Changes in the law to protect teenage victims of domestic abuse – will it change lives?

My name is Tracy Guest, and I am the Chief Executive of the Sheffield YWCA.

Sheffield YWCA is an independent member of the YWCA of Great Britain, providing accommodation and support services to vulnerable young women and families in South Yorkshire, England.

As Chief Executive of Sheffield YWCA, I represent the organisation at a strategic level, contributing to local and national debates on housing issues, gender, young people, and teenage pregnancy. I also play an active role within the wider voluntary sector, acting as a representative on teenage pregnancy partnership boards and local authority governance structures. I am also a trustee on the board of the YWCA of Great Britain, and have represented GB at a number of high profile events in the UK e.g. the “We Will Speak Out Coalition of women’s organisations” and the Sophia forum round table event on HIV / Aids held at the House Of Lords.

Tracy Guest

Changes in the law to protect teenage victims of domestic abuse – will it change lives?

In 2011, I attended the world council and IWS in Zurich. I was deeply moved by the resilliance of the women who spoke and shared their stories. Whilst the experiences of the GB delegation were very different in relation to HIV / Aids and the availability of sexual and reproductive health care, what resonated with me was our shared experiences of gender based violence. The stories of women globally in relation to domestic abuse were so similar to those of the young women with whom I work and some of my own friends and family, that I determined that I would take the messages back to the UK and become more actively involved in the dialogue around this subject.

When I returned from Zurich, I  undertook a study of the young women who use our services in Sheffield, and found that 40% of the young women in our accommodation had experienced serious domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. A further 30% identified some form of domestic abuse in their relationships.  In other words, 70% of Sheffield YWCA service users had been subjected to domestic abuse of one form or another in their lives.

This is particularly distressing when you consider that the average age of a Sheffield YWCA client is just 17 years of age.

The experience of young women

As a worker in the field for over 23 years, it is still shocking to me to know that this is the experience of the young women with whom I work. It is even more shocking to realise that these figures broadly reflect the lives of teenage girls in UK society as a whole.

For example, research from 2009 conducted by the NSPCC and Bristol University surveyed teenagers about their experiences of intimate partner violence with frightening results. 75% of girls surveyed reported emotional abuse, 33% of girls had suffered sexual abuse including rape, and 25% reported physical abuse from their boyfriends.

Government action

You can imagine my joy then, when on the 19th September 2012, UK government ministers announced that the official definition of domestic violence would be changed  to ensure that thousands of teenage victims who are abused whilst in a relationship will get the help and support they need. The law now recognises that teenagers experience domestic abuse in partner relationships that is separate from child abuse.

This will come as no surprise to those of us who work every day with young women who have suffered at the hands of family members and partners who are supposed to care for them and keep them safe. A Home Office impact assessment has estimated that as many as 5,280 high-risk teenage girls could now be referred to multi-agency panels involving the police, domestic violence advisers, children’s services, health and housing professionals, as a result of the move to improve their safety.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said the true face of domestic violence was much more complex and more widespread than people often realise, and that “Suffering at the hands of people who are meant to care for you is horrific at any age.  But it can be especially damaging for young people – the scars can last for a lifetime.”

Clegg added that the message was “even if you are young, even if what you experience isn’t one single act of violence, you do not have to put up with abuse. There is help out there for you”

 “And to the perpetrators the message is equally simple: what you’re doing is wrong and won’t be tolerated”


But will the changes in legislation translate to real changes in the experiences of women and girls suffering domestic abuse?

The impact of austerity

The change in legislation goes some way to recognising the problem I accept, but I fear it will have little impact on those silent victims who are isolated, unsupported and alone in a climate where women and girls find the very services set up to assist them are being closed, and provision eroded as councils are forced to make savings in a time of austerity and financial crisis.

The reality for women and girls is that the domestic violence sector has already been cut by around 31%, and those cuts are going to get worse. Cuts to the Supporting People grant to Councils in England and Wales from Central Government could jeopardise refuge provision when already 230 women are turned away from refuges every day because there simply aren’t enough places to protect women from a crime that affects a quarter of us in our lifetimes.

Services for teenage parents and other vulnerable women’s groups are being reduced as squeezed council’s divert funds to plug gaps in statutory provision.

It is meaningless for the government to say that they care about the domestic abuse suffered by teenage girls when they are relentlessly dismantling the very systems that will protect them from the impact of violence.

In 2010, Theresa May addressed the Women’s Aid conference to say that the Coalition would bring actions, not words to the fight against domestic abuse and violence against women and girls, but I am yet to be convinced that this is anything more than rhetoric.

Vulnerable young people pay the price

As the country is forced to repay its debts and climb out of a financial crisis caused by greed and complacency, it seems to me that it is the vulnerable who are paying the price, and that legislative changes alone cannot change those lives blighted by violence when the services that they need are being eroded.

I will end this piece with a poem dedicated to the women and girls who have suffered at the hands of the people who were supposed to love and cherish them, and to those who have chosen not just to survive, but to live, despite the challenges.

 20 to 3

It was 20 to 3 when the world changed for me

When my lover gave me a gift

It was 20 to 3, who knew I would be

So cruelly set adrift

The gift came quickly

The gift came swiftly

He said it was a gift of love

It took my face, it took my eyes

A judgment from above

The gift felt warm upon my face

He said it was what I deserved

For being so vain, so proud so beautiful

My Innocence would be preserved

Now no-one looks upon my face

No strangers turn to admire

Its 20 to 3 and no-one can see

The beauty taken by fire

But other gifts were given to me

My heart, my strength, my voice

Its past 20 to 3 and I want you to see

My life, my hope, my choice!

Domestic violence against women in Belarus and women’s life strategies

By Svetlana Burova, YWCA of Belarus- Svetlana is one of the founders of the YWCA in Belarus in 1996. She is a lawyer and sociologist. Svetlana is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the Belarusian State University.  She is a specialist in the sociology of marriage and family, gender sociology, methodology and techniques of social research. Svetlana is a member of the National Council on Gender Policy under the Council of Ministers. She has been the Secretary General of the YWCA of Belarus for over 10 years and currently serves as Vice President YWCA of Belarus. She is the project coordinator for the prevention of violence against women, gender education, women’s leadership.

