CSW se documenta la incidencia y el impacto de todas las formas de violencia contra las mujeres y los niños “testigos ante los abusos de derechos humanos que demasiadas mujeres experimentan en el mundo todos los días, sino también para entender la prevalencia, naturaleza y raíces de estos abusos para poder lograr una mayor efectividad en detenerlos – a través de leyes y políticas y a través de la prevención y programas de respuesta.”.

Los blogs también se centra en el tema. Uno de ellos, publicado por la IPPF / Región del Hemisferio Occidental, afirma que la documentación y la investigación sobre la violencia en todas sus formas es entonces puede ser un catalizador para el cambio.

Como analista político y defensor de los derechos civiles y los derechos de las mujeres con antecedentes de investigación en el trabajo y la familia estoy totalmente de acuerdo. Así que usted cree, querido lector, le gusta ver lo que Jimena Valadés, Oficial de Programas – Aborto Seguro en la IPPF / RHO tiene que decir.

En un esfuerzo para hacer esto lo más accesible posible, les presento este blog en Inglés y Español. La siguiente es la versión en español de este blog.

¿Cómo puede la investigación ser un catalizador para el cambio?

Jimena Valades, Oficial de Programas – Aborto Seguro

Si un acto de violencia es perpetrado pero nunca reportado ni documentado, ¿pasó en realidad?

Desde luego que la respuesta es sí. Hay muchas razones por las cuales los sobrevivientes pueden no reportar incidentes de violencia, incluyendo el miedo a las represalias, estigma, o desilusión con los agentes del orden. Encuestas de Costa Rica, Paraguay y Perú muestran que hasta el 20% de mujeres han sufrido un ataque de índole sexual, pero pocas a ninguna lo reporta a la policía. Y muchos sobrevivientes que reportan incidentes de violencia, se enfrentan con sistemas judiciales ineficaces que apuestan a la impunidad o sistemas de monitoreo de datos que actúan como agujeros negros, tragándose la evidencia de la tragedia sucedida. De todas maneras, sabemos que las estadísticas con las que contamos en términos de violencia basada en género representa solo una fracción de la dura realidad.

Aun así el punto más importante sigue vigente: hay una importancia crítica en documentar los actos de violencia contra las mujeres –sistemáticamente, con cuidado, y con continuidad en el tiempo. Esto es necesario no solo para actuar como testigos ante los abusos de derechos humanos que demasiadas mujeres experimentan en el mundo todos los días, sino también para entender la prevalencia, naturaleza y raíces de estos abusos para poder lograr una mayor efectividad en detenerlos – a través de leyes y políticas y a través de la prevención y programas de respuesta.

A pesar de que existen numerosos estudios sobre VBG a nivel país en Latinoamérica y el Caribe, hay una necesidad de obtener datos más actuales y de prevalencia nacional, así como investigaciones cualitativas en las causas, los riesgos y los factores de protección. En suma, necesitamos hacer un mejor trabajo para tener un panorama más claro y amplio de la VBG para poder responder mejor ante ella. A su vez, la falta persistente de comparabilidad entre estudios nacionales en la región ha disminuido la capacidad de sacar conclusiones más amplias y significativas. ¿Cómo alejamos el zoom para poder ver todo el panorama completo y entender la violencia a nivel regional –sus causas, lo que ha sido efectivo en prevenirla, sus costos, etc.? ¿Cómo compartimos estrategias de prevención y respuesta entre países?

Un nuevo estudio publicado este mes por la Organización Panamericana de Salud (PAHO) ha intentado re analizar investigaciones de 12 países de la región, y, por primera vez, revela un panorama más amplio y profundo sobre la prevalencia y naturaleza de la violencia en esa parte del mundo.

Globalmente se estima que una de tres mujeres experimentará violencia física, sexual o psicológica en su vida, pero este número es –al mismo tiempo- alto y bajo en las diferentes áreas de Latinoamérica y el Caribe. Por ejemplo, más de la mitad de mujeres que nunca contrajeron matrimonio en Bolivia reportaron haber experimentado algún tipo de violencia de parte de sus parejas en el curso de sus vidas. Este mismo índice es más bajo, un 17%, en la República Dominicana. El abuso emocional por parte de la pareja es endémico en la región y está estrechamente vinculado con el abuso físico. Casi la mitad de las mujeres en Nicaragua han reportado abuso emocional de parte de sus parejas durante sus vidas.

