Preserving Women’s Force

fuerza_web1For 500 years, the Wayuu indigenous people of Colombia have resisted the consequences of colonization and imperialism. Today, they have multiple enemies: state security forces, army-backed paramilitaries, guerrilla groups and multinational corporations. All are colluding to displace the Wayuu people so they can extract oil, natural gas and other vital resources from their land.

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In the face of community members being threatened and killed, Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu (Wayuu Women’s Force) are courageously organizing women and youth in their indigenous community to resist, fight for survival and the preservation of their rich and bio-diverse environment.

Wayuu women have formed extensive alliances with other women and indigenous groups, who advocate for their inclusion in Colombia’s peace building process. Fuerza de Mujeres built a community center to bring indigenous women together. The group also documents women’s testimonies about the violation of their human rights in the context of the ongoing conflict, which they have submitted to the UN and Colombian Constitutional Court. Through their actions for peace, Fuerza de Mujeres are reigniting hope in those who have for too long endured violence.

 

Ask Questions, Incite Peace

newprofile_web1“What to do when the country I live in totally loses its compass… when the regime that collects my taxes uses them to deploy its high-tech military, armed to the teeth, against activists sailing to oppose a criminal siege?” asks Rela Mezali of New Profile, referring to the 2010 Israeli raid on the aid flotilla heading to Gaza.

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In response, the women of New Profile are trying to chart a more humane Israeli society by raising awareness of the ways Israel has grown increasingly militarized. They do this by providing legal and moral support to Israeli youth who are conscientious objectors to mandatory military service. The space New Profile provides for Israel’s youth to question militarism is rare since many cannot raise those issues in school or at home. They also have a traveling photo exhibit that takes a critical look at the militaristic contents in education, culture and media that normalize violence, particularly violence against women.

In April of 2009, the home offices of New Profile activists were raided and their computers seized. They were also under investigation for “inciting military deserters," but that case was closed due to lack of evidence. Yet, they remain fearless and focused on challenging the norm and pushing for a new paradigm for peace in Israel and Palestine.

 

Building a Safe Haven

uphil_web1The Bangsomoro Human Wellness Center in southern Philippines stands tall amid crossfire between insurgent and state armies engaged in one of the longest running conflicts in Asia. Founded by the United Youth of Philippines – Women, Inc (UnYPhil-Women), this crisis center represents a “safe haven, an empowering place for women and girls” impacted daily by a conflict that has killed more than 150,000 people and displaced two million more.

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Earlier this year, male representatives from insurgent groups, state military, and local government put generations of hostilities aside to come together to celebrate the opening of the Center with UnYPhil members and staff earlier this year. In a legacy of conflict, a remarkable feat!

Since 2007, the Global Fund has supported UnYPhil’s tireless work to organize conflict resolution trainings, livelihood programs, and legal guidance for women and children survivors of violence. Before the Center, UnYPhil says communities lacked the support structures and physical safety to address pressing issues like displacement, rape and trafficking. This center is the first of its kind in Maguindinao province, providing a secure venue for UnYPhil to continue its exceptional work.

 

A Beacon of Nonviolent Resistance

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For the past 20 years, amidst wars in the former Yugoslavia, Women in Black remains a beacon of nonviolent resistance to militarism, war, sexism and nationalism. Whether standing still and silent on the streets of Belgrade or organizing theatrical performances, advocacy campaigns or street actions, Women in Black is a powerful voice in demanding gender justice. By publishing materials on feminist antimilitarist theory, and establishing inter-ethnic and inter-cultural peace coalitions, Women in Black make invaluable contributions to transitional justice and new concepts of human security.

Women’s Court for the Crimes of the Former Yugoslavia is the group’s most recent groundbreaking effort in peace building. Created by seven women’s organizations from the Balkans, Women’s Court intends to establish a new, alternative and safe political space for women’s voices and testimonies to be heard. Here, women’s activists create a model of justice based on feminist ethics of responsibility and care. They are working together on transitional and restorative justice activities, and gearing up for the court’s proceedings planned for next year.

 

Something to Celebrate

sofad_web1Kashindi, a widow and mother of six, has something to celebrate. After her husband’s death, her in-laws pressured her to marry her brother-in-law. When she refused, they responded by selling her house and land. However, with the assistance of Solidarité des Femmes Activistes pour la Défense des Droits Humains [Women Activists in Solidarity for the Defense of Human Rights (SOFAD)], Kashindi got her home back.

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Continued armed conflict, lack of rule of law, and high rates of gender-based violence are a daily reality for women in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In this context, stories like Kashindi’s are common. SOFAD, one of the Global Fund’s long-term partners in the DRC, has established over 60 peace networks in villages throughout the South Kivu Province. With cadres of trained women’s activists, these networks promote women’s rights, address sexual abuses and even expose weapons at the local level. One such network successfully arbitrated Kashindi’s case.

SOFAD’s peace networks have impacted the lives of over 20,000 women and children in the DRC by arbitrating women’s cases, conducting legal and civic education, and raising awareness of women’s rights at the village level. This is how SOFAD is building the women’s movement: from the ground up.

 
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