Category: Gender and Feminism

Group wants level employment playing field

By admin, October 6, 2011 3:44 pm

http://www.thecaribbeancamera.com/news/5290-js-1

Posted on Wednesday October 05, 2011

By Jasminee Sahoye

The local chapter of an organisation that represents Africans around the world wants to see a better and more comprehensive employment equity legislation in Ontario.

The Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity (Toronto) is calling on the three major political parties to support a comprehensive employment equity legislation so as to create a level employment playing field for racialized workers.

It says racialized workers are not experiencing the glass ceiling. “We are faced with the concrete ceiling or steel door.”

The organization says there are no anti-racist planks in the individual electoral platform of Ontario’s three major political parties and it wants to communicate its strong objection to what it describes as “the race-baiting of Tim Hudak on the question of racist employment barriers” and initiatives to address this matter.

“Our organization has been following the responses to Progressive Conservative party leader Tim Hudak’s comment about “foreign workers” being given privileged access to job opportunities. Was he implicitly appealing to white voters who have Ontario or Canada as their place of birth? The various criticisms of Hudak’s statement have largely failed in addressing the real issue about race and access to jobs in the province.”

The organization says instead of calling for an apology or a retraction of the racially offensive statement from Hudak, critics ought to be calling for the inclusion of a comprehensive employment equity legislation plank in the respective platforms of the three major parties. “Racialized workers are confronted by discriminatory employment barriers in the workplaces across the province of Ontario and the rest of Canada. In the absence of employment equity legislation with targets and enforceable accountability measures, it will be decades before these workers are fairly represented across the job classifications system in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors in Ontario. “

The organization added that the federal government with an employment equity legislation covering the national civil service has failed in equitably hiring and promoting racialized workers.

“In 2010, racialized workers had a national workforce availability (WFA) figure of 12.4 per cent, but only 9.8 per cent of them were employees of the national government. It was very instructive that of the four employment equity designated groups (women, racialized workers, people with disabilities and Aboriginals),racialized workers were the only underrepresented group. The other groups were overrepresented as federal employees based on their respective WFA figures,” the Network of Pan Afrikan Solidarity said.

Pilgrimage to Freedom Caravan 2011

By admin, August 29, 2011 12:57 pm

Pilgrimage to Freedom Caravan 2011

Last year, over 150 migrant workers and their allies made history by marching over fifty kilometres, an equivalent of 12 hours, from Leamington to Windsor, Ontario demanding justice, respect and dignity for the hundreds of thousands employed under the auspices of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Programs. After years of harassment, intimidation and exploitation, migrant workers organized and took to the streets to stand up to these abuses.

The march called the ‘Pilgrimage to Freedom: Breaking the Chains of Indentureship’ ended in Windsor at the Tower of Freedom that is dedicated to those who travelled the underground railroad. The monument was chosen as the ending point to reflect on the connections of past and the present to slavery, indentureship and statelessness that renders racialized peoples as non-citizens. Over the last year, thousands of people have heard the testimonies and the stories that led to organizing the march. Permanent residency and citizenship status, an end to repatriations and deportations, labour law reform, equal access to social entitlements and an end to the coercive role of recruiters and contractors has inspired many others about the realities faced by migrant workers in Canada.

Migrant workers and members of Justicia for Migrant Workers have continued to organize in rural Ontario and are once again demanding that the chains of indentureship in Canada must be broken. This year the pilgrimage continues as a form of a caravan across rural Ontario.

J4MW is requesting the support of community, religious, labour and allied organizations to join us for this year’s action. Migrant workers and their allies will be calling community meetings, and organizing meetings across south western Ontario. This year’s actions will take place across several communities.  If you are interested in further information feel free to contact Justicia for Migrant Workers. Tentative dates for stops on the caravan include

September 4, 2011
Niagara on the Lake, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls
For more details on the Niagara Action click here

September 25, 2011
Windsor, Leamington, Chatham and Dresden

October 2, 2011
Simcoe – Brantford – Hamilton – Toronto

Updates will be forthcoming in the upcoming weeks describing greater details the actions and what support we are asking for this event. We are seeking financial and in kind support but mostly your presence during these dates and communities.

Background Information

More than 20, 000 migrant farm workers from Thailand, Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, and the Caribbean arrive in Canada to work in our fields, orchards and greenhouses every year. Many workers pay thousands of dollars in fees to recruiters to be able to work in Canada, sometimes for jobs that do not even exist.   Once they arrive, many workers face dangerous working conditions, sub-standard housing and employment standards and human rights violations. As farm workers and migrants, they have little recourse to assert their human and labour rights and are constantly faced with the threat of deportation if they voice their concerns.

Justicia for Migrant Workers is an award winning volunteer-run collective that strives to promote the rights of migrant farm workers by creating spaces for workers to lead their own movement and articulate their own voices in a country that makes renders them invisible.

Justice for Migrant Workers!
Got food? Bought local? Thank a migrant farm worker!

Background on the Pilgrimage:
Call out for last year’s march
Message of solidarity from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsC1Bt-eSJg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB5fb3cyQyw

Photos:
Flickr
Labour Start’s International Photo of the Year, Pilgrimage Photo Won!
Tumblr Multimedia snapshots

Print:
Toronto Star
Windsor Star

No strides for racialized women

By admin, October 29, 2010 9:08 am

Re: Women storm city council, Oct. 27

I am very perplexed when commentators write about the underrepresentation of women at Toronto’s city hall, but leave the race of these councillors out of the political equation. Over the life of the last city council, the 10 women councillors were 100 per cent white. With the newly elected women councillors, white women are now just over 92 per cent of the total.

We are living in a city where racialized women are close to 25 per cent of the population. A lone racialized woman on city council is a shameful reality in this city that loves to lionize its multicultural and racially diverse character. Therefore, when we celebrate women storming the new city council, we should be clear that we are really talking about white women making political advance.

It seemed so easy to see situations where white men are the people who dominate a political space. But we need to be equally perspective in naming exclusion that is based on: race; race and gender; or race, gender and sexual orientation. I hope progressives will not see Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s election as the ultimate equal opportunity jackpot for equity.

If you believe that women are “calmer,” “collegial,” “look at things from different angles,” and are consensus builders, just ask racialized women or other non-dominant women who must deal with white women or other women who exercise power over them.

It is also about power and creating monolithic myths about gendered leadership styles does not serve the cause of justice.

Ajamu Nangwaya, Toronto

The Privileging of Whiteness in Today’s Union

By admin, October 26, 2010 11:08 am

Current Members of the National Executive Board

The National Executive Board makes decisions on behalf of CUPE members in between conventions. Its members are elected by CUPE members at CUPE’s biennial national conventions. This section contains summaries of the board’s meetings, and decisions taken.

