Day 3: United State of Women Summit
Gender Based Violence
Thursday, the final day of the #Gender360Summit, was about how to prevent gender based violence (GBV) on adolescents and the challenges in doing that. It was stated that violence against women and girls was ultimate abuse of power is one of the most heinous and prevalent human rights abuses.
Some drivers of gender based violence:
1. Patriarchy, resulting in practices such as female foeticide and infanticide
2. Gender norms: needing to preserve culture and tradition with dehumanizing norms such as early marriage, female genital mutilation
3. Masculine norms of behavior: dominance and control
There was a talk about violence against children in schools and how this could be changed by changing the way we speak about schools: RaisingVoices
There was a lot of discussion about how to bring adolescents to the table to design, run, evaluate and improve their programs. I found this hard to imagine doing well in a context where adolescent girls are hidden away in homes. I still have questions about this and this seemed the most loved concept of the day.
The Horrors of Bride price
Violence against adolescents is scary. Adolescent girls have to go against age and gender norms to say no, and they often don't know the can if the perpetrator is known to them. Adolescent boys get abused too, and this violence is primarily physical violence through the hands of teachers, peers and caregivers. Adolescent girls, on the other hand, face sexual violence often by their romantic partners. Other forms of violence against adolescent girls were honor killings, dowry deaths, bride price, female genital mutilation and forced, early marriage.
I didn't know much about bride price and why it would cause abuse, but an example was given that was heart wrenching. A 14 year old girl is said to have been bought for 15 cows from her uncle. The husband raped and physically assaulted her for a month before she finally ran away. When aid workers spoke to her recently, she reported that both the uncle and the husband were in jail. But not for the reasons one would think obvious. The uncle was in jail because he couldn't repay the 15 cows to the husband, since the bride had run away and their contract was void. The husband was in jail because he was unable to pay 2 cows to the uncle - which was the fine for hitting his new bride.
I was saddened to hear that violence against adolescent girls has increased dramatically after the drought because of bride price.
1. Men rape girls so that they will be forcefully married as justice
2. Fathers and uncles sell girls at younger and younger ages to gain access to cattle
3. Girls are abducted if they can't be afforded
Empowerment and Self defense classes for girls
A Kenyan organization, Ujaama, has used an empowerment and self defense 6 week course to tackle gender based violence and have seen a 60% reduction in violence against girls. A program that has proven effective, the director answered 2 important questions:
Q. Is this putting the burden on the girls, and isn't that making it harder for them?
A: Most of the girls who used the self defense techniques only needed to resort to the assertive verbal techniques that say no assertively, so it seems like the empowerment is a key component. Also, in many cases the girls hadn't known that what had happened to them had been rape and it was NOT ok. Especially if the perpetrator was someone known to them, they assumed that it wasn't anything they could do anything about. They just didn't know if it was stoppable when their step-father wanted sexual favors. So, just empowering them with the fact that it wasn't ok and they could say no was a big part of the training.
It was also important for girls to know patterns that often lead to sexual assault - a teacher who gives and seeks special attention in secrecy, boyfriend who needs to be in control etc.
Q: Do the girls feel worse and self-blame if they've attended the training and couldn't prevent the assault?A: In this study, they saw that reporting had increased in the study group - even when they couldn't stop the assault, the reported the assault, instead of wanting to hide it. This seems to indicate that the direction is good. Also, the language used in the training was key to not have self-blame happen incase the assault wasn't preventable by the girl.