Svetlana Burova

Violence against women is a very important social problem in Belarus, where women and girls are exposed to all types of violence – physical, sexual, psychological, and economic. Official statistics on domestic violence are very poor. The Ministry of Interior collects statistical data on crimes committed out of jealousy, quarrel and other reasons typical to family relations. These figures, however, do not reflect the real situation. The actual number is a lot higher. Statistics can not give a full understanding of the situation of domestic violence, whereas surveys (SR) can produce a much better picture.

The real problem lies in the fact that in the opinion of the public, domestic violence is hardly considered a problem. The phenomenon of violence is often oversimplified and understood as sexual or physical abuse in most brutal forms. Most of the time women themselves don’t understand that they are being discriminated and subjected to violence.

According to our SR every third woman in Belarus has been beaten at least once in her life by her spouse or sexual partner. More than 90% of women suffer from psychological violence. Every fourth student suffered sexual abuse as a minor. More than 80% of the Belarusian population consider that a women who has gone though various types of violence will suffer stress and psychological trauma. About 60% of the Belarusian population believes that a woman who has gone though various types of violence, will experience general deterioration of her health. According to respondents’ opinion, one-fourth of the population thinks that as a result of violence a woman will not be able to bear children and will be a bad mother. One-fifth of respondents agreed that the negative influence of violence leads to the destruction of the family. Domestic violence causes the reduction of birth rate, negatively influences the children and boosts the divorce rate. Women recognise these consequences more often than men.

The YWCA of Belarus conducted research, “Domestic violence against women in Belarus and women’s life strategies”, in 2010 within the framework of the annual campaign of 16 Days of Action against Violence against Women. A total of 51 women who have survived domestic violence were interviewed. The research was conducted to obtain qualitative (in-depth) information concerning the situation of domestic violence against women and women’s life strategies. According to the research goals women  respondents were divided into 2 groups:

–                      Group 1 – “Active”, women who overcame their situation of violence by themselves and started a new life – 29 women;

–                      Group 2 – “Passive”, women who continue to live with the abuser and do not change anything in the their lives or try to seek help, as well as those whose situation has resolved itself  – 22 women.

The majority of women in both groups experienced strong negative emotions regarding what happened in their families during their childhood. Some women even had serious consequences from domestic violence experienced in childhood connected with their psychological state and need for medical intervention. It is not a clear fact that the negative atmosphere in the parental home may have only a negative affect on a girl. For some it is “a hard school of life” which tempers the character and makes one overcome any obstacles in life.  At least, an active group of women was subjected to various hardships in childhood; the consequences of these hardships in emotional and social aspects are different. Fathers and mothers who were different by their character, forced interaction, quality of life, the influence of non-family agents (school, friends) can influence in different ways, but something “outweighs” in the process of formation of personality, and these girls become strong and resistant, although this resistance can be very serious (e.g., refusal to marry, restricted contact with men, etc). What unites all “active” women is that they were able to get out of situations of violence in adulthood independently; they have overcome it, found the strength, set some important goals for themselves, and have stopped being dependent.

Most of the “active” women reviewed their relations with men and refused traditional marriage. They have gradually matured their understanding that it should not be like that. They began to protest and to look for a new partner and/or spouse. They sought and found someone who does not use violence. If it wasn’t possible, they preferred to live without a husband. This distinguishes them from those “passive” women who continue to be victims, while still married to the abuser. In most cases active women were able to explain what happened to them, they were able to analyze their situation. “Passive” women often limited themselves to relationships with a man who is the first and the only for them; these women often found it difficult to explain the violence directed at them.

One of the most important conclusions made by the researchers, while analyzing interviews with women who managed to get out of violent relationships, is constantly repeated: we must change ourselves. Find the courage to change and to love yourself, respect yourself as a person. Be strong, be active, act. This is the leitmotiv of most of the advices. This is an appeal to a woman herself – stop being a victim! You can do it! Revise your attitude towards yourself. Don’t be afraid, don’t suffer; become economically viable and independent of men. Let’s fight back, break the relationship immediately once confronted with violence. Abusers almost never change, if only they are not interested in personal transformations themselves.

Active women – survivors of violence, raise your educational level, seek professional help, think about your children, do not marry the first man you meet. Every woman should realise that when she is experiencing violence and every woman has the right to live without violence.


Violence Against Women in the Middle East

By: Mariam Mikhael, YWCA of Lebanon.

Mariam is a registered pharmacist and she is a Medical Affairs Coordinator in a drug company. Mariam joined the YWCA as a volunteer a year ago.

Violence against woman is a taboo topic in the Middle East, a region where family and social appearances are a fundamental part of the society. Private problems are not to be discussed in public. Women’s rights in the region are at the mercy of religious, cultural and political powers. Lebanon prides itself with a strong education system and centuries of western influence, both culturally but also into its constitution. Yet, Lebanon too is not immune to violence against women. The women of Lebanon have rights, however they are not being implemented and many women are not aware of them. Women in Lebanon have a voice but they need help to be able raise it.

In Lebanon we have more than 18 sects with different mentalities, cultural and educational backgrounds. Different civil and religious views, tensions and convictions are the source of all types of social violence that often start at home, in particular against women such as social, emotional, sexual, family, to name but a few.

The YWCAs in the Middle East (Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon) are working towards reaching out to their communities to raise social awarness and different means of support to survivors of violence.

The YWCA of Lebanon has  been focusing its work on violence against women, and Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East that offers a shelter to women and their children seeking protection, rehabilitation and emotional support. However, only about 15 women have benefited from the shelter, which demonstrates how much more work needs to be done!

In addition, we organise awareness campaigns in schools and universities in order to educate young people on the importance of peace building and prevention of violence by encouraging them to talk and share their stories in order to receive the help and attention needed.

All of the above has urged me to attend the World YWCA International Training Institute on Violence against Women and Peace Building, held in Korea in November.  Attending the ITI will allow me to to share the experience with my peers and to widen my knowledge of new tools to implement effective solutions to solve the problems in our community.

