Palestinian Women under Israeli Occupation

By Naheel Bazbazat, YWCA of Palestine.


Naheel Bazbazat

I want to share with you the situation in Palestine and what it is like to live under occupation. Earlier this year I was part of the World YWCA delegation attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and I participated in a demonstration as part the International Women’s Day Celebrations. I was thinking about the Palestinian women back home and what if just imagine one million Palestinian women came along to that demonstration in New York. People would be asking- “Where do you come from?” and the women would reply- refugee camps, Palestinian villages, Palestinian cities, refugee camps outside Palestine in Lebanon, Jordan, one of the 48 occupied territories, East Jerusalem, Bedouin community etc.  In every place where Palestinian people live they have special cases and when I say special I do not luxury, I mean a hostile situation, were their human rights are not respected.

On 25\11\2013- International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 29\11\2013 International Day for Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I would like to highlight that violence against women happens everywhere in the world BUT in Palestine it is a unique situation. Palestinian women face two types of violence on two levels- firstly they face the aggressive occupation from the Israel state. Israel has occupied Palestine since 1948, hundreds of villages and communities have been displaced and masses of land confiscated. The Bedouin community who lives in al Negev west of Palestine are today experiencing exile and displacement. More than 800 thousand Dunums (197684 Acres) of Palestinian land in the Negev has been confiscated, which has meant the displacement of more than 50,000 people and demolishment of 36 villages. Palestinians make up 30% of the population of al Negev yet they live on only 1% of the land area of the region.

This forced and aggressive level of violence is known as occupation and is not presented as conflict. The occupation increases the level of violence inside the Palestinian society because it affects all the components of society not just the women. However women experience a double effect from the occupation through both inequality and domestic violence which exist inside our communities. The occupation contributes to the further marginalization of women from the formal framework, either directly or indirectly. All Palestinians are routinely harassed, intimidated and abused by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints and gates. Palestinian women, in particular, are humiliated in front of their families and subjected to sexual violence by both soldiers and settlers. Violence can be indirectly, through the obstruction of the judicial system for example, which hinders the provision of legal protection for women or impeding the work of organisations working on women’s rights to amend laws and legislation on women’s rights because of the disabling of the Legislative Council.

The second level of violence its domestic violence which I believe is rooted in patriarchal practice inside the community. This resulted in increases in all form of violence such as honour killing, violence against women, verbal and nonverbal violence, emotional and psychological violence which extend from inside families and impact the wider community. We as Palestinians, especially as Palestinian women need to work towards changing national legislative law, engage politics and run for political office and engage in advocacy at the international level.

Finally, if we take time to reflect and think deeply on the Palestinian situation, it is clear that we need more effective advocacy actions to make the occupation end and Israel accountable. We must work to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Resolution 1325 urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts.


Moblie Phones for Access to Family Planning Information

By Nelly Lukale, SRHR Champion from YWCA of Kenya.


Nelly Lukale

Family planning enables women and couples to determine the timing and spacing of their children and also gives women and their children an opportunity to stay healthy. One of the most cost-effective health interventions is family planning, which can significantly improve the health of women and their children. We have just concluded the third International Conference on Family Planning  with the theme Full Access, Full Choice. This was one of the largest meetings focused on expanding access to contraceptives and family planning for women and girls worldwide attended by thousands of people in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Throughout the meeting, one intervention and solution to access to family planning information caught my attention, and that was the use of Mobile phone technology to reach out to women and girls and give them information on family planning. To me this stood out to be the most cost effective method of getting the message across since majority of women of reproductive age have access to a mobile phone.  Many rural areas do not have health centers let alone well trained health providers, almost all schools do not offer sexuality education nor do they give any information on contraceptives use and if they are lucky to hear about the contraceptives or have access then they are too expensive. According to the World Health Organization, there are 222 million women who would like to delay or stop childbearing, but currently lack access to birth control. Lack of access starts with simply not having family planning services and information available.

