MWA'S Work at the Commission on the Status of Women, New York
ILGA-RFSL-MWA Work at the Panel of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York:
“Strategies of Resistance: Combating violence against lesbian, bisexual and trans women”
MWA chairperson, Rhoda, spoke on the 4th March 2013 giving her insights on the pros and cons of visibility as a strategy for preventing violence on LBT women.
Other panelists were:
Ulrike Lunacek, Member of the European Parliament (Greens/Austria), Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup in the EP
Tamara Adrian, Diverlex, ILGA Trans Secretariat, Venezuela
Dana Zhang, Common Language and Chinese Lala Alliance, China
Press Statement from the CSW 2013.
Women’s Rights Activists Welcome UN Agreements on Ending Violence Against Women
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 15, 2013
Today, the UN Member States resoundingly committed to ending violence against women and girls, including strong agreements on promoting gender equality, women’s empowerment, and ensuring reproductive rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services.
The Agreed Conclusions of the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women represent another important step forward, building on the global momentum of the past twenty years, which has created a strong framework by which to end all forms of violence against women, young women, and girls.
Women’s health and rights organizations congratulated the governments who have defended the human right of women and girls to live free from all forms of violence. We have seen two weeks of intense negotiations, in which culture, tradition, and religion have been used to try to deny women their rights.
In this context an important outcome of the Agreed Conclusions is the recognition accorded to women human rights defenders, who often come under attack when they defend universal human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The Agreed Conclusions explicitly call for accessible and affordable health care services, including sexual and reproductive health services such as emergency contraception and safe abortion, for victims of violence. For the first time the CSW Agreed Conclusions have urged governments to procure and supply female condoms. The CSW reaffirmed previous commitments made in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and in the Programme of Action at the International Conference on Population and Development and the key actions for its further implementation.
Governments have also recommitted to important strategies such as comprehensive sexuality education, the need to end harmful practices perpetuated in the context of negative culture and traditions, and the need to focus services based on the diverse experiences of women and girls, including indigenous women, older women, migrant women workers, women with disabilities, women living with HIV, and women who are held in state custody. The links between HIV and violence against women was noted throughout the Agreed Conclusions.The Agreed Conclusions condemned and called for action to prevent violence against women in health care settings, including forced sterilisation.
Violence against girls is also a major theme throughout the document. The Commission calls for an end to child, early and forced marriage, which is an increasing problem in many countries. Worldwide, 67 million girls are forced into marriage before the age of 18. Countries also committed to improving safety of girls on their way to and from school, at school, and in playgrounds;ensuring educational opportunities for girls who already married and/or pregnant; and preventing, investigating, and punishing acts of violence against women and girls that are perpetrated by people in positions of authority, such as teachers and religious leaders.
The Agreed Conclusions emphasize the role of men and boys in ending violence against women, and call for national policies to counteract gender stereotypes that present women and girls as subordinate to men and boys. The CSW calls on governments to engage, educate, encourage, and support men and boys to take responsibility for their sexual and reproductive behaviour and become strategic partners and allies in the prevention and elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls.
The Agreed Conclusions emphasize the need to abolish legislation, policies, and programs that discriminate against women or have a discriminatory impact on women. The CSW also calls for women and girls’ unimpeded access to justice and to effective legal assistance. The Agreed Conclusions also recognize that small arms and light weapons aggravate violence against women and girls.
Importantly, the Agreed Conclusions recognize new issues in the campaign to end violence against women, including the need for strategies to address the role of new media; the impact of climate change on women; the need for measures to encourage businesses to act on workplace violence, but also their responsibility to support workers experiencing violence in the home; and the need for multisectoral responses to end violence against women.
In addition, discussions at this CSW showed high levels of support for governments to address violence against women and girls based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. There was also widespread support for addressing the problem of intimate partner violence. Although Member States at this year’s CSW failed to agree on specific language about these issues, human rights groups are confident that consensus that has been achieved on these mattersthroughout the UN system and will soon be reflected in Agreed Conclusions of the CSW.
However, civil society groups expressed deep concern over attempts by conservative members to derail negotiations during the CSW. Thankfully, many governments held firm on commitments to women’s rights. A statement signed of concern signed by feminist organizations during CSW is available online athttp://cwgl.rutgers.edu/program-areas/gender-based-violence/csw57/statement-on-outcome-document.