Aunque es necesaria más información al respecto, recién ahora estamos desentrañando un marco de las raíces y los factores de riesgo de violencia contra las mujeres en la región. Después de controlar un número de factores en la región, investigadores de PAHO encontraron que los factores que se asocian a la violencia de parte de una pareja incluye estar divorciado o separado, tener muchos hijos, o si el padre de la mujer era abusivo con su madre. Esto puede parecer como una mezcla rara de factores, pero es un hallazgo clave porque nos ayuda a dirigir nuestra atención más arriba en la cadena de causales de violencia, y enfocar nuestros esfuerzos programáticos en los factores de riesgo críticos.

Es también importante el documentar las historias de las mujeres que experimentan las varias formas de violencia de manera cualitativa. El año pasado, la Iniciativa Nobel de Mujeres lideró una investigación en México, Honduras y Guatemala para documentar la violencia contra las mujeres y en particular la violencia sexual perpetrada por el Estado y la industria minera en contra de las defensoras de los derechos de las mujeres. Mujeres provenientes de estos países se acercaron con mucho coraje a dar su testimonio – la mayoría de las veces bajo riesgo de vida- de sus experiencias de violencia, con sus hermanas como testigos, desarrollando nueva documentación sobre esta epidemia.

Ha habido otros esfuerzos en América Latina para apoyar el incremento de reporte de violencia entre sobrevivientes, a través de un aumento de fuerzas de policía exclusivamente compuestas por mujeres y cortes especializadas para atender los temas de violencia contra las mujeres.

Hay varias razones para mantener la esperanza que al incrementar los datos estadísticos podamos ayudar a catalizar un cambio significativo, aunque seguimos teniendo chequeos de realidad en todos lados. Mientras que 97% de los países de la región tienen leyes contra la violencia doméstica, menos de la mitad hace referencia explícita a la violación dentro del matrimonio. En noviembre, luego de décadas de trabajo de incidencia, la Ley de Violencia contra las Mujeres fue promulgada en Nicaragua. Sin embargo, el país mantiene un record de 85 femicidios en 2012, y nuevas instancias de violencia sexual salen en las noticias de la región todos los días.

A pesar de la persistencia de estos abusos, sigue siendo de vital importancia el documentar la violencia contra las mujeres y compilar datos de solidez estadística. A medida que la recolección de datos mejora y se incrementa el número de investigaciones que documentan esta epidemia a nivel nacional y regional, podríamos suponer el estar frente a un aumento de la violencia contra las mujeres. Esto puede, o no, ser así. Como la VBG es usualmente escondida y con bajo nivel de reporte, cuanto más escarbemos más vamos a encontrar. Pero el tener un panorama completo es esencial y crucial para llegar a nuestro objetivo final: prevenir y eliminar todas las formas de violencia contra las mujeres y niñas en Latinoamérica y el Caribe.

Global Tweet-a-Thon to Raise Awareness About Gender-Based Violence

March 8th is International Women’s Day.  This year, thousands of voices will come together on Twitter under the hashtag #EndVAW in a 24-­hour, global Tweet-­a-thon to raise awareness about gender-­based violence.

Our aim is to strengthen the work of advocates gathering at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), as they urge governments to fulfill commitments to eliminate violence against women and girls.

Who is participating? Individuals, media outlets, and international and local organizations whose work focuses on feminism, women’s rights, LGBTQI rights, sustainable development, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Tweet-­a-thon campaign partners will rotate hosting the Twitter chat on March 8th: Some hosts may engage participants in a conversation by asking intriguing questions about gender-­based violence, while others may simply post facts about gender-­based violence.

If you would like to join me in being a host of the Global Tweet-a-thon to #EndVAW, send an email to mvandeven@ippfwhr.org.

Together, we will end gender-based violence!

Follow these hashtags: #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013

You can follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tosti_vasey and you can invite your friends to join the Global Tweet-a-Thon to #EndVAW on the CSW Facebook Event page.

And thank you to Mandy Van Deven, Online Administrator at the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR) for organizing this event and for sending me the information contained in this blog.

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El 8 de marzo, Día Internacional de la Mujer, miles de voces se unirán a través de Tuiter (Twitter) bajo el hashtag #EndVAW durante 24 horas, en un Tuiter-a-tón a nivel global para crear conciencia sobre la violencia de género.