Cultural barriers still prevent women and girls from accessing family planning services and information. In some societies, using contraceptives is considered culturally unacceptable, and there is mistrust towards programmes that promote contraceptives which are in most cases opposed by the community and religious leaders. However many people (me included) have dedicated themselves to bridging the gap between this problem and a workable solution. Mobile phone usage is quickly becoming popular with as many people having access to at least a mobile phone connection. This can be the best way to get women and girls to benefit from information delivered through short messages. Through a simple sms, health providers are able to share important information on family planning methods, access, awareness and availability of services. There can also be messages designed to educate mothers on the benefits of birth spacing and reproductive health and also help them make informed choice and decisions, providing valuable information that can save lives.

This low-cost approach to reaching contraceptive users has the potential of improving correct use, uptake, and continuation of selected methods.  The best way is to create a special code where clients can contact the family planning providers on information by sending a specific text message on their mobile phone. From there then they can follow instructions on how to access information on the methods of their choice, including information on the location of service providers.

If this method is properly used then most women will be able to learn about contraceptive methods and to be able to decide which method to use when in need and since most couples share mobile phones, these women will also be able to share these messages with their spouses. Text messaging service is perceived to be being private, convenient, and cost-effective. It is also private and confidential for users who are not willing to share the information they receive with any one and can be accessed at anytime and anywhere even at home where one can read and reflect more on the information received. It is much cheaper than having to travel all the time to the health clinics to find information.  Providing family planning information via text message is a promising method of reaching women and men with health information.

Even with all these technologies we still need to build and promote an enabling environment that allows women and girls to truly utilize those services and take control over their reproductive decisions. We have to engage men and boys in these discussions. Religious and community leaders also have a role to play in ensuring that while access to family planning is expanded, traditions and norms that still hinder women’s empowerment and gender equality are also being transformed. Access to contraceptives is not just about control over childbearing but about women’s empowerment and independence. Expanding access must go recognition of women as full, rights-bearing citizens with voice, power and agency. Full access and full choice can only be realised in a world where women’s other rights are also respected and protected.

Child Marriage: Enough is Enough

By Marcia Banasko, World YWCA Communications Officer. (Original Source first published via Girls Globe)

Child marriage remains one of the most horrific human rights violations that exists today. It is estimated that globally 14 million girls are married off before the age of 18, robbing them of their childhood and leaving them vulnerable to violence, poverty, domestic slavery, sexual assault and HIV/AIDS. Child marriage is a human rights violation that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicity.

The recent news coverage of the 8-year-old girl who was married off to a 40-year-old man in Yemen, poignantly highlights the desperate need to outlaw child marriage. After their wedding night, the 8-year-old girl – identified as “Rawan” – died from torn genitals and severe bleeding in the northwest city of Hardh. According to media accounts, the fatal injuries were incurred through sexual intercourse. Let me emphasize that it was NOT sexual intercourse. It was rape and it should be clearly understood as so.  Rawan’s tragic story is sadly not unique and millions of girls die every year from injuries incurred from sexual violence.

Image Courtesy of Gerry & Bonni on Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image Courtesy of Gerry & Bonni on Flickr (Creative Commons)

Furthermore, as a result of child marriage, these girls are at far greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Yemen has a high maternal mortality rate of 370 deaths per 100,000 live births. Reproductive health studies show that young women face greater risks in pregnancy than older women, including life-threatening obstructed labour due to adolescents’ smaller pelvises. The shortage of prenatal and postnatal healthcare services, especially in Yemen’s rural areas, place girls’ and women’s lives at risk. An overwhelming majority of Yemeni women still deliver at home, often without the assistance of a skilled birth attendant capable of handling childbirth emergencies. Girls who marry young often have insufficient information on family planning or worse, none at all. As young wives they find it difficult to assert themselves against older husbands to negotiate family planning methods.