The UN Commission on the Status of Women meets annually in New York and in 2013 has focused on the elimination of violence against women. Comprised of 45 Member States the CSW is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women with the sole aim of promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social, and educational fields. Its mandate is to ensure the full implementation of existing international agreements on women’s human rights and gender equality.
MWA - ILGA WOMEN'S SECRETARIAT UPDATES - SUPPORTED BY ILGA AND LLH
The Universal Periodic Review as a new UN Human Rights tool for LGBTI rights: African countries
in WORLD, 13/11/2012
Patricia Curzi interviews Rhoda Awino Odhiambo of Minority Women in Action (MWA), Kenya, on the Universal Periodic Review as a new UN Human Rights tool for LGBTI rights.
Rhoda Awino Odhiambo is a member of the organisation “Minority Women in Action” (MWA).
Minority Women in Action was formed in 2006 with the purpose of advocating for the rights of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LBTI) women in Kenya by engaging with national and international partners. MWA educates and corrects misconceptions on sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, MWA provides platforms and opportunities for members to build different skills in organizational management, economic empowerment, advocacy on LBTI rights and knowledge in health. In December 2010 at the XXV ILGA World Conference MWA was elected as ILGA Women’s Secretariat. Rhoda defines herself as an activist and a feminist.
Interview by Patricia Curzi
What convinced you and your organisation “Minority Women in Action”, Kenya, to participate in the whole 14th UPR session?
UPR participation is in line with one of our strategic objectives of growing and participating in policy and legal framework both locally and internationally. MWA is currently the women’s secretariat of ILGA and also a member of Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL). The two weeks at the UPR session gave me, and in extension MWA, an opportunity to understand how the UN Human rights system runs and how best we can get involved with the aim of making a difference in advocating for our rights in civil society. Eventually, the idea is that, together with ILGA and other organizations, the knowledge that I got at the United Nations Human Rights Council will be used to assist other LGBT groups understand the UPR process and also give guidance on how to submit their own statements. Once the process is understood, one realizes that you do not need to travel and wait to be at the UN in Geneva to start advocacy work, as most of the advocacy actually takes place in your own country.
If you had to tell to some activists what were the most interesting events around the UPR session related to LGBT issues, what would you tell?
The most interesting events would probably be hearing the different countries defend their human rights situation. It is interesting to note the language used when the recommendations are given, especially on LGBT issues. Also to note would be the countries that do not shy away from making recommendations on the LGBT situations in various countries, because many African countries don’t even seem to touch on the issues when making recommendations.
During the second week of my stay I had the opportunity to work more closely with Patricia Curzi from ILGA’s office and with Belissa Andia Perez, from the Peruvian trans organization Instituto Runa. We shared knowledge, experience and tips on how to best lobby for our issues in our countries and here in Geneva.
It is also interesting to see a transparent process at work that puts governments under pressure to remedy situations that have been questioned and recommendations made.
Your home country, Kenya, will be reviewed at the 21st UPR session in 2015. How will the experience you acquired in Geneva be of use to prepare the UPR of Kenya?
Coming here at this time was a good idea, since I now realize that within the time before Kenya is reviewed a lot can be done. After meeting with the representative of UPR info, Jean-Claude Vignoli, and getting acquainted with their mid-term review programme, I even better understood the importance of follow-up of the recommendations. We would probably be organizing an NGO mid-term review for Kenya initially with other LGBT groups which can then look at which recommendations still need to be implemented by the government with regards to our issues and how we then fit with the larger civil society.
The exposure here has also informed me how we can use the different embassies within my country to articulate our issues as LGBT and encourage them to speak on our behalf at the session. It takes just one recommendation from one state to have your particular concerns put into the UPR process. This is just great and a good start which can lead to policy changes back home.
As a representative of ILGA’s Women Secretariat you were also interested in meeting lesbian and feminist groups in Geneva and in Switzerland. Did you find any similarities with your experience in Kenya and in Africa?
I had the opportunity to meet different people and organizations during my time in Switzerland. I was fortunate to be around to meet Lestime (a lesbian organization) in Geneva at a time when they were celebrating their 10th anniversary. Here I got to meet many interesting people and some really exceptional women working for women in their country.
I also visited the Dialogai offices in Geneva and learnt about the work they do for the LGBT community with special concentration on gay men.
I also went to Zurich to meet members of Queer Amnesty and spent an interesting morning with Hannes and Pascale from the organization, and later on went to Bern to the Amnesty International offices. Amnesty is regarded highly on human rights issues, and for me to be there with the staff was quite a highlight. Overall, I have had an opportunity to meet many special people; and I look forward to meeting them again.
In regards to sharing similar experiences, it was interesting to note that similarities exist in so far as challenges within the use of power in feminist-run organizations are concerns. I met a few feminists and am glad to have discussed these ideas and gotten a few ideas of how power can be used positively. What was different, however, was the level of participation in the feminist movement amongst the younger generation. I guess here in Switzerland the younger generation have not felt the disadvantage of being in an unequal system and, therefore, don’t participate too much in the feminist movement. There are a lot of opportunities for young women to succeed; and the possibilities are endless in this country.
Finally, what will be the most useful experience you will bring back home from the UPR session and your stay in Switzerland?
I think the whole experience on its own is an eye-opener. First , one gets access to delegates from different governments, which would be very hard under any other circumstances; and, as I previously said, it gives you a chance to articulate your issues. It’s also a good place to listen to governments and see how they view themselves in relation to how others view them. This system means that the governments expose their actions, and the recommendations are made. I think it is a humbling experience and something that is needed to keep government answerable to others.
I also got to understand countries that are strong on LGBT issues. The whole place is just a library of information and a good place to meet other NGOs. The UPR system basically holds the governments accountable to their actions.
Another useful experience that I will take with me is never to take the sun for granted. Being in this cold weather has made me appreciate the weather in Kenya more. I will probably never complain that the sun is too hot and is making me sweat. Apparently that’s a good thing from now onwards.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a new Human Rights peer review monitoring tool established by the United Nations in 2006. By the end of the first four-year cycle in 2011 all the 192 States were reviewed.
The second cycle started in 2012. In the next four and a half years it will review 42 States each year. At the end of the second cycle all 193 States (including the newly recognised South Sudan) will be reviewed.
The review consists of five main steps: elaboration of reports; interactive dialogue among member States; adoption of the outcome of recommendations; formal adoption of the report by the state, implementation and follow-up. The various procedures involve States, international and national NGOs, national human rights institutes and other stakeholders.
In 2012 the 14th UPR session reviewed Czech Republic, Argentina, Gabon, Ghana, Ukraine, Guatemala, Benin, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Pakistan, Zambia, Japan, Peru and Sri Lanka
Other interviews of LGBT activists on their experience in the UPR system are available at http://ilga.org/ilga/en/article/nsKSZ961xx
OTHER UPDATES FROM THE ILGA WOMEN'S SECRETARIAT
Report from the Women's Secretariat 2011-2012
In 2011, Minority Women in Action (MWA) concentrated on understanding the ILGA operational programs and sourcing for funding. Below is an overview of some of the initiatives by MWA as well as challenges.
International Advocacy and collaboration
1. Two abstracts were submitted at international forum and accepted. ‘Women who have sex with women (WSW) health mini survey’ was submitted to the International Women’s Health Meeting in Bruxelles. ‘Uncomfortable Territories - Same sex practices in traditional communities and homophobia’ done by Akinyi Ocholla in collaboration with the National Museum of Kenya Staff Lydia Galavu and Isaiah Muchoki, was submitted to the IASSCS conference in Madrid, Spain. Lack of funding however prevented Minority Women in Action from presenting the papers.
2. Masika Mae – current vice chairperson, represented MWA at the Stockholm pride courtesy of RFSL.
3. MWA also published various articles on ILGA’s website.
International Baseline Research
4.MWA conducted an ILGA women’s Secretariat online survey. It captured responses from lesbian, bisexual and, to some extent, transgender organizations, who are members or affiliated to ILGA. It consisted in 10 questions aimed at collecting information on the activities, projects, studies, research methodologies, trainings, campaigns, best-practices, lessons learned, views on the Women’s Secretariat, and future collaborations. The survey also gave provision for the respondents to submit reports, publications and other documents to ILGA that they wished to share with the rest of the ILGA membership. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish over a two month period (December 2011 – mid February 2012).
A total of 35 organizations from 23 countries responded to the online survey.
Though the survey was short and easy to fill, the response count was small. Many valuable documents based on activities, studies, best practices, lessons learned, trainings and seminars exist with the ILGA organizations but they are in different languages and would require translation and compilation to be useful for the whole LGBTI world. Valuable lessons can be learned on how various studies were designed and conducted to get the most out of surveys. Mistakes can also be avoided if more of this information is shared.
One thing that stands out is the need for more collaboration and information sharing.
Detailed report on the survey can be provided upon request.
Regional Advocacy, Outreach and Policy support
5. Akinyi M. Ocholla, former chairperson and Rhoda Awino, current Chairperson presented a policy paper titled "Counseling Homosexual and Transgender persons in Kenya - Case studies of LBT experiences with counseling in Kenya" to over 150 professional counselors and psychologists at a conference in Nairobi organized by Kenya Association of Professional Counselors.
6. A MWA Delegation visited Uganda's LGBT organizations to bond and share experiences with them.
7. MWA has also contributed to a public inquiry on Sexual and reproductive health of minority groups by Kenya National Commission of Human Rights (KNCHR) in Nairobi and made a policy presentation.
8. MWA presented brief policy points on WSW (women who have sex with women) and some statistics from a mini health survey as well as statistics on their reproductive health from a gynaecologist. This was part of a wider policy formulating meeting for HIV /AIDS and related STIs including Most at Risk Peoples (MARPS) such as MSM and other vulnerable groups (such as WSW). It was organized by National HIV/AIDS Control Council and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.
9. MWA Disseminated information and reports on ILGA work to Kenyan LGBT stakeholders including LB health information to the wider E.A counterparts such as the French health pamphlets.
Internal ILGA participation
The Women’s Secretariat has been represented on the ILGA board by Akinyi M. Ocholla for board meetings.
In 2012, ILGA had sourced some funding for the Women’s Secretariat. In addition, MWA received a grant from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through LLH (the Norwegian LGBT organization). Furthermore MWA received grants from AJWS, HIVOS, ASTRAEA Lesbian Foundation for Justice and a prívate donation all of which supported the work in different ways. For this we would like to thank all our partners sincerely. The following initiatives were completed:
International collaboration and advocacy
1.Akinyi, participated in the Commission on the Status of Women in February in collaboration with ILGA and RFSL in New York
2. Nicole – Finance Officer, participated in the AWID conference in April: on behalf of ILGA in Istanbul, Turkey.
3.Akinyi participated in the Pride London events and Human Rights Conference for Commonwealth countries in July. This was organized by Pride London, with the help of Sahran
4. Rhoda Awino, current chairperson and Akinyi Ocholla, presented two papers to the Pan -African Anthropological Association Conference Aug 13-14, 2012 in Nairobi. The 2 papers are being reviewed for possible publication in their Journal.
5. Jedidah participated in the 5th African Conference on Sexual Health Rights (ACSHR 2012, 19-22 September) in Windhoek, Namibia. Presented a Hotline paper. She also attended the LGB workshop in Namibia and met Linda Baumann of OutRight Namibia.
6.Rhoda Awino, participated in the 14th Session of the UN Universal Periodic Review, in Geneva.
Regional Collaboration, Outreach and Advocacy
7.MWA conducted outreach in Kiandutu slums, Thika town, Nakuru and Eldoret towns – distributing ILGA maps and other materials.
8.Celebration of IDAHO together with the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) and Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) in May and conveyed greetings and information from ILGA to the Kenyan LGBTI community.
9.MWA’s ‘Stop the Hate – Stand with Us’ Campaign was rolled out in May and continued till end of the year. A new campaign will start in January 2013. (see information on www.minoritywomeninaction.co.ke). Q-FM Radio hosted MWA in the first week of October. reached a significant percentage of the adult population in Kenya. The topics were Parent-son/daughter relationships, friendships between gay and straight persons, and Health of LB persons
10.MWA participated in Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) EAST AFRICAN INITIATIVE, FEMINIST THINK TANK Meeting at HOTEL LAMADA 29TH AUGUST-1ST SEPTEMBER 2012.
6. Built capacity between May- July of MWA secretariat about ILGA and Women’s Secretariat work, through meetings, and practical involvement. MWA also reviewed its Strategic Plan.
11.A MWA member collaborated with AFRA – Kenya on a documentary ‘I am Mary’ which showed her challenges living with HIV.
12.May – September: Conducted a Baseline Survey “THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN HEALTH, DISCRIMINATION, VIOLENCE AND FINANCIAL STATUS AMONGST WOMEN WHO HAVE SEX WITH WOMEN (WSW), AND AN ASSESSMENT OF HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS’ KNOWLEDGE AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS WSW IN KENYA” (A COLLABORATIVE BASELINE SURVEY ON WSW AND HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS IN THREE KENYAN TOWNS). Done together with Women working with Women representatives & PEMA-Kenya representative. Status: compilation of data ongoing, data analysis ongoing.
13.Fatuma participated in the CREA Feminist and Leadership Institute in Nairobi in November.
Internal ILGA participation
14.The Women’s Secretariat has been represented on the ILGA board by Akinyi M. Ocholla for board meetings.
Challenges within MWA
Though MWA has managed to accomplish a number of activities, the one major challenge that it has is lack of full time employees. Much of the organizing is done on volunteer basis and by interns. Funding is usually on a year by year basis which does not provide long term sustainability.
Mental Health Information - Supported by ASTRAEA
STOP THE HATE - STAND WITH US CAMPAIGN
THE GIRL ART PROJECT (G.A.P) 2011 - Sponsored by UHAI
The Girl Art Project was a charity exhibition by the Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LBTI) community that not only gave the aforementioned community a positive, creative outlet to express themselves as they are through the arts, but also allowed the participants and audience to contribute to a worthy social cause - namely a children's school in Ngando Slums.
The project was a three-set exhibition with each set being up on display for a week and featuring artwork from three female artists: Kawira Mwirichia, Remmy Ireri and Shillah (Subira) Mombo. From the 18th October to the 8th November 2011 at the Godown Arts Centre, the theme of the exhibition was inspired by the female form, presence and experience
The Girl Art Project was a collaboration between Minority Women in Action and AFRA-Kenya backed by UHAI-EASHRI. Its aim was to raise money for the Children of Africa Hope Mission School which is a children’s school that caters for orphans and vulnerable children.
Meet the artist: Kawira Mwirichia
I am often inspired by the human experience and body and try as much as I can to explore these subjects in different and ever-challenging ways.
For the Girl Art project, I decided to delve into the idea of tactile art which led to my adoption of sliding-puzzle pieces as my canvas. As tactile art invites the audience to experience the art through touch as well as sight, I chose to enhance this physical experience by including relief sculpting into my process.
Further, I chose a racy and intimate theme for my work in order to capitalise on the contact between the audience and the canvas. Touch is intrinsically personal, and by inviting the audience to feel and move the canvas around I am inviting them to a deeper experience of the artwork.
Additionally, I have always been fascinated by the effect of shadow in paintings and often study its ability to obscure or emphasize particular aspects of a subject in my work. I chose to use acrylic paints for my work as these are able to withstand handling.
The sliding-puzzle piece artworks are of various sizes, and a blank (shiny) slab is used in the images to represent the empty, or missing, puzzle piece in the actual artwork.
Meet the artist: Remmy Ireri
My inspiration comes from life and its experiences and in the girl art project, I decided to use pastel charcoal and pencil to create black and white art that I hope the audience will appreciate.
In addition, I will be making some metal work pieces to add more dimension and variety to my work as well as contributing to the media diversity of the exhibition.
Meet the artist: Subira Mombo
I am more of a junk artist and I love painting; it gives me a sense of freedom and control of what I want to do.
In this project I have used the female body in different emotional states and especially freedom. I’m using acrylics on canvas mixed with a bit of graphics (line art) and other junk, to come up with interesting pieces of art that are just fascinating.
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Minority Women in Action
Minority Women in Action: Is an organization that fronts for minority women rights in all spheres. It is an organization which is open for all Kenyan women who share the same vision.
Minority Women in Action’s mission is to: secure and protect the rights of Lesbian Bisexual Transgender and Intersex (LBTI) women; to ensure that LBTI women have: full rights over their self and body, the right to self-accomplishment and development, full and equal protection of the law and real freedom from discrimination and violence.
A country free of oppressive and discriminative laws against Lesbian Bisexual Transgender and Intersex (LBTI) women; and a society free of Lesbophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia and Homophobia.
Establishment of a weekly film club in collaboration with Queer Solidarity Norway in 2006 to build a network of membership while providing a support link for LBTI women in Nairobi. The Film club still exists and movies are watched on a monthly basis.
Participation at the World Social Forum in January 2007 in advocating for equal rights for LGBTI people. MWA grabs all opportunities to dialogue with the public on LBTI issues such as the recently held HATUA show on Homosexuality in Nairobi
Participation in World Aids Day 2007, 2008, 2009.
Participation in CREAW’s workshop on sexuality and perceptions on sexuality of students in University of Nairobi, 2007