Paul Moist, National President

Paul Moist, CUPE National President

Jun 22, 2009 03:32 PM Paul Moist was elected national president on October 29, 2003, at CUPE’s bi-annual national convention in Quebec City.

Claude Généreux, National Secretary-Treasurer

Claude Généreux, CUPE’s National Secretary-Treasurer

Oct 20, 2009 07:36 PM Claude Généreux first was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in the fall of 2001.

Daniel Légère

Daniel Légère, Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Jun 29, 2005 11:49 AM

General Vice-President
Daniel Légère has been a union activist ever since he was first hired as a correctional officer in St. Hilaire, N.B. in 1980. While still on probation, he became a shop steward and fought an unjustified reprimand. His involvement has taken many forms in CUPE and in the community ever since.

Lucie Levasseur

Lucie Levasseur, Regional Vice-President, Quebec

Nov 2, 2007 11:37 AM

General Vice-President
Lucie Levasseur comes to CUPE’s National Executive Board from Québec’s post-secondary education sector.

Fred Hahn

fredhahn[1].gif

Dec 14, 2009 03:59 PM

General Vice-President, Ontario

Fred Hahn has been an active member of CUPE since 1991. A social worker raised in rural Ontario, Fred chose to use his degree from the University of Toronto advocating for children with intellectual disabilities with Community Living Toronto.

Tom Graham

Tom Graham, Regional Vice-President, Saskatchewan

Oct 1, 2008 12:54 PM

General Vice-President, Saskatchewan

Tom Graham first became involved in CUPE in 1979, when he was hired by the City of Saskatoon Sign and Paint shop. He was elected president of CUPE Saskatchewan in 1998.

Barry O’Neill

Barry O’Neill, General Vice-PresidentJan 16, 2004 10:46 AM

General Vice-President
Barry was elected to the national executive board in 1998, first as a regional vice president.

Wayne Lucas

Wayne Lucas, Regional Vice-President, Newfoundland and Labrador

Aug 24, 2009 03:24 PM

Regional Vice-President, Newfoundland and Labrador

Lucas has been a CUPE member for over 30 years, having started his career as a school board worker in 1978. He has served as the president of CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador for the past 19 years.

Danny Cavanagh

Danny Cavanagh, Regional Vice-President, Nova Scotia

Apr 29, 2005 03:22 PM

Regional Vice-President, Nova Scotia
Danny Cavanagh was first elected as president of CUPE Nova Scotia on April 27th, 2005 at the annual convention in Sydney. He is also president of his local, CUPE 734 the outside workers for the Town of Truro.

Sandy Harding

Sandy Harding, Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Jun 10, 2008 03:17 PM

Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Milo Murray

Milo Murray, Regional Vice-President, Prince Edward Island

Nov 2, 2007 11:30 AM

Regional Vice-President, Prince Edward Island

Charles Fleury

Charles Fleury, Regional Vice-President, Québec

Nov 3, 2003 11:36 AM

Regional Vice-President, Québec

Charles Fleury is the Secretary-General of CUPE Local 1500, Employees of Hydro-Quebec, and has been regional vice-president since 2005. A Hydro-Quebec employee since 1982, he worked at James Bay until 1991, and is now a transmission installer in the Laurentians.

Nathalie Stringer

Nathalie Stringer, Regional Vice-President for Quebec

May 15, 2008 10:58 AM

Regional Vice-President for Quebec
Nathalie Stringer is president of CUPE’s Air Transat component, with bases in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Michael Hurley

Michael Hurley, Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Dec 18, 2001 11:40 AM

Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Candace Rennick

Candace Rennick, Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Jan 16, 2004 02:19 PM

Regional Vice-President, Ontario
Candace Rennick, a health care worker, is in her third term on the National Executive Board. She was first elected as regional vice-president (RVP) at 23, filling a vacancy for Ontario on the NEB.

Henri Giroux

Nov 20, 2009 02:12 PM

Regional Vice-President, Northern Ontario
Henri Giroux has been president of his local, an Cassellholme Home in North Bay, for 26 years. He has been president of the North Bay CUPE council for the past 10 years, and president of the North Bay and District Labour Council for the past 3 years.

Mike Davidson

See full size image

Nov 20, 2009 02:14 PM

Regional Vice-President, Manitoba
Mike Davidson has been a CUPE member for 30 years, starting out as a park worker at the city of Winnipeg in 1979. He is vice-president for CUPE Manitoba, and president of CUPE Local 500, representing 5000 workers at the City of Winnipeg.

Judy Henley

See full size image

Nov 20, 2009 02:16 PM

Regional Vice-President, Saskatchewan
Sister Judy Henley has been a CUPE member since 1982. She is a Health Care worker; through the years working in health care she held different positions. She is the Secretary-Treasurer of Local 4980 and is currently in her eighth year as Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Saskatchewan.

Dennis Mol

Dennis Mol became Regional Vice-President for Alberta when he was elected president of CUPE Alberta in March 2009.

Jun 11, 2009 08:28 AM

Regional Vice-President, Alberta
Dennis Mol became Regional Vice-President for Alberta when he was elected president of CUPE Alberta in March 2009.

Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, Regional Vice-President, British Columbia

Aug 11, 2005 12:31 PM

Regional Vice-President, British Columbia
Mark Hancock was appointed August 2, 2005 to replace Colleen Jordan as the Regional Vice President for BC after Colleen Jordan stepped down.

Ken Robinson

BC Regional Vice-President Ken Robinson

Dec 17, 2008 03:17 PM

Regional Vice-President, British Columbia
Ken Robinson is a diet technician at Kelowna General Hospital and has been an HEU member for 20 years. He has held a number of positions on the union’s provincial executive in the past decade, most recently as first vice-president, and is the chairperson of the Kelowna Amalgamated local.

Affirmative Action Seats on the NEB

Yolanda McClean

Yolanda McClean, Diversity Vice-President

Nov 2, 2007 11:46 AM

Diversity Vice-President (Racialized Members)

Brian Barron

Brian Barron, Diversity Vice-President

Nov 2, 2007 11:48 AM

Diversity Vice-President (Aboriginal Members)

Brian Barron is Status First Nations CUPE member. He has been a City of Winnipeg employee for 29 years, working in the Public Works Department in field operations and as a foreman.

