A Concept Note

                                       16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence

                                                      25th November – 10th December 2016

”Ensure Justice and Eliminate Discrimination by Addressing Structural Inequalities in Order to Make Education Safe for All”

For 25 years, women’s organizations and activists worldwide have been celebrating 16 Days of Activism which has provided a global platform to advocate for women’s rights. The 25th November was chosen as an International Day that called to end Violence against Women, to commemorate the death of three Mirabel sisters, Patria, Maria and Antonia, who were detained, tortured and assassinated an acts of discriminatory, gender-based, political violence in 1960 during the dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominic Republic.

This year, violence and the lack of safety that pervades and inhibits young women’s education is the international theme of the 16 Days of Activism campaign for 2016:“From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All”. Education, which is one of various fundamental elements required to live dignified life, is a human right, and can give women greater independence and opportunities. The state is obliged to create a safe environment for women to learn, free from discrimination and violence. However currently in Nepal, structural inequalities that exist in the form of discriminatory laws and policies, as well as patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes that remain entrenched in the social, cultural, and religious structures of Nepalese society affects women’s education. Guided by this reality, this year WOREC will campaign during 16 Days of Activism under the theme of ”Address Structural Inequalities to Make Education Safe for All”, and will be organizing programs from community to national levels to acknowledge the achievements of the women’s movement, and call on individuals, communities, the media and government to continue the fight against structural inequalities in society that lead to discrimination and VAW.

WOREC pioneers survivor-lead programs, and facilitates the empowerment process of women by creating an environment for them to understand root causes that are responsible for their oppression. For the last 25 years WOREC has been working together with women, men and other community members from grassroots to national levels.  Programs are run that facilitate the involvement of community based organizations and self representative survivors led groups; classes are taught on legal education, reproductive health, and the creation of sustainable models for livelihood opportunities. Safe spaces for women and adolescents are provided during periods of difficult times, which are equipped with essential counseling, psycho-social, legal and educational support are some of the many examples.  WOREC’s team would like to take the opportunity during 16 Days of Activism to use the programs they have implemented and developed at a community level to amplify voices of active community women to make women’s oppression and work visible, and advocate for women’s to be treated equally in accordance with their inherent rights.

Evidence

The dropout rate of girls from education still remains too high: and whilst lack of toilets in schools has been cited as a key reason[1], WOREC’s experience shows this is one among various realities for women. WOREC’s experiences shows that the wider discrimination faced by women, including their unequal treatment, the way their bodies and sexuality are perceived in society, and the existence of unsafe environment where women do not feel empowered or safe is the key reason for girls dropping out from education. Violence against women, which happens primarily due to this discriminatory attitude which is nurtured through patriarchal environments, is the key cause of lower literacy and dropout rates of girls from school. UNESCO estimated in 2016[2] a female literacy rate of 55.11% in Nepal (over 20% behind male literacy rate), and found that girl youths have a lower literacy rate than boys (87.4% compared to 92.6%). Violence against Women continues to exist in direct contradiction to women’s rights to live a life free from violence, and worryingly a large percentage of violence affects girls. There are increasing numbers of VAW cases in family and public spaces, and despite child marriage as a form of violence being illegal, 37% of girls are married before 18[3]. In 2016, WOREC documented 43% of rape cases against girls under 16. This affects girl’s right to education, as rape leaves numerous psychological scars and currently there is no comprehensive policy to facilitate education for women and girls survivors of violence in safe houses. Anbeshi[4] documents cases of VAW and in 2015; data showed that 52.2% of rape survivors were girls under 18, with 38% of those being students. Overall 29.3% students suffered sexual violence. The experiences of violence have far-reaching consequences, with 52% VAW survivors reporting adverse effects on their mental health.  Health problems caused by gender based violence also prevents girls from being able to enjoy a safe education. Sexual violence, rape, domestic violence and dowry related torture perpetrated against girls of school ages can leave deep psychological scars, leading to depression among many women and girls that can result in suicide. Anbeshi data showed in 2014 that 1.2% suicides of women were due to sexual violence, with women and girls between the ages of 16-25 being the most at risk of committing suicide. This should not be tolerated. Women are trapped inside a tight sphere of social regulations and are driven to suicide by their secondary status within families and communities. Women are restricted from accessing healthcare services, as society place little importance on women’s health issues, which increases the likelihood of mental health problems, and even suicide. Education is fundamental to ensuring good mental and physical health of all children, and health services must be provided in schools including counseling and psychotherapy.

Women are barred from receiving substantive justice as a result of patriarchal structures and practices. Justice ensures dignity, safety and self-worth, however the current definition of justice is limited to legal justice alone, which for women is inadequate. In 2014, Forum for Women, Law and Development documented only 22 cases where traffickers had been prosecuted, and in 7 of these cases, women received no compensation[5]. In some cases women receive justice in a legal sense, when they gain custody of their children after a divorce for example, but in reality this justice is compromised as women are often rejected by their communities as a consequence. In this way, Violence against Women remains undocumented and unpunished, and women rarely feel that they have fully received justice. With greater education for all, marginalized groups will understand and rely upon their legal rights to equality, and social perceptions will change when they see that all groups regardless of caste or gender benefit society.