We live in a time of regional turmoil, a time when fear can enter people’s homes and can create renewed tension which can in turn be a new source of violence. I strongly believe in the importance and necessity of the YWCA’s efforts and work to prevent VAW and to address the problem on time in my country.

I look forward to the International Training Insitute, to the exchanges that will take place and the people that I will meet.

Ending violence against women through education

By: Angela Lauman, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the YWCA of Canberra in Australia.

Angela oversees the organisation’s advocacy programmes and projects around violence against women and women’s leadership. Angela is currently studying law part-time, and in her spare time likes going to the beach and spending time with friends and family. 

October 11 was the International Day of the Girl. I participated by attending a breakfast in Adelaide, where I was honoured to listen to an amazingly strong and inspiring young woman, Khadija Gbla, tell her story. Khadija was born in Sierra Leone and arrived to Australia in 2001 as a refugee escaping war in her country. She is now a powerful advocate for African women in Australia, and for women generally, and was last year named South Australia’s Young Australian of the Year. She is also a YWCA of Adelaide member. Khadija spoke about how her life had been affected by violence in many ways, however her message was one of strength, hope and power. For her, violence will be overcome through education, which can change attitudes and provide hope and opportunities, and by women working together to support one another to make change in their homes, in their communities and in the world at large to bring about equality and end violence against women and girls.

Khadija’s message about the importance of education in eradicating violence is a powerful one, and one which resonates strongly with me. Australia is, thankfully, a country of peace and prosperity for most, but unfortunately violence against women remains a real problem in our community. One in three Australian women will experience violence in their lifetime and one in five women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. There has been no real change in these statistics over the years, showing that Australia has a long way to go to eradicating violence against women from our community.

Over the last few years, governments across Australia have begun to stand up and take action on the issue of violence in a more holistic way than ever before. We now have a national plan to reduce violence against women and their children, backed by both our federal government and governments in all the states and territories of Australia. This plan has placed prevention at its centre. This is a first for Australia, and something I see as a very important step that we should be proud of. As women and organisations committed to eradicating violence against women from our community, we must work to ensure this remains a focus, and that governments invest long term to ensure primary prevention campaigns and programmes have a chance to make a real impact. This is because changing attitudes takes time and effort but in my view is well worth it.

The YWCA of Canberra has long had a focus on primary violence prevention education for young people, and I am proud to now be a part of this work. In my current role as Policy and Advocacy manager, I have been responsible for developing a primary violence prevention programme for children ages 10-12 called Respect, Communicate, Choose. Thanks to the commitment, passion and creativity of colleagues at the YWCA of Canberra and the YWCA of Adelaide, supporters from within the Canberra community and with the support of our local and federal government, we are now delivering this programme in primary schools. The focus of Respect, Communicate, Choose is to give young people the skills and knowledge to have safe, respectful and equal relationships. As part of the programme we look at attitudes about gender and challenge students to deconstruct their views in this area and critically analyse the images and ideas about gender which we see in the community and the media. This will help them to continue to think critically about these things as they move into adolescence, and we hope to help them to build more equal relationships with both women and men. We also look at what respect means and give them opportunities to practice what a respectful relationship looks like. We hope these skills will help them continue to develop safe and respectful relationships now and in the future.

Our programme is only a short intervention and we are now thinking about how we can work with teachers, school leaders and parents to imbed these attitudes and skills as part of children’s everyday life at school and home. This is a big vision, but it is not impossible. Rather the possibilities are exciting, and highlight the power that education can have in making change to prevent violence in our community. I look forward to continuing to be a part of the YWCA of Canberra’s work in this area, and hope that in my lifetime we begin to see some real shift in the statistics around violence against women.

IdentificaciĂłn cultural de gĂ©nero en Chile y la perpetuaciĂłn de la mujer como vĂ­ctima

Lillian Tonk es voluntaria de la YWCA de Valparaíso-Chile desde el año 1999. Ha participado en programas de apoyo a Mujeres víctimas de violencia y sus hijos realizados por la Asociación a nivel local. Psicóloga Egresada de la Universidad de Valparaíso, Chile, se ha desempeñado profesionalmente en diversas åreas, siendo una de ellas la Intervención y apoyo familiar en la restitución de derechos  vulnerados de niños, niñas y jóvenes. Actualmente desempeña el cargo de Secretaria en la Junta Directiva de la YWCA de Valparaíso-Chile.

Lillian Tonk

A propósito del tema que nos convoca, la violencia contra la mujer, y a la fecha en la que nos encontramos, 12 de Octubre, en la que se conmemoran 520 años de la llegada de Colón a América, he recordado un interesante libro[i] realizado por la Antropóloga Chilena Sonia Montecino, en la cual se pregunta respecto de cómo se han llevado a cabo las identificaciones de género en nuestro continente.

Dentro de sus muy interesantes propuestas señala que estĂĄ principal y transversalmente  marcada por la maternidad, es decir, la idea de la “femeneidad” como “Madre”. Varias razones esgrime la autora para Ă©ste fenĂłmeno, siendo uno de los mas importantes el proceso de mestizaje producido durante la colonizaciĂłn española, en donde la “india”, la habitante originaria de nuestras tierras, es sometida sexualmente por el colonizador, procreando hijos mestizos que solo son asumidos en cuidado y crianza por Ă©sta mujer-madre-sola. El varĂłn, que no ejerce la paternidad presente, pasa a convertirse en un “Padre ausente” o un “Hijo” de Ă©sta madre sola, y es en esas figuras bajo las cuales se valida su rol.

Pero Ă©sta femeneidad de madre histĂłrica estĂĄ definida a fuego por el Sufrimiento y el Sacrificio, en un principio porque al ser una “madre soltera” es castigada o rechazada socialmente por la “falta” cometida al engendrar un hijo, para luego en un segundo momento ser apoyada, integrada e incluso a veces mantenida nuevamente por sus redes familiares, a cambio de la existencia de una “Madre abnegada” que sacrifica todo por su hija o hijo, como reivindicaciĂłn de su honra y su valor personal.

