Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Newsroom Archive: Nov 2013

  1. 28 November 2013

    Women Find Hope in Safe House

    In the town of Adama, women and children violence survivors find shelter and a way to make a living, using skills learned at a safe house supported by UN Women.

    Adama, Ethiopia

    Sahara* ran away from home when she was 10 years old and spent years living on the streets of Adama, in central Ethiopia, finding work as a cleaner when she could. Homeless and unemployed, she was 20 when she arrived at a safe house run by the Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development (AWSD), which is supported by UN Women.

    “I was living on the street with two young children, all alone, with no one to help me,” she says. Sahara sought out the safe house to give her children up in the hopes that they could have a better future.

    When Sahara arrived, she found a warm and welcoming environment, abuzz with the laughter of many children like her own.

    “I’m so glad I went there, because they gave us a home, and taught me to cook.”

    Between the safe house in Adama and another in Addis Ababa, nearly 2000 survivors have escaped violence and dire poverty as a result.

    “To control their own lives and reach their full potential, women need to be financially independent,” says UN Women Representative in Ethiopia, Letty Chiwara. “This is the premise behind UN Women’s economic empowerment programming, but financial independence is also vital for survivors of gender-based violence to heal and lead fulfilling lives. The safe houses help them do just that.”

    The safe house provides skills training based on their own choice, for every woman and girl who stays there, whether it’s food preparation and cooking, computer literacy, hairdressing, or sewing and embroidery.

    Sahara learned to cook and today, at 21 years of age, she manages a small cafeteria as part of a cooperative of nine survivors of violence, trained to cook at the safe house. They serve traditional Ethiopian food like injera (flat, soft bread); wat, a deep-red spicy stew, and of course, ceremonially prepared Ethiopian coffee.

    Sahara is emotional when she speaks about her experience with the cafeteria: “At first, managing the business was a challenge, but when we started making profits, it was a very exciting feeling. I was so, so happy!”

    *Names have been changed.

  2. 25 November 2013

    Australian Aid Agencies Call for an End to Violence Against Women and Children in Papua New Guinea

    25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

    To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Australian aid organisations are drawing attention to the plight of women in Papua New Guinea (PNG). With one of the highest rates of violence against women, urgent assistance is needed so that work can continue to address this problem.

    In a statement released by ChildFund Australia , Australian National Committee for UN Women and World Vision Australia , the organisations highlight that the situation has not improved for women in PNG in recent decades.

    “A report published over 30 years ago by the PNG Law Reform Commission found that two out of every three women in PNG had experienced violence,” said Nigel Spence, CEO, ChildFund Australia. “A recent study conducted by ChildFund indicates there has been no improvement in these statistics with 86% of women surveyed reporting they had been beaten during pregnancy.”

    The statement encourages Australians to give what they can to programs that are working to reduce violence both in the home and in public spaces. Many of these programs are funding innovative approaches to reducing the risks women face.

    “We have increased the focus of our programming in PNG to help women safely participate in public life,” said Julie McKay, Executive Director of the Australian NC for UN Women. “We identified that markets were a high risk area and have worked with authorities to improve safety. This has included increasing police presence around markets, improving lighting, and providing mobile technology for cashless transactions.”

    The statement also calls for the Australian and PNG Governments to step up their activities to address this issue. The PNG Government has taken positive steps to strengthen gender violence laws through the Family Protection Bill which criminalises acts of domestic violence and is providing better services to women through initiatives like the Family Sexual Violence Units at police stations around the country.

    These changes are significant in combating this issue but the statement recognises that the PNG and Australian governments will need to increase their support if they truly want to put an end to violence against women.

    “The Australian Government has been a strong and reliable partner in supporting World Vision’s programs that directly address issues of violence against women,” said Tim Costello, World Vision Australia chief executive. “While these initiatives have brought some relief, there is much work yet to be done before everyone, including men, understand the role they must play in keeping women and children safe.”

    Appendices include:

    Joint statement calling for more to be done to end violence against women
    Background information on ChildFund, UN Women and World Vision programming in PNG
    Joint statement calling for more action to end violence against women in PNG

    It is nearly 30 years since a study by the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Law Reform Commission found that two out of every three women in PNG had experienced violence.[1] Subsequent studies have shown that the situation for women in PNG has not improved. In fact, rates of violence against women continue to rank amongst the highest in the world.

    A recent study by ChildFund Australia[2] found that women are raped, killed and maimed on a shocking scale. The brutality is severe, often involving bush knives, axes, burning, spearing and even biting. It also found that women had limited options in responding to domestic violence.

    While there have been some recent gains have been made – the Family Protection Bill was passed in September 2013, making domestic violence an offence under PNG law – these measures will only be effective if they are enforced and supported through community education and training programs focusing on gender equality, respect, conflict resolution, human rights and the legal system.

    More needs to be done to protect women and to give them choices. The PNG Government needs to improve the support offered to women and children affected by violence and ensure law enforcement. Due to the lack of services, many women have no choice but to stay with violent men in order to feed themselves and their children. Prosecuting perpetrators is also difficult as police are reluctant to investigate instances and obtaining the documentation required by the court may be financially beyond the reach of affected women.

