Gender violence

The stories of women and girls matter

Day 16 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

Gender based violence is a multi-faceted issue and can encompass physical, sexual, economic, cultural and emotional mistreatment based on a person’s gender.

Among the root causes of gender-based violence are existing social norms and the imbalance of power between men and women. Gender roles are learnt through socialisation beginning in early childhood and can limit what we think we can do, who we think we are and who we think we can be. Societies with rigid gender roles often deny women and girls the opportunities to progress in life and leave them open to mistreatment and exploitation.

To really address the issue of gender-based violence, we need to work with individuals, families, communities and societies to change societal norms and envision a different future. This includes breaking the silence around gender-based violence and hearing the stories of those who have been affected.Sharing the stories and experiences of women and girls who have been mistreated raises awareness of this deep-rootedissue, challenges the negative stereotypes that limit women and girls, and is helping to change the societal systems that keep many women trapped and isolated. 

Over the last 16 days, we have tried to raise awareness of this global issue by sharing stories from around the world of women and girls that have been affected by gender-based violence. We have also looked at how individual people and communities are responding to this issue to empower women and create a different future in their communities based on dignity for all.

The stories of women and girls matter. They break the culture of silence and shame prevalent to some extent in all human societies. HCR will continue to use media rooted in local communities to provide a platform to share people’s stories, to bring groups together to address challenges and concerns, and to bring about lasting change that recognises every person’s equal and shared humanity.

Stories of women break the culture of silence and shame prevalent to some extent in all human societies.

Stories of women break the culture of silence and shame prevalent to some extent in all human societies.

Violence is never okay

Day 10 of #16DaysofActivism

By Dane Waters

The keystone to transformational development is building trust and relationships. At HCR we endeavour to build trust with all people we work with, as we walk alongside communities. Trust is critical and particularly highlighted when working on family violence and women’s empowerment issues. In the Mid West, Western Australia we are continually confronted with family violence issues. Women who we have built trusting relationships with, come to us in all levels of distress due to family violence. As the Family Law Act 1995 in Australia states:

Domestic and family violence occurs when someone tries to control their partner or other family members in ways that intimidate or oppress them. Controlling behaviours can include threats, humiliation (‘put downs’), emotional abuse, physical assault, sexual abuse, financial exploitation and social isolations, such as not allowing contact with family or friends.

Women who have shared their stories with us have experienced controlling behaviours from physical assault to financial exploitation, and when victims come to us we support them to seek appropriate services. All women and men need to be empowered to stand up to all types of intimidating behaviour. Alongside supporting individual women, we also work with community champions and local services to develop community media strategies to help provide critical information to those in need with regards to family violence. This includes recording and broadcasting community service announcements about services available. We are passionate about working on this issue and making a stand, because violence is never okay.

All women and men need to be empowered to stand up to all types of intimidating behaviour.

All women and men need to be empowered to stand up to all types of intimidating behaviour.

Protecting Women - Valuing Girls in North Kivu

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Day 9 of #16DaysofActivism

By Jon Hargreaves

I photographed the billboard above recently in a remote village in North Kivu in the DRC. It depicts two men molesting a woman with the words: “You wouldn’t do this if it was your mother, would you!” It is a stark reminder of the widespread use of rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated in this country, notably as a weapon of war and coercion. Ravaged by over twenty years of conflict, with 3.7 million internally displaced people, UNWomen estimates that over 1 million women have been raped in the DRC.

HCR’s partner station in North Kivu, Umoja FM seeks to prevent and respond to sexual violence by building community resilience and changing attitudes about the value of women and girls, especially their education. The station runs programmes which provide counselling and trauma healing for survivors as well as advice for young people. In a meeting with listeners a few weeks ago I heard many stories of how the radio station has made a huge difference since 2016, when it was launched by Feba UK in collaboration with HCR and a local NGO, Esader.

One listener said: “In Watalinga (district) there was an attitude that we had to marry our girls at a very young age and so there was no point educating them. But the radio has changed all that, and I should know, because I used to think like that.” Another said that although many NGO’s had come and gone, the radio is always with them, helping them, bringing new ideas.

