The Power of One

In March 2013 the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) will focus on the priority theme of the Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. UN Women convened a two day “Stakeholders Forum” for UN staff, government representatives, and NGOs, to raise awareness of issues, create a platform, and build alliances.

A particularly powerful part of the experience was a “survivors’ forum,” in which women survivors of violence told how they used their experience to influence policy and legislative reform to end violence against women in their countries or communities. Those women showed how one person really can make a significant impact. For example, Maria de Penha, a victim of domestic violence (and survivor of two murder attempts by her husband) did lobbying that resulted in the Brazilian government passing the “Maria de Penha law” in 2006.  Australian Cathy Eatok, a survivor of child sexual assault, spoke of the lack of access to legal and other support services for survivors of violence, especially for Aboriginal women.  She has made several films and documentaries. Mervat El-Talawi, President of the National Council of Women in Egypt, has challenged religious leaders about practices supposedly allowed in Sharia Islamia, like throwing acid water in women’s faces, or widows becoming the property of their husband’s brother.

Panelists described successful grassroots actions, and spoke of the importance of talking about the root causes of violence and of involving men and boys in raising awareness on domestic violence. Despite the good news stories presented, it was evident that there are still many gaps between legislation and implementation, and what is happening on the ground. You can watch the webcast video of the survivors forum here.

A report of the forum will be prepared and posted on the CSW website.

— by Celia Martin