¥Cómo la cultura ha marcado el ser mujer en nuestra sociedad Chilena y Latinoamericana! Una mujer que solo se valida desde el sacrificio, de la inmolación por los hijos; una mujer que recibe apoyo de la familia solo si ésta es capaz de olvidarse de si misma y actuar con abnegación y sin quejarse en el rol de cuidado y crianza de los hijos. Son frases que mis coterråneas pueden encontrar descritas hoy, en el año 2012 en la forma en como se describen las expectativas del comportamiento de una mujer. ¿Podemos considerar por tanto violencia a la expectativa cultural de que una mujer tiene valor si es una madre, y si sufre y se sacrifica en silencio por serlo?

No es que en estas palabras quiera hablar en contra de la maternidad y el rol de crianza, pero me hace sentido que Ă©sta visiĂłn histĂłrica marca profundamente el COMO esto se ejerce. Y pienso en varios puntos que pueden proyectarse a partir de este pensamiento, y en preguntas que tal vez puedan orientar a la reflexiĂłn en torno a Ă©stos temas:

a) La urgencia casi obligada de que una mujer DEBA ser madre para “darle sentido a su vida”: Âża cuĂĄntas de nosotras no nos han inculcado desde pequeñas que cada cosa aprendida y realizada tiene la finalidad de mejorar nuestra capacidad de crianza?; y Âża cuĂĄntas que hemos superado los “lĂ­mites tĂĄcitos” de tiempo permitidos para la procreaciĂłn se nos mira con lĂĄstima como si Ă©ste hecho nos quitara valor? ÂżCuĂĄntas de nosotras frente a esto hemos sentido la necesidad de procrear un hijo bajo cualquier condiciĂłn, solo para “tener un norte”, para darle un sentido a nuestra existencia?

b) El prejuicio hacia el hombre como no apto para el cuidado de un hijo o una hija: desde incluso el seno de nuestras leyes y la dificultad de que a un varón se le otorgue la tuición o adopción de un niño o niña. ¿Cuåntas de nosotras nos hemos sorprendido de la pareja de alguna de nuestras amigas que decide dejar de trabajar para dedicarse al cuidado de un hijo o hija?. Conozco un par de casos, y lejos de valorar su decisión son tildados de flojos o aprovechadores del trabajo de la mujer. ¿Cuåntas veces se desautoriza al propio varón del ejercicio de la autoridad sobre los hijos? ¿Cuåntos hombres terminan desentendiéndose de ésta labor por la serie de obståculos que nosotras mismas vamos poniendo?.

c) La casi imposibilidad de que una mujer que se hace cargo sola de sus hijos e hijas pueda realizar actividades sin ellos: ÂżA cuĂĄntas mujeres hemos visto que dejan de realizar sus actividades profesionales, laborales, recreativas por dedicarse a la crianza? ÂżCuĂĄntas veces hemos escuchado que a una mujer se le brinda apoyo en el cuidado de un hijo, siempre y cuando sea por razones estrictamente laborales o productivas? Se ignora la necesidad de la persona de tener un espacio propio, no necesariamente ocupado por sus crias, y se valida como “buena” o “mala” solo en la medida en que sacrifique incluso aspectos mĂ­nimos de recreaciĂłn o calidad de vida si es que en ellos deja de ser “madre”. Creo que es aĂșn mas difĂ­cil si hablamos de que una mujer-madre pueda salir a divertirse con amistades y recibir apoyo en el cuidado de los hijos mientras eso ocurra.

Muchas otras reflexiones y preguntas pueden surgir a partir de éstas afirmaciones. Lo interesante es poder cuestionarnos el que la historia también ha marcado el cómo nos desenvolvemos en nuestro rol. En mucho hemos validado la violencia hacia nosotras, pues nosotras mismas nos evaluamos a partir del nivel de sacrificio y sufrimiento.

Que el ser mujer, hombre, persona en LatinoamĂ©rica y el mundo deje de ser sinĂłnimo de “vĂ­ctima” o “victimario” depende tambiĂ©n de que seamos capaces de resignificar parte de nuestra historia como cultura.

[i] Sonia Montecino A., “Palabra Dicha. Escritos sobre GĂ©nero, identidades, mestizaje”, 1997,  ColecciĂłn de Libros electrĂłnicos Serie: Estudios, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad de Chile.

Des pensĂ©es pour la semaine contre la violence

Je  suis Bibiche Ritha  KANKOLONGO, secrĂ©taire GĂ©nĂ©rale Nationale de la YWCA de la RD Congo. Hormis mes tĂąches de secrĂ©taire GĂ©nĂ©rale de notre YWCA, je suis formatrice et Intervenante en psychothĂ©rapie. C’est ainsi que j’anime des  longues et courtes sessions de formations sur divers thĂšmes (techniques d’animation, estime de soi, peur
..) avec les jeunes, les plus jeunes et les adultes. En tant qu’Intervenante en psychothĂ©rapie, j’assure avec d’autres collĂšgues Intervenantes, l’accompagnement des personnes en situation  de dĂ©tresse et/ou survivante des violences basĂ©es sur le genre et d’autres traumatismes au sein de notre centre d’Accompagnement psychothĂ©rapeutique et juridico mĂ©dical « Oasis de paix ».

Bibiche Kankolongo

Je voudrais articuler ma pensée pour cette semaine sans violence de la YWCA Mondiale par ma perception de la violence et comment elle est vécue dans mon pays.

En effet, je suis en contact avec des filles et femmes  survivantes de violence dont la plupart tournent autour des violences sexuelles, d’abus sexuel chez les petites filles et femmes ainsi que des cas des violences domestiques.

Je suis toujours frappĂ©e par le fait qu’un ĂȘtre humain  porte atteinte au bien-ĂȘtre intĂ©gral d’une autre personne, surtout lorsqu’il s’agit d’une petit fille innocente et sans dĂ©fense. La plupart d’entre elles disent combien elles ont Ă©té  effrayĂ©es et sont inquiĂštes face Ă  leur avenir. Leur vie change du tout au tout en un clin d’Ɠil.

