I’m just finalising the first draft of a paper on how states have empowered excluded groups of people (more on that to follow). It’s pretty wide-ranging, as you can imagine, but one of the most striking areas of my reading was on Violence Against Women – a critical barrier to empowerment in far too many communities. There really is a lot going on, and quite a bit of good news. Here are some snapshots:
In March, Nigeria’s House of Representatives passed a Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Bill, including a more comprehensive definition of rape, harsher sentences for rape and other sexual offences, compensation for rape victims, institutional protection from further abuse through restraining orders and a new fund to support the rehabilitation of victims of violence.
According to a recent blog post by Oxfam’s Jacky Repila:
‘So, who and what made the difference between the rejection of the bill in 2003 and its approval in 2013, with only minor modifications? Step forward Oxfam’s partner WRAPA – or the Women’s Rights’ Advancement and Protection Alternative. This organisation has first-hand experience of the consequences of violent crime gained through providing legal aid and counselling services since 1999. As Secretariat for the Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence Against Women (LACVAW) WRAPA has tirelessly built up a head of pressure on parliamentarians to vote in the VAPP Bill, powered by national and pan-African advocacy and policy connections and the critical mass of seventeen civil society, faith and community groups galvanising support from across Nigeria’s ethnic groups and states.
In 2008 WRAPA starting working with Oxfam’s Raising Her Voice Programme (RHV). The partnership added renewed momentum to the push for poor women’s participation and the domestication of the African Union Women’s Protocol and breathed new life into WRAPA’s campaigning and advocacy around the VAPP bill.’
If you want more on the Nigeria experience, there’s also a four page background paper by Fiona Gell.
Then the latest edition of the excellent (and very pink) Gender and Development journal has a piece on the ‘pink transportation’ movement in Mexico City (which reminds me of the famous pink telephone project in Cambodia – is pink universal now?):
‘Rapid urbanization and rising complaints by women of sexual harassment in the public transit system have led to a need and demand for women-only transportation in many cities, including Mexico City, Bangkok, Tokyo, Dubai, Moscow, and Rio de Janeiro.
In Mexico City in 2009, INMUJERES (a women’s rights-focused state institution) implemented a programme called Viajemos Seguras (We Women Travel Safe). Viajemos Seguras established booths, hotlines, and other security offices throughout subway stations and bus terminals, giving women a safe and secure place to report crimes.
Secondly, INMUJERES converted some previously invisible women-only transportation into ‘pink transportation’, turning it into a visual campaign to publicize the problem of violence against women. Lastly, it helped establish a line of pink taxis: cabs driven by women, only stopping for women (see pic). Researchers concluded that the Mexico City experience shows a clear role for state authorities in the city in creating a liberated space to support collective action.’
I also got myself an update on the spread of women’s police stations, c/o UN Women:
“Examples of specific state action to reduce violence against women include the creation of women’s police stations in 15 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Most commonly the stations address family violence, particularly physical violence, threats, as well as sexual violence. They are often staffed by specially trained female personnel and aim to improve the ability of the police to respond to the unique needs of women survivors. In India, a study found that the establishment of 188 women’s police stations resulted in a 23 percent increase in reporting of crimes against women and children and a higher conviction rate.”
For more substantial treatments, DFID has a great three part series of ‘How to’ Notes on Violence Against Women and Girls, covering its theory of change, a guide to community programming, and monitoring and evaluation. Oxfam also has a good Guide to Ending Violence Against Women.
More generally, if you want to know why governments take action, evidence collected over 70 countries across 40 years by S Laurel Weldon and Mala Htun shows the single most important predictor that states will successfully reduce violence against women is the existence of a vibrant national women’s movement.
Important and often inspiring (despite the horrendous proliferation of acronyms), but just in case you think I’ve been at the koolaid, here’s a reminder of how slow progress on VAW has been, from a recent World Bank report on the positive, but painfully slow, reduction in violence (or at least the perception of it). At which point I step back and let everyone query the (doubtlessly dodgy) stats.