Archive for the ‘violence’ Category

Org Spotlight: SWAYAM

Friday, March 20th, 2015



Swayam, meaning “oneself” is an organization based in Kolkata, India working towards ending violence committed against women and children. Swayam’s ultimate vision is that women and children will be able to live in a world where acts of violence will not be taken against them and that they can live their lives with a sense of confidence and security in themselves as empowered individuals. The organization is focused on support towards women who have violence committed against them. Focusing on an all-inclusive approach with women at the focal point, Swayam encourages women to become empowered by reinforcing tools such as, legal aid, child support, vocational training, and shelter, that promote independence and self- confidence. With a goal that looks far ahead into each woman’s future, the organization commits itself to the development of a fully empowered woman. Through its Public Education and Awareness Generation Program, Swayam is working towards creating a collective and focused discussion that will work towards influencing the accepted public opinion on violence against women and children. They are able facilitate this discussion by working with NGOs, educational institutions, judiciary systems, and the public at large. Swayam is working towards confronting norms and influencing policies that impact women in a collective manner with other organizations and movements that stand in solidarity with Swayam. In their fifteen years of existence, they have been working towards their ultimate mission of a violence free world.

Kudos to GW’s Mary Ellsberg

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Kudos to GW’s Mary Ellsberg

Mary Ellsberg

Mary Ellsberg, Director of the Global Women’s Institute (GWI), was recently quoted in the New York Times article, U.N. Reveals ‘Alarmingly High’ Levels of Violence Against Women. This article discusses several major obstacles that continue to stand in the way of gender equality. Some such barriers include: counterproductive laws, cultural norms, and the wage gap. Though there have been advancements in certain areas of gender equality there is still a long way to go.

“At the time of the Beijing conference there was a desperate call for more information. We have data from most of the countries in the world. That, in and of itself, is a huge accomplishment. The issue is, it’s very hard to collect this data”. Mary Ellsberg, co-author of Prevention of VAWG: What Does the Evidence Say?, which was featured in the special issue of the Lancet released late 2014, continues to focus on data as a way to incite change. Facts are difficult to ignore.

The next step in gender equality will be seen with the release of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which come to a close this year.  The SDGs have many more gender specific goals than their  predecessor did, yet only time will tell how this strengthened focus will pan out.

To read the full article click here.

Documentary recap: A Path Appears

Monday, February 16th, 2015

series3A Path Appears: Violence and Solutions

by Staff Contributor Camry Haskins

The third and final installment of “A Path Appears” tackles issues of violence against women around the world. Just in the United States alone, domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women, with one woman being killed every six hours. More than three times as many people died from domestic abuse than those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2000-2006. Domestic abuse affects the entire family and leads to many residual affects. Abuse can be mental or physical, though often they are seen together. Women are left in a state of self-blame and self-denial. Victims of abuse often feel trapped and without their own power. Communities that often blame the woman for staying or for doing something that instigated the abuse in the first place worsen this.

The episode began in Atlanta, Georgia, where Nicholas Kristoff traveled with actress, Regina Hall, to an unlisted women’s shelter. The Women’s Resource Center is a 90-day program that takes in women and their children and helps them get back to a stable place in the community. Kristof and Hall spoke to residents of the Women’s Resource Center. While there they heard stories of women who were arrested for “false report of a crime” when taking back their statements against their abusers in the court. For women who are trapped in a cycle of abuse, they end up being the ones penalized by the legal system. The Women’s Resource Center helps these women work through their own legal struggles. Unfortunately this program is only a band-aid to the problem. There are too many battered women to accept, and so many are referred to homeless shelters unless their batterers are still actively pursuing them.

Another way that domestic abuse is being targeted in the United States is through groups like Men Stopping Violence. This organization is designed for convicted men to analyze their own behavior. Unlike women’s shelters, there is no confidentiality given to the men in this program. They are forced to look at their actions without giving themselves any verbiage that would divert their blame. Every man who has entered this program, started out believing that they were not abusers but they gradually come to realize that this is not the case.