Human Rights Watch reports that 14% of girls in Yemen are married before age 15, with 82% married before age 18. Child marriage is in fact legal in Yemen; however, in light of the recent cases and international media attention, Yemen Parliamentarians are calling for new laws which ban child marriage, set the minimum age for marriage at 18 ,and implement strategic measures to effectively enact the law. Speaking in an interview with CNN, Hooria Mashhour, Yemen’s human rights minister stated,

Many child marriages take place every year in Yemen. It’s time to end this practice.”

In order to fully eliminate child marriage, awareness raising of the negative impacts of this human rights violation must be conducted. There are a magnitude of elements that contribute to child marriage including lack of awareness and understanding. One father who married off his young daughter spoke to Human Rights Watch and declared that if he knew then what he knows now he would never have married off his daughter.

In many cases, the reality of poverty plays a big role in the decision to marry off a daughter. Here are a few examples of how poverty impacts child marriage:

  • Marrying a girl child means one less family member to feed, clothe and educate.
  • The bride’s family receives a hefty dowdy/bride price for a young girl, or in those instances where the bride’s family pays the groom a dowry, they often have to pay less money if the bride is young and uneducated. Sometimes the daughters are actually sold to pay off debts.

Another huge determinant of child marriage is tradition. Child marriage is a traditional practice in many countries and cultures around the world, and breaking tradition can alienate families from the rest of the community. However in the words of Graca Machel, member of The Elders and a major contributor to the founding of Girls Not Brides,

Traditions are made by us – and we can decide to change them. We should be respectful but we must also have the courage to stop harmful practices that impoverish girls, women and their communities.”

One 11 year old Yemeni girl decided to break away from tradition and challenged her own parents when they arranged for her to be married to an older man. Nada al-Ahdal caught the attention of the world when she uploaded a three minute video on YouTube after she escaped from your family and took refuge at her uncle’s house.

The world needs more Nada al-Ahdal’s but can we really leave eight, nine, ten, and eleven-year-olds to defend themselves? Nada is one of the rare and lucky girls’ who successfully avoided child marriage but there are millions who are not so lucky. Hence, we need to make a change and advocate for child marriage to be fully outlawed and recognised as a human rights violation. Thousands of NGOs, human rights defenders, women and girls have been advocating to end child marriage for years and, although change will not come over night, we must keep on and remember the Rawan’s of the world.

Take Action:

Girls Not Brides

Every Woman Every Child

Other Useful Websites:

Human Rights Watch


Mereso Kilusu I was a Child Bride


(Mereso right)

This was story originally published on CNN’s African Voices website. Written by Mereso Kilusu, from the YWCA of Tanzania.

Nine of the 10 countries with the world’s highest rates of child marriage are in Africa: Niger, Chad and Central African Republic, Guinea, Mozambique, Mali, Burkina Faso and South Sudan, and Malawi.

My country, Tanzania, did not make the list. But in traditional Maasai communities like mine, marrying off girls is very common.

I was married at 13 to a man in his 70s.

It happened during Christmas break. My father told my school that I had died. Even if he hadn’t, I would have been forced to leave when I got pregnant because that was the law at the time.

I gave birth to my first child within a year. I had no professional prenatal care and no trained medical assistance during delivery. I had to depend on my husband and his other wives for guidance. It was a very painful experience. Every time I became pregnant after that I felt sick and scared. Because of all these difficult births I have a hard time controlling my bladder and it can be painful to urinate.

Today, I am a mother of five at 29 years old.

In communities like mine, age is not understood as a number. Our traditional values dictate girls are meant for marriage, and when the men decide we are biologically ready, we are married.

Marriage is sometimes a way of forming and cementing relationships. But it is also a way of earning money.

My family received a bride price from my husband and then he took me away to become one of his wives. He beat me regularly, and so I fled back to my village. But my father and brother told me the price had been paid, this was no longer my home, I had to return.

It wasn’t until six years ago that I was able to take charge of my own destiny.

I ran away to the city of Arusha and met Rebecca, a volunteer with the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). Through counseling, workshops and friendship, I gained more confidence in my own voice and learned to support myself.

