Blog Archives

101 Years of Progress: International Women’s Day 2012

Today, Thursday, March 8, the world celebrates the 101st anniversary of the International Women’s Day, honoring the lives of all women and girls. Here at UNA-GB, we kicked off the celebrations a little early with our annual film screening and panel discussion on Monday, March 5th.  We had more than 100 members of the community come together for War Redefined, the final film in the Women, War & Peace series. The film was followed by an enthusiastic and informative conversation among our wonderful panelists: The series executive producer Abigail E. Disney, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Dr. Amani El Jack and Sahana Dharmapuri. Take a look here for some pictures of our event.

War Redefined challenges the conventional wisdom that war and peace constitute a man’s sphere. The film features insightful conversations with Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, Bosnian war crimes investigator Fadila Memisevic, the founder of Women for Women International Zainab Salbi, globalization expert Moisés Naím, and Cynthia Enloe of Clark University.

Today, many more wars are fought within countries with failing states compared to wars fought across borders. The proliferation of the use of small arms in the aftermath of the Cold War has transformed the landscape of war. War is no longer fought among the uniformed military forces of two or more countries. In this post-Cold War era, civilians have become the primary victims of war, with women being the foremost targets, and suffering unprecedented casualty rates.

One of the most heinous crimes perpetrated against women during and in the aftermath of wars is sexual violence. Rape and other forms of sexual violence have become major strategies used in modern wars. War Redefined portrays how millions of women and children have been victimized in civil wars ranging from Bosnia to Rwanda. This has brought into sharp relief the concept of human security as contrasted with national security. Even though women and children constitute the overwhelming number of the victims of war, people tasked with peacemaking have traditionally been men.

Recognizing this paradox, United Nations Security Council in the year 2000 passed Resolution 1325 which called for peace agreements to take into account the special needs of women and girls, to support women’s peace initiatives, and implement international humanitarian and human rights law concerning rights of women and girls. The resolution further urged all parties to take action to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, and to respect their special needs in humanitarian and refugee emergencies.

Accordingly, War Redefined portrays how the United States military has begun to task women soldiers to work closely with Afghani women to address their needs such as health care and food security. Humanity is slowly but surely recognizing Harriet Beecher Stowe’s observation that “Women are the real architects of society.” Women can only achieve security, happiness and true liberation when they themselves take the initiative, and raise their voices against inequality and violence. Only then will the world come to celebrate the Women’s Day in its full glory.

The conversation held on Monday between the panelists and the audience was rousing, provactive and inspiring – I look forward to seeing how the Boston community continues to engage with gender justice and equity issues!

HAPPY 101st INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!  Click here for our blog post detailing additional events around Boston – there are still some to come!

-Smriti K.

V-Day Comes to Boston

It was a full house at the V-Day Spotlight Boston 2011: Violence Against Women and Girls of Post-Earthquake Haiti event Friday, March 18th. Sunny skies and teasing summer temperatures did not deter the dozens of guests who turned out to learn how we can join the movement against gender-based violence in Haiti. The event was sponsored by the Women’s Forum@UNA-GB and the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights (CWHHR) at Suffolk University and aimed to highlight the increasing sexual violence against women in Haiti and raise awareness, funds, and local support to stop the rising trend.

The event was inspired by V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. Since its creation in 1998 V-Day has been a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations (watch a great new video about V-Day’s work and mission here). In addition, each year V-Day spotlights a particular group of women who are experiencing violence with the goal of raising awareness and funds to put a worldwide media spotlight on this area. In 2011, V-Day’s Spotlight Campaign is on the Women and Girls of Haiti and calls attention to the high levels of violence against women and girls of Haiti and the increased rates of sexual violence since the devastating earthquake that of January 2010.

The Boston 2011 Spotlight evening began with refreshments and was followed by a brief PowerPoint presentation by Rachel DiBella, lead project coordinator at the Victim Rights Law Center and member of both the Women’s Forum and the CWHHR. Her presentation focused on informing the audience of the past and present state of Haiti, the staggering surge in violence since the earthquake, and the nearly nonexistent judicial reprimand.

Following the presentation, guests heard from two incredibly knowledgeable and experienced panelists Carline Desire and Brian Concannon. Desire, Executive Director of The Association of Haitian Women in Boston (AFAB) spoke about the history of the Haitian women’s movement and gave listeners an insider’s glimpse into the lives and circumstances of many Haitian women’s lives. She outlined the many reasons women are at risk to violence and also why often cases of rape are not reported. Desire closed her discussion with words of hope and  emphasized the importance of supporting grassroots organizations in Haiti, United States aid and fair policies toward Haiti and also changing the ways we socialize our children concerning the treatment of others.

Next, Concannon, Director at The Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH) spoke giving the audience an insider judicial perspective on the legal processes, or lack there of, in Haiti. He assured the importance of speaking with our representatives in the United States about the importance of international aid within the budgets. He also told listeners about the current efforts, by his organization and others, to bring these women justice. There is much work to be done but progress is made through the strength of the voices of us all. For example, IJDH’s submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review of Haiti keeps the global community up to date on the strengths and shortcomings on the ground in Haiti and tomorrow, March 25th, IJDH along with 3 other organizations will testify before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, DC on the crisis of this violence in Haiti.  They will underscore the constant threat of sexual violence faced by women and girls in Haiti’s displacement camps and the need for immediate implementation response.

All funds raised through the event were used to support a revolutionary national program in Haiti lead by a coalition of women activists, including longtime V-Day activist Elvire Eugene, in order to ensure a lasting impact on the ground and support the V-Day program which will establish three safe houses. Each house will have also have an office of legal assistance for survivors of violence. In addition, the campaign is working towards the construction of four legal assistance offices and will provide advocacy support for 19 community based organizations throughout the country doing anti-violence work.

A huge thank you goes out to all who joined us for this event and another thank you to V-Day whose 2011 Spotlight Campaign ensures that thousands of women and men throughout the world will be exposed to the issues facing women and girls in the devastated region.

Remember it is not too late to help! There are many opportunities to be active here in Boston! Check out Karen Ansara’s Blog to stay updated on issues in Haiti, attend Wheelock’s innovative event this Monday to help us gain perspective on the conditions in Haiti, DONATEeducate yourself, speak out and be a part of the movement!