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Women's Resource Center Uzbekistan
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Women's Resource Center of Tashkent
Chairperson of WRC
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
"Women's human rights" : Educational workshops
"Women's human rights: universality, integrity of women's human rights", this was the slogan of the workshops regularly conducted by WRC for women representing various social groups and ages, and of different mentality. Educational programs developed by SISTERHOOD IS GLOBAL INSTITUTE and the methodical manual Claiming Our Rights on the protection of women's rights and the manual Safe and Secure on the problems of the protection of women from violence were used in these workshops. These manuals were translated, adopted and tested in educational workshops by Women's Resource Centre.
The three-year-long experience of conducting workshops with various groups of women has revealed that the problem of rights is relevant to every woman irrespective of her age and status, and the methodology of conducting workshops is universal and clear for all women. But, nonetheless, each workshop produces a different result and food for thought.
In this issue, we provide a detailed description of the workshops conducted for the women of communities, among whom there were women with a higher education, those working in different spheres, housewives, mothers with many children, as well as the students of the University of World Languages who have come to get their degree from remote rural regions of Uzbekistan. The target groups differed one from another. The participants expressed diverse views, which were completely opposite at times, and which made work on the education, which is based on argument, and adequate understanding of "women's rights" even more interesting.
Workshops in communities
Workshops on SIGI program 'Claiming our rights' for women were conducted in a community NOVZA, in the premises of Lyceum 37.
The target group that took part in the workshop included seventeen women, their social status being: women with a higher and secondary education, married and single, young and elderly, those with many children, teachers and technical workers of the lyceum. During the workshop the participants discussed problems of violation of women's rights. It turned out that such violations have taken part to greater or lesser degree in the life of every woman. The most active discussion was stirred by the topic that was envisaged in the program – Women's rights to independent family planning.
This is what the participants talk about it:
Malokhat: 'I am thirty. I have three children, but my husband and mother-in-law say that I must give birth to as many children as they want. And I had to go through a lot of scandals to use a personal contraceptive. But now Mother-in-law thinks I am a sinner and my husband is very angry with me. But I want to work and preserve my health.
Sanobar: The problem of family planning is very grave, and it is, therefore, necessary to educate not only young women, but also the elderly women, for they exert much influence in the family.
The other topics, 'Women's right to bodily integrity', 'Resisting violence in the family', 'The right to education, employment and equal pay', 'The right to private life and convictions', 'The freedom to choose clothes and look', 'Private freedom and its expression' aroused a vivid discussion and brought about a diversity of opinions.
While discussing the right to education, the women of the older age who got their education and qualification in the times of Soviets we all unanimous in that a woman must get education and qualification. Younger women evidently showed signs of the parasitic mood:
Khasiyat (an 18-year-old girl. Her name was changed not to break the confidentiality of the workshop): "I have left school, but when I get married I think that my husband will feed and provide for my family. And I will be running the house."
Two more girls expressed a similar opinion. At previous workshops we also came across such opinions, which is, we believe, an alarming sign and needs drawing attention to the question of education among the younger generation.
The topic of the workshop 'The women's right to private life' has aroused an active discussion among the participants of the workshop. The domestic unpaid labor, absolute absence of personal time turned out to be a sore subject for all married women. The following is the opinion of another workshop participant:
Miyassar: "We women are ourselves largely to blame. As soon as we get married our major dress is a dressing gown and the kitchen is our working place. The same thing is inspired to our daughters. But it is necessary to make every woman have her own personal time to have a rest, read, watch TV and look after herself.'
The participants of the workshop showed great interest to sources of violence, those proclaiming women's rights, particularly in the questions of marriage and family, as well as hidjab.
The facilitators who led this session cited and discussed corresponding verses from Koran and parts of Hadith. A special emphasis was made on that polygamy and hidjab should not be interpreted as the norm, which must be followed by every Muslim male, but only as permission.
Taking into account the educational and social status of our women and the fact that our state is a secular one, it is essential to interpret Islam not from the fundamental and conservative standpoint, but from the progressive one.