When I returned to my village, I found an ally: one of our community leaders, named Abraham. In his own extended family girls were running away from forced marriages. He felt obliged to support them by giving them shelter and food. Quietly, he was encouraging them to go to school hoping it would be a way to get girls out of their situation.

When he learned about how I was able to find support from YWCA he was inspired. Knowing there would be places for girls to go outside their communities helped convince him they would be OK if they left their marriages.

But I love my family and my community, and I didn’t want leaving to be the answer. So I set up a YWCA in my village and slowly, change is happening.

Some men and boys are not happy with what I’m doing. I have to be around others all the time to protect myself from harassment. I don’t know if my own father would approve if he were still alive.

But many are recognizing that this is the way forward — that girls have value beyond marriage. That we can earn money and contribute more to our communities when we stay in school.

My brother used to think I was wrong to leave my husband. But seeing how well I am doing selling traditional Maasai jewelry and clothing he is starting to respect my choice. He no longer beats me, but he still won’t let me have access to any of my father’s farms. Thankfully, I have supporters in my community who help give me other options to grow food for my children. I believe my relationship with my brother will get better with time. I am still working on it.

My mother is so proud. She used to fear my disobedience to my husband would reflect poorly on her and she would be cast out of the community. But now she sees I am welcome and respected and she is so happy to have me back in her life.

When attitudes begin to shift from within communities this way, then people start to have hope. And politicians gain more courage to act. Without support from community leaders, parliamentarians fear passing laws will cost them votes and they will lose power to make any difference at all.

Likewise, passing laws provides no guarantee girls will be protected unless they have community support: 158 countries have set the legal age for marriage at 18 years but the laws are simply ignored by communities where marrying children and adolescent girls is common practice.

In the fight against child marriage, the biggest battle is finding those who are ready for change and giving them the courage to speak to others.

Those of us who believe in the power of girls, who have seen what they can do when they have options, we need to tell everyone we can. We need to teach girls that it’s OK to say no to marrying before they are ready, and that there are places they can go if they have to run away.

We need to talk to families about different ways their girls can contribute to their livelihoods, so that marriage is not seen as the only option.

We need to show community leaders examples of girls who have stayed in school, learned skills, and have helped develop their local economies.

We need to convince politicians that they should pass laws to protect and empower girls, and that the people will support them if they do.

And we need to share our success stories with the world. Because people need to know we are fighting for change and they can join us in their own countries and communities.

Change is possible when we believe in each other. I am living proof.

Our Safe Spaces Reduce Vulnerability and Expand Opportunities


Titlayo and Inunonse recently attended the Adolescent Girl’s Empowerment Program Training workshop – Zambia November 2013. The training was run by the Population Council and had 24 participants from 11 YWCA’s from around the world.

The Zambian experience brought joy, happiness and new challenges to us as young women leaders of the movement. It gave us a bigger picture of what young women and girls go through around the world hence reminding us that as leaders we need to address issues affecting our interests.

The meeting of women from Argentina, Myanmar, US Virgin Island, Belize, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Benin, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia in Lusaka was a clash of cultures who’s greatest effect was the growth of friendships all over the world. We learned so much from this great opportunity about cultures, with presentations of such diversity from music from Tanzania to funeral rites in Myanmar a burial.Inun2

The best competition we can ever get into is to compete with ourselves. Let us learn to beat our own records and things will keep on improving in our lives. One question we should ask ourselves is how much we utilize ourselves in order to bring out productivity in our lives.

Leadership means you have people who follow you in your community, office and work place and you must know that you have managers around you who may know how to do the business of your formation or origination.

A person with leadership style is a true leader who inspires his or her team with a shared vision and goals for the future. Transformational leaders are highly visible, and spend more time communicating. They don’t necessarily lead from the front as they tend to delegate responsibilities amongst their teams.

