Building Capacity towards Eastern European and Central Asia NGOs Coalition on Optional Protocol to CEDAW
Building capacity of women’s NGOs in CEE/CIS to use OP CEDAW directed to women’s rights protection. The activities had been planned for two years (2008-2009) and were implemented in two steps.
During the first step NGO's dealing with women's rights issues from four countries: Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine were invited to participate. In 2009 the NGOs from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan joined the project as well.
The project was launched in January, 2008 and had been implemented in cooperation with partner organizations from Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine as well as with IWRAW Asia Pacific. Although the significant number of women’s NGOs from CEE/CIS countries had used CEDAW reporting mechanism to influence the state policy in the field of gender equality, most women’s NGOs in the region lack the practical knowledge of OP CEDAW and unaware of the ways of counteraction of the discrimination of women and violation of women’s rights.
As there was no specific regional forum to share experience and information related to the issue the activity aimed at filling these gaps and at developing the strategic approach to using OP CEDAW.
The results of the implemented activities are as follows:
• Increase capacity and skills of women’s NGOs in 8 CEE/CIS countries to bring cases to CEDAW under the OP;
• Support national lobbying campaigns in the countries where the OP had not been ratified yet;
• Identify areas of women’s rights violation that could be addressed by seeking remedies through the OP CEDAW mechanism;
• Provide easily available information on how to use OP CEDAW;
• Create platform for sharing experience and information.
The project activities also included:
• Trainings for representatives of women’s NGOs aimed at increasing the understanding of CEDAW Convention, general recommendations and Optional Protocol as tools for strengthening women’s rights and at developing skills to file a complaint to the CEDAW Committee under the Optional Protocol;
• Strategic meetings of the project partners;
• Meetings/seminars/round tables at national level;
• E-toolkit on OP CEDAW as a tool for advancing women’s rights and gender equality;
• Lobbying for ratification of OP CEDAW where relevant;
• Media campaigns. The group of partners working together within KARAT OP CEDAW project in 2009 increased by organizations in 4 additional CIS countries as a result of the call announced by KARAT Coalition: Armenia, Women’s Rights Center, Azerbaijan, Gender Association “Symmetry”, Tajikistan, Public Foundation “Panorama”, Uzbekistan, “Generation of the Future”.
The project partners will be responsible for implementing the project activities at the national level.
The type and scope of these activities as well as the rules for cooperation were defined during the strategic meeting implemented in the end of March. Since not all states mentioned above had been the parties to the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.
One of the project aims was to support the women’s NGOs in these countries to convince their authorities to ratify this document.
2009 was the second year of the project implementation.
Therefore the newly established partnership had been formed based on the experience gained in 2008 by KARAT and women’s organizations from Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.The part of the project activities was conducted in cooperation with IWRAW Asia Pacific which considered the organization focused on CEDAW for over 15 years.
Due to the cooperation between KARAT Coalition and Women’s Support Center in Kyrgyzstan greater number of women’s organizations from more CIS countries had been involved in the OP CEDAW related activities in 2009.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence
“16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence” Campaign has been commemorated every year starting from November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to December 10, International Human Rights Day.
These days were chosen to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and emphasize that such violence is a severe violation of human rights.
During the "16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence" Campaign the following Days were also included:
November 29 - The International Women Human Rights Defenders’ Day,
December 1- World AIDS Day,
December 2 - The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.
December 6 - the Montreal Massacre Day. On this day in 1989 an anti-feminist man killed 14 women-students.
In 1991 a "White Ribbon" Campaign has been launched and in order to commemorate this day men wear White Ribbons. More than 2000 organizations from 130 countries worldwide joined to the Campaign. Women’s Rights Center has joined to the Campaign since 1999 to raise awareness at national level that violence against women is a severe violation of human rights.
In 2009 Women's Rights Center within the "16 Days of Activizm against Gender Based Violence" Campaign organized the following activities:
Theatrical Performance in the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women at Yerevan State Puppet Theatre named after H. Tumanyan.
The Theatrical Performace “Bruises on the Soul”, performed by “Youth Theatre” of Women's Right Center was staged. In the end, the WRC Children's Folk Dance Ensemble performed national spiritual songs.
Award Ceremony in International Women Human Rights Defenders Day at Chamber Music Hall after Komitas
Award Ceremony was devoted to individuals, partners and donors for their contribution in women's and children's rights protection.In the closer WRC Children's Folk Dance Ensemble performed.
"White Ribbon" Campaign in The Montreal Massacre Day
White Ribbon Campaign considered the most widespread men's action against violence against women, launched in 1991 on the second anniversary of one man's massacre of 14 women in Montreal.
