Report on: Youth Interactive Session on Ending Violence Against Women

Dec 8, 2015

Youth Interactive Session on ending Violence Against Women. Photo by - Bayezid Khan

This report outlines the objectives and background, as well as summarizes the discussions and outcomes of the Youth Interactive Session on ending Violence Against Women held on 8 December, 2015 at the National Human Rights Commission, 13th Floor, Sahid Sangbadik Salin Parvin Sarak, Dhaka.

Objectives

The overall objectives of the interactive session were as follows:

  • To learn about the current situation and contributing factors regarding the issue of Violence Against Women(VAW) around the world.
  • To raise awareness regarding the issue of VAW as part of the ‘16 Days of Activism’ and ‘Orange the World’ campaign organized by UNWomen.
  • To brainstorm ideas and concepts with the youth regarding potential systemic and societal solutions to eradicating VAW.

Expected outcome

The expected outcome was as follows:

  • To raise awareness among youth activists regarding the problem of VAW.
  • To provide a platform for young activists to voice their concerns and opinions on human rights for women.
  • To brainstorm ideas and propose solutions based on information presented that would help towards the eradication of VAW.
  • To provide an opportunity to network with members of other youth organizations.

Background

Violence Against Women is a pervasive human rights issue, and a global epidemic that affects women worldwide. The National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh (JAMAKON) has as its mandate, to create a culture of human rights in Bangladesh, which include the youth population.

As part of the ‘Orange the World’ campaign by UNWomen on ending Violence Against Women, the National Human Rights Commission (JAMAKON) with support from UNDP Bangladesh, organized an Interactive Youth Session on the subject of ending VAW. The event saw participants from a wide range of organizations including Oxfam, JAAGO, UNV, and SAYS. University students specializing in various disciplines also attended and contributed to the discussions, and the participants included some of the newly-recruited staff for JAMAKON.

Presentation and Interactive Discussion

The event began with a presentation by Maybelline Massey, a consultant for the UNDP working for the National Human Rights Commission Capacity Development Project. The subject of the presentation focused on the societal and systemic factors that contribute to the desensitization and normalization of violent acts towards women. It touched upon some of the gaps in legislation, along with unjust laws currently in place that facilitate a culture of impunity among perpetrators, and a decreased faith in the justice system by victims of violence. Ms. Massey stressed on media representation of women’s roles in society and violence against women as key factors in perpetuating violence as normal behaviour among perpetrators, thereby allowing violence against women to go undetected and unnoticed.

Following the lecture, a discussion took place moderated by Ms. Massey on the content of the presentation, to which the youth participants had an opportunity to ask questions and offer their opinion on the subject-matter. Many voiced their concern over the lack of justice delivery with regard to violence against women, and would like to see the government put mechanisms in place to better serve the interests of women affected by this human rights issue.

An interactive activity followed the discussion in which case study cards were distributed among the participants who formed 6 groups. Each case study card contained a name, country, and a short description of a situation categorized as an example of violence against women. The cards exhibited situations involving domestic violence, honour killings, sex-trafficking, dowry-related acid violence, sexual assault, and female genital mutilation. A representative from each group presented the information contained in their cards, their opinion on the societal and systemic factors surrounding its occurrence, and proposed solutions with regard to eliminating those contributing factors. Participants from Oxfam proposed that further security is needed for women in order to prevent instances of gender-based violence in the public and private sphere. Others suggested to empower women and encourage independence, so as to help them reduce the likelihood of being victims of domestic violence. Participants from SAYS stressed on individualism as a way for women to fight against landing in situations where they may find themselves most vulnerable to abuse.

The event ended with an address by Prof. Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Chairman of the Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission (JAMAKON) who gave an inspirational speech about fighting for human rights for women. He reminded the participants that each woman is a human being, who is also someone’s mother, sister, and daughter, and we should regard them as such and defend their dignity. He posited that no one but oneself can alter perceptions and ensure respect for women is achieved. He urged the audience to take it upon themselves to change the way in which they regard women and girls, and value them as equal participants in society.

Recommendations received from the participants

  • More security and effective policing is required to protect women from being victims of violence
  • Government mechanisms must be put in place that serve the interests of women
  • More must be done to empower women and girls in order to withstand violence against them, and reduce the likelihood of victimization
  • Societal perceptions must change in order to reduce instances of violence that are socially accepted by custom or tradition
  • Educated and talented youth should be encouraged to stay in the country and work in government or CSOs to be an example and driving force for change

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