A Kinshasa, capitale de la RDC, on constate de plus en plus des abus sexuels Ă  l’école, en famille (inceste) de fois parce que les adultes ont des croyances selon lesquelles, les relations intimes avec les petites filles leur confĂšrent de la chance, la fortune ou une bonne santĂ©.

Souvent ces actes sont gĂ©rĂ©s Ă  l’amiable pour prĂ©server les rapports familiaux harmonieux, Ă©viter que la fille soit indexĂ© par les jeunes de son Ăąge. Les jeunes filles ou adolescente vivent la mĂȘme situation avec de fois l’angoisse d’ĂȘtre abandonnĂ© par un fiancĂ© ou de  renoncer Ă  son projet de mariage, la honte mais aussi le manque des moyens pour ester en justice
. Quelques fois, ces filles sont obligĂ©es de quitter leur milieu pour aller habiter chez un membre de leur famille ajoutant une autre consĂ©quence Ă  toutes les rĂ©actions post traumatiques.

Nos coutumes et traditions contribuent aussi Ă  renforcer d’autres types de violences dans nos familles. A titre d’illustration, prenons  la tradition qui consiste Ă  faire un rituel de deuil lorsqu’une femme perd son mari. Ce  moment de deuil se transforme souvent en occasion pour la belle famille de se venger contre celle qui a profitĂ© de l’argent de leur frĂšre avec ses enfants sans penser Ă  eux. Cette vengeance va des insultes, moqueries, Ă  des traitements comme  priver la veuve de nourriture, de bains  avant, pendant ou aprĂšs l’enterrement.

Sans compter le nombre des jeunes filles obligeaient de se marier prĂ©cocement ou Ă  qui on impose un conjoint parce que riche ou bien parce que la coutume l’exige dans certains coins de la RDC.

En tant que congolaise de la RD Congo, je ne pourrais pas manquer de mentionner la situation de l’est de mon pays. En effet,  le monde entier  sait actuellement que  la RDC connaĂźt depuis plus d’une dĂ©cennie des guerres rĂ©currentes aux multiples facettes avec des consĂ©quences dĂ©sastreuses Ă  l’est de son territoire. J’ai Ă©té  Ă  Goma (Nord-Kivu, est de la RDC) au mois de juin et voudrais Ă©pingler le fait que la tendance gĂ©nĂ©rale est de ne voir de cette guerre que le fait  que le viol y a Ă©tĂ© utilisĂ© comme arme de guerre. Alors qu’elle reprĂ©sente aussi  des nombreuses familles sans toit marchant Ă  pieds avec des petites filles et des petits garçons, des champs abandonnĂ©s, des camps de refugiĂ©s bondĂ©s de monde, c’est ĂȘtre obligĂ© de courir parce qu’un coup de feu Ă©clate de nulle part, c’est voir des personnes traumatisĂ©es avec un sentiment d’avenir bouchĂ© et de difficultĂ© de se projeter dans l’avenir
. A la PrĂ©sidente de la YWCA-Nord Kivu de dĂ©clarer : on ne peut jamais imaginer ce que nous endurons au quotidien, il faut seulement le vivre. Je me suis demandĂ© si un jour tout ceci ne pourra plus qu’ĂȘtre un passĂ© douloureux pour tout un peuple, une nation qui d’une façon ou une autre sont affectĂ©s par un traumatisme.

Car, cela laisse des sĂ©quelles qui ne sont pas toujours visibles et les effets ne se manifestent pas toujours immĂ©diatement, ni de la mĂȘme maniĂšre. Il arrive d’ailleurs souvent, qu’une survivante soit traitĂ© de sorciĂšre car rĂ©agissant d’une maniĂšre Ă©trange.

La tendance pour beaucoup de gens dans nos communautĂ©s est de croire que lorsque qu’on a soignĂ© les blessures et dommage physique, la personne est hors de danger.  Alors que le psychisme requiĂšre le mĂȘme soin sinon  plus.

En conclusion, que ce soit Ă  Kinshasa, Ă  l’est comme dans d’autres provinces de la RDC, les violences Ă  l’égard des filles et femmes ont lieu avec des nombreuses consĂ©quences. Il  est trĂšs important que notre rĂ©ponse soit spĂ©cifique et complĂšte. Notre YWCA se propose d’étendre son programme d’Accompagnement psychothĂ©rapeutique et juidicomĂ©dical (financĂ© par le Service des Eglises EvangĂ©liques en Allemagne pour le DĂ©veloppement, EED en sigle) dans toutes ses branches en commençant par les branches en situation de conflits pour lesquelles l’urgence s’impose. Mon rĂȘve est de voir plusieurs centres « Oasis de Paix » naĂźtre et offrir aux filles et femmes survivantes un espace oĂč elles vont ĂȘtre accompagnĂ© en vue d’intĂ©grer cet Ă©vĂšnement douloureux dans leur histoire. Elles pourront dire avec notre campagne de sensibilisation, je cite : « mon bien-ĂȘtre compte le plus ».


Harmful religious and traditional practices

Dorcas Pearl Sudeep, General Secretary for YWCA of Bangalore City. I am currently working as the General Secretary of the Association based in Bangalore. I have my Master’s Degree in Social Work and have specialised in Social Development. I have worked for organisations working for the empowerment of Women and Child Rights. I have personally and professionally assisted women who go through violence. My area of interest is to work for women’s issues.

Violence against Women

I am proud to be an Indian for various reasons. But I don’t support the harmful religious and traditional practices that are followed blindly by people around me. It is very difficult to digest the fact that unhealthy practices are being followed with our knowledge and we are not able to address them sufficiently. Especially issues related to women are very rigid and pose greater challenge to those who want to oppose and who want to work towards resolving them.

I am sharing the real life experience of my very intimate friend.

A bubbling young girl at college with lots of dreams and hopes for future, got married at a very young age. She was the first to get married in my group of friends at college and that too even before finishing her graduation. She was more excited only because her family did not have to pay any dowry.