Each year men are carrying the Ribbons one or two week starting from November 25 to December 6 in the Montreal Massacre Day to express their protest against violence against women.
Theatrical Performance in International Human Rights Day Yerevan at State Puppet Theatre after H. Tumanyan
The permormance “Pages from dog’s diary”, performed by thatrical troupe “Theatre for Changes” was organized. In the end WRC Children's Folk Dance Ensemble performed Armenian National songs.
Stop Violence against Women Website "www.stopvaw.org" and National Monitor
The Stop Violence Against Women Website – www.stopvaw.org – is a forum for information, advocacy and change as a comprehensive tool for the benefit of women’s advocates in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Russian Federation, Mongolia and the UN Protectorate of Kosovo.
The website was developed by Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights. It provides resources and message boards to assist advocates around the world in their efforts to eliminate violence against women.
Women’s Rights Center is also a National Monitor of "National Violence Against Women Monitor Program" and its goal is to expand the content and monitoring functions of the STOPVAW country pages so as to better serve women’s advocates in each of the country addressed by STOPVAW.
Thus, Women’s Right Center, as a National Monitor of Violence against Women, has implemented its activities in following directions:
• To update the National Homepage of Armenia in English (http://www.stopvaw.org),
• To update the Armenian Page in Armenian (www.osi.szinhaz.hu ),
• To raise public awareness regarding domestic violence against women,
• To inform all interested parties about the websites,
• To share information with other similar sites worldwide.
In January 2008 our attention was mostly concentrated on the Armenian Page in Armenian. Since our partners at OSI Hungary no longer implement this project, there were several organizational and administrative issues to settle. Our major concern was clarification of the situation with this site (www.osi.szinhaz.hu) as well as resolution of technical problems, which rose during update process.
In January 2008 WRC has partially filled the informational gap and posted materials of 2007. During 2008 WRC collected information on issues of domestic violence, trafficking, sexual harassment and assault, reproductive and sexual health and right. Main sources of information were mass media (WRC has regular subscription for a number of most popular newspapers) and the Internet. Various organizations dealing with these issues were also aware of our activity.
We were in constant telephone contact with NGOs working in the field, they were aware of this project and benefits they could have (in terms of information dissemination). February, March and April months were rich with political and social events: election campaign, which was launched in January, presidential elections on 19th of February, post-electoral disturbances and political rush.
These events, in their turn, stipulated shift of public attention. Mass Media, including electronic resources were overwhelmed with all kinds of information about the developing events. We have also recorded a significant decrease of interest towards issues that were of interest for us. In April a slight noticeable increase of number of articles were noticed, which could be explained by the fact that situation in the country had more or less normalized and life took its regular course.
Informing the society in general and particularly – parties working in the field of violence about these websites was an integral part of WRC's work. Information that WRC gather from different sources may be of a great importance for those who share our beliefs and combat violence against women in all its forms. Our main audience, in our opinion, consists of organizations working in the field, state agencies and simply individuals, who are actively involved in combating violence.
WRC represented materials in a form, convenient for web site visitors. It is important to mention, that feedbacks from people who get acquainted with our materials had been gotten very often. There seems to be quite a regular audience out there following the news and expressing their feelings about the work WRC do.
For example, after posting the article about the roundtable discussion on Draft Law on Domestic Violence WRC received e-mails with congratulations from partner organizations, in particular from “Advocates for Human Rights”.
Sometimes people turn for information about situation in the field and has been redirected immediately to the web sites, where, as they stated afterwards, they found information and links they needed.
One of the major events was the press conference held by Amnesty International on the report “No Pride in Silence” conducted in Armenia. The event was illustrated in a number of newspapers and broadcasted on TV. Feedbacks received from several NGOs located around the world: Great Britain, USA, Poland etc. by stating the great impact in assisting to implement the report. Feedbacks were also received from several foreign organizations about the activities undertaken by WRC, particularly about Public Hearings on RA Draft Law on Domestic Violence.
WRC colleagues expressed their happiness about the success that we were experiencing. Karat Coalition published information about WRC on its December Issue Newsletter.
Combating Domestic Violence in Armenia through Legislative Initiative
Starting from January 01, 2007 toJune 30, 2007 WRC lawyers had studied international examples of laws against domestic violence and foreign experience on implementation of the latter, to elaborate a Draft Law on domestic violence, to raise awareness on domestic violence in Armenia.
Phase II: November 01, 2007 - December 31, 2008
The aim is to advocate and lobby the Draft Law on Domestic Violence with the end in view to push the Draft Law forward for adoption by RA National Assembly.