CUPE’s National Committees and

Working Groups

National Advisory Committee on Pensions

Pensions1906

National Health Care Issues Committee

Health Care 1843

National Global Justice Committee

Global Justice1858

Persons with Disabilities National Working Group

Disabilities1872

National Young Workers Committee

Young Workers1890

National Child Care Working Group

Child1899

National Environment Committee

Environnement1866

National Health and Safety Committee

Health and safety1951

National Literacy Working Group

Literacy 1956

National Pink Triangle Committee

Pink Triangle1913

National Contracting Out and Privatization Co-ordinating Committee

Privitization1933

National Women’s Committee

Women1881

National Rainbow Committee

Rainbow1940

National Rainbow Committee

Rainbow1940

National Aboriginal Council

Aboriginal1838

National Trustees

CUPE national trustees at work on May 12, 2010 in Ottawa. Left to right: Mark Goodwin (ON), Ronald Dagenais (QC), Colin Pawson (BC).
Syndics_mai2010

2009 – 2011 Appointments

STATISTICAL INFORMATION CUPE NATIONAL COMMITTEES

Total # of Applicants = 476

Total # of members Appointed = 186 Total # of Re-appointments = 108 Total # of new Appointments = 78
Female

258

111

56

45

Male

215

75

42

33

Transgendered

3

1

1

0

Aboriginal Worker

41

21

14

7

Worker of Colour

91

20

13

7

Worker with Disability

68

20

11

9

Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual Worker

43

19

14

5

Youth Worker

22

11

6

5

National Political Action Committee

Political Action1925

Leaked UN report accuses Rwanda of possible genocide in Congo

By admin, August 26, 2010 4:59 pm
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/26/un-report-rwanda-congo-hutus

Unprecedented investigation by human rights commissioner says Hutu deaths ‘cannot be put down to margins of war’

Hutu refugees at UN’s Goma camp The UN’s Goma camp in 1994. The Rwandan army attacked the camp, which was full of Hutu refugees, forcing hundreds of thousands deeper into Zaire. Photograph: Jon Jones/Sygma/CorbisThe United Nations has accused Rwanda of wholesale war crimes, including possibly genocide, during years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An unprecedented 600-page investigation by the UN high commissioner for human rights catalogues years of murder, rape and looting in a conflict in which hundreds of thousands were slaughtered.

A draft version of the report, revealed by Le Monde and expected to be published next month, says the abuses, over a period of seven years and two invasions by Rwanda, amount to “crimes against humanity, war crimes, or even genocide” because the principal targets of the violence were Hutus, who were killed in their tens of thousands.

Among the accusations is that Rwandan forces and local allies rounded up hundreds of men, women and children at a time and butchered them with hoes and axes. On other occasions Hutu refugees were bayoneted, burned alive or killed with hammer blows in large numbers.

It is the first time the UN has published such forthright allegations against Rwanda, a close ally of Britain and the US.

The Rwandan government reacted angrily to the report today, dismissing it as “amateurish” and “outrageous” after reportedly attempting to pressure the UN not to publish it by threatening to pull out of international peacekeeping missions. Rwanda’s Tutsi leaders will be particularly discomforted by the accusation of genocide when they have long claimed the moral high ground for bringing to an end the 1994 genocide in their own country. But the report was welcomed by human rights groups, which called for the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes.

The report covers two periods: Rwanda’s 1996 invasion of the country then called Zaire in pursuit of Hutu soldiers and others who fled there after carrying out the 1994 genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis, and a second invasion two years later that broadened into a regional war involving eight countries.

Rwanda’s attack on Zaire in 1996 was initially aimed at clearing the vast UN refugee camps around Goma and Bukavu, which were being used as cover by Hutu armed forces to continue the war against the new Tutsi-led government in Kigali.

Hundreds of thousands of the more than 1 million Hutus in eastern Zaire were forced back to Rwanda. Many more, including men who carried out the genocide but also large numbers of women and children, fled deeper into Zaire. They were pursued and attacked by the Rwandan army and a Zairean rebel group sponsored by Kigali, the AFDL.

The UN report describes “the systematic, methodical and premeditated nature of the attacks on the Hutus [which] took place in all areas where the refugees had been tracked down”.

“The pursuit lasted months and, occasionally, humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked, notably in the eastern province, thus depriving them of things essential to their survival,” the report said.

“The extent of the crimes and the large number of victims, probably in the several tens of thousands, are demonstrated by the numerous incidents detailed in the report. The extensive use of non-firearms, particularly hammers, and the systematic massacres of survivors after camps were taken prove that the number of deaths cannot be put down to the margins of war. Among the victims were mostly children, women, old and ill people.”

The report goes on to say that “the systematic and widespread attacks have a number of damning elements which, if proved before a competent court, could be described as crimes of genocide”.

The UN also adds that while Kigali has permitted Hutus to return to Rwanda in large numbers, that did not “rule out the intention of destroying part of an ethnic group as such and thus committing a crime of genocide”.

The Zairean army collapsed in the face of the invasion and Rwanda seized the opportunity to march across the country and overthrow the longstanding dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. Laurent Kabila was installed as president. He promptly changed the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Rwanda invaded again in 1998 after accusing the new regime of continuing to support Hutu rebels. The following five years of war drew in armies from eight nations as well as 21 rebel groups in a conflict that quickly descended in to mass plunder of the DRC’s minerals as well as a new wave of war crimes.

The UN report accuses Angolan forces of using the cover of the war to attack refugees from Angola’s conflict-plagued Cabinda province who had fled to the DRC. Angola is accused of “executing all those they suspected of colluding with their enemies”. Angolan soldiers also raped and looted, the UN investigation said.

International human rights groups welcomed the UN report and said it should be used to bring the accused to trial. “This is a very important report,” said Human Rights Watch. “We hope that it can form the basis for ending the impunity that has protected the people responsible for some of these crimes.”

The UN’s damning conclusions will prove hugely embarrassing to Rwanda, which is attempting to project itself as a rapidly modernising state that has put its brutal recent history behind it.

President Paul Kagame’s office attempted to dismiss the report. “It’s an amateurish NGO job, and it’s outrageous,” said a spokeswoman, Yolande Makolo. “Nobody reasonable believes that it’s helpful to anybody. The countries mentioned in the draft report have rejected it and will continue to reject it.”

Makolo did not comment on reports that Kagame last month warned the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, that Rwanda would pull its troops out of peacekeeping missions in Darfur and elsewhere if the report was made public. Le Monde said that threat was reiterated in a letter to Ban by Rwanda’s foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, said the leaked draft was not the final version and the report to be published next month had undergone revisions.

“It’s only a draft from about two months ago and the proper final version will come up very soon,” he said.

But if there are substantial differences, the UN is likely to stand accused of bowing to pressure from Rwanda.

Atrocities detailed in the UNHCR document seen by Le Monde

Kinigi, 7 December 1996 “Elements from the AFDL/APR killed nearly 310 civilians, many of them women and children. The troops had accused the local population, mostly Hutu, of sheltering Interahamwe [Hutu paramilitaries, who] had already left the village. At first the troops sought to reassure the civilians [whom they gathered together] in several buildings, including the adventist church and the primary school. In the afternoon, troops entered these buildings and killed the villagers with hoes or axes to the head.”