    As a good neighbour, Australia needs to be a voice for the most vulnerable and Australians should not sit silently as women in nearby countries experience horrific violence. We are calling on all Australians to lend their voice to the plight of these women. We are asking them to give what they can to aid agencies who are addressing this problem. The ChildFund study highlighted that education programs are working and these need to be continued and expanded.

    We are also urging the Australian Government to do more. A significant part of the Australian Government’s aid budget goes toward gender equality and women’s empowerment in the region. This must be maintained and increased, with more targeting of anti-violence initiatives. Increased funding could go towards efforts to ensure the PNG Government is enacting existing law. The Australian Government can lend its voice to advocacy efforts that are calling on the PNG Government to prioritise this issue.

    It is clear this is an issue that needs urgent attention in order to bring lasting change at a national and local level for women and children who currently live in daily fear of violence.

    [1] Ganster-Breidler, Margit. Gender-based Violence and the Impact on Women’s Health and Well-being in Papua New Guinea [online]. Contemporary PNG Studies, Vol. 13, Nov 2010: 17-30.

    [2] ChildFund Australia and ChildFund PNG, 2013, Stop Violence Against Women and Children in Papua New Guinea.

  3. 22 November 2013

    London Domestic Slavery Case Demonstrates that Slavery is not just a Third-World Issue


    On the eve of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is marked each year on November 25, it was today revealed that UK police have rescued three women held in domestic slavery in London for 30 years.
    Executive Director of the Australian National Committee for UN Women, Julie McKay said that this incident reveals that slavery is occurring across the world and we are all bystanders to it.

    The Global Slavery Index Report 2013 reports that 29 million people worldwide are living in slavery, with an estimated 3,000 people living as slaves in Australia.

    “The horrific ordeal of these three women shows us that modern slavery is a real and pressing issue,” Ms McKay said.
    “It also demonstrates that slavery is not just a ‘third-world issue’ and can happen anywhere, including here in Australia.”
    “Domestic servitude and sex trafficking are just two of the forms of slavery that women in Australia are currently experiencing. We must not ignore the issues happening on our doorstep, and in neighbouring countries.”

    Ms McKay also commended the work of UK-based Freedom Charity, who were contacted by one of the women after seeing a television special about forced marriage, and assisted the police in their rescue. Ms McKay said that this incident demonstrates the incredibly effective work done by women’s empowerment organisations worldwide.

    “Organisations like UN Women are working in countries around the world to protect women from domestic servitude and unpaid labour, from forced marriages and from violent situations,” she said.

    Through the Safe Cities Initiative, UN Women is exploring innovative prevention strategies and employing technology, including mobile technology, to raise awareness and protect women’s rights. UN Women is working to ensure that women experiencing violence have access to health services, shelters, hotlines, policy, justice and legal aid.

    “We must ensure that women and girls are safe and that perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes and brought to justice,” said Ms McKay.

  4. 21 November 2013

    Peer education of boys and men key to ending violence against women

    A UN Women-sponsored project, running over the past two years in Fiji is educating men and boys to stand up against violence against women. Many homeless people and people who work in public spaces (such as markets) in Fiji are men. As they are often in public spaces, they witness a lot of violence, including against women and girls. A national survey of women in Fiji by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre found that 64 per cent of women had experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

    “We saw a great potential in developing the group [men and boys] as agents for change in the protection of women and girls and the promotion of gender equality,” explains Juita Korovulavula, the coordinator of the UN Women-sponsored Streetwize Project.

    So-called street dwellers in Suva include “shoeshine boys” and “wheelbarrow boys”, who can be seen daily shining the shoes of passers-by or carting goods to and from markets and shops. Partnering with FSPI, Suva City’s Community Police Unit trained them to carry out citizen’s arrests of men who abuse women and girls on the streets. Recently, one “wheelbarrow boy” arrested a man for punching his wife on the streets. Police have since received several other citizens’ arrests of men who harass women market vendors, shoppers and passers-by.

    Sakiusa Cama, who participated in the workshops, said he has changed how he speaks to women and he has witnessed a transformation in fellow street dwellers, being much more courteous and respectful.

    Peer Education

    Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education’s National Substance Abuse Advisory Council (NSAAC) is educating students and teachers alike to change negative social norms and attitudes about gender and violence. With the support of UN Women, NSAAC has trained 417 Peer Educators and 302 Support Teachers, who have collectively reached close to 8,000 students throughout Fiji.

    Early results are evident. Students have been sharing information with their peers on violence against women and girls, its impacts upon survivors and their families and ways to recognize healthy and unhealthy relationships. The Peer Educators with more awareness on the issue are referring students in need to counsellors and support teachers.

    “A student who was a survivor of an attempted rape informed me of what had happened. I was shocked and thought maybe it was her fault,” said a 19-year-old male student who attended the programme. “After attending the Peer Education Training programme, I learned that it is never a girl’s fault if she is raped or sexually assaulted. I learned to consult those who can offer appropriate services and through the programme I was able to help my friend in her hardship.”

Empower women today.