Kristof leaves Atlanta with the message that in order to address violence against women you have to focus on men and boys. Shelters and laws are only a bandage on the problem. To truly address the problem there is a need to educate and change mindsets. This issue directly impacts and shapes men’s very existence, as well as, women.

After leaving Atlanta, Kristof travels to Kibera, Kenya with Mia Farrow. They visit Shining Hope, an organization that targets education, healthcare, as well as, any other issues that appear within the slum community. Kennedy Odede is a local man who became the driving force of change within Kibera. He started the Kibera School for Girls, with his wife Jessica Posner, an American girl who traveled to Kibera for school and changed her life path after meeting Kennedy. The Kibera School offers free education to girls in the slum in return for their parents/guardians volunteering five weeks a year. The Kibera School was ranked number one in the district on the government test to enter 8th grade. The girls who enter the Kibera School are empowered to develop powerful goals. Kennedy and Jessica fight for much more than education though. Fifteen percent of girls in Kibera are raped or abused before starting preschool. The episode follows two different stories. One is of a four year old girl who is raped by a boy just a couple years older than her while they are both left home alone since their parents work. The other girl had been raped by her grandfather for years before developing an infection and being able to no longer hide the abuse. In both cases, Kennedy and Jessica were at the front of the battle, fighting for justice. Just as in Atlanta, an overarching finding is that in order to successfully put an end to violence against women and girls, it is important to educate men and boys. Kennedy also runs a soccer program that instills values to the boys who join.

Cases of domestic violence are not private matters, nor are they are not personal matters; they are crimes against humanity and should be addressed as so.

February 16, is the last day to watch all three videos online from PBS. Click here to watch.

New report by Refugees International

Thursday, February 5th, 2015


February 4, 2015
Author: Marcy Hersh

Congolese Women: What Happened to the Promise to Protect?

Download the full report at (en français)

It is impossible to talk about the Democratic Republic of the Congo without talking about sexual violence. The widespread acknowledgement of gross levels of conflict-related sexual violence in the DRC spurred the international community to act in an unprecedented manner to protect women from these atrocities. In particular, there were two major investments by the United States and the United Nations, one with an unprecedented level of programmatic funding, the other with a novel coordination strategy.

While the U.S. and UN interventions yielded important results, both were built without the benefit of a strong evidence base to properly understand the context of gender-based violence (GBV) in the DRC. As a result, some policymakers in the U.S. and at the UN now believe that because women and girls continue to experience widespread GBV, these interventions have failed. In turn, some U.S. government policymakers feel that intervention is futile, and that the DRC is a bucket with the bottom removed, which no amount of funding can fix. Now, vital resources (both human and financial) are being transferred towards other competing priorities around the globe. The U.S. government is also considering new approaches that could jeopardize GBV survivors’ access to lifesaving care.

At the same time, the UN’s investment, a new approach to coordination called the Comprehensive Strategy to Combat Sexual Violence, created a five-pillared system co-led by the UN and the DRC government. After five years, this coordination strategy has largely failed to avoid duplication or generate momentum on addressing sexual violence, instead bogging humanitarian actors down with bureaucracy.

Policy Recommendations 

  • Donor governments, the United Nations, and humanitarian organizations should take on more gender-based violence (GBV) initiatives, rather than focusing on conflict-related sexual violence.
  • The U.S. Agency for International Development should reinstate funding for stand-alone, multi-sectoral GBV services that include medical, psychosocial, judicial, socio-economic, and prevention activities. This funding must support multi-year program cycles and include community-based organizations in implementation to build sustainability.
  • Donors should increase funding for programs that seek to address the root causes of GBV by empowering women and engaging men.
  • Donor governments, in particular the U.S., and the UN should pressure the DRC government to seriously address and prioritize GBV, particularly in the provision of sustainable health and social services to GBV survivors, as well as on issues of impunity and security sector reform.
  • The DRC Minister of Gender, in collaboration with UN Women, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Refugee Agency, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should overhaul the current National Strategy to Combat Gender-Based Violence and dissolve the pillared structure for coordination.
  • In the DRC provinces where humanitarian clusters are active, UNICEF and UNFPA should activate GBV sub-clusters.
  • The DRC Ministry of Gender, Family Affairs, and Children should develop a new national strategy to combat GBV that coordinates civil society, humanitarian organizations, and the UN.