As regards hidjab, all the participants were unanimous in condemning this phenomenon, which is taking place in our society. Judging by the responses of the participants, the goal of the workshop on increasing the legal culture of women was achieved. A detailed report of the interesting discussions during the workshop is available from the library of Women's Resource Centre.
While convening the workshop it was with great pleasure that we discovered that positive changes take place and their civil activity grows among the women. The chairman of the women's club that was established at the grass-roots level said the following:
Elnora: "This club is taking the first steps, forming its structure and status. But the range of interests and problems under discussion is wide, beginning with the social and economic activity to sexual education."
With all our hearts we are glad to see the awakening of women's active position and wish this club every success in its work.
In January-February 2000, a workshop 'Safe and Secure' was convened in the community Zangi-Ata, the topic of which was the protection of women from all types of violence. The following types of violence against women were considered during the sessions: financial, moral, psychological, physical, etc.
The social composition of women who took part in the workshop was housewives (fifteen in 17) and mothers with many children (3-5 or more children). Incomplete secondary education and average living standards are the major characteristic features of this group of women.
Incomplete secondary education once obtained, which is often forgotten and abandoned, early marriage, often at the age of 18-20 compensated by the vital experience while building homes, becomes the sole essence and means of their self-realization. These women are mostly patient, kind-hearted, and sometimes passive. Life itself, demanding their patience and resignation, obedience and endless expectation (Hudo hohlasa, or literally if God wishes), weighted their requirements with certain inhibition of personal qualities and achievement of certain goals (further education, career, work, independence and self-sufficiency).
Due to the absence of the other more effective and really alternative measures, the protection of these women often comes to having patience and getting adjusted to various hardships and difficulties.
During the workshop of interest was the fact that when we, in the beginning of the discussion, gave the women an opportunity to express their opinion about this or that case of violence, in spite of being experienced in the family life they tried to blame women for that. Women were blamed for impatience and carelessness, lack of conscientiousness and dishonorableness. That is, an amazing situation took place – talking about women's rights to oppose violence, we had to explain and reveal the fact of violence, which they did not consider such at all. After hearing a case when a woman had found herself in hardships, i.e. humiliated and offended, sometimes looking death in the face, women participants started citing similar stories from their own lives, feeling sympathy towards that woman. Recalling in their memory the past stories they started to note – with surprise – that the cause of violence was the patience and fear of the opinion of the neighborhood, false traditions, which, in fact, indulge and justify violence.
The fear of a woman to become an infamy of the neighborhood deprives her of any future restricting her activities to solving only domestic problems. During the workshop sessions (thirteen in total) the problems of such types of violence as financial, moral, psychological and physical, against women were dwelt on.
The social status, material dependence of the women poses a burning question of extra earnings. Confronting a lot of unsolved problems and finally left with nothing (abandoned education, unemployment, a hopeless financial dependence), many women never dare step beyond this circle of their fate and life.
The only cause of their tolerance is their children. It is their children in whom they now try to fulfill their unrealized dreams about education, interesting job, and independent personality). We were very glad to note that by the end of the workshop the women had diverged away from the position if-you-are-beaten-then-it's-your-fault or if-you-are-raped-it's-you-who-provoked-it.
The workshop participants say:
Mamlakat: "When they say that it is a woman to blame for something, I want to ask, why? Why nobody asks what the cause is and what made her get into such trouble? Today I can answer this question and say that the major cause of what happens is our tolerance, carelessness and violation of elementary norms of life. The sessions helped me go on the right track and answer many questions that are vital to me."
Many cases of violence against women are largely connected with the economic dependence and low living levels. As a piece of information we proposed the workshop participants specimens of goods made by our designer under a project that is being developed by our Centre and aimed at education in the sphere of income-generating activities and organization of outwork.
The participants showed interest to our statement that due to the way of life many of the present women have skills in handicrafts. We told them that a group similar to theirs could be united into groups of outworkers and produce things that will be in demand. We proposed them to use as a starting capital the amount of money that we allocated the community for conducting the workshop, and establish such a team. However, no response followed. Many of these women, who are used to having what God has in store for them, initiative is not typical as it is connected with additional physical and material resources, and time. Although we know that when things are heading toward numerous domestic events (beshik toi, haiit, toi, maraca) the self-sacrificing work of women has no limits.