Station Manager Baraka Basweki told me, “We are changing community attitudes towards the value of women and girls. As one person changes so they influence another and another - you can feel it is different now.”

Carpet talk

Day 8 of #16DaysofActivism

 By Jon Hargreaves

“Gender inequality exists throughout Kenya, but it’s particularly bad in this part of the country,” says Harriet Atyang, the manager of HCR partner station Amani FM in Tana River.   In many situations Harriet says women are subjected to abuse and violence, but it is rarely reported, as it seen as a cultural norm. 

Recounting a story where one young girl was given by her parents to an old man, Harriet said, “A woman is often seen as a man’s property.  Many men see the role of women is purely to give birth and look after the home, but they don’t have a voice and are left out of decision-making.” 

It is for that reason that Amani FM has many programmes to promote change like “Jamvi la mwanamke jasiri”, or ‘Carpet Talk’. The idea is that the carpet is a place where people can sit and feel comfortable and confident to share their concerns.  By airing women’s stories, Amani FM is starting a community conversation and they find that men are engaging positively with the issue too.   With the help of other Non-Government Organisations and counselling services, the station is helping women to find help and making the community aware of their rights. 

“Judging by the number of calls we are getting to the programmes, we are having an effect.  Many are calling in and really opening up with their personal stories,” says Harriet. “It is going to take time, but however long it takes, we are going to keeping working with communities and other stakeholders to bring about the change that is needed.”

Harriet and Esther from Amani FM interview community members.

Harriet and Esther from Amani FM interview community members.

Women: The Givers of Life

Day 7 of #16DaysofActivism

By Celeste Larkins

Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of family violence than in the general population. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2018 report found Indigenous women were 32 times as likely to be hospitalised due to family and domestic violence than non-Indigenous women. Indigenous women are also less likely to report abuse. 

Indigenous people in Australia often have higher risk factors for family violence such as poor housing and overcrowding, financial difficulties, unemployment and social stressors. However, it needs to be clear that the perpetrators of this violence are both Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners.

Recently, an Aboriginal Elder spoke to me of his concerns of violence against women in the community. It saddened him, as traditional Aboriginal culture respects women as the givers of life, as nurturers, the same way Mother Nature gives and nurtures us. Both should be respected.

However, it’s evident after not only speaking with this Elder, but many more communities across the Mid West and Gascoyne of Western Australia, that the intergenerational trauma of the invasion of Australia has caused a major impact on the life and culture of the one of the oldest cultures in the world.

At HCR we work with Aboriginal communities to support them to develop their own health messages and campaigns which help deal with many of the risk factors for domestic and family violence. This approach allows local people to share their knowledge in a culturally relevant way for their local community.  

At HCR we work with Aboriginal people and support them to use their local knowledge, culture and language to develop health campaigns for their local community.

At HCR we work with Aboriginal people and support them to use their local knowledge, culture and language to develop health campaigns for their local community.


   

Precious: Her Story

Day 4 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

I believe every person has a story to tell and it is often the people who have suffered the most whose stories can affect us the most deeply.

I met Precious* in Kenya and she is a truly courageous and inspirational woman.  She was married at fourteen and had to stop attending school as a result of her marriage. Precious wanted to return to school after she was married, which was not the done thing in her village. After giving birth to two sons, she tried to connect with other young students to keep learning from them and also asked a teacher if she could continue. 

Precious was told she needed to enrol at the education office far from her city. She found a way there and persuaded them to enrol her. By the time that she was registered she had given birth to her third child. She was the first married woman in her village to continue going to school and was the talk of the town. Precious’s husband challenged her and made her suffer for the humiliation. She was beaten, raped and was made to sleep outside. 

Precious had a fourth child and when her fourth child was seven months old she became pregnant again.  Despite all her difficulties, she completed her secondary school education. Precious did eventually leave her husband because her life was in danger. She started running a small business to provide for her family and now all her children are in school. She continues to develop her self and she wants to do more study. She has been a real example to other women in her village. 

At HCR we are creating opportunities for women from different parts of the world to speak about their lives and the issues they face, so that their local communities become aware of these challenges and as a way of creating positive change in both the lives of women and the community as a whole.

*Not her real name

If this article raises any personal issues please contact your local professional services or contact the helplines below.