Her life suddenly changed as she belonged to a joint family after marriage where she had her in-laws living with her. Quite a large family to cope with. She with her extra good nature got moulded into the family and was very accommodative. Her smartness to help out every member and her generosity to be kind to all helped her to be good in her husband’s book.

To her luck, she could continue her studies. She joined a Bachelor of Law’s course which she successfully completed. That brought her joy as a married woman who made it with all her commitments and responsibilities towards her family.

Years passed and she could not conceive. Her mother-in-law would pressure her to follow certain religious ceremonies and practices in the hope of getting a grand child. The friend of mine being literate, and with law background, quietly did all that was expected of her. She visited many temples; fasted and offered poojas to different Goddesses; followed all superstitious beliefs and practices; went to pilgrimages  and completed all so called religious formalities; visited many sages to take their blessings; met several astrologers and fortune tellers; learnt many mantras (holy prayers) to chant; all just to please her family members and her mother in law especially. She went through stress and strain each and every time she was asked to perform some special pooja. She did not want to hurt anyone and at the same time was drawn to false beliefs. No importance was given to her whenever there were religious functions were held in the family. A child is what mattered to the entire family. Her husband was a mute spectator to all that was happening in her life.

After 10 long years of silence, she did take courage and revealed the medical facts about her spouse to her mother-in-law. It was her spouse who was not medically healthy to help her in conceiving. The bitter truth was not welcomed and also not accepted. She still was treated like someone who should perform various religious practices to get a child.

It so happened that she planned to shift to another place away from her in-laws. By then her spouse also wanted a break from the small town where they lived. The couple shifted to a big city. The need of rearing a child and getting more awareness on adopting a child became her interest. That is where I came into the picture and assisted the couple to legally adopt a girl child from a home for destitute children.

The next form of violence she faced from her in-laws was that they did not welcome the child into the family. The background, especially the religion of the child mattered a lot to them. They became very cold to this bold step taken by my friend. The couple and the child are ostracised today.


Such is the community around me. A barren woman is looked down upon.   Her own people are not sympathetic towards her. The members of the family pressure a woman to practice traditional and harmful religious practices if she fails to produce a child within reasonable time after her marriage.

Women without children very often face social discomfort. They have to experience unpleasant questioning looks from friends and relations.

Childlessness causes a great hardship to a woman more than to a man. A barren woman’s very presence is considered as inauspicious on some occasions which add to the stigma of infertility.

Violence against women in our Indian society is of great magnitude. Some are identified, highlighted and addressed while several others have become a part of our culture. Unfortunately there is no legal help for women who go through such ‘silent violence’.

The factors such as the need to belong to her family, bringing honour to parents by cooperating with the spouse’s family, desire to be socially accepted, being dutiful to her spouse, etc, makes a woman go through this form of family violence.  It is not voiced out.

My prayer today is that my community should get more educated; become more aware of feelings of a woman who cannot produce a child for some reason and be more sensitive to the whole issue.





La violence familiale au Togo

La violence Ă  l’égard de la femme se dĂ©finit comme tout acte, toute nĂ©gligence, toute crainte, toute menace dans quelque domaine que ce soit, infligeant ou susceptible d’infliger un traumatisme physique, sexuel ou psychologique Ă  cette derniĂšre.

Elle suppose la contrainte, l’abus de la force quelle soit physique ou morale ainsi que des sĂ©vices exercĂ©es sur les femmes.

Nina-Nicole Deboe

Je suis Nina Nicole AmĂ©yo DEBOE, jeune femme togolaise de 25 ans, Juriste-Assistante dans un Cabinet d’Avocats Ă  LomĂ©, la capitale du TOGO et membre de la YWCA-TOGO.

Je suis intĂ©ressĂ©e Ă  Ă©crire particuliĂšrement sur le sujet de la violence familiale telle qu’elle se vit ou se pratique encore dans mon pays, le Togo car les hommes pensent toujours ĂȘtre supĂ©rieurs aux femmes, l’immixtion des membres de la famille Ă©largie dans les rapports entre les Ă©poux et leurs enfants influence aussi fortement la maniĂšre dont est considĂ©rĂ©e la femme, ce qui est tout Ă  fait contraire Ă  la loi.

La persistance des cas de violences est d’abord due au fait que  la culture africaine veut que la femme soit sous la domination de l’homme, c’est ce qui fait que  de nombreuses femmes victimes de violence ne savent pas qu’il existe des textes juridiques sur lesquelles elles peuvent se baser pour obtenir rĂ©paration.

Par ailleurs, lorsqu’elles sont informĂ©es de leurs droits, elles rechignent Ă  dĂ©noncer leur conjoint ou leurs parents auteurs desdites violences par peur de ne pas exposer leur vie intime. Les parents, les amis et l’entourage contribuent Ă©galement Ă  ces violences en trouvant des excuses ou en exerçant des pressions sur la victime sous prĂ©texte de prĂ©server la paix et l’unitĂ© de la famille.

Mon histoire se déroule à Lomé, la capitale du Togo.

Akuavi et KlutsÚ sont mariés depuis dix (10) ans. Ils ont quatre (04) enfants, deux (02) garçons et deux (02) filles dont la cadette vient de naßtre.

KlutsĂš est maĂźtre menuisier et avec l’argent qu’il a pu Ă©conomiser, il s’est achetĂ© un petit lopin de terre sur lequel il s construit une maison  dans la quelle il est allĂ© vivre avec sa femme Akuavi  et les enfants. Akuavi, quant Ă  elle, vend des oranges et des bananes devant leur maison.

A la suite  d’une courte maladie, KlutsĂš est malheureusement dĂ©cĂ©dĂ©. Il fut enterrĂ© selon les coutumes dans son village natal Ă  VOGOME. AprĂšs six (06) mois de veuvage avilissant durant lesquels Akuavi fut interdite d’exercer son petit commerce. Par ailleurs, elle se devait d’accomplir plusieurs rites dont aller allumer un lampion chaque soir sur la tombe de son dĂ©funt mari.

