Progress Report: Sept. 12th FGM event planning meeting

On Tuesday September 12th the 16 Days organising committee held a planning meeting for a 2-day female genital mutilation (FGM) event. This event will be held during this year’s 16 Days of action against gender-based violence (GBV). The official dates of this event are pending but, tentatively, it will be held on the 29th and 30th of November.

This initial meeting was attended by:

Elaine Galbraith (Police Scotland)

Nahla Awad (individual/Bright Choices volunteer)

Dounia Ouizem (Amina-the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre)

Bob Wright (Edinburgh Napier University)

Oonagh O’Brien (Queen Margaret University)

Bryan McNeill (UK Border Force)

Jerusalem Barnabas (Waverley Care)

Niharika Puri (Edinburgh Napier University)

Hannah Lawrence (St. Andrews University)

and conducted by Angela Voulgari (Sacro, Bright Choices)

There were also many other supporters not in attendance who we will be following up with separately to get their input on the meeting discussions.

The meeting itself was very fruitful with most attendees giving great suggestions about the nature of the FGM event – such as venue options, target audience, interactive versus tutorial style presentation, etc. Although, again, everything is still in tentative stages, there was unanimous agreement that the FGM event be interactive and cater to a diverse audience of professionals, FGM survivors, third-sector workers, general public, politicians, etc. Additionally, it was unanimously expressed that the event should further try to address the complexity of tackling FGM.

FGM lies at a crossroads of many dearly held value systems – including religion, culture, and family. Therefore the solution to the problem of FGM- and indeed the source of the problem itself- is notoriously difficult to identify, much less tackle. And it was stressed by those present at the meeting that this FGM event should attempt to diversify people’s perceptions of FGM, the survivors of FGM, as well as the perpetrators (and perpetuators) of this practice. Because, like anything, there is no black and white concept of good and bad. None of us make decisions in a vacuum or are immune to the forces around us that were formed by the powers that be – powers that can be oppressive and reality-distorting.

Through this event, we look forward to contributing to a more multi-dimensional understanding of FGM, its consequences, and possible solutions. As we continue to gather input from all our supporters in the coming weeks and months, accordingly we will update the blog with more concrete information regarding the evolution of our FGM event.

Until then!

– 16 Days Team

(Featured photo: FGM awareness session run by the African Union Mission to Somalia at the Walalah Biylooley refugee camp, Mogadishu)

 

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Progress report: July 27th planning meeting

On July 27th the 16 Days action plan committee (Nika, Nhabeela, Angela, and myself (Hannah)) held a meeting (at Sacro’s head office) to alert potential collaborators and partners to our intentions for 2017’s 16 days of activism between November and December. We were lucky enough to be joined by numerous influential organisations and institutions in Scotland, including, Scottish Prison Service, Widening Access, Widening Participation (Edinburgh Napier University), Edinburgh and Lothian Regional Equality Council (ELREC),  Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service, Bright Red Triangle, and Sacro itself.

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After Angela spoke briefly about the conception of our idea to take part in UN Women’s 16 days of action, Hannah gave a short presentation on gender-based violence (GBV) and its prevalence in the UK and wider world as well as our general action plan and list of themes to cover during the 16 days. The presentation featured a video on a few GBV statistics as well as a short message from the Director of UN Women on the importance of combatting GBV multi-laterally and collaboratively.

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Following the presentations we had a stimulating discussion with the attendees. We discussed possible activities, funding resources, and partnerships. We also received a tremendous amount of moral support. Everyone was extremely keen on being involved and helping evolve this plan which began in a small room with four people sitting around a single desk. So, at the very least this meeting has shown that we are capable of filling up a much larger room with many more people (around a much larger desk). We look forward to seeing where this journey takes us! Stay tuned!

What is gender-based violence?

Whenever venturing to tackle a problem (particularly collaboratively), it is absolutely integral that such a problem is adequately defined.

So, what is gender-based violence?

The European Institute for Gender Equality defines it as such:

‘”Gender-based violence” and “violence against women” are terms that are often used interchangeably as most gender-based violence is inflicted by men on women and girls. However, it is important to retain the ‘gender-based’ aspect of the concept as this highlights the fact that violence against women is an expression of power inequalities between women and men.’

To break it down,

‘“[G]ender‐based violence against women” shall mean violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately[.]’