Phase III: January 01, 2009 – May 31, 2009
Goal: To carry out consistent and persistent advocacy on Domestic Violence Draft Law and the Package of Supporting Regulations as well as to lobby the National Assembly and the Government of the Republic of Armenia to adopt the Law on Domestic Violence and the Package of Supporting Regulations.
Part 1. Investigation of the experience of foreign countries in the field of domestic violence legislation and coming up with policy recommendations.
Within the framework of the project “Combat violence against women in Armenia,” legislation of 55 countries (USA, Canada, Brazil, England, Holland, Bulgaria, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Kirghizia, Georgia, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Ecuador, the Republic of South Africa, Costa Rica, Puerto Rica, Malaysia, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, etc) in the field of domestic violence has been studied. In particular, questions, which concern subjects of the given legal relations, authorized bodies and persons in the given area, remedies of legal protection, kinds of domestic violence, etc. have been examined. Based upon results of this research WRC elaborated the Draft of Law of Republic Armenia “About domestic violence”.
Draft of Law of the Republic of Armenia “About domestic violence” consists of 8 chapters and 26 articles, which were prepared having in view also the results of the “On nationwide survey findings: domestic violence and abuse of women in Armenia”, prepared by Turpanjian Center for Policy Analysis of American University of Armenia, and also the report prepared by other researcher of the working group within the framework of the project “Combat violence against women in Armenia”. This investigation was conducted in 7 Police Stations and 8 courts of city of Yerevan.
Part 2. Investigation of the domestic violence cases in Police Stations and courts to identify the gaps in the legal administrative, and institutional frameworks that address the issue of domestic violence and coming up with policy recommendations.
After thorough work WRC received an official approval for the investigation of civil and criminal cases in Police Stations and Courts of Yerevan city for discovering the gaps in the legal, administrative and institutional frameworks that address the issue of domestic violence and come up with policy recommendations, taking into consideration the experience of foreign countries in the field of domestic violence.
There were also carried out visits to 11 Yerevan Police Stations and 13 Yerevan courts. All together 61 preventive cases have been analyzed in the following Police Stations of Yerevan city – Arabkir, Erebuni-Nubarashen, Shengavit, Nor-Nork, Kanaker-Zeitun, Kentron and Nork-Marash and Malatia-Sebastia. 4 criminal cases have also been analyzed; one of them was cancelled by a statement of the woman as a result of reconciliation of the sides. Based on the results of the investigation of preventive cases, we state that the Police Stations being the first law-enforcement body, do not have sufficient tools for preventing domestic violence cases against women and their children such as minor hooliganism, insulting, psychological abuse, neglect and so on. Investigation has also been conducted at community courts in Yerevan and at the Court of Appeals, related to some civil and criminal cases of 2005-2006. At the following community courts of the first instance – Ajapniak, Avan and Nor-Nork, Erebuni and Nubarashen, Shengavit, Malatia-ebastia and Kanaker-Zeitun and Nor-Marash 93 civil cases and 8 criminal cases have been analyzed. Cases have been analyzed at the chamber of civil cases of the Court of Appeals. The research at Yerevan Police Stations and courts resulted in elaboration of a list of concrete recommendations of provisions, which should be fixed in the Draft of law “On domestic violence”.
Part 3. Website Stop Violence against Women and National Monitor Project
The activity of the Women’s Rights Center (WRC) as a National Violence against Women (NVAW) Monitor was implemented in two main directions: updating the Armenian National Home page on the StopVAW website and raising society’s awareness on the issue of violence against women, the website and the Armenian home page on it.
We collected information on violence against women and its different forms and types (domestic violence, trafficking in women and girls, sexual harassment, sexual assault, gender, reproductive and sexual health and rights) from all possible sources which include, but are not limited to newspapers, e-bulletins, NGOs and state structures.
Part 1. “Combating Domestic Violence in Armenia through Legislative Initiative on Domestic Violence” Project 2007-2008
The Project is aimed at advocacy and lobbying of the Draft Law on Domestic Violence with the end in view to push the Draft Law forward for adoption by RA National Assembly.
From the beginning it was obvious that advocacy and lobbying of the Draft Law on Domestic Violence will take many efforts since stereotypes were very rigid and society was not sufficiently aware of the problem.
The majority of people consider violence against women a personal and family matter, allowing no outsider to interfere. They are sure that it is a matter of national traditions. However, domestic violence is the most pervasive human rights violation that we know: it devastates lives, fractures communities and stalls development.