A la fin de cette pĂ©riode de veuvage Ă©prouvant, la belle-famille d’Akuavi lui demande d’épouser son beau-frĂšre, cultivateur Ă  VOGOME, qui a dĂ©jĂ  deux femmes et sept enfants. Akuavi oppose un refus catĂ©gorique Ă  cette demande.

C’est alors qu’un beau matin, les frĂšres de son mari dĂ©cĂ©dĂ© viennent dans la maison oĂč vivait Akuavi et ses enfants Ă  LomĂ© et lui demandent de se prononcer dĂ©finitivement sur la proposition d’épouser son beau-frĂšre. Constatant qu’elle est restĂ©e ferme sur sa position de ne pas Ă©pouser son beau-frĂšre, Akuavi a Ă©tĂ© renvoyĂ©e de la maison avec ses enfants et le bĂ©bĂ© maintenant ĂągĂ© de dix (10) mois au dos.

 C’est alors que commence une vie de calvaire pour Akuavi. Qui prendra soin de ces orphelins ? Pour trouver de quoi subvenir aux besoins de ses enfants, Akuavi dĂ©cide de devenir porte-faix au grand marchĂ© de Lomé ; c’est ainsi qu’elle va laisser ses trois (03) enfants chez sa mĂšre au village et revient Ă  LomĂ© son bĂ©bĂ© au dos. Toutes les deux (02) semaines, elle doit envoyer de l’argent et des vivres Ă  sa mĂšre et aux enfants.

Les beaux-frĂšres d’Akuavi ont quittĂ© VOGOME pour venir s’installer dans la maison de laquelle ils ont chassĂ© Akuavi et les enfants de leur dĂ©funt frĂšre. Mais environ deux (02) ans aprĂšs et suite Ă  une dispute entre eux, ils dĂ©cident de vendre ladite maison et de se partager l’argent issu de la vente. Ce qui est fait. C’est la belle vie Ă  LomĂ© avec des centaines de milliers de Francs CFA en poche. Cet argent a vite fait de s’épuiser, ils finissent par retourner au village oĂč ils deviennent la risĂ©e des villageois qui les avaient pourtant encouragĂ©s Ă  prendre possession de la maison de leur frĂšre KlutsĂš.

A LomĂ©, la vie n’est pas du tout facile pour Akuavi.  Ses moyens financiers Ă©tant trĂšs limitĂ©s, ses trois (03) enfants ne peuvent plus continuer leur scolaritĂ©. Akuavi dĂ©cide d’enlever sa fille ainĂ©e Gloria de l’école afin que les garçons puissent continuer car selon elle « qu’est ce que l’école pour une fille ?».

Voici donc la malheureuse histoire d’Akuavi.

Les violences contre la femme existent et continueront à exister si les femmes n’agissent pas.

Les progrĂšs rĂ©alisĂ©s en Occident sont le fruit d’une lutte commune des femmes pendant des siĂšcles. Les femmes africaines arriveront-elles Ă  mettre fin aux violences en Afrique ?

DÚs le commencement du monde, homme et femme ont été crées égaux en droit et en dignité (GenÚse 1 : 27).

D’oĂč revendiquer sa dignitĂ© n’est qu’une restauration de l’équilibre originel.

Pour cela, notre lutte doit consister à :

–         Revaloriser notre dignitĂ© en tant qu’ĂȘtre humain

–         Participer Ă  la gestion de la citĂ© de maniĂšre informelle et formelle

–         Renforcer nos capacitĂ©s Ă©conomiques pour rĂ©duire notre dĂ©pendance

Comment le faire ?

–          Lutter contre l’ignorance par la formation des femmes Ă  tous les niveaux

–         DĂ©noncer les violences qui se commettent dans tous les milieux

–         Exploiter tous les instruments juridiques signĂ©s et ratifiĂ©s par nos Etats pour les faire valoir Ă  qui de droit

–         Renforcer la solidaritĂ© entre les femmes sans distinction de catĂ©gories ni d’ñge

Ce n’est que par le changement social qu’on arrivera Ă  un dĂ©veloppement harmonieux de notre pays et de l’Afrique pour changer nos vies et nos communautĂ©s.

World YWCA Week Without Violence-Everyday Sexual Assault and Harassment

Rachael-Anne O’Byrne, age 26 from Scotland.

I am the Learning & Development Officer with YWCA Scotland. My role includes developing and delivering training programmes for youth and community workers across Scotland in gender issues providing toolkits that can be used in youth groups and programmes. This is a pilot project with YWCA Scotland which we hope will continue beyond the initial funded period. Previous to this role, I oversaw a programme of activities for girls and young women within YWCA Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland which aimed to build confidence, self esteem, leadership and various other skills.

Rachael-Anne O’Byrne

As well as my staff role with YWCA Scotland, I am involved in the work of YWCA of Great Britain – most recently being on the steering group which is helping to organise a Great Britain wide conference on Violence Against Women. I am also going to represent YWCA of Great Britain at the up and coming ITI in Seoul, Korea.

Everyday Sexual Assault and Harassment

Recently, I read two articles on the same day which upset, worried and angered me. I wrote about the articles for the YWCA of Great Britain’s website and feature ‘Y Response’ and I’d like to share my reflections on them as part of World YWCA’s Week Without Violence. I read Laura Bates’ article, Every Day Sexual Assault in the UK.[1] And, on the same day, I read another article sent to me by a colleague with the title: Egypt’s Sexual Harassment of Women ‘Epidemic.’[2] Both articles concerned women’s daily harassment and assault on the streets. I think the fact that they were posted on the same day really highlights the gravity of this issue.

Violence against women has many faces and sexual harassment and assault cannot go unnoticed when discussing the prevalence and many forms that it takes all over the world.

Campaigners in Egypt said that there has been a rise in sexual harassment incidents over the last 3 months, which are detailed within the BBC News article. While Laura Bates’ article recounts the reports of sexual harassment and assault, which are being reported by women from all over the UK to the Everyday Sexism Project.

