Resilience, Creativity and Empowerment
Gender Based Violence: African Women in Conversation
Hosted by Peace Brigades International in partnership with The Embrace Project
Monday, 8 March 2021 - 17:00 GMT (19:00 SAST)
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, we would like to invite you to meet some of the women working on the front line to protect their communities. We are constantly overwhelmed by the resilience and determination in the face of sexual violence. At every turn, these brave women human rights defenders have found new ways to advocate on behalf of their gender to raise awareness for the challenges they face. Whether through campaigning, local organising, or art and culture, they are constantly striving for a better world.
“WHRDs are front liners in this crisis but nobody takes care of them. The government does not provide a clear strategy on how psychosocial support will be offered and who will access it.
People are expected to perform but they go home hungry to their families after spending the entire day in their community supporting others”
Naomi Barasa, WHRD in Kenya
Women play an undervalued role in the defence of civil liberties, protection of communities and promotion of human rights. They have often been the architects of international human rights frameworks and have driven transformational change across their societies.
By their nature, women human rights defenders challenge the traditional gender roles of patriarchal societies. Consequently, women human rights defenders often suffer from serious public defamation campaigns that aim to damage their reputation, accusing them, among others, of neglecting their family or of being in search of sexual partners. Women human rights defenders are often targets of attacks, threats and harassment, on top of gender specific forms, including through the use of rape as a weapon of war, social stigmatization and verbal abuse and intimidation.
It is essential that states commit to ensuring a safe environment for human rights defenders, implementing prevention and protection programs for human rights defenders, with a gender focus. We reiterate the need to promptly investigate all cases of threats and attacks against women defenders and to condemn those responsible.
To raise the visibility of women human rights defenders all over the world, we’ve partnered with The Embrace Project for an exclusive webinar addressing the difficulties faced by WHRDs, and strategies to further their objectives.
We will be hearing directly from women human rights defenders about gender-based violence as experienced in their communities. They will discuss the causes of GBV, including the socialisation of men in their communities and harmful practices that perpetuate cycles of violence. We will be focusing on the lived experience of the victims, and the resources they have access to as part of their recovery.
We want to provide guests, and panellists alike, with an understanding of the realities on the ground, as well as a deeper understanding of the root cause, and cycle, of GBV in different communities.
We will go on to discuss the strategies deployed to combat GBV. These will include the programmes are being run in communities, as well as the lobbying of interest groups (including civil society organisations) and approaching government stakeholders.
We want to enable panellists to learn from one another, and to take away techniques which might be effective in their communities. Audience members will be given the opportunity to learn about the vital work being done to safeguard and extend women’s rights.
To finish the evening we will be exploring the different ways women human rights defenders have been using art and culture to promote resilience and wellbeing in their line of work.
We will be displaying a series of paintings as one example of the ways in which women human rights defenders can use self-expression to gain greater understanding of their own work and its wider importance.
This will be followed by a poetry reading from 3 Brown Girls to illustrate the power of oral storytelling and its place in the defence of human rights. We will also be exploring the role of social media in creating broader communities of self-care within the activist community.
Meet the Women Human Rights Defenders
Naomi Barasa is a consultant in strategic campaigning, researcher, and trainer. She is an accomplished community organizer and feminist. Naomi is an award winning human rights Defender. For over two decades she has led successful global, regional, national and local campaigns on mainly economic, social & cultural rights as well ascending extrajudicial killings under various organizations with the latest being Amnesty International.
In 2018 she received a human rights global award: Sir Henry Brooke Landmark Human Rights Award. Naomi won a National Silver Jubilee Community Organizer award in 2019. She was named the 7th bravest woman in the world in a 2011 global survey by Marie Claire Magazine. She has over 33 years’ experience in human rights, gender, community organizing, research, training and strategic planning.
Editar Adhiambo Ochieng is a feminist activist who defends women's rights around the world. She fights sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) by creating awareness within the government, advocating for the recognition of SGBV as a national disaster and for the implementation of appropriate policies. Being a SGBV survivor at 16 years also inspired her HRD work, which she started when she was 21 years old.
As the founder of Feminist for Peace, Rights and Justice Centre she brought survivors together to work together to save the Kibera community from different forms of violence. The Centre supports the community in Kibera in understanding their rights and accessing justice. Editar is an authentic, courageous and transformational leader. As a proud and radical intersectional feminist, she doesn’t apologize for challenging power dynamics and patriarchal systems that oppresses women systematically.