Luberizi, 29 October 1996 “Elements from the AFDL/APR/FAB [Burundi's armed forces] killed around 200 male refugees. The victims were part of a group of refugees told by the troops to regroup so that they could be repatriated to Rwanda. The troops separated the men from the rest of the group and killed them with bayonets or bullets. The bodies were then buried in mass graves [near to] the church.”

Bwegera, 3 November 1996 “They burned alive 72 Rwandan refugees in Cotonco (cotton company) headquarters, one kilometre from the village.”

Mutiko, December 1996 “Special units from the AFDL/APR started to hunt down refugees, killing several hundred. Once they had been intercepted at barriers put up by the troops, the victims were given food and told to get into UN lorries waiting at the exit of the village. The victims were then taken out on to the road, then killed with blows to the head with canes, hammers and axes. The troops encouraged the local population to take part in the killings.”

Appeal for public help exposing police crimes Groups launch peoples’ investigation into police abuses at G20

By admin, July 16, 2010 10:24 am

From: <community.mobilize@resist.ca>
Date: Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 9:32 AM
Subject: [g8/g20mobilization] Appeal for Public Suport to Expose Police Crimes
To: community.mobilize@masses.tao.ca


Appeal for public help exposing police crimes
Groups launch peoples’ investigation into police abuses at G20

Toronto – Community groups are calling on the public to come forward with
photos, video, and eye witness accounts of police violence against
civilians during the G20 summits in Toronto.  This evidence will be used
to ensure that there are consequences for all those who beat and injured
people, and for the masterminds who conspired to plan and give orders for
the widespread police violence and repression that was experienced by
thousands on the streets. Further details can be found at
http://g20.torontomobilize.org/PeoplesInvestigation

Press Conference:  11 a.m., Tuesday July 13, Ontario Institute for Studies
in Education, 252 Bloor Street West room 7-216.

“Police seriously injured many people in our city while the G20 met to
plan the gutting of our social programs,” said Farrah Miranda of the
Toronto Community Mobilization Network.  “We are asking the public to help
us to expose these incidents, and to ensure that there are consequences
for these outrageous abuses of power.”

“These rogue officers did not act alone,” she added.  “They were part of a
coordinated conspiracy by police chiefs and politicians that led to
injuries, the detention of organizers, and the largest arbitrary mass
arrest in modern Canadian history. This is not behaviour that should be
commended, this is behaviour that should be investigated.”

The Toronto Community Mobilization Network is launching an independent
peoples’ investigation into the severe and widespread abuses of police
power that occurred during the G20 meetings in Toronto, and the collusion
of politicians in making and executing those plans.  This peoples’
investigation will include representation from community groups, people
who were detained and hurt, NGO’s, academics, legal and medical
professionals, and the communities who face police repression every day.
The investigation will yield a report calling for clear consequences
including firings, and charges of those responsible for abuses including:

1.  Arbitrary intimidation, searches, mass arrests and abhorrent
conditions in detention.
2.  Many serious injuries to protesters, including while in handcuffs.
3.  Illegal, repeated strip searches, threats of rape, and molestation.
4.  Discrimination against deaf people, women, LGBTQ people, Quebecois,
organizers, others.
5.  Passing of secret laws limiting civil rights, and then misleading the
public about their nature.

The Toronto Community Mobilization Network is posting today 6 photos of
police abuses, and is asking the public to help identify the officers
involved.  We are also calling on people of conscience within the police
and the government to come forward as whistleblowers to expose the
decision makers behind this violence.  People can contribute photos or
other information to our investigation through
http://g20.torontomobilize.org/PeoplesInvestigation, by emailing
g20PoliceViolence@gmail.com, and by tagging uploaded photos, accounts, and
video with #G20PoliceViolence.  We cannot ensure the confidentiality of
these submissions.

Movement organizations continue to call for:
1.  Immediate release of all G20 protest prisoners.
2.  Dropping all G20 related charges.
3.  Firings and prosecution of those responsible for ordering police
violence, and abuses.
4. Abolishment of the G20.

“All of the serious injuries we saw and treated were caused by police
violence,” said Dr. Abeer Majeed of the Toronto Street Medics.  “We did
not come across any police officers or bystanders who were injured by
demonstrators. The police abuses that we witnessed against people caused
significant trauma, injuries and a shattering of the public trust. It is
imperative that there is accountability and there are consequences for
these senseless, violent, and dangerous actions.”

“If such abuses of power are not nipped in the bud such crackdowns will be
repeated as our communities organize to oppose the cutbacks and suffering
imposed by the G20 austerity agenda,” said Jean McDonald, a York
University student who had her hand broken by police.  “Police violence
has long targeted racialized communities. Now all our communities are
coming together and the police and politicians are out of control.  We
need to ensure that those conspiring to hurt people in any community
cannot get away with it ever again.”
______________________________

“There Is Almost Total Impunity for Rape in Congo”

By admin, June 28, 2010 12:06 pm

Q&A
“There Is Almost Total Impunity for Rape in Congo”
Jennie Lorentsson interviews MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict


UNITED NATIONS, Jun 28, 2010 (IPS) – Sexual violence against women has become part of modern warfare around the world. In some countries, women cannot even go out to draw water without fear of being attacked and raped.

On Apr. 1, Margot Wallström became the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Her job is to investigate abuses and make recommendations to the Security Council.

The appointment of Wallström, currently a vice president of the European Commission, comes amidst continued reports of gender violence, including rape and sexual abuse both locally and by humanitarian aid workers and U.N. peacekeepers, mostly in war zones and in post-conflict societies.

The incidents of sexual attacks, both on women and children, have come from several countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Haiti, Burundi, Guinea and Liberia.

One of Wallström’s first assignments was a trip to the DRC, a nation she calls “the rape capital” of the world. Excerpts from the interview with Wallström follow.

Q: Tell us about your trip.

A: Congo has attracted attention in the media [as a place that is suffering] systematic rape in war. One statistic quoted is 200,000 rapes since the beginning of the war 14 years ago, and it is certainly an underestimate.

When in Congo, I met government representatives and particularly women who had been raped and violated. It was interesting but also disappointing – nothing is getting better and more and more civilians are committing rapes.

But I should be fair and say that there has been progress, the government has introduced laws against rape, it has a national plan and there is political will. There is a lot to do to implement the legislation, but now there is an ambitious legal ground to stand on to be implemented by the police, judiciary and health care.

Q: What are the roots of the problem?

A: The sexual violence in Congo is the result of the war between the many armed groups. To put women in the front line has become a part of modern warfare.