For young girls and women, one place leadership can and is fostered is in “A Safe Space”. The provision of a safe space is by no means a declaration of weakness. It is the provision of a tool of power…..the ashes from where the phoenix that is woman rises. Safe spaces are the foundation from where young girls are given tools to make something of themselves. Accessing safe spaces at the right time is imperative to reach this goal. When we teach our young girls when they are forming themselves, what we teach them becomes a part of who they are. They become financially responsible, socially active and aware, empowered and most importantly, they become happy.

We personally want to see safe spaces all over the world; personally we want the world to become a safe space. Our first step towards this is establishing one safe space in a community. Establishing the concept of the importance of a safe space with the people that have the power to let this happen. When these mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, leaders see that girls at their formative years need the extra attention and support that the safe spaces provide they will see the massive opportunity this presents to develop their communities and their lives. Through these safe spaces awareness rising takes place at a very early stage and age so that we prepare these girls and women to become responsible citizens of our societies and make it a better place for them and generations to come.

The objective of the meeting in Zambia was to learn the importance of identifying the right girls at the right time using an evidence based approach. We ended up learning so much more…the similarities and differences in what girls all over the world experience; what difference the work intergenerational women can make in the lives of young girls and finally what kind of difference a safe space can make in improving the lives of young girls.

We came to know that as young leaders of the YWCA movement our role and aim is to work   together to shape a better tomorrow. People will have no incentive to change their life style towards sustainability unless they are first made aware of their own problems which exist, their own role in perpetuating these problems, and their potential contribution to the solutions. We have existing environmental processes that help individuals to:

  • Acknowledge the existing environmental problems and recognize their role in them.
  • Understand the links between their everyday actions and the lives of other people.
  • Identify positive actions they can take.

And so in conclusion of this tale of feminine power:

I am not my skin;

Nor am I my sex.

I am a girl, I am a woman.

My thoughts, my feelings and

My needs deserve a space to be heard.

Listen to me, build me, mould me,

Enable me, and

You will be surprised what I can do.

Don’t be surprised by the path I chart

For myself, but guide me and let me fly.



I am available, effective and ready for use: I AM FEMALE CONDOM

By Nelly Lukale, SRHR Champion- YWCA of Kenya.

Young people’s need for integrated family planning, sexual and reproductive health and Rights and HIV prevention services, is one of the great challenges facing many youth today. The most affected groups are the youth from marginalized groups, who may be particularly vulnerable to sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV, and other reproductive health issues.

As a participant at the 3rd International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, my main interest was prevention of unplanned pregnancies, STIs and HIV/AIDS by use of a female condom as a method of family planning. I attended a two day workshop on universal access to Female condom organized by the Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC). I was keen on learning the different types available on the market, manufacturers, how to use it and not forgetting demonstrating what I learned to my fellow participants. That is how to use a female condom.

UAFC which is a joint Programme started in 2008 with the aim to make female condoms accessible, affordable and available for all. Different organizations have combined knowledge and expertise in working with civil society organizations, supply chain management and procurement, advocacy on sexual and reproductive health and rights and international politics. The main reason to set up the UAFC Joint Programme was to break the long-time inertia of the accessibility of female condoms at an affordable price and in a sustainable manner. Existing barriers in providing women and men access to female condoms were:  the high procurement price, the lack of competition on the female condom market as well as the lack of programming in many countries.


Nelly Lukale

This word Female Condom seems to be a name that is not so common among methods of contraceptives but believe it or not it exists but not used by many due to misunderstanding of how it is used, its high price, who should use it and where it can be found. It is a barrier method made out of a soft thin material, like the male condom, but it can only be worn by a woman.

September 16th of every year marks the annual Global Female Condom Day, a day when education and advocacy to increase awareness, access, and use of female condoms is passed across the globe. Some women still complain that it’s too big and hard to insert but the good news is that there are smaller, thinner and easy to use female condoms coming on the market now. This is the only women -initiated method available that offers dual protection from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. Studies show that it is at least as effective as the male condom in reducing the risk of contracting STIs and can reduce the probability of HIV infection by 97%. The first time I learnt about a female condom I was in great shock and just imagined its size and how it would remain inside me or even fit. This was until I attended female condom training and learned that it’s so easy and effective to use. Its gives a woman more power to decide about protecting her health.