[V]iolence against women” is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender‐based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life[.]’


Specifically, gender-based violence is:

Breast ironing

Acid throwing

Domestic violence

Female Genital Mutilation

Foot binding

Forced marriage/ pregnancy/abortion/prostitution

Human trafficking

Bride burning

Dowry death

Honour killing

Femicide

Infanticide

Matricide

Sexual assault

Rape (date, gang, genocidal, war, marital, etc.)

Sexual slavery

And the list goes on. All of these things affect women and girls exclusively or disproportionately. These are terrifying and, perhaps, foreign concepts to many people. But, perhaps, the most important thing to understand about much of gender-based violence is how normalised it can be. Many women and, particularly, young girls who are victims of such violence continue to think that they have never experienced gender-based violence. This is because many forms of gender-based violence is ingrained in societies around the world. In many cases, such violence is even protected by law. This varies in extremes and from country to country. But women around the world (rich, poor, all ethnicities, and from first to third world countries,) endure some form of normalisation of violence against them. Which makes gender-based violence exponentially more dangerous.

I’ll leave you with an extremely powerful video entitled Dear Daddy that explores this normalisation and how it is up to us all, men and women, to break the cycles of normalisation that allow gender-based violence to continue in our countries, schools, neighbourhoods, and homes.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence: Edinburgh’s 2017 Campaign

The seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, declared in 2006 ‘violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women in the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her.’ Consider this along with the findings of the 2014 EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) survey which showed that ‘two-thirds of female victims of physical and/or sexual violence did not contact the police or any other service following the most serious incident of violence they had experienced’.

 

But perhaps even these statements don’t incite the necessary urgency – to attempt to wrap our heads around the scale of this global problem we must familiarise ourselves with at least a few more figures: more than 700 million women alive today were married as children, 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation, and two out of every three child trafficking victims are female. Yet unnervingly, gender-based violence knows no religion, age, nationality, culture, or socio-economic class. As unsettling as it is to imagine gender-based violence as an unknowable phantom with no beginning or end, cultural historian Riane Eisler has, for decades, drawn attention to something far scarier: ‘for most of recorded history […] those who had the power to prevent and/or punish this violence through religion, law, or custom, openly or tacitly approved it.’

 

Luckily, things are changing for many women and girls around the world. But unfortunately, for most the change is slow and unevenly distributed. This brings me to the second part of Eisler’s quote and how Changing Perceptions fits into this picture: ‘the reason violence against women and children is finally out in the open is that activists have brought it to global attention.’ And this is what we intend to do.

Changing Perceptions (Bright Red TriangleEdinburgh Napier University), together with Bright Choices (SACRO, ELREC, and MCFB), The Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal ServicePolice Scotland, and numerous other organisations and institutions around Edinburgh (and wider Scotland) are teaming together this year to spotlight gender-based violence through a 16-day campaign in Edinburgh. We are executing this within the framework and timeframe of the international campaign started by the United Nations’ called ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence’. Each year, from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day – the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) over 160 countries and 3,700 organisations take part in this campaign in some form. And Changing Perceptions, together with all our partner organisations, intend to join Scotland’s – and the world’s – active stance against gender-based violence this year.

 

Beginning 25 November 2017 we will host activities across Edinburgh which help spotlight, inform, and raise awareness about gender-based violence around the world. Every day for 16 days you will be able to find some sort of activity that will stimulate discussion, provoke thought or debate and hopefully affect change around the topic of gender-based violence – this may come in the form of talks, workshops, exhibitions, shows, movie screenings, etcetera. There will be something for everyone and every age group. So please stay tuned to learn more about the fantastic events we are planning for Edinburgh this year – we want everyone to be a part of it. Mark your calendars from 25 November to 10 December because it is on these days that we help break the silence about ‘the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth.’

With that said, this blog will be more than just a platform for spreading the word about our events in Edinburgh and keeping the Scottish public updated as this campaign develops – it will also be used as a platform for discussing issues related to gender-based violence and those afflicted by it. And importantly, we intend this blog to outlive our events in November. We will continue to post here regularly as the urgency of combatting gender-based violence does not start and end within those 16 days in November. Therefore, no matter where you are in the world, if you are interested in learning more about gender-based violence (or even lending your voice to the conversation), stick around to see what we have in store.