Last month I attended national advocacy meetings with Every Woman’s Nepalese coalition members, led by Indian grande dame of women’s rights Meera Khanna. Looking out at the Himalayas, I realized our campaign for a new global treaty to eradicate violence against women and girls had arrived at its moment of lift.
Multiple world leaders – African Union Chairperson and Democratic Republic of the Congo President Tshisekedi, Organization of American States Secretary General Almagro, and Nigerian President Buhari – recently endorsed our call. In November, we launched a First Draft Treaty, the culmination of eight years of extensive research and consultations with experts across the world. And we also successfully piloted our 1000 Voices Fellowship Program, a cross-regional, peer-to-peer, cohort-based, advanced virtual training initiative for women’s rights activists. Fifty-two participating advocates honed capabilities like how to optimally interface with diplomats and high-level government officials. Meera, a 1000 Voices fellow, applied these skills when she led our meetings in Kathmandu – including with the Nepalese Prime Minister’s office!
Our movement for a new global treaty on violence against women and girls has taken flight. We need your help to continue this momentum. Please click here to donate.
Thank you for being in our corner over the years, and throughout our most exhilarating chapter yet. We cannot wait to see the dizzying, Himalayan-esque heights 2022 takes our campaign to!
by Akefa Raza
At UN General Assembly Today, President Buhari of Nigeria Becomes First Sitting President to Call for a Global Treaty to End Violence Against Women and Girls
Leading Nigerian Woman’s Rights Activist, Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi, Available for Interviews
(September 24, 2021) - In a speech today at the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari endorsed a treaty to end violence against women and girls. President Buhari is the first sitting President to recognize a global treaty as a solution to this issue, which according to the World Health Organization, impacts 1 in 3 women worldwide. This already bad situation has grown exponentially worse in the wake of COVID-19, according to the latest UN Women’s report, The Shadow Pandemic.
Buhari’s statement in support of a treaty ending violence against women and girls followed his remarks emphasizing the “safeguarding of human rights” and the “promotion of fundamental freedoms.”
Buhari stated: “Nigeria has been steadfast in safeguarding human rights, including the advancement of women, the protection of children, the protection of the rights of people living with disabilities, the treatment of migrants, refugees, returnees and displaced persons as well as, the promotion of fundamental freedoms through all legitimate means….In this context, Nigeria calls for collective global action through a Treaty to end all forms of violence against women and girls of all ages.”
In June, a letter calling for a global treaty to end violence against women and girls was signed by over 260 women’s rights activists from around the world and sent to leaders of the U.N. Women’s Generation Equality Forum. One of the signatories was Nigerian physician and gender expert, Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi, who is available for interviews.
“The right to be free from violence is a universal human right,” says Dr. Nwadinobi. “I commend President Buhari for heeding our call for this vital and necessary treaty. We need action immediately to protect women and girls everywhere.”
The proposed global treaty would mandate: new laws proven to lower rates of violence; training and accountability for police officers, judges, social welfare and health care workers; violence prevention education; services for survivors such as hotlines, shelters and legal protections; and increased funding for implementation. It would also create a universally accepted definition of violence against women and girls and provide explicit standards for criminal prosecution and punishment, as well as concrete remedies that bring justice to survivors.
As the sign-on letter states: “This is not about one country telling another country what to do. This is about nations coming together to take a stand on ending violence against women and girls once and for all.
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Report of the Global Expert Consultation-Nothing for Us, Without Us -
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 23, 2021
CONTACT: Shayna Samuels, email@example.com, 718-541-4785
Spokespeople from Around the World Available for Interviews
(June 23, 2021) - A letter was sent today to the leaders of the U.N. Women’s Generation Equality Forum signed by over 260 women’s rights activists from around the world calling for a global treaty to end violence against women and girls. The Paris leg of the Generation Equality Forum will be taking place June 30-July 2, and has identified gender-based violence as one of its six top priorities.
“For far too long, women’s rights activists like ourselves have shouldered the burden of responding to violence against women in the face of huge obstacles, and to the best of our abilities,” says the letter, which can be read in full along with the complete list of signatories here. “In doing so, we put our own lives on the line each and every day. This is not safe, scalable, or sustainable...