The female condom  easily heats up to body temperature, is highly lubricated and it can stimulate the man due to the inner ring or sponge and can be inserted a few hours before intercourse so that couples do not have to think about a condom at the last minute when the fire is already on. Several types of female condoms are manufactured today but not all are available in different countries especially Africa. The readily available and accessible one is the FC2.

Young people mostly young women in Africa are vulnerable to unintended pregnancies that can seriously affect their health, education and any other opportunities in life and the only way to address this  is to make available, accessible and affordable effective family planning programs that are not only fundamental to maternal health, but allow women and families to better manage household and natural resources, secure education for all family members, and address each family member’s healthcare needs. Female condoms and been recognized by different organizations as a vital tool for improving maternal health globally. Promoting the female condom is a cost-effective intervention, particularly given the high cost of HIV treatment and other prevention interventions if used correctly and consistently.

Some few facts about female condoms include:

  • The female condom is not just for women  but for  people of all
  • The female condom can actually increase pleasure for both partners as it adjusts to body temperature during sex, creating a natural and intimate feel, and increased stimulation from the outer ring.
  • The female condom offers increased protection against STIs by covering the external genitalia.
  • Female condoms have no side effects and also come latex-free.
  • Female condoms do not require a prescription or clinician involvement, and provide non-hormonal dual protection from unintended pregnancy, and STIs, including HIV.
  • Two different female condom products are currently WHO/UNPFA prequalified (FC2 and Cupid1) with various other products in development.

Human trafficking is a crime of a global scale

By Lauren Shannon Shaw, young woman from the YWCA of Ireland.

“It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity.  It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric.  It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets.  It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organised crime.  I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery” – Barack Obama


Lauren Shannon Shaw

Human trafficking is a crime of a global scale. It affects every country in the world whether as an origin, transit or destination country. Human trafficking is a heinous crime and a serious violation of human rights. In today’s globalised society it is easier than ever to transport people through countries and across borders and the rapid advance of technology means a buyer can select their purchase at the click of a button.

The International Labour Organization estimate that there are 2.4 million people in the world at any given time who have been trafficked for forced labour or sexual exploitation. In fact, human trafficking is believed to be the second largest global crime today, generating approximately 31.6 billion USD every year. The reasons for trafficking are numerous and complex but universal factors include limited migration opportunities, lack of effective legislation/enforcement, political and economic instability and war or fear of conflict. Woman and girls are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of human trafficking due to deep rooted social inequality. This includes gender discrimination within the family and community, a tolerance of violence against women, unequal access to education and the subsequent lack of employment opportunities available. The means by which a victim is entrapped include threats, deception, fraud, abduction and sadly some are sold by their own family.

The majority of women who are trafficked are exploited in the sex trade which is believed to be the most common form of trafficking. Many survivors speak of being offered well -paid jobs abroad as waitresses, dancers or au pairs but instead find themselves forced to work in brothels, often unaware of their location and unable to speak the language. Some are led to believe that they owe a debt to their trafficker which they must work to pay off, but in reality the debt will never be paid. Studies have shown that 70% of victims of sexual exploitation meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder in the same range as victims of torture. Last year Stop the Traffik launched a video campaign to raise awareness of the reality of sex trafficking. The video shows a group of women dancing in a window in Amsterdam’s red light district while spectators gather to enjoy the free entertainment.  The cheering turns to stunned silence when the slogan appears “every year thousands of women are promised a dance career in Western Europe, sadly they end up here.”

Of course the current publicity around sex trafficking should not distract us from the other forms of slavery that exist today which include forced labour, domestic servitude and organ harvesting. These crimes are equally deplorable and also prey on the vulnerability and desperation of others. Whether it’s the child labourer working long hours on a cocoa farm in West Africa or the factory worker subjected to dangerous conditions and an unfair wage to provide us with cheap clothes, it is the same denial of equality and dignity that is intrinsic to our common humanity.