Armenia is not an exception among other countries in the world, where domestic violence exists in all forms. To receive complete and just information, there was carried out a social survey on domestic violence and abuse of women in Armenia. The survey was prepared and conducted for WRC by Turpanjian Center for Policy Analysis (American University of Armenia) in 2007 among 1006 women in Yerevan and 10 regions of Armenia. The results have shown that 66 % of women in Armenia were subjected to psychological violence, 27% - not heavy physical abuse and 12% - heavy physical abuse, 5% of women were forced into sexual intercourse.
However, the most reliable and “natural” source of information for detecting the cases of domestic violence are the WRC National Hot Line service, accessible to people all over the country, with the help of which people can share their own problems with us, the Women’s Support and Drop-in Centre (Crisis Center) and the Emergency Shelter, where they receive free psychological, social, legal and medical assistance.
To develop the draft and elaborate the final version of DV law that will successfully function in Armenia and use every opportunity for the benefit of the promotion of the DV Draft Law, a Working Group (WG) was planned to form from the representatives of relevant RA Ministries.
During 2008 a number of WG meetings as well as round-table discussions with participation of a large number of governmental and non-governmental organizations were organized. Comments and recommendations received during the meetings were valuable for shaping the final version of the Draft Law on Domestic Violence.
Part 2. “Empowering professional approach of Women’s Rights Center’s Working Group on Domestic Violence law through an exchange study visit to Prague”
In the period from 8-14 June, 2008 within the East Program of the Open Society Fund “Empowering professional approach of Women’s Rights Center’s Working Group on domestic violence law through an exchange study visit” WRC organized study visit of Armenian delegation to Prague, Czech Republic. The delegation consisted of representatives of the RA Police, Ministry of Labor and Social Issues, Women’s Rights Center and a judge. The goal of the study visit was to get familiar with good practices and gaps in practices and legislation that exist in Czech reality and provide concrete recommendations on how should these gaps be avoided in the Armenian law as well as the process of elaboration of DV law in Czech Republic.
Return visit of Czech group to Yerevan: In the period from 30 June until 3 July 2008 within the East-East program of the Open Society Fund “Empowering professional approach of Women’s Rights Center’s working group on domestic violence law through an exchange study visit” WRC organized and hosted the group delegation from Prague with the purpose of experience exchange and establishing closer links for future cooperation. Czech delegation consisted of the representatives from Police Training College of the Ministry of the Interior in Prague and White Circle of Safety NGO to Armenia. During the visit to Yerevan Czech delegation met with representatives of RA Police, RA Ministry of Labour and Social Issues, Police Training College, Women’s Support and Drop-in Center of Women’s Rights Center.
In August WRC project staff worked on arrangements of meetings with TV and Radio programs on the issue of DV situation in Armenia, especially on DV Law. A number of TV programs with participation of WRC project manager and WG members were broadcasted during the year.
In the middle of August Ms. Vardanyan had a meeting with the Head of the Police Training Center of RA Mr. Andriasyan. They have discussed the issue of Domestic Violence in education and training within the boundaries of Police. At the end of the meeting they came to the conclusion to share this idea with RA Police Management with the aim to work on curriculum on domestic violence and include it in the study program of Police Training Center as well as of RA Police Academy.
Parallel to the work of developing draft law, new lawyer I. Urumova has worked out a concept paper for the Draft Law on Domestic Violence. Justification for the necessity of such law is mainly based on the fact that domestic violence does exist in Armenia and there should be relevant legal system to protect victims of domestic violence, decrease case of it and change stereotype attitude to the issue. Along with it, the fact that Armenia has adopted various international conventions and declarations implying certain obligations that include legal improvements in the field of domestic violence should be taken into consideration as well. In addition, the issue of domestic violence as well as the status and situation of victims should become more visible.
All our meetings both individual and group ones were conducted with certain difficulties connected with lack of knowledge and stereotype mentality, such as interference into traditional Armenian family affaires or breaking of families. Another stereotype attitude staying that Armenian families are the most firm families in the world etc. Nevertheless, in spite of all abovementioned stereotypes, we are happy to mention that significant changes have occurred in the mentality of our society and their attitude to the problem of domestic violence has been shifted considerably. We are definitely sure that the time we have dreamt for a long time is coming.
Part 1. “Combating Domestic Violence in Armenia through Legislative Initiative on Domestic Violence” Project, 2009
At the beginning of March WRC has developed a Letter of Intent summarizing and justifying actions taken by Women’s Rights Center and interested bodies to justify the urgency of the Draft Law on Domestic Violence.