“We are aware that there are international agreements to address this issue, but they are not enough,” the letter continues. “The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and regional treaties, for example, offer a patchwork of protection. We need something comprehensive, specific, up-to-date and legally binding…
“This is not about one country telling another country what to do. This is about nations coming together to take a stand on ending violence against women and girls once and for all.”
The letter was spearheaded by Judge Najla Ayoubi from Afghanistan; Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi, physician and gender expert from Nigeria; and Lisa Shannon, CEO of Every Woman Treaty, from the United States. Other signatories include women’s rights activists from: Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Tunisia, UK, Zimbabwe, and many more - a total of 64 nations worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization, violence against women is “devastatingly pervasive, impacting one in three women globally, with younger women most at risk. This already bad situation has grown exponentially worse in the wake of COVID-19, according to the latest UN Women’s report, The Shadow Pandemic.
The letter concludes: “We must come together as an international community to create a comprehensive and legally binding international treaty to end violence against women and girls. As leaders of the Generation Equality Forum, you have the power to take a stand by encouraging nations to consider this potent and much-needed solution.”
Human rights attorneys from around the world are calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council to call for a global treaty to end violence against women during its upcoming session. Read the full letter and see the list of signatories here.
Dr. Morissanda Kouyate, 2020 Mandela Prize co-laureate and Every Woman board member, wrote an article published on Think Global Health urging the creation of a global treaty to end violence against women and girls. In this publication, Dr. Kouyate shares the story of his journey towards ending female genital mutilation, which has grown into an effort to end this violence for all women and girls.
His piece came ahead of the 2021 WHO Assembly, where 555 physicians and healthcare professionals from around the world signed a letter addressed to the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as well as diplomats from 195 nations, urging action on a global treaty to end violence against women and girls. The letter has been distributed to nearly 600 diplomats from every UN Member State.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 19, 2021
CONTACT: Shayna Samuels, firstname.lastname@example.org
Letter Spearheaded by Mandela Prize Winner
Points to Gaps in International Law Allowing 1 Out of 3 Women to Experience Violence in Their Lifetimes
In anticipation of the 2021 WHO Assembly coming up May 24 - June 1, a letter was sent today signed by more than 500 physicians from around the world to the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as well as to diplomats from 195 nations, calling for a global treaty to end violence against women and girls.
Spearheaded by Mandela Prize-Winner Dr. Morissanda Kouyate from Guinea, known in part for his fight against female genital mutilation, the letter states: “The right to be free from violence is a universal human right...But no international treaty adequately or comprehensively addresses all aspects of a State’s duty to respect, protect, and fulfill every woman’s right to live free from violence”.
In a phenomenon that the WHO calls “devastatingly pervasive,” 1 in 3 women will experience violence in their lifetimes, with younger women being most at risk. On the upcoming WHO Assembly agenda is discussion about a “global plan of action...to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children”. But so far, a new global treaty has not been proposed.
In addition to Dr. Kouyate, other notable signatories of the letter include: Professor Gabrielle Casper from the Sydney School of Medicine (Australia); Professor Chyong-Huey Lai, Vice Superintendent of Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (Taiwan); Dr. Svetlana Suvorova from Medical University (Russia); Emeritus Professor Kyung Ah Park of Yonsei University (Korea); Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi, President of the Medical Women's International Association (Nigeria); and Dr. Charlie Clements, former executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University (U.S.). More about the proposed global treaty can be seen here. See the full letter and list of signatories here.
Below are a few excerpts from the letter. Interviews with any of the above spokespeople are available upon request.
“Violence against women and girls had already assumed pandemic proportions prior to the COVID-19 crisis, with one in three women globally experiencing violence over their lifetimes...Yet, violence against women is not being responded to with the sense of urgency required to address a global pandemic of these proportions. Although references to violence against women in international and regional treaties are numerous, they differ in substantive scope and nature.
“Designed to be complementary to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW), the treaty aims for a norm that combines the best of public health and human rights frameworks. We, the undersigned physicians and public health professionals, support this call. We urge you to do the same...We pray that the pain that women and girls suffer daily around the world due to domestic and sexualized violence will awaken the collective consciousness of the world to act.”