Florence Mwikali is a Women Human Rights Defenders Toolkit Project Officer at Peace Brigades International – Kenya. She is a human rights defender and gender enthusiast with a wealth of experience in Gender and Human Rights work.
She has previously been involved in Human Rights work at Amnesty International Kenya and Coalition on Violence against Women (COVAW) and has extensive experience in training on women’s human rights particularly in Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), gender equality and Violence against women. She envisions a gender-equal society, where the rights of everyone are respected.
Amy Dwyer is on the PBI UK Board of Trustees. She has worked across programming and research for a range of human rights, gender and peacebuilding NGOs, as well as for government and multilateral clients.
She has supported human rights defenders across South and Southeast Asia on issues including land rights, sexual violence and freedom of assembly and speech. Her recent paper on the role of women human rights defenders in the Women, Peace and Security agenda was published by the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security.
3 Brown Girls
Alyssa Jooste is a mother of two, a Breathwork and Mindfulness coach and the Co-owner of a Women's Wellness events company, Fitreat. She promotes overall holistic and mental wellbeing among South African women, incorporating several mindfulness techniques such as meditation, breathwork and Dutch-pour acrylic painting. She hopes to inspire women, especially mothers, to find their medium of choice that will bring them towards increased self awareness.
Refentse Mokale is an avid reader and creative story teller with an ability to paint a vivid picture with a string of words. She promotes her love of books by sharing book reviews on social media in an engaging and humorous fashion! She has a particular interest in authors who have their roots on the African continent. She is also the owner of Marabou Essentials, where she creates handmade African inspired jewelry.
Sarvesha Moodley dabbles in acrylic painting, landscape photography, origami and fusion cooking. She is the co-owner of an Indian street food business called Gupchup and promotes the benefits of being multi-hyphenate (a person with multiple side-interests). She looks to inspire and educate others by sharing her creative escapades on social media.
Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training (ADAPT) was founded in 1994. It started out as a small NPO focusing on providing counselling for abused women in Alexandra township (one of the largest informal settlements in South Africa). Due to demands from the community, ADAPT developed beyond counselling to community education, research, advocacy and lobbying. It built community support for women by providing training to officials assisting abused women and vulnerable girl children. ADAPT is one of the first organisations in South Africa to introduce working with men as one of the effective strategies of confronting violence against women. The organisation is committed to changing social values and structural factors that perpetuate violence against women, by promoting a spirit of interdependence, mutual respect and co-existence between men and women.
Sidwell Sehoana is the Monitoring and Evaluation Manager at ADAPT. He works closely with the South African Department of Education where he conducts training sessions for educators, members of the community and learners in Alexandra, Tembisa and Sebokeng townships (some of the largest informal settlements in South Africa). Sidwell facilitates workshops and dialogues on Gender Sensitivity, the Sexual Violence Act, the Domestic Violence Act, Stress Management, and Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support (PBIS). He facilitates a mentorship programme for boys in schools. Sidwell also facilitates GBV sessions with men who are part of the Alexandra Men’s Forum, and PBIS sessions with men who have been released from Correctional Services Centres after gender based violence related convictions.
Sidwell also facilitates gender based violence workshops for the executives and taxi drivers of taxi associations. He also participates in weekly radio shows, on local radio stations, educating and engaging the community on gender based violence issues and PBIS programmes. He currently hosts Instagram-Live sessions every Fridays at 7pm where he engages with different positive male personalities in South Africa about gender based violence. Sidwell is also a life coach on SABC 1’s TV show.
Nomalanga Zelda Ngwenya
The Embrace Project
The Embrace Project is an NPO aiming to "creatively combat" gender based violence. It provides an online platform for the sale of artwork donated to it by various South African artists and creatives. The proceeds of the art sales go to it’s beneficiaries, which are grass-roots organisations already combating gender based violence in their own communities.
The Embrace Project also creates awareness around gender based violence (its prevalence and causes) through its social media presence, while simultaneously working at changing the narrative around violence and disempowerment. The Embrace Project has also participated in the South African legislative process on the enactment of laws relating to gender based violence.
Lee-Anne Germanos is a director and co-founder of The Embrace Project. She is a South African attorney with a masters degree in International Human Rights Law. Lee-Anne is currently a legal researcher for the Constitutional Court of South Africa. She has also published articles on gender-based and sexual violence.