Ending Violence Against Women and Girls
Nepal: sending messages across mountains (from Say NO – UNiTE)
Nepal’s mountainous terrain, high illiteracy rates and civil conflict have posed daunting challenges to informing women about their right to live free from violence. In addition to domestic abuse and sex trafficking, some Nepali women face physical and mental harassment from their in-laws related to dowry.
Radio broadcasts are one way of helping ensure that women understand and can claim their rights. Two NGOs, Digital Broadcast Initiative and Equal Access Nepal, in partnership with General Welfare Prathistan, secured a UN Trust Fund grant for a series of 26 radio programmes called ‘Changing Our World’. The programmes reached out to two million listeners with information about human rights, peace-building, stopping violence against women and HIV/AIDS.
The weekly episodes were rooted in women’s everyday experiences, collected by a group of 12 rural women whom the project trained as reporters. Sixty women facilitators learned how to convene and manage community listening groups, in which 15,000 people participated across the country.
An evaluation found that knowledge about domestic violence had doubled in communities reached by the broadcasts, and subsequent action has been taken. Greater understanding of the connections between domestic violence and alcohol, for example, has led to community sanctions on excessive drinking.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Men Become Partners for Change
Both women and men attend a workshop in Valle, Honduras on domestic violence. These workshops help those to realize the the links between gender, poverty abuse and disease.
Men are the primary perpetrators of gender-based violence. They are also critical partners in eliminating it. With support from the UN Trust Fund, the African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET) has worked in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Somaliland, South Africa and Zambia to rally men around advocating an end to violence against women.
FEMNET began this work in 2001 with the creation of a regional network of men that would help build capacity through the sharing of knowledge and experiences. Since then, the network has established a series of national chapters. They regularly reach out to the media and conduct training on gender and violence, including the link to HIV/AIDS. They also advocate changing negative male stereotypes about women and abandoning harmful sexual practices – such as wife swapping and general promiscuity – that increase the risk of contracting HIV.
In 2003, 100 men from four countries boarded buses to travel from Kenya to Malawi. Along the way, they conveyed through drama and music the vital role men can play in stopping both gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS. “As men, we need to reassess ... how we have been socialized,” says journalist Nelson Banda from Zambia. “We need to make positive changes and influence other men to live exemplary lives.”
MAMA+: Helping HIV-positive Women Rebuild Their Lives
When Valentina, an HIV-positive resident of St. Petersburg, Russia, realized she needed help, she was 34 and expecting a child. She had contracted HIV a few years earlier from her late drug-abusing husband. At the time, she was living with her new partner, her parents and her younger sister. There was drug abuse in the house. Valentina was deeply depressed, concerned about her life and her unborn child’s health. She was struggling financially as well.
Valentina contacted MAMA+, a programme run by a Russian non-governmental organization Doctors to Children with the support of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. Through MAMA+, Valentina was able to access psychological, social and material support, prepare for delivery, and learn parenting and child-rearing skills. When her daughter was born, she was happy to learn that the baby had not contracted HIV. Her health also stabilized, and she was able to begin improving her living conditions and life outlook.
An estimated 40,000 people with HIV live in St. Petersburg. Until recently, HIV-positive mothers in Russia’s second largest city had few options when it came to seeking protection and support. Public services were unable to respond to growing demand. Many women could not access the forms of health, legal, and social support they needed.
After giving birth, Valentina sought help once again. Her partner had become very violent. “The worst thing was that our little daughter was constantly exposed to danger, living between two fires,” she recalls.
She turned to MAMA+ for assistance, and was soon able to move to the programme’s Halfway House for Women with Children in Difficult Life Situations. This helped her regain control of her life. "With psychological support from MAMA+, I could become emotionally more stable. My daughter became much quieter and more sociable," she says.
“We received everything we needed: bed sheets, utensils, hygienic supplies, food and other goods. I also benefited from legal support that helped me access the benefits and allowances I was entitled to. The project staff was friendly to me and my daughter. I appreciated their patience and understanding.”
Valentina began building a new future for herself and her daughter. Today, she lives on her own with her daughter, and works as an assistant nurse at a hospice for people living with HIV. In addition, she counsels other HIV-positive women and makes home visits to HIV-affected families to offer advice and material support.