Every Woman Treaty (EWT), Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) and Women for Human Rights (WHR) are pleased to announce a new project to support women’s rights leaders in Nepal to build a nationwide coalition that will raise awareness about and advance measures, including government policies that prevent and redress violence against women.
Improving women’s security and furthering gender equity will help Nepal consolidate the gains of the 2006 peace process and ensure that fundamental human rights are protected.
Globally, the United Nations has reported a 25 percent rise in domestic violence cases associated with lockdowns—as the UN Secretary-General put it, a “horrifying global surge.”
The project is hosted by the Rotary Club of Kathmandu. Funding was provided by the Rotary Foundation through the Rotary Club of Newberg.
“We are proud to support this critical project,” Vandana Shah, director of South Asia Programs, GHAI, said. “Violence against women is a human rights violation with huge public health impact. In keeping with GHAI’s focus of catalyzing a sustainable movement of passionate advocates to address critical health/human rights problems, we look forward to supporting civil society organizations in Nepal advance policies that contribute to equity and prevention of violence."
Through training and technical assistance, GHAI will help women’s rights organizations assess and strengthen their capacity to change policies and promote norms and practices to end gender-based violence. The project will focus on skills and activities including setting policy objectives, political mapping, engaging policymakers, messaging, media advocacy, partnership coordination and monitoring and evaluation.
“This project will support frontline women’s rights advocates already doing the work to end violence against women and girls in Nepal. The skills the advocates will gain — leadership, public speaking, community organizing, storytelling — will ensure advocates steer the national conversation on ending violence against women. We are encouraged by the courage and momentum building towards universal recognition that women and girls have the right to live a life free from violence,” said Judge Najla Ayoubi, Chief Operations Officer of Every Woman Treaty.
“The culture of violence has enveloped our entire society and yet the delivery of justice in the cases reported is delayed. Therefore, the training through this project is very relevant to obtain the skill to safeguard and protect the women and girls within and outside home with zero tolerance to gender based violence,” said Lily Thapa, Founder of Women for Human Rights in Nepal.
About Every Woman Treaty
Every Woman Treaty is a coalition of more than 1,700 women’s rights activists, including 840 organizations, in 128 nations working to advance a global binding norm on the elimination of violence against women and girls.
About Women for Human Rights
Women for Human Rights, single women group (WHR) is a nongovernmental organization in Nepal dedicated to address the rights of single women since 1995. WHR has a nation-wide network with membership base of over 100,000, empowering single women economically, socially and politically all over Nepal. WHR also has Consultative Status of United Nations ECOSOC since 2011 A.D.
About the Global Health Advocacy Incubator
The Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) supports civil society organizations advocating for public health policies that reduce death and disease. GHAI provides partners with direct, systematic, ongoing technical assistance and capacity-strengthening support to deliver health policy wins in countries around the world, in every type of government system.
This is a watershed moment.
For seven years, along with thousands of frontline advocates, survivors, and citizens, we have made this our central mission - and we are grateful for your support every step of the way. But we cannot rest. We must secure support from every African Union nation and from every corner of the globe.
The former President of Malawi, Joyce Banda now serves as our Special Envoy. Her Excellency is leading conversations with former and current African leaders including with Liberia’s former President, Nobel Peace Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
This is a moment unlike any before. 2020 brought great challenges but it has also brought us this historic opportunity to create the change necessary to create a life free from violence. Together.
You were essential in getting us this far. Now, it’s all hands on deck! Here’s what you can do.
With warmest wishes for an exceptional 2021 and with profound gratitude,
All of us at Every Woman Treaty
By Taylor Bloch
Global attention has turned to Afghanistan, as over 100 international political leaders and 400 Afghan women’s rights activists have called for the incorporation of women’s rights into the potential peace agreement between the Government and the Taliban. At the core of this movement lies a particular demographic: young people. According to the United Nations Population Fund, youth under the age of 25 make up over 63% of Afghanistan’s total population. Over the past two decades of violent conflict, youth have emerged as a prominent voice for social and political change within the country, including mobilizing for women’s rights.
