About WRRC work on violence against women (VNC Campaign)

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The work in the WRRC Programme on violence against women focused on culture (including religion, beliefs, customs and traditions) by:

  • supporting context-space specific campaigning and research projects at the country level around culturally-justified forms of violence (CVAW)
  • building the capacity of women’s rights defenders to work on CVAW through trainings and engagement with public spaces including the internet and the international human rights arenas
  • engaging with the human rights framework and the concepts of universality and indivisibility of rights (including through interventions at United Nations and regional mechanisms, and through ongoing action alerts and collective public statements)

The work was led by the Violence is Not Our Culture Campaign (which grew out of the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women and formally changed its name in 2011).  The objectives of the VNC Campaign were updated to reflect the overarching mission of the WRRC Programme:

  1. Exposing and confronting all forms and manifestations of CVAW wherever and whenever they occur.
  2. Rejecting those ‘cultural’ and ‘religious’ justifications which condone impunity and minimize the severity of crimes committed against women and girls.
  3. Supporting the demand for justice on behalf of victims and survivors of CVAW through advocacy and campaigning and building of partnerships with the women’s movements and other sectors of civil societies in support of their causes.
  4. Raising awareness on gender-based discrimination as the root cause of CVAW and promoting initiatives toward women’s empowerment and gender equality.

While recognising that culture and religion can be empowering for, and central to, both individual and collective identities, the focus of the VNC Campaign is on the misuse of culture and religion to control women and girls, especially their bodies, their sexuality, their choice of who to love, who to marry, how to express themselves, and what to believe, as well as the exercise of their own free will. They are also enforced within or outside the remit of law to sanction impunity for perpetrators and silencing dissenters. Both state and non-state actors are increasingly using culture to justify carrying out violence against women. When these acts are given legitimacy, whether at the international or local levels, it promotes the idea that there is an inherent cultural right to execute violence amongst certain communities. This is unacceptable and must be rejected. When such conservative forces claim ownership over an ‘authentic’ interpretation of culture, tradition and/or religion, women are not only told to accept violence, they are denied the fulfilment of their potential as equal and active contributors to the development and production of culture.

To carry out the work under the WRRC Programme, a Working Group (WG) was formed of VNC Campaign Communications Team and partners/allies in the WRRC Programme’s focal countries. The WG began with Edna Aquino (Campaign Manager / WG Co-Convenor), Aisha Lee Shaheed (WG Co-Convenor / WLUML-ICO), Rochelle Terman (Campaign Communications Team), Shadi Sadr (Stop Stoning Forever Campaign), Mufuliat Fijabi (BAOBAB), Tarig Mustafa Ali (Salmmah), Ni Loh Gusti Madewanti (Anti) (SP), Kausar S Khan (Aga Khan University), Aïssatou Cissé (GREFELS), Roya Rahmani (WLUML networker). While representation in the Working Group changed over time – evolving into more inclusive communications between partners and other stakeholders by 2010 – the following organizations conducted a total of 17 projects on CVAW under the WRRC Programme between 2009 and 2011:

Partner organization     Number of projects
Baidarie – Sialkot (Pakistan)                      1
BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights (Nigeria)                     2
Equal Despite Difference campaign (Iran/Global)                     1
Groupe de Recherche sur les Femmes et let Lois au Sénégal – GREFELS (Senegal)                     2
Institute for Women’s Empowerment (IWE)-Iran (Iran/Global)                     1
Koalisi NGO Ham (Aceh, Indonesia)                     1
No Honour in Killing art show (Pakistan)                     1
Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre (Sudan)                     2
Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre (Pakistan)                     1
Solidaritas Perempuan (Indonesia) – 2, 3, 4                    4
Semarak Cerlang Nusa – SCN-Crest (Indonesia)                     1

In addition, the Campaign Communications Team implemented 5 projects under the WRRC Programme, including: creating and maintaining regular online communications, issuing solidarity alerts and statements, organizing panel presentations at the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the Human Rights Council, organizing training for partners on Strategic E-Campaigning, and commissioning and translating original research on CVAW.

The VNC Campaign’s Working Group and Campaign Team had a number of face-to-face meetings, public events and trainings during the course of the project:

  1. Strategizing and Planning Meeting (London, June 2009)
  2. Panel presentation at the Commission on the Status of Women (New York, March 2009)
  3. WLUML Feminist Leadership Institute (Dakar, November 2009)
  4. Panel presentation at the Commission on the Status of Women (New York, March 2010)
  5. Two regional trainings on “Strategic E-Campaigning” in Africa and Asia (Lagos and Bali, 2010)
  6. Panel presentation and book launch at the Human Rights Council (Geneva, March 2011)
  7. Strategic Evaluation Meeting (Kuala Lumpur, May 2011)