Men often feel threatened in times of conflict and stay inside, but the women have to go out and get water and firewood and go to the fields to find food. In many cases they’ll be the first to be attacked. Especially if there is no paid national army that can protect civilians, rape is a part of the looting and crimes against the innocent. In addition, there is almost total impunity for rape in the Congo.

Q: The U.N. has its own force, MONUC, in Congo to protect civilians. What is being done to help women?

A: MONUC has had to adjust their operations after the conditions in the country. For example, MONUC has special patrols which escort women to health care clinics and markets.

Q: The U.N. and the Congolese government are discussing when the U.N. should leave the country. What would happen if the U.N. left the Congo now?

A: We have reason to be worried if the United Nations would leave the Congo. It is still unsettled in some parts of the country and the U.N. provides logistics for many of the NGOs operating in the country, and they rely in the U.N.

What is happening right now is that [the government] wants to show that it can protect the country itself – it’s a part of the debate on independence.

Q: How do feel when you hear about U.N. peacekeepers committing atrocities?

A: Just one example is too much. It destroys our confidence in the U.N.’s ability to do great things.

Q: There is criticism that the U.N. is a bureaucratic and inflexible organisation. Do you agree?

A: In every large organisation there is critisism like this. After 10 years in the European Commission, I can recognise such trends here, there is always. But basically, there are high hopes and great confidence in the U.N. and the energy and passion that exists for the U.N. is very useful.

Q: The Security Council has promised to focus even more on the issue of violence against women. Which countries should be focused on?

A: Congo is a given, also Darfur and a number of other countries in Africa. We will also focus on Liberia, where it is more a post-conflict society which has been brutalised and where rape is the most common offence. We cannot be in all countries with conflicts, we will comply with the Security Council agenda. This is a problem that not only exists in Africa.

Q: What can your staff do on site?

A: Our team of legal experts can help a country to establish a modern legislation. Impunity is the foundation of the problem, the women have to go with guilt and the men go free. We must try to understand how such a culture is created and how it can be a method of warfare. Then we can stop it.

(END)

JUSTICE FOR OUR COMMUNITIES! NO TO G8/G20! YES TO TAKING BACK OUR CITY

By admin, May 21, 2010 3:17 pm

Friday, June 25th, 2010
2:30pm
Allan Gardens (Carleton St. and Sherbourne St)
RALLY. MARCH. BLOCK PARTY. TENT CITY.

From June 25th and 27th, 2010, the world’s twenty richest countries (the
G8 and G20) will send their ruling elite, along with heads of the IMF and
World Bank, to meet in Huntsville and then in Toronto, to talk
exploitation, wealth, and greed.

These ‘leaders’ have shredded the public sector and social spending,
criminalized the poor, immigrants and racialized communities, continued to
plunder Indigenous lands and trash the environment, deported our families
and friends, gutted the unions, and closed hospitals and schools while
they grant tax cuts to the rich and corporations and boost police and
military budgets. These disgusting policies have enacted devastation
around the world and are reflected right here in Toronto.

We are the people severely impacted by this agenda: we are Toronto-based
community organizations, people of color, indigenous people, immigrants,
women, the poor, the working class, queer and trans people, disabled
people, and our allies.

We live in a city that houses the corporations that exploit and displace
people. Toronto police kills and brutalizes our communities. Toronto
housing kicks out our families. Toronto social services slam the door on
undocumented migrants. This city pushes out poor people and attacks sex
workers. Toronto exists on stolen indigenous land.

Toronto’s communities are uniting to take back what is ours! Join us on
the streets June 25, as we ensure the G20, the G8 and their deadly
policies are exposed and challenged! Rally, march, party and pitch a tent
city against Toronto and the G8/G20’s colonial, racist, sexist, abeliest,
homo/transphobic and capitalist policies.

Join Us for Justice For Our Communities!

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, No One Is Illegal-Toronto,
LIFEMovement, Jane and Finch Action Against Poverty, Students Against
Israeli Apartheid, DAMN 2025, Women’s Coordinating Committee Chile -
Canada, No Games Toronto, South Asian Women’s Rights Organization,
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid

Our organizations are campaigning for the some of the following demands:

-Stop the theft and plunder of indigenous lands: Indigenous sovereignty now!
-Housing for all
-Status for All! Justice for Migrants and Refugees!
-Affordable Childcare!
-Accessibility legislation that means something – NOW!
-Reverse the cut to the Special Diet, Raise Welfare/Disability Rates!
-Stop psychiatric assault
-Access to Social Services Without fear
-No to the Pan Am Games!
-End Israeli Apartheid! Respect the call for Boycotts, Divestment and
Sanctions!
-Stop racial profiling
-Free and accessible transit
-Stop the privatization of city property
-Justice for migrant and non-status workers
-Affordable and accessible post-secondary education
-Remove the cap on Direct Funding for Attendant Care
-Police out of Schools
-Stop the Social Cleansing of the Downtown East End
-Stop Police Brutality, Impunity, and Militarization of Communities

(To join the organizing, and to add your local campaign demands to this
call, email seetheg8onyourstreet@gmail.com

)

For more information about June 25th, visit http://25june.wordpress.com,
email seetheg8onyourstreet@gmail.com, or call 416-925-6939

For more details on the broader G8/G20 Convergence in Toronto, visit
http://g20.torontomobilize.org

Haitian Women: Rea Dol vs. the Republic of NGOs

By admin, March 17, 2010 9:09 pm

Réa Dol vs. the Republic of NGO’s

Georgianne Nienaber

Georgianne Nienaber

Investigative journalist, searcher, and author

Posted: March 16, 2010 09:01 AM

Haitian Women: Rea Dol vs. the Republic of NGOs

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Take a walk for ten years in Rea Dol’s shoes and you might learn something about the imperialist attitude of NGOs in Haiti. You will also learn something about tenacity, hope, and the indomitable spirit of the women of Haiti. Haitians have a term for it — “Poteau Mitan” — women are the “central pillars” of society. The pillar named Rea Dol was almost lost in the January 12 earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince and tore a huge hole in the already shredded fabric of Haitian society. Rea is only one, but she was and is still on a deeply personal mission to repair that fabric as director of SOPUDEP (Society of Providence United for the Economic Development of Petionville), whose membership actively participates in the National Literacy Project. SOPUDEP is a private, licensed school, founded in 2000 by Dol and Andre Jean- Marie. It began as an adult literacy campaign.

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The day before the earthquake, Rea was in Port-au-Prince to purchase two sewing machines that were to be used in an afternoon program at SOPUDEP. They cost $180 each and it was big decision to make, but the machines would provide added income for some of the 664 kids in her literacy program. The machines needed assembly, so she was scheduled to pick them up two days later, but she had to pay for them first. Now, she cannot even find the shop, let alone the sewing machines. The building was obliterated in the quake.