While the statistics can be overwhelming and create a sense of helplessness, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan compares the work to be done to that of the abolitionists during the trans-Atlantic slave trade and appeals that:

“We must approach today’s abuses in the same spirit- each of us seeking not to blame somebody else, but to think what we can do to hasten their end.  There is no evil so entrenched that it cannot be eradicated. Inspired by the abolitionists of two centuries ago, let us fight against exploitation and oppression and stand up for freedom and human dignity.”

A first step to take to help prevent human trafficking is to be informed of the signs of trafficking, talk to local politicians about it and participate in local anti-trafficking initiatives. Secondly, be a responsible consumer- enquire about the labour policies of companies you shop in to ensure they are free from forced labour or other forms of exploitation. Finally, if you suspect someone to be a victim of trafficking report it to an organization dealing with trafficking in your area.

More information on human trafficking can be found at:

Gender Based Violence and the Bible

By Kgothatso Mokoena, World YWCA Programme Associate. Kgothatso is attending the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) held in Busan, Korea.

Violence against women and girls has been described as one of the most wicked, systematic and prevalent human rights abuses in the world by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.


Rev Thabo Makhoba- Arch- Bishop of Cape Town, South Africa & Kgothatso

To illustrate the scope of this atrocity and the lack of justice in many situations, is the story of 28 year old Shrien Dewani from India, who was murdered in Cape Town, South Africa. A taxi driver, Zola Tongo, admitted the murder claiming the Shrien’s husband, had offered R15,000.00 to have his wife killed! The South African courts ruled the victim’s husband could be extradited to face the charges but so far nothing has happened. There is also the tragic circumstance of Oscar Pistorious’s killing of his long term girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, falsely describedas self-defense!  Many other crimes against women remain unrecorded.

These two reports are amongst many which remind us of the negative impact of gender based violence in our communities.

South Africa has 14, 860 rape- GBV cases reported every year, and India has doubled its number to about 24,206 since 2010, of these only 26% resulted in conviction. The South Africa filed memorandum in 2010 indicated that Government and police failures were the root of crimes against women, with insuficient recognition of discrimination, exploitation and suppression of women by political leaders.

Although legislation provides the umbrella, government and social structures have left women and their causes eroding and drenched in a thunderstorm of inequality.

Every year at the Human Right Council, countries report on laws, policies and regulations and proposing new amendment or resolutions on policies in place. Recently most countries have replaced “rape” with the broader term “sexual assaults” . The change is welcome, but to me insufficient. More laws do not change the reality that existing ones remain unimplemented.

In relation to the church,  biblical injunctions are misinterpreted and used to justify the oppression of women. The church also teaches us that husbands are to love their wives in the same way Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). This “giving up‟ carries the implication of giving up one’s rights or privileges, but if Jesus is the example, it extends even to laying down one’s life for the other. This is the perspective which is to characterise a Christian husband’s attitude to his wife.

The extent to which patriarchy has distorted the scriptural teachings and messages of the world’s religions has meant that until now, many women have remained silent and accepted abuse, vulnerable to further emotional or physical violence, trapped in abusive situations and likely to blame themselves.

I was recently at the African Union Summit and the ITI organised by the World YWCA, with young women from over 45 countries. As a community worker I’ve always believed that young women must be given tools to change their communities – education, opportunities, choices, access to their rights and spaces to express themselves without fear (at schools, churches, home, etc).

I call upon civil society, religious communities,  the UN and its respective agencies to hold member states accountable. To make every effort to explore all possibilities to bring mechanisms such as the CEDAW, Beijing declaration, Resolution 1820 relevant to the millions of women and girls in the world exposed to these atrocities.

We are approaching the 2015 deadline on the MDGs, I urge our leaders to include elimination of all forms of violence against women as a target for the next phase, as we also continue with interfaith dialogues to help address this issue.

Every future atrocity – reported or not – in my country or elsewhere, confirms that there is still a long way to go. Kgothatso ya Bakoena