This fact prompted the following: many people realize quite well that an economically dependent woman cannot defend her position at home, in the family, but at the same time additional earnings will be beneficial for the family and children. However, it was very hard to convince the women of the community of the necessity to take an initiative.
Workshops for the youth
The workshop 'Claiming our rights' was conducted from February to March at a hostel of the University of the World Languages for students who have come to Tashkent from remote regions of Uzbekistan, from Karakalpakstan, Khoresm region and to rural areas of Fergana Valley.
The age of the participants ranged from 19 to 22 years old – they were the students in their third and fourth year. Although the subject of the workshop 'Claiming our rights' was rather specific, i.e. 'feminist' the young men also showed their interest to the workshop. WRC, as the organizer of the work, decided not to discriminate them and, as a result, we with great pleasure could state the active position of the representatives of the 'stronger sex' towards the problem of the violence of women's rights at home, in society and at work. In some cases the young men were even more categorical than girls.
The group of participants consisted of 11 girls and 8 young men. We, in fact, have had a gender-oriented group, which actively participated in the discussion.
As it is rather hard to describe all the discussions, we therefore will dwell on the most interesting, that attracted the attention of both girls and young men. The topic 'Claiming our rights with the male members of your family' revealed a rather polar range of opinions. These opinions were quite interesting in that the participants, both girls and young men, do not have their own experience of the married life and they, therefore, reflect the views and practices established in their families. In majority the young men had the following ideas: 'A woman must be a mistress in the house, bring up children, look after her husband and in the remaining time work and earn money.'
Half of the girls thought that after they graduated from the University they would get married and manage the house. And only part of the girls thought pictured their future life based on equal relations with their husbands.
The discussion of the opponent sides at this session has shown that the climate in the family and upbringing are of the crucial importance, but the influence of the public is of the same importance. The vacuum that has appeared in the ideological education of the younger generation is a very beneficial ground for various ideological trends. And if it is not filled up, alien ideologies and concepts can soon fill the gap.
The discussion 'The freedom to choose, participation in public life, protection of women's honor and dignity was not very heated.
This is what some participants say:
Anvar: 'A woman can't and mustn't try to get some public work. A woman's destination is home, family and children. Being an activist or a public figure is not typical for an Uzbek woman. This idea was rebuffed by the majority of girls and only two girls said that they mothers did not work and they were not going to work as soon as they got married.
The opinion of young men was fifty-fifty. However, one opinion is worth mentioning:
Davron: "In two years I will graduate from the university and hope that I'll get an interesting job. I wouldn't like my future wife to be a housewife and do hope that she, like me, will work, be interested in social life, and I, in turn, will help her in running the house and bringing up children.'
The topic "Women's right to education was also intimate to the participants. The unanimous opinion of the girls about the right to education was confirmed by the fact that they succeeded to assert this right having come to Tashkent to get their degree from various regions of Uzbekistan. And the fact that they chose to be interpreters proves that they have an active position in life.
We would like to cite the following statement of one of the young men:
Akmal: I do believe that a woman must be literate. Even if she doesn't work in future, she will be able to form the intellect of her child. She will never say I don't know to her child, as it often happens to mothers having no education.
A more detailed report on the discussion at the workshop is available from the library of WRC.
In conclusion the following can be said. The workshop participants, both girls and young men states their convictions that can be summarized as follows:
1. Violation of women's rights in the family, society, at work significantly hinders achieving progress in society, equality and development;
2. Peaceful living and security of every woman is as important as the state and national security. The security of any state begins with the security of its citizens;
3. ,Violation of women's rights hampers or restricts opportunities for women, especially young women and girls in public life and policies, deteriorate the quality of life and the health of women and children; violation of women's rights brings about the poverty among women, their children and their elderly parents;
4. Violation of women's rights is a social problem; women can only be to a minor extent blamed for it, mainly when they are legally illiterate.
In general, this problem must be solved at different levels: by means of legislative acts, law-enforcement institutions, in public mentality, education and upbringing. In this regard the following statements of the participants are noteworthy:
Muzaffar: The workshop is very useful in that we students have become closer to each other. Now we better know the standpoints and characters of one another. Now we understand how one can find truth without humiliating the others.