I learned about the problem of sexual harassment on the streets of Egypt while at YWCA’s World Council 2011 in Zurich. Sandra Aziz, from YWCA of Egypt, showed the International Women’s Summit a trailer from the emotive and powerful film Cairo 678, the story of three women searching for justice from the plight of daily sexual harassment. It is reported that for millions of Egyptian women, sexual harassment is an unspoken aspect of everyday life, and in 2008, a study by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights found that more than 80% of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment,[3] showing that it is a problem which is deeply rooted in Egyptian society. The article reports that the Egyptian government are taking the problem seriously, although campaigners argue that it is not yet a priority.

It is more than a year since I was in Zurich, at World Council, so I felt frustrated and saddened that the problem in Egypt was now being reported to be reaching ‘epidemic proportions’, particularly after witnessing the sheer enthusiasm and determination from the YWCA of Egypt representative on speaking out about sexual harassment and Cairo 678.

In the UK, Laura Bates designed the Everyday Sexism Project to document sexism experienced worldwide; to show the scale of the problem of sexism and sex discrimination. She informs us that, since it launched only five months ago, there have been hundreds of reports of women being sexually assaulted and harassed in public. The law in the UK on sexual assault is clear, and can carry a ten year prison sentence. However, as Laura Bates has discovered through the project, we live in a society that deliberately downplays, and normalises, sexual assault and harassment, ‘telling women not to make a fuss out of nothing.’[4]

While reading both articles, I recalled an incident that happened recently with a group of young women I’d been working with. After our activity had ended, the young women chose to wait in the centre, with me, until a group of men, who had been working outside of the building, got into their vans and left.

I asked the young women why they wanted to wait, and they said that they didn’t want the men to say anything to them or whistle at them when they walked past. This really struck a chord with me, as I had shared their concerns upon first seeing the men. I was upset that the young women had to feel this way, but was not surprised that they had already experienced this sort of harassment at such a young age, and were now weary in these situations.

As a movement, YWCA strives to create safe spaces for girls and women to live their lives freely, and without fear. As women, we should be able to walk past groups of men, use public transport, and live our lives without fear of harassment, no matter where we are in the world.

YWCA Scotland’s Learning and Development Project is currently developing and delivering courses for youth workers and volunteers across Scotland, to raise awareness of gender issues such as self-esteem, gender stereotyping, sexualisation and sexual bullying, including harassment. We are also working in partnership with the Scottish organization Zero Tolerance to roll out the training course, ‘Under Pressure,’ to more volunteers and youth workers, which will increase awareness of the issue of abuse and sexual exploitation in young people’s relationships. As well as raising awareness of issues, all the training courses also provide toolkits that can be used in practice within youth work settings.

My reflection on the issue of sexual harassment and assault reflects on two countries, the United Kingdom and Egypt but I know that sexual harassment is a global issue that needs to be seriously addressed. This is not something that we can afford to ‘downplay.’ It is not right that a woman can’t walk down the street without fear of being leered at, harassed or sexually assaulted and it certainly is not OK that young women who attend their local YWCA programme feared leaving the building due to the male presence outside.

I would like to encourage you to visit the following websites, where you will find more information on the organisations and movements who are currently campaigning about, and raising awareness of, sexual harassment, as well as more information on the issue along with advice.

More information on YWCA Scotland, including the Learning and Development Project, can be found at, and more information on Zero Tolerance and ‘Under Pressure’ can be found at



La santĂ© n’est pas seulement le privilĂšge du ministĂšre de la santĂ©

Par  Merveille Dedji de la YWCA de Bénin

La 5eme confĂ©rence africaine portant sur les droits et la santĂ© sexuels et reproductifs tenue Ă  Windhoek en Namibie a tentĂ© de passer en revue la situation des jeunes et leur rapport au VIH et SIDA et Ă  la santĂ© sexuelle et reproductive, notamment en Afrique. Le rĂŽle des gouvernements a aussi Ă©tĂ© discutĂ©. La confĂ©rence a le mĂ©rite d’avoir fait ressortir de nombreuses approches qu’il faudrait initier dans les pays africains afin de se rapprocher de l’objectif zĂ©ro nouvelle infection et une bonne santĂ© reproductive pour toutes.

Merveille Dedji

Parmi les discussions engagĂ©es, les confĂ©renciers ont Ă©voquĂ© le problĂšme de l’avortement clandestin et ont plaidĂ© pour un accĂšs sĂ©curisĂ© Ă  ce service. Dans les faits, il est Ă  noter que le manque d’opportunitĂ©s et la pauvretĂ© amĂšnent de nombreuses jeunes filles Ă  devenir des travailleuses de sexe. La possibilitĂ© pour elles de se protĂ©ger d’une grossesse non dĂ©sirĂ©e est difficile et pourtant plus que nĂ©cessaire. En consĂ©quence, ces jeunes femmes choisissent de se faire avorter et parce que les services sont manquants, elles mettent en danger leur vie en se retrouvant Ă  avorter clandestinement. Beaucoup en meurent. Le ministĂšre de la SantĂ© doit prendre ses dispositions parce que beaucoup d’avortements clandestins se pratiquent encore. La question des travailleuses de sexe soulĂšve un autre problĂšme : doivent-elles encore ĂȘtre considĂ©rĂ©es comme des criminelles ? La question des droits humains se pose.

Cette confĂ©rence a le mĂ©rite de se poser de bonnes questions sur les droits et la santĂ© sexuels et reproductifs des jeunes africaines et nous pourrions lancer un ouf de soulagement en voyant que le sujet est discutĂ©, les faiblesses du systĂšme social pris en compte et des solutions proposĂ©es.  L’Afrique vient de faire un pas.

Cependant, s’il est agrĂ©able d’avoir Ă  sa disposition des solutions, la question de leur rĂ©alisation demeure ; les moyens financiers mis Ă  sa disposition restent maigres. De plus, notons que si des dirigeants africains ratifient des conventions, ils sont encore loin d’encourager leur application et d’investir pour une Afrique meilleure. Oui, nous pouvons avoir une Afrique meilleure Ă  condition que, tous, nous mettions la main Ă  la pĂąte.