Women’s Rights and Afghan Government-Taliban Peace Talks
Elevating women’s voices is crucial now more than ever, as the ongoing peace talks aim to end 41 years of war between the Afghan Government and the Taliban, a militarized, Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political organization notorious for its repressive perceptions of women’s rights. The future of women’s rights is a hot topic at these negotiations, and predictions of whether gender equality will progress or regress remain uncertain.
As Jamile Bigio, a senior fellow in the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Delphi Cleaveland, a Masters graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, recently highlighted in their CNN article, “Many Afghan women fear that in this mix of contentious priorities, their rights could be traded for a chance at ending the conflict.”
To promote gender equality in these peace talks, it is key that women’s voices are not only heard, but that they are also actively incorporated into a peace agreement and implemented thereafter. Unfortunately, such an outcome is difficult given that women represent only 4 of the 21 Afghan Government negotiators. With few women physically present at the negotiating table, Afghanis must emphasize strategic and targeted activism to elevate their demands for gender equality.
How Are Youth Reacting?
One young woman, Sveto Muhammad Ishoq, who has worked as a volunteer with Every Woman Treaty since 2016, has uplifted women’s voices in Afghanistan this year by jumpstarting Chadari, a story-telling initiative that amplifies the diverse voices of Afghan women to a global audience. To deconstruct the singular image of Afghan women often portrayed by media and film, Ms. Ishoq shares stories and poems and hosts online events and trainings for women to share their personal experiences—from dealing with COVID-19 to surviving terrorist attacks to personal and professional success stories.
Rather than the stereotypical image of a singular veiled woman, Ms. Ishoq explains that Afghan women represent a world of “dualities.” She highlights the lives of educated and uneducated women, as well as experiences of heartwarming success and tragic realities. While these stories are not for the limited purpose of impacting the peace talks, Ms. Ishoq empowers women’s voices at a time when they often are silenced yet are urgently in need of being heard.
Ms. Ishoq emphasizes that she is not alone in her work to empower Afghan women’s voices. “Youth open the doors for other people and inspire. They are the changemakers,” states Ms. Ishoq. She notes that recent terrorist attacks, such as the tragic events at Kabul University in early November, have targeted Afghanistan’s young people, alluding to how political and social opponents aim to quell their appeals for human rights. As mentioned in a recent article published by Al Jazeera, Sami Mahdi, a professor at Kabul University, recalls that his students were “getting an education to better Afghanistan or fight for women’s rights, while others just wanted a secure life in a country racked by 20 years of bloody conflict.”
Due to the risk of physical harm they face by speaking out, young people increasingly turn to social media to voice their political aspirations for equality, criticism of the Taliban, and demands from the government in the ongoing peace talks, according to one Foreign Policy article. Recently, young Afghan activists sparked a Twitter social media campaign titled “Feminine Perspectives” to bring attention to what women demand from the peace negotiations. Beginning with women’s and girls’ education rights, the campaign highlights a different women’s rights issue each week and is succeeding in increasing the dialogue around gender equality.
Ms. Ishoq and the “Feminine Perspectives” campaign reflect only a small fraction of the political and social activism by Afghan youth gaining traction this year. Rather, they are accompanied by the built-up political dissatisfaction of millions of young people, many of whom are likely watching with keen eyes which direction their country takes regarding women’s rights. By sharing the stories of women in Afghanistan, their experiences hopefully will translate into a peace agreement that acknowledges the need for immediate initiatives to incorporate women into all sectors of Afghan society. However, the fate of gender equality now lies in the hands of the male-dominated negotiators.
While Ms. Ishoq notes that the future of women’s rights in Afghanistan remains a “question mark,” she also states, “I try to stay positive. I always want to portray a positive story [of Afghanistan].” The stakes are high for gender equality at this negotiation table, but Afghan youth are putting their best efforts forward to ensure women’s voices are heard.
About the Author
Taylor Bloch interned with Every Woman Treaty during the Summer of 2020. Bloch is a third-year student in the Honors Program at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She studies International Affairs, Political Science, and Spanish. She is a gender activist and aspires to apply her skills to a future career working at the intersection of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, foreign policy, and international development.