Today, Rea walks in the rubble-strewn courtyard of what was once a school in the hills of Petionville behind the Montana Hotel. Most of the building stands, but it is unusable and unsafe. The smell of concrete dust is still in the air, in this, one of the hardest hit areas south of Port-au-Prince. She has no idea how many of her kids were lost in the quake, but for certain 24 are gone and unknown numbers are buried in the rubble of homes in the neighborhood. Two teachers are dead, and the children who try to return to visit with Rea are too stressed by the knowledge that their classmates are still under tons of concrete to want to stay. Many are “restaveks” — child domestic slave laborers — who were sexually and physically abused and so prefer street life to adoptive parents. They sought shelter in the shadow of the pillar named Rea.

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Looking over the broken courtyard wall of the SOPUDEP school one sees the familiar sign of Save the Children dominating an undamaged rock wall with a blue metal gate in the center. It is less than 30 yards away. At least ten cars and trucks sit idly in the extensive courtyard that is locked to the surrounding community. While we are watching, a man who looks like he stepped out of the pages of GQ, bluetooth in ear and briefcase in hand, strolls up to the gate, shiny watch visible on his left wrist, and calls to the guard to let him in.

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We ask if Rea has asked them for help. She all but snorts a reply as she laughs.

“They would not help me before the quake. Why would I bother to ask them now? They don’t follow their mission statement.”

We looked up the mission statement on their website.

In urban areas, including the capital of Port-au-Prince, Save the Children supports welcome centers for street children that provide food and shelter, education and health programs and counseling and play opportunities. Centers offer scholarship assistance so that children can attend school and provide on-site lessons to prepare children for formal schooling. Save the Children also supports children’s rights through direct local interventions and national advocacy. Through a network of children’s clubs, we educate girls and boys on their rights, offers recreational youth activities and endorse positive civic participation.

Funny, that is exactly what Rea has been doing for more than ten years, or trying to do, in a country that according to the World Bank has 3,000 registered NGOs and up to 10,000 charities in total. After the quake it is an absolute free-for-all money grab. Haitians refer to the organizations as the “Republic of NGOs.”

Rea’s vision for the children of Haiti began when she was working with the adult literacy program in the now broken mansion which once belonged to Lionel Wooley. A member of the infamous Tontons Macoutes, Papa Doc Duvalier’s repressive and blood-soaked militia, Wooley died in exile in Miami in 2000. The Haitian government expropriated his property, which was stolen from victims of the Toutons Macoutes. In 2002 SOPUDEP acquired the property under a ten-year lease through the efforts of former Mayor Sulley Guriere of Petionville. The first order of business was to board-up the torture chamber found under the swimming pool.

The original literacy campaign was designed for 30-60 adults, but the need was huge and so more came. So did the street children, who wanted to learn and get something to eat in the process. Realizing that children could not learn in the same manner as adults, Rea’s vision was born. She was going to help these kids, and she began by approaching both Plan International and CARE for help.

CARE could not have cared less and offered no assistance. Plan International did what they do best and asked Rea for a plan. Rea produced an extensive plan and report for the NGO and they ignored it, but Rea was not going to give up.

The Republic of NGOs may not follow their mission statement, but Rea follows hers.

My mission is to do my best and I pray, I pray. If Save the Children cannot help us, who will? I see their signs everywhere in Port-au-Prince. Our children are the future of our community. I am coming to find myself in them.

A decision was made to dedicate the property to the children of the poor and the homeless restaveks. A sympathetic journalist and filmmaker, Kevin Pina, helped Rea hire an attorney to structure a charter so that the organization could protect the lease and meet government requirements to operate the school. SOPUDUP is funded largely by the Canadian Sawatzky Family Foundation, a registered Canadian charity that was created in 2008 for the sole purpose of providing financial support and raising awareness for Rea’s program. SOPUDUP also receives some support from a national food organization and private donors from around the world. It is not much, but Rea watches the books like a hawk, expenditures are listed on the webpage, and Rea is always thinking ahead. Initial enrollment was 160, but grew to 664 in 2010. She realized the lease would run out in 2012, that they would need more space, and so made plans to purchase a vacant field — raised $40,000 of the $60,000 purchase price, and then January 12 happened. The lesson plan for that date is still on the broken slate board.

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When the quake hit and Rea realized she was still alive, her first instinct was to get to work.

I knew many of my kids were buried under the rubble. I felt I could not stay in my house. My mission was to help the kids. I tried to do my best. I’m not a doctor; I’m not a nurse, but I tried.

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Well, Rea being Rea, she did more than her best — the pillar of hope became a hero — and she will never say that, but I will.

Rea strapped a gallon of the surgical disinfectant Betadine to her back and climbed through the devastated hillsides, washing the wounds of the injured as best she could. When possible, she arranged transport for the broken bodies that still held a flicker of life.

How did she find the strength?

“I have gone beyond what I was the day before the earthquake,” is all she will say.

And so Save the Children has done nothing to save Rea’s children. But she continues to try, against all odds.

Needs are many. Temporary classrooms are a must, but tents are impossible to come by here. The current school will never be used, but the field is secured at 83 Delmas Road. She needs $20,000 to pay it off completely. Haitian officials have promised tents, but it is doubtful they will arrive.

Before the quake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The average income in Haiti is 75 cents to $2 per day, with the cost of food comparable with that of the United States. Today Port-au-Prince can be compared to Mad Max on steroids, but Rea is undaunted and unbowed.

So many write and ask me about grass roots programs in Haiti.

Contact Rea at readol2002@yahoo.fr.

Cross post with LAPROGRESSIVE

WHEN TWO BULLS FIGHT…: WOMEN AND GIRLS IN THE DRC CONFLICT

By admin, March 14, 2010 9:43 pm

WHEN TWO BULLS FIGHT…: WOMEN AND GIRLS IN THE DRC CONFLICT

by Bathseba Opini and Aline Nizigama

Introduction

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the most devastating post-independence conflicts on the African continent. It has disrupted the social, cultural, economic and political conditions of the people. It is widely estimated that, to date, more than 5 million people have lost their lives and/or been displaced. Women and children are the most affected. Widespread rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated by armed forces, militia, insurgent groups and even civilians have made the DRC a precarious territory for women and girls to reside in. However, one has to remain hopeful. An array of practical short-term and long-term solutions could be implemented to address this problem. Before such solutions are suggested, a brief look at the history behind the gender-based violence that women and girls are experiencing in the DRC today is in order.

Background to the DRC Crisis

The roots of the DRC conflict lie in its great wealth of natural resources and people’s desire to control and exploit them. In pursuit of rubber wealth, up to 25 million people died in the DRC under King Leopold II’s rule, and his repressive leadership style was inherited by the post-independent elites. It started in January 1961 with the assassination of the first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, purportedly because of his anti-capitalist stance. Lumumba had been dismissed from office by Joseph Kasavubu, the then president, who was himself ousted by Joseph-Desire Mobutu in 1965.  Mobutu ruled the country as his personal property and misappropriated its resources. The nation’s wealth became the preserve of a few “well connected” elites while the majority of the Congolese people remained landless peasants, low-ranking civil servants or unemployed. The gap between rich and poor became intolerable and there emerged open conflicts between them. Political dissent became wide-spread and it resulted in organized resistance.

“The roots of the DRC conflict lie in its great wealth of natural resources and people’s desire to control and exploit them… The nation’s wealth became the preserve of a few ‘well connected’ elites… The gap between rich and poor became intolerable.”

In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, approximately 1.5 million Hutus fled Rwanda to the Congo and settled in refugee camps. Among these refugees were Hutu militants who were a threat to the Tutsis in eastern DRC. Finally in 1996, when the Tutsis were deprived of DRC citizenship and threatened with expulsion, an anti-Mobutu rebellion led by Laurent Kabila emerged with support from several neighboring African countries, particularly Rwanda. Mobutu finally fled the country and died in exile in 1997. Laurent Kabila declared himself head of state.

The Congolese people hoped that Kabila was going to change conditions, but he did not. Like Mobutu, he squandered the country’s resources and banned all opposition political parties. People resisted, and Kabila began to lose his grip on the country. After a year in power, Kabila broke his alliance with the Tutsi-led government of Rwanda (who had greatly assisted him to power), an action that turned Rwanda and Uganda against his regime. These two neighbouring countries, in turn, backed Congolese rebel factions to topple Kabila. At this point (1998), Angola, Zimbabwe, and Namibia came to Kabila’s rescue, supplying troops and military equipment. The Hutu militiamen responsible for the Rwandan genocide and who had sought and obtained refuge in the Congo also fought on the side of Kabila’s government.

In 2001, in an ongoing manifestation of DRC’s violence, Kabila was assassinated and his son Joseph took over. He tried to negotiate a peace deal with Rwanda and Uganda in 2001, but the conflict reignited in 2002. In 2006, the DRC held its first multi-party elections, which Joseph Kabila won in spite of allegations of voting irregularities. Joseph Kabila continues to lead the country in 2010. The country is still experiencing significant economic, social and political challenges. Inflation is on the rise, corruption is widespread, and all administrative and economic structures suffer from a lack of resources and transparency.

“All administrative and economic structures suffer from a lack of resources and transparency… (and) the desire by African nations and international players to profit from the country’s mineral wealth.”

Compounding the problems of leadership in the DRC is the desire by African nations and international players to profit from the country’s mineral wealth. Lured by the Congo’s mineral resources, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Namibia have all taken advantage of internal conflicts in the DRC and sided with either the government of the day or with rebel groups. Rwandan and Ugandan armies are said to have grown wealthy as a consequence of the conflict and minerals of the DRC. Indeed natural resources in the Congo have been more of a curse than a blessing for the country.

The DRC crisis is thus not of the Congolese people’s making alone; external forces have also played a role. We should be aware of the complicity of western powers and neighbouring African nations. We should consider who is supplying the warring camps with arms, financing and training the soldiers and militias, and why. We cannot ignore the role of the international community especially its supply of arms and investment in illicit mining. The wealth generated from these activities ends up in western countries, a fact documented by more than one UN Security Council report.

Vulnerability of Women and Children in the War

There is a Kiswahili saying that goes ” Wapiganapo ndume wawili, aumiaye ni nyasi ” (When two bulls fight, it is the grass that suffers). The common people of the DRC, especially women and children, have always paid a hefty price for these conflicts and this is particularly true of the conflicts of the last decade in eastern Congo. Sexual violence against women and girls in this part of the DRC is rampant and it can serve specific war purposes. It is utilized as a tactic of political and psychosocial control (Beneduce, et al, 2006). In Rape in War: The humanitarian response (2000),  L. Schank and M.J. Schull see rape as a weapon to “terrorize communities and to achieve ethnic cleansing.”

“Sexual violence against women and girls in this part of the DRC is rampant and it can serve specific war purposes. It is utilized as a tactic of political and psychosocial control.”

Such sexual violence has immediate and long-term physical, psychological and social consequences. Physically, the women’s bodies are destroyed. There have been incidents where rapists push objects up the women’s and girls’ vaginas after rape, destroying their reproductive system (Human Rights Report, 2002).  Rape in the DRC conflict has also contributed to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Psychologically, many women and children remain traumatized following their horrible rape experiences. Socially, those who are raped often experience stigma and being ostracized from their families and communities.

There are also broader economic and political consequences. When the lives of women and children are threatened, the state is also threatened. Women in the DRC play a crucial role in the country’s economy. According to C. Suda (1996), the survival of the family and that of the future of the nation depends on the well-being of the female population. Women’s efforts in producing and processing food in the country are under serious threat. With the current war, women do not feel safe enough to go to the farms to till the land. Rape is thus contributing to famine in the region. The subsistence sector has collapsed leading to further tragedies, such as sickness and malnutrition.

Respecting and Protecting Women and Girls: A Framework and Approaches

What has happened to the old proverb “A woman must not be killed”? She is the mother of life and to kill the woman is to kill children, and thus to kill humanity itself. A woman should be handled with respect in society! The privileged classes in the DRC are busy amassing wealth for themselves while the people are suffering. The country cannot prosper when a large percentage of its population is insecure and poor. The following paragraphs outline some recommendations to protect women and give them the role they should have:

  • There is an urgent need for a holistic and sustainable framework to find solutions to the problem in the DRC. The framework should address the social, cultural, political, economic, and spiritual wounds resulting from the war. Such a framework requires the goodwill of the leaders in the DRC and its people, the countries in the African region that are currently involved in the crisis and their citizens, together with the whole African continent and the international community. J. Ward and M. Marsh (2006) argue that rape and other types of sexually violent practice in wartime used to be taboo subjects that victims hid and that society dared not address.  Slowly but surely, gender-based violence has now become part of global public discourse. Today, discussion of the condition of women in the DRC has increased tremendously. The use of rape as a weapon to terrorize communities is no longer just a crime but a crime against humanity, punishable by international law. Systematic rape during political unrest is considered a violation of human rights. Leaders in the DRC should now follow suit and condemn and bring to justice all those involved in the sexual abuse of women in the country. There is also a need to address the stigma that accompanies rape. Survivors of sexual violence should be encouraged to come out and speak about their experiences without fear of being shunned by their families, rejected by their spouses or by the whole community. Local and international governments should develop community programs aimed specifically at helping such women reintegrate with their communities.

  • Traditionally, children and youth were taught important moral standards of behavior. They learned about personal discipline, exercising self-control, respecting parents, elders and other community members, and they understood the consequences of violating such standards. It is important to tap into this rich indigenous African ethic of respect and honour for women and children. In traditional African settings, the protection of women and their participation in the decision making process were fundamental. Colonization saw women’s roles redefined as subordinate to those of men. Today men remain the power holders and women barely have any leadership positions in civil society or the political arena. Even in peace and reconciliation dialogues, women either have no representation at all or they are tokenized.  Traditional teachings should be used to sensitize the soldiers, militia and other youth who are violating women and girls. The church, educational institutions and government should also incorporate these indigenous teachings in their programs to propagate peace and reconciliation.
  • In 2001, women’s rights advocates around the globe acclaimed the implementation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) because of its potential for developing a meaningful accountability framework for sexual violence against women in armed conflict. L.S.R. Jefferson (2004) believes that its formulation provides a clear definition of what constitutes war crimes particularly as they relate to gender-based violence, including rape, sex traffic, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, and forced marriage.  Moreover, the statutes in the ICC have a provision for aiding the investigation process and the protection of witnesses. The ICC started monitoring the evolution of the situation in Ituri, eastern DRC, in July 2003. This region has been disproportionately hit by sexual violence but thus far not many of the criminals have been brought to justice. Within Africa itself, the African Union is committed to promoting peace and security, democratic institutions, good governance and human rights on the continent. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), formed in 2001, also seeks to address and prevent political conflicts; to strengthen democratic, political and economic governance systems and institutions, and to address challenges related to poverty and to underdeveloped infrastructure. While we may boast of the ICC, AU and NEPAD guidelines, we also need to ask, who is doing what? Where are the women in all these initiatives? If the men who head these bodies are genuinely committed to promoting democracy, good governance, equity and human rights on the continent, they ought to give women equal representation in the running of the organizations, decision making power and a role in planning and, in this case, implementing solutions for addressing the plight of the women in the DRC.
“While we may boast of the ICC, AU and NEPAD guidelines, we also need to ask… Where are the women in all these initiatives?”

The Way Forward

Because the aftermath of the atrocities committed against women and children lasts for a long period of time, and because intergenerational trauma is inevitable, important question are: How is healing to be attained? How do we create sustainable peace? What is the best way forward?

Africa has for a long time looked to the West to solve its problems. Gerald Caplan (2008) as well as Nhema (2004) believe that while advice and prescriptions from the West may be helpful, the solutions to some of Africa’s conflicts will have to be home-grown, drawing on local resources to address the challenges that face the country. Nhema argues that when negotiation and reconciliation efforts are put within the framework of existing local socio-economic, political and cultural structures, and given opportunity, they work. The envisioned framework which draws on indigenous conflict resolution methodologies should have a good representation of women. This is one crucial way society and those in power can begin to take seriously the problems that women and girls are facing. Government decrees and directives and policies by international NGOs and governments are not going to help resolve the problem when they come down as statements detached from the lived realities of the affected women. No significant change can truly take place without the participation of these women in shaping their future.

Engaging women to be active builders of tomorrow’s DRC civil society needs to become a political goal. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, passed in October 2000, reaffirms the crucial role that women can play in preventing conflict in the first place, and in promoting lasting peace after conflict. Recovery is possible in post-conflict zones and it starts with turning the page and, in Jefferson’s words, imagining a society founded on “improving the future outlook of rape and gender-based violence survivors” and on empowering and “promoting civil, political, economic, cultural, and social rights for all women.” For instance, in addition to ending violence, as D.C. Gondola (2002) suggests, DRC women should be allowed access to banks and credit facilities so that they can engage in trade and commerce and hence attain economic independence/success. Access should also be extended to politics so that there is more female representation in parliament where policies are made.

Finally, those violating women and girls should remember that they are destroying the nation’s future. We are hoping for the day when all the people of DRC and the external players will say enough is enough and stop warring, end the sexual violence, pick up the pieces and build a united DRC. It is never too late. For until now, whenever “two bulls” have fought in the DRC, it has been the women and girls who suffer.

(Bathseba Opini enseigne dans le Teacher Education Program à l’Ontario Institute for Studies in Education de l’Université de Toronto. / Bathseba Opini teaches in the Teacher Education Program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.)

(Aline Nizigama est originaire du Burundi et a passé neuf ans dans le Midwest des États-Unis. Elle réside présentement à Toronto et est étudiante en  dernière année du Health Policy Program à l’Université York. / Aline Nizigama is originally from Burundi and spent nine years in the Midwest of the United States as an immigrant. She currently resides in Toronto and is in her final year of the Health Policy Program at York University.)

Bibliography & Links:

Beneduce, R., L. Jourdan, T. Raeymaekers & K. Vlassenroot (2006). “Violence with a Purpose: Exploring the functions and meaning of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Intervention 4(1): 32-46.

Caplan, G. (2008). The Betrayal of Africa. Toronto: House of Anansi Press.

Fried, S.T. (2003). “Violence against Women.” Health & Human Rights 6(2): 88-111.

Gondola, D. C. (2002). The History of Congo. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Human Rights Watch (2002). The War within the War: Sexual violence against women and girls in Eastern Congo. New York: Human Rights Watch.

Jefferson,  L.S.R. (2004). “In War as in Peace: Sexual violence and women’s status.” Health & Human Rights , 2004.

Koen, K. (2006). Claiming Space: Reconfiguring women’s roles in post-conflict situations. Occasional Paper 121, February 2006. Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies.

Nhema, G. A. (2004). “Introduction.” In A.G. Nhema (Ed.). The Quest for Peace in Africa: Transformations, democracy and public policy , pp. 11-21. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: OSSREA.

Rodriguez, C. (2007). “Sexual Violence in South Kivu, Congo.” Forced Migration Review , 2007.

Shank, L. & M.J. Schull (2000). “Rape in War: The humanitarian response.” Canadian Medical Journal Association 163(9): 1148-1149.

Suda, C. (1996). “The Centrality of Women in the Moral Teachings in African Society.” Nordic Journal of African Studies 5(2): 71-83.

Vlassenroot, K. & T. Raeymakers (2004). Conflict and Social Transformation in Eastern DR Congo. Gent: Academia Press Scientific Publishers.

Wakabi, W. (2008). “Sexual Violence Increasing in Democratic Republic of Congo.” The Lancet 371(9606): 15.

Ward, J. & M. Marsh (2006). “Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, responses, and required resources.” A Briefing Paper Prepared for Symposium on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Beyond, 21-23 June 2006 Brussels (Belgium). Retrieved January 2010 from http://www.unfpa.org/emergencies/symposium06/docs/finalbrusselsbriefingpaper.pdf.

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