In Australia: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

In UK: National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247

Everyone has a story. At HCR we strive to empower women to share their story.

Everyone has a story. At HCR we strive to empower women to share their story.

Mercy’s Story

Day 2 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

I was recently asked why we are focussing on the issue of gender-based violence, as many people do not recognise the scale and the impact of this issue. Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights abuses in today’s world, and affects all countries and all societies.  When we hear and acknowledge a woman’s experience, wherever she is from, we are supporting her to reclaim her dignity and free her from the shame that she may be feeling. We are also speaking as part of a global collective voice to say that it is not okay to be hurt or abused because we are female.

I met Mercy*, who was going to school in Uganda, after she had been raped by a trusted family friend and became pregnant. She hadn’t told anyone about her pregnancy. She felt ashamed and she thought her family would ask her to leave.  In her culture, an unmarried, pregnant woman cannot stay in the same house as her family. Mercy was so desperate she thought about suicide. A family friend noticed Mercy’s changing shape and confronted her about her pregnancy, before going to tell her family. Mercy’s grandmother did not believe what had happened to her and was angry and started to beat her.  Fortunately, Mercy’s grandfather did believe her and put her in contact with a Christian support service that helped her to have her baby and look after her. Mercy was able to return to school and is now attending university. Her relationship with her family continues to be difficult. But Mercy wanted her story to be told.

As the mother of a young daughter, I recognise the importance of raising a child who knows she is loved and knows her voice will be listened to. We pray for Mercy and her daughter as she grows up, that they will continue to find care and support despite the suffering they have experienced.  We also pray for other women in Mercy’s situation and that women and girls everywhere are increasingly able to find their voice and be free of the violence that affects so many.  

*Not her real name

If this article raises any personal issues please contact your local professional services or contact the helplines below.

In Australia: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

In UK: National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247

HCR works with communities to empower women and girls facing difficult situations and give them a voice.

HCR works with communities to empower women and girls facing difficult situations and give them a voice.

Ending Violence Against Women

#16DaysOfActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

Violence against women and girls is one of the most devastating and widespread human rights violations in the world today. Sadly, it usually goes unreported due to the impunity, stigma and shame surrounding it.

Sunday 25th November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The day marks the start of 16 days of ‘Activism against Gender Based Violence’, a global campaign that has run for over 25 years to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls.

At HCR, we seek to provide a media platform for women and communities to share stories and experiences in order to stimulate positive change. In honour of the brave women that we have met, over the next 16 days we will share stories from women and communities that show how they are responding to the challenges of discrimination, stigmatisation, abuse and marginalisation. We will look at how women and communities are seeking to change cultural norms and perceptions of women’s identity - how we can be and what we can do and achieve as women.

This year, as I have travelled to different parts of the world, I have met with strong and remarkable women who have been affected by violence and who are advocating for the protection of women and girls.  These women are horrified at the level of abuse that is ignored by their communities – often because it is accepted as the norm and seen as ‘just the way it is’.  There are numerous women trapped in violent situations and who feel unable to speak out, living in fear, shame and silence.

Progress is being made, but UN figures are still reporting that one in three women experience gender-based violence. Violence against women is a global issue and in each programme that HCR is involved with worldwide, this has been raised as an issue that needs to be talked about and addressed.

Photo Credit: Feba  Stephanie chatting with street-living children in Kinshasa

Photo Credit: Feba

Stephanie chatting with street-living children in Kinshasa

Standing up against family and domestic violence

By Celeste Larkins

1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their partner in their lifetime (World Health Organisation, 2017).

On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner in Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience violence at higher rates than non-Indigenous women (Our Watch, 2017).

With family and domestic violence a major issue worldwide, in Australia, and the area we work in the Mid West of Western Australia, we jumped at the chance to help a local women’s health organisation with a community campaign. The local project called Community, Respect and Equality, run by women’s health organisation, Desert Blue Connect, identified local champions in the community who wanted to speak out against family and domestic violence.

We worked with the champions and helped them develop radio messages that were broadcast on local community and commercial radio stations. I also had the privilege of working with one of the champions to record a video for social media (see below).

There is something very powerful when community come together and work towards positive change.