Marcy Hersh assessed the humanitarian response to women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo in October 2014.

Download the full report at   


Kudos to IGIS and GGP

Monday, January 26th, 2015

womenThe Guardian mentions an Institute for Global and International Studies (IGIS) and Global Gender Program (GGP) Working Paper in its article, “Women Still Face a Fight for Recognition in War and Peace”.

To read the Working Paper click here.

To read The Guardian article  click here.

Event Recap: A Call to Action on Violence Against Women and Girls

Monday, December 8th, 2014

A Call to Action on Violence Against Women and Girls—The US Launch of the Lancet Series on Violence Against Women and Girls

by Staff Contributor Camry Haskins

On the seventh day of 16 Days Against Gender Based Violence, the Global Women’s Institute (GWI) at George Washington University hosted the US launch of the Lancet Series on Violence Against Women and Girls. The launch opened with the Call to Action followed up by two
panel discussions. The first panel focused on evidence while the second looked at lessons from practice.

Panel one: Prevention of VAWG:
What Does the Evidence Say?

Panel one centered on the research and findings by Mary Ellsberg, Director of GWI, and her team. Ms. Ellsberg was joined by Dr. Lori Heise, Director of the Centre on Gender, Violence and Health and James Tielsch, Chair of the Department of Global Health at the Milken institute School of Public Health. One of their biggest findings was that there is a shortage of research. What research has been conducted is mainly skewed toward high-income countries. When compiling what data there is, it becomes clear that there are
different tendencies for violence at all levels of society. And the percentage of gender-based violence (GBV) can differ between 2 percent and 70 percent depending on location. The fact that the percentages differ so greatly creates hope
that we can greatly reduce violence against women and girls (VAWG). The first panel closed with remarks on what they hoped the future focus would be in regards to VAWG. overall, the consensus was on a push for convergence of research, increased interest in valuations of programs, and increased testing of studies and strategies.

Panel two: Prevention of VAWG:
Lessons from Practice

Lori Michau, Co-founder of Raising Voices and Amy Bank, Co-Founder of Puntos de Encuentro represented their team who put an article together that looked at GBV from the perspective of practice over academics. Rajiv Rimal, Chair of the Department of Prevention and Community Health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, joined them. Their panel focused heavily on norms and tactics for communicating with communities whose norms supported, or at least did not outlaw, violence against women. Short videos helped to illustrate the change that was taking place in the communities they were working in. They stressed the importance of inclusive projects that educated men and women, as well as, boys and girls. Their take-aways focused on merging the academic world with practice in order to increase the flow of information and prevent bad practices from continuing do to lack of knowledge.

The launch closed with a sense of hope for the future. There is still a lot of work to do, but it is not an impossible endeavor.

Go to GWToday to read more!

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

Friday, November 21st, 2014



Tuesday, November 25, marks the 14 year anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This day commemorates the lives of the three Mirabel sisters who were assassinated for their political activism against the Dominican Republic dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo on November 25, 1960. In their home country of the Dominican Republic they are recognized as national martyrs, and in December of 1999, the United Nations decided that their cause deserved yearly commemoration.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women kicks off the yearly 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. The 16 days end on December 10, of each year which falls on International Human Rights Day. This year’s theme, Orange the World in 16 Days, is tied into the UN’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, which has designated the 25th of each month as Orange Day. Wearing orange on the 25th, is an opportunity to show support for this campaign to end the violence that affects 1 in 3 women around the world.

Events are taking place around the world to advance the mission of eradicating gender based violence. In Washington DC, on December 3, there will be two events in honor of this activism. The first of the two will be held at George Washington University, and will be a launch of the Lancet edition dedicated to violence against women. Later in the day a second event will take place at the World Bank Group, launching a Multisectoral Violence Against Women and Girls Resource Guide.

Stay involved through twitter using #orangeurworld and #16days. The Global Gender Program will post more events as they come up, in an effort to spread the word and combat gender based violence. If you are not yet subscribed to our newsletter, subscribe here.

DC Event Update: A Time To Act – Combating Sexual Violence in Syria and Iraq

Friday, November 7th, 2014

time_to_actAisling Swaine Jan 2014





We all have busy schedules, which at times prevent us from attending timely and thought-provoking events. If that happened to you last week when George Washington University’s own, Professor Aisling Swaine, was speaking on a panel regarding sexual violence in Syria and Iraq, there is an opportunity to get caught up. To watch the taping of the event, follow this link.

Combating Sexual Violence in Syria and Iraq was hosted by the American Red Cross Humanitarian Law team in partnership with the Global Gender Program.

Org Spotlight: Humanas Colombia

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

humanas colombia

Humanas Colombia

Humanas Colombia is an organization that focuses on human rights and justice for women. The organization’s mission is “the promotion and protection of human rights of women, international humanitarian law and gender justice in Colombia and Latin America.  A group of women within social sciences professions strive to promote and implement initiatives that increase knowledge of women’s situations and the obstacles they must overcome in regards to gender inequalities.

Humanas looks at gender justice and how women are affected by and contribute to issues surrounding peace and security. They question the patriarchal order by searching out biases that violate gender equality. Gender based violence comes out of unequal power relations between the sexes. Gender justice attempts to combat the naturalization of violence against women and gives women access to justice for the crimes committed against them.
Humanas’ mission is inspired by the following values:

  • The universal and indivisible human rights as the basis for addressing multiple discriminations affecting women.
  • Democracy building guide egalitarian relationships in ways of thinking, feeling and acting.
  • Diversity, recognition of multiple social realities
  • Cooperation promotes working in partnership with groups of similar interests.
  • Solidarity promotes the defense of the rights of women in all contexts.
  • Transparency characterizes the management of resources, information and accountability.
  • Resilience, as an individual and collective capacity, can face problems, solve them and emerge stronger.

Humanas has developed research, training, and monitoring to advance their goal of justice for women. One specific initiative they have developed, Peace with Women, is dedicated to spreading and recognizing efforts by women to build peace in the midst of war. This project creates a space for women to come together to rebuild the social fabric, strengthen local democracy and peace processes, overcome poverty, undertake processes of truth, justice and reparation and to oppose war and the militarization of their lives. They give women a voice by creating an avenue for them to tell their stories.

The organization’s fundamental premise is for peace building in the country to involve not only the negotiation of the armed conflict, but the construction of new gender pacts that enable social inclusion of women and the full exercise of their rights.

Speaking women’s rights to power

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Alison Brysk, Mellichamp professor of Global Governance in the Global and International Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In April, she spoke at the Elliott School on “Stopping Violence against Women.” Her talk covered a wide range of topics from honor killings to sex-selective abortion and sex trafficking of girls and women. Her presentation drew from her 2013 book, Speaking Rights to Power.

Speaking Rights to Power cover. Source: Oxford University Press.

Speaking Rights to Power cover. Source: Oxford University Press.

A foundation of her argument is that women’s rights are a category of human rights and must therefore be given similar attention. She presented basic facts and figures documenting the problem of unequal rights for girls and women around the world. She argued that girls and women live in a “climate of insecurity” that includes life in militarized contexts, refugee camps, and poverty. A new area of research is to highlight how urbanization, male youth unemployment, and political corruption are leading to high and rising rates of violence against girls and women in cities.

Beyond documenting the problems and their local dimensions, Brysk also discussed what various countries, global organizations, and civil society are doing to address violence against women. She talked about “information politics” which promotes women’s voices and self-determination by putting a human face on violence against women – “framing the claim” — and creating awareness and mobilizing support.

In conclusion, she noted that constructing political will to support women’s rights as human rights is key as well as engaging men in the campaign moving forward to change rape culture to gender justice.

Professor Brysk’s talk was sponsored by the Elliott School’s Global Gender Program through its Global Gender Forum Series. The Elliott School’s Web Video Initiative provides a taped version of the presentation.