Nuestro objetivo es fortalecer el trabajo de los defensores reunidos en la 57 ª sesión de la Comisión de la Condición Jurídica y Social de la Mujer (CSW), ya que instan a los gobiernos a cumplir los compromisos de eliminar la violencia contra las mujeres y las niñas.

¿Quién participa? Individuos, medios de comunicación y organizaciones internacionales y locales, cuyo trabajo se centra en el feminismo, derechos de las mujeres, derechos LGBTQI, el desarrollo sustentable y salud sexual y reproductiva y derechos.

El 8 de mazo en el Tuiter-a-tón de la campaña los socios se estarán alternando para ser anfitriones de diversas charlas: Algunos de estos podrán involucrar a los participantes en una conversación haciendo preguntas insidiosas sobre violencia basada en género, mientras que otros simplemente puedan publicar datos sobre el tema.

Si desea unirse a mí en ser anfitrión del Mundial Tweet-a-thon a # EndVAW, envíe un correo electrónico a mvandeven@ippfwhr.org.

¡Juntos, vamos a poner fin a la violencia de género!

Puedes seguirme en Tuiter en https://twitter.com/tosti_vasey y usted puede invitar a sus amigos a unirse al Tuiter-a-tón Gobal de #EndVAW en la página del evento CSW Facebook.

Y gracias a Mandy Van Deven, Administrador línea en la International Planned Parenthood Federation / Región del Hemisferio Occidental (IPPF / WHR) para la organización de este evento y por el envío de la información contenida en este blog.

Violence against Women and Children: A Worldwide, National, and Local Epidemic

Violence against women and children is a worldwide, national, and local epidemic.

Yesterday, a 23-year-old medical student died in a Singapore hospital of injuries she sustained December 16, 2012 in a gang rape and severe beating on a bus in New Delhi, India. She was attacked by six men who took turns raping her and beating both her and her male friend, stripping both of them, and then throwing them off the bus.  This is just one of many forms of femicide that have occurred in India, which include rape, sexual assault, honor killings, killing of girls 5 years and younger by starvation and violence, and dowry-related murders, among others.

This is just part of the world-wide epidemic of violence against women.  According to One Billion Rising, one in three women will be beaten or raped during her lifetime.  According to the United Nations,

Violence against women takes a dismaying variety of forms, from domestic abuse and rape to child marriages and female circumcision. All are violations of the most fundamental human rights.

Forms of violence vary by country, from sex-selection abortions in countries that value men over women, to female genital mutilation that leaves women maimed and traumatized, to forced marriages, to sexual harassment and intimidation at work, to trafficking and prostitution, to rape, incest, domestic violence, murder, and rape as a weapon of war. Some of this violence occurs within the family home.  Some of this violence occurs within the community.  And some of this violence is perpetrated by the state.  It can be physical, sexual, and/or psychological.  All forms are traumatic and in some instances, deadly.

UniFem’s data on violence against women is even starker than that presented by One Billion Rising.  They report that up to 70 percent of women and girls experience sexual or physical violence during their lifetime. Among women ages 15-44, the incidence of this form of violence – mostly perpetrated by husbands, intimate partners, or people the women know – accounts for more disability and deaths than occur from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control reports a pervasive problem of “intimate partner violence (IPV).”  This is defined as rape, physical violence, and stalking by a current or former intimate partner, either gay or straight of either sex or gender identity.  On average, 24 people experience some form of IPV every minute in the US.  This is over 12 million women (mostly) and some men each year, including 1 million women who are raped each year.

This violence occurs against both children and adults.  The majority of victims are women and girls, but they also include some men and young boys, such as the young boys here in Centre County, PA who were victimized by former PSU football coach Jerry Sandusky.  As a women’s rights activist, I have been speaking out against all forms of violence against women and children since at least 1994.  You can see a history of the local issues on the National NOW website here, and here as well as in The Nation.

There is a question that this info raises in my mind. What is the status of protections to reduce violence against women locally, in the US, and around the world? The picture/answer to this question is not great.

Locally, two cases of violence have made national news.  The most well-known case is that of former PSU football coach Jerry Sandusky; he was found guilty on 45 of 48 charges related to child sexual assault and is now essentially serving a life sentence in the state penitentiary.  Penn State University received a 60 million dollar sanction from the NCAA for failure to properly handle intimate partner violence, particularly child sexual abuse  within the Athletic department, and Judge Louis Freeh issued a scathing indictment against PSU’s upper administration, the Athletics’ department, and the Board of Trustees for covering up, failing to protect potential and actual victims of sexual violence, and failing to provide appropriate board oversight. And the University could face severe fines for failure to report IPV incidences to the US Department of Education under the Clery Act.  Despite these sanctions, violence on campus still continues.  The other case is the murder here in Centre County of PSU alumna Amy Homan McGee in 2001 by her husband, Vincent.  What happened in this domestic violence case was made into a 2010 PBS documentary titled “Telling Amy’s Story.”

These cases are just two examples among many that occur here at the local level. According to the State College, PA police department, there were 76 reported cases of domestic violence and 29 cases of sexual assault in the borough alone in 2011-2012.  Yet the incidence appears to be much higher.  According to the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, over 1,000 people in the county were known to be affected by domestic violence and another 200 reported being sexually assaulted throughout the entire county during the same time period.

To assist victims of stalking, domestic violence, and sexual assault, our local community created a county-wide task force of service providers and advocates to assist, education, and advocate for the reduction and elimination of all forms of IPV.  This task force has been in existence for 20+ years.  This task force is doing a decent job of working on IPV issues and providing services and education to the community, but is now facing ever increasing funding issues.

Funding for programs at the local level come largely from state and national governments.  Both levels of funding are in jeopardy.  Here in PA, for example, Governor Corbett eliminated General Assistance funding for everyone on August 1, 2012; a larger plurality of the recipients of this very limited funding were women fleeing domestic violence who used the minimal monies available to find housing for themselves and their children.

At the national level, Congress has failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provides funding to the Office of Violence against Women (OVW), to law enforcement, and to the judicial system to deal with all forms of IPV.  VAWA was originally created in 1995.  The bill must be reauthorized every 5 years. This means that the last reauthorization should have occurred in 2010!  The holdback?  Rather than improving the bill, many members of Congress, particularly Republicans in the US House of Representatives are calling for both cutbacks in funding and who will be covered.  We are now at a standstill since, appropriately, the US Senate is standing firm on ensuring that all victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking – including college students, immigrants, Native Americans, and LGBTQ people – are covered.  The new session of Congress will convene in January 2013 and an entirely new bill will have to be crafted.  Meanwhile victims and survivors of IPV are surviving on a temporary funding basis through March 2013 to cover anti-violence programs to save and improve their lives.  Additionally, the looming “fiscal cliff,” sequestration will result in nearly 200,000 fewer victims receiving lifesaving and cost-effective services.

And returning to the international level, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has a clear statement that all countries that have signed the treaty take “appropriate” steps to eliminate violence against women and girls.  The US signed the treaty in 1980 but never ratified it.  India ratified CEDAW in 1993, but as can be seen from recent events there, doesn’t enforce this obligation.

So where does this leave us?

Action is needed.  We need to get out on the streets and call for full funding of programs designed to reduce and eliminate violence.  Eve Ensler is organizing One Billion Rising on February 14, 2013.  Her call states,

We are calling on ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence.

It is a one-day strike and an “invitation to dance” that calls for the end of all forms of violence against women and children. If you are interested in joining women and those who love them from around the world, you can download the One Billion Rising toolkit to plan your event here.

You can also take action by telling leaders here in India as well as here in the US and in your state that enough is enough.

  1. Tell the Indian Prime Minister to meet the three demands of the women of India – 1) talk directly to the women of India about how you will deal with this violence, 2) begin expediting cases against Indian politicians who have records of alleged rape and other charges of violence against women, and 3) immediately reinstate Police Woman Damayanti Sen who was fired after she protected a gang-rape victim;
  2. Contact your US Representative and US Senators. Tell them to immediately introduce a new bill similar to the 2011-2012 Senate bill (S.1925) that covers ALL victims of violence.  This needs to be passed before March 2013 when the temporary funding extension that passed in November ends.  The new bill needs to be comprehensive and include all current victims of violence as well as battered immigrant women, Native American Women, LGBTQ persons, and violence survivors on college campuses.  You can find out more information about this issue on the National NOW website, including several links to action alerts on VAWA.  Also, tell your US Senators to finally vote for and ratify CEDAW without any reservations.
  3. Learn more about what your state’s laws and funding for programs on violence against women provide.  A good source of information for each state can be found on the OVW website; there is a page on that website that links you to resources in each state.  Once you get to your state’s links, you should be able to find action alerts and information to help improve funding and programs within your state.