Umida: The thing that we together with boys have discussed such complicated problems as relations in a family, interrelations of men and women in society and others helped us to learn the opinion of our mates. And I was very glad to know that the opinion of my friend has often coincided with mine.
Bunyod: This workshop helped me see how many problems women have to encounter from their childhood to the adulthood. Of course, when I get married I will try to treat my wife so that she wouldn't feel as if she were a second grade person.
From 29 April to 24 March the second workshop was conducted in the same hostel of the University of the World Languages on the SIGI program SAFE AND SECURE. This time 14 girls and 8 young men who had come from various regions of Uzbekistan took part in it.
This workshop comprised 36 hours of sessions, in which various forms of violence against women were discussed by using interactive methods. The major topic for discussion was violence in its diverse forms: physical, sexual and psychological. This can include an verbal offence, sexual harassment at work, physical violence by the husband at home, psychological by, e.g., a brother, at work and during armed conflicts.
The peculiarity of this workshop was that we had two kinds of view in responses – those of women's and men's, although they were unanimous in one thing – intolerance to violence.
In some cases young men justified the acts of males, believing that it was a woman's fault for getting into trouble. 'It is the girl's fault that she was raped – she shouldn't have got into the car of a stranger' – this was the opinion of one of the workshop participants. And although we explained to him that she had to do so because she was in a hurry, half of the young men did not recognize the fact that for this the driver was to blame. Nor were the young men influenced much by the fact that the girl tried then to commit suicide. And only after the trainer cited the provisions of international instrument "Convention on protection of women from all kinds of violence'" part of the young men agreed that women must have equal rights with men. Part of the girls justified some actions as 'it is customary' in our society, i.e., again this is part of traditional upbringing – submission, obedience of women to men. The other part of the girls, who try intuitively to defend their rights are often subject to psychological stress. And this is witnessed by the true-life stories.
Informal discussions, public talks, confiding conversations and sometimes heated discussions helped draw the following conclusions:
- We do not know our own rights and have poor knowledge of laws, and do not know how to make use of them; therefore, we must pay attention to this aspect. Our society needs legal education;
- It is necessary to pay more attention to the education of girls and boys from their childhood, to the atmosphere of mutual trust in the family and between the relatives;
- Education of girls, and not only of boys, should be a priority;
- In conflict situations it is essential to find a support among girl-friends and surrounding friends, colleagues, who would jointly help one to protect oneself and fight for justice;
- To bring up girls so that they could always defend her own opinion not fear the public opinion, because if one does not stand firm in his position, it will be hard to prove one's case.
- It is essential to fight any kind of violence – whether it is a verbal or physical offence, discrimination at work or in the family. It is important to have respect to oneself as a personality.
SEAGA in Uzbekistan
WRC organized and convened a workshop 'Training for trainers on SEAGA methodology' developed by FAO, which took place in Tashkent from 12 to 22 June with the financial and methodical support of UN, Fund NOVIB, ADB (Asian Development Bank) and FAO, an international organization on food and agriculture. The workshop was attended by 23 representatives of non-governmental organizations and government agencies from nine regions of the Republic of Uzbekistan. FAO trainers, Dinara Alimdjanova (Asian Development Bank), Bruno Martha (Rome, Italy), and Gayane Mkrtchyan (Erevan, Armenia) convened the workshop.
What is SEAGA?
SEAGA is Socio-Economic and Gender Analysis based on the necessity of understanding and recognizing that the policy of the state development and various socio-economic programs can and should influence the economic activities and social interrelations among various groups of population in rural regions.
SEAGA continues developing the perspective of the analysis of WOMAN IN DEVELOPMENT and gradually passes on to the gender analysis through the emphasis on the role of gender, links, interactions of the socio-economic systems at all levels from the state policies (macro policies), through the intermediate level (institutions) to the field levels (common people)
SEAGA provides links between the decision-making in distribution of resources at macro and household levels.
SEAGA is based on three principles determining the development of concepts and tools. The first and main principle is the key role of gender in identifying needs and priorities of both men and women. The whole experience of the previous work on 'Development' showed that the concentration of attention on 'Woman in development' hinders the process of the sustainable development.