 

The exposure to violence limits a woman’s ability to earn an independent living and participate in the public sphere. Discriminatory legislation bars women from owning productive resources, from working freely and being a part of the labour force – all of which are necessary to give them economic independence. According to the ILO, females comprise of 52% population, but own only 20% land, and girls receive less schooling than boys which limits the types of jobs that women can take both domestically and abroad[6]. Legislation that places age restriction bans on the migration of women, and the government’s discussion of women’s mobility in patriarchal and protectionist terms, has forced women to migrate clandestinely in order to find work. Because of this, a large number of migrant workers vulnerability to various forms of exploitation, forced labour and abuse. Women are ignored in the effort to rebuild following the earthquake, and with their homes and livelihoods lost, they are place in a vulnerable position that increases the likelihood of their trafficking and further violence. Furthermore, whilst women occupy positions as the Chairperson of Parliament, President and Chief Justice of Nepal, there is still an extremely low representation of women, in particular Dalit and indigenous women, in high-level decision-making positions which are needed to ensure equality. The Annual Household Survey 2012/13 showed that whilst 75% of women are in the labour force, 60% work in agriculture and only 0.7% hold public sector jobs[7]. Structural transformation is needed to make women’s participation equal in reality, and Safe Education for All must become the reality, not just a mere slogan.

Analysis

The data above clearly demonstrates that the efforts of the government so far are inadequate to ensuring women’s rights to live without violence and discrimination, and consequently are failing to ensure the safe education of all. This is contrary to the government’s obligations enshrined in International Law, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Convention to Eliminate all form of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). WOREC calls on the government to rectify this. SDG 1 calls for the elimination of poverty, and cites the social discrimination present in education and in women’s participation in decision making as factors that perpetuate poverty. SDG 4 calls to ensure equal and inclusive education to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; striving to end discriminatory practices in educational opportunities. SDG 5 emphasizes gender equality where women and girls must be provided with equal access to education, healthcare, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision making.  SDG 8 requires governments to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth with full and productive employment and opportunities for all. SDG 16 calls for governments to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all, and accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Violence against Women inhibits social and economic development, as half of the potential workforce are ignored and undervalued, therefore we as a society must ”Ensure Justice and Eliminate Discrimination by Addressing Structural Inequalities”, which will also ensure that ”Education is Made Safe for All”. WOREC will monitor these changes in the coming year, to ensure that women are provided with equal rights to live without violence.

The main objective of 16 Days of Activism 2016 is to Address Structural Inequalities to Make Education Safe for All, so that women can live dignified lives in society without discrimination or violence. The following will be the specific objectives:

  • To create awareness and widen knowledge on VAW by sharing finding of Anbeshi.
  • To initiate solidarity across local communities and civil society to fight against the discrimination of women by transforming harmful practices of women as subservient and encouraging education for all girls
  • To exert pressure for political commitment to end violence and discrimination of women and draw the government’s attention to ensure it fulfills its obligations to ensure gender equality, following to national and international commitments.
  • To advocate for the recognition, safety and security of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs)

Expected Outcomes:

  • The annual report “Anbeshi” will be launched along with analysis of violence against women in the past year, and mass sensitization of the general public, media and government about issues of VAW will occur, particularly of GBV, SRH, and mental health of women.
  • People will see how community engagement with survivor-led programs combats VAW.
  • Women Human Right Defenders from community level to National level will commit to come together to end violence against women.
  • Issues of WHRDs’ identity, safety and security will be prioritized to establish an especial mechanism for their safety by all the concerned stakeholders.

 

Main Days of the Campaign

November 25th – International Violence against Women Day
November 29th – Women Human Right Defender Day
December 1st – International Disability Day
December 5th – International Volunteer Day
December 6th – International Women’s Martyr Day
December 10th – International Human Rights Day

[1] http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2016-11-20/lack-of-toilets-keeping-girls-away-from-schools.html

[2] Nepal population literacy” is based on the latest data published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (retrieved March 13, 2016)

[3] https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/09/07/our-time-sing-and-play/child-marriage-nepal

[4] Anbeshi is an annual publication by the Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC) on the status and dimension of Violence against Women in Nepal.

[5] Forum for Women, Law and Development, Human Trafficking and Transportation Control Act (2007) and it’s Implementation (2014)

[6] No easy exit – Migration bans affecting women from Nepal / International Labour Office, Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FUNDAMENTALS); Labour Migration Branch (MIGRANT) – Geneva: ILO, 2015

[7] No easy exit – Migration bans affecting women from Nepal / International Labour Office, Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FUNDAMENTALS); Labour Migration Branch (MIGRANT) – Geneva: ILO, 2015