The second key principle of SEAGA consists in that SEAGA gives priority to the interests of vulnerable groups first and foremost, believing that elimination of poverty, which is typical of the transitional period of the economy development, is crucial for achieving sustainable development. The assessment of the state of all levels of economies, from macro to field levels, enables the analysis and participation of all groups of population in planning, determining priorities of the local development and plans in the first place.
SEAGA provides tools for expanding the efficacy, equality and sustainability of the development process and supports the full participation of women in all stages of development. The efficacy of the development process grows when men and women have an equal access and opportunities in using of productive and non-productive resources.
The third key principle of SEAGA consists in that the processes underpinning the growing prosperity in society must evolve with the compulsory conservation of the natural resource base.
The goal of SEAGA is an analysis of the development policy and programs, which have implications for people. Thus, SEAGA fills up the gap between consumers, common people and what is given by the state policy of transformations.
The history of addressing and preparing for SEAGA training
In 1998-2000, Women's Resource Centre took part in a partner project 'Socio-economic status of women in rural areas in Uzbekistan, which was supported by Fund INTAS. Among the partners there were Centre for Confidence Sabr (Samarkand), Centre for Population Employment and UNDP.
In 1998, the workshop participants had training on SEAGA program at FAO in Rome, during which it was revealed that the SEAGA methodology identified equal opportunities for participation in the development of society of all levels of management and all members of society, taking into account conservation of the environments, which, for conditions in Uzbekistan as a typical agricultural state, is an especially relevant methodology, particularly during transition to a free market. The participants and trainers have arrived at an opinion that although Uzbekistan is not a FAO member, introduction of SEAGA under conditions of Uzbekistan would be very beneficial for the developing society.
An initiative of the FAO training was supported by Fund NOVIB, and WRC, therefore, was granted a financial support for organization of such a workshop.
In 1999, preparations for the SEAGA training of trainers were initiated. The participants of the project, namely, WRC, Sabr and UNDP prepared a set of manuals for the SEAGA trainers. The manuals were published by WRC. They are as follows:
1. SEAGA. Program on Socio-Economic and Gender Analysis. Macro level. Translated by J. Khodjaev. WRC.
2. Framework and users reference. Translated by J. Khodjaev. WRC.
3. SEAGA. Intermediate level. Translated by Shirinova M. (Centre for Confidence Sabr (Samarkand).
4. SEAGA. Field level. Translated by D. Alimjanova (Asian Development Bank) Sector Manual. Irrigation. Translated by D. Alimjanova (Asian Development Bank).
Principles of selection of participants for the training of trainers
Realizing that the program was out of the ordinary and a wide range of problems was to be covered, we adopted a tree-level approach of SEAGA during the organization of training and selection of participants. We invited representatives of governmental agencies (macro level), representatives of women's committees (deputy-khokims) for the intermediate level, as well as chairpersons and members of NGOs. We were pleased to note that the representatives of women's committees, who are, on the one hand, representatives of the middle level, and on the other are the organizations working directly among women in Uzbekistan, were most active in responding to the invitation.
The orientation of their work towards the SEAGA principles and the vivid interest to this program inspire hopes that these principles will be reflected in the work of these organizations and reach all needs of every woman.
The workshop program
The workshop sessions to be conducted for ten days included lectures on the methodology of working with the population, theoretical aspects of the gender analysis, which were conducted by Dinara Alimjanova, Gayane Mkrtchyan and Martha Bruno. Practical lessons for upgrading the methodology of identifying the needs of men and women under specific economic conditions were conducted by the workshop participants under the leadership of trainers. These workshops caused vivid interest and active discussion.
The workshop participants for the first time took part in business games, in which they in turns featured as clients and consultants representing agencies and ministries and subsequently evaluated each other. At the final session the participants were proposed a business game in which three participants featured as ministers who determined policies in their respective regions.
While analyzing the work of 'ministers', the participants revealed that the major drawback of all ministers was that they did not consult the 'population.' This gave a pretext to make propose to conduct SEAGA workshops with the officials of the ministries who form policies and adjustment programs.
An field trip was envisaged in the program of the workshop, owing to the efforts made by the Chairperson of the Association of the business women of Tashkent Region the program of the field trip was drawn in such a way that all the workshop participants were able to get familiar with the activities of women who run their own private, family business, which helps them to survive under conditions of transition to the free market, support their families and even create additional jobs. Talking to these women the participants had an opportunity to apply the SEAGA methods in practice. The beautiful piano that was standing in the corner of the hall as if came alive and began to sound. The sound of the piano and a tender voice of a singer were producing a familiar song…Modern music is so close and aspiring with new feelings and hopes of a woman's heart, always waiting and unquenchable in its hopes.
On 12 June we invited Dilorom Omonullaeva, a composer, and Zulfiya Muminova, a poetess, who have been working in close co-operation, to a meeting with the participants of SEAGA training.
Dilorom Omonullaeva is a well-known composer of the symphonic, chamber and modern music, the author of the hymn of the international music festival 'Sharq Taronasi' and many songs that have become hits of the modern pop music performed by Kumysh Razzakova, Yulduz Usmanova and the other pop singers.
Such a wide range of creation is a characteristic feature of this amazing woman who is, by nature, a lively, free, loving and beloved, and is always in creative pursuit.
The language of music is simple and open for all. The songs written by D. Omonullaeva are filled with lyrics and tunefulness of Uzbek classic song. A rare combination of the classic Uzbek women's singing and modern pop tunes make the songs created by her very attractive and easy for people. Her songs are performed at villages and cities. And in every song there are traits so characteristic for an Uzbek woman: subtle feelings, vulnerability, ćčçíĺëţáčĺ, vehemence and optimism.
The addressing to the creation of the famous poetess Zulfiya Muminova is not accidental. It is in her poetry that the composer has seen the reflection of her feelings and her life position, which runs all through the poetic lines, which begin and finish with the appeal – Give happiness to women!
The workshop participants, largely represented by women, in spite of the long day rich in studies did not want to leave the hall for a long time
Responses of the workshop participants
At the final session of the workshop the participants were awarded certificates, books on the SEAGA methodology, and an opportunity to express their opinions:
* Dildora Akhmedova (Bukhara): I am satisfied with the workshop. I acquired a lot knowledge and think of applying SEAGA at my work. Thank you for invitation, and thanks to trainers and organizers.
* Nigora Gapparova (Tashkent): I am very glad to have participated and I like the methodology of SEAGA. I believe that what we have learnt about the macro, intermediate and field levels will help me in my future work.
* Faniya Akhmetshina (Djizzak): This is my first experience of training and I really liked the SEAGA methodology. After mastering this methodology, I think we must apply it in our violyats and in villages. And I think that we must teach this methodology to the others.
* Hayriniso Mirzadjanova (Tashkent): This workshop helped me get familiar with businesswomen. The training on gender issues should be continued. I would like to thank everybody and especially the organizers from WRC.
* Gulnora Makhmudova (Tashkent Region): I often attend workshops, but this workshop produced a great impression on me. The methodology is clear and I like the exercises in the form of games, which helped me to catch their essence. I work among the women and, I believe that the knowledge will help me in my work. I want to thank all the trainers and organizers of this workshop.
* Kamalova Mukhabbat (Karakalpakstan): We have come from Karakalpakstan and are very glad that you invited us. SEAGA methodology will give us an opportunity to educate the other women, too, as to what is necessary and how to work at the field, intermediate and macro levels. We hope that after we have come to Nukus we shall be able to highlight this methodology and share our knowledge with the other NGOs.
* Djamilya Babadjanova (Tashkent): I share the opinion of my friends from Nukus – this workshop is very important for the development of gender and achievement of the gender balance in Uzbekistan. Such workshops should kick off the introduction of this concept at three levels: macro-, field and intermediate.
* Gayane Mkrtchyan (Armenia): This is my first trip to Uzbekistan. I think this is the best opportunity to get to know Uzbekistan via NGOs and women leaders – clever and purposeful. I have a habit of adopting the experience of the other people. In future, wherever I work, I will need this experience.
* Martha Bruno (Italy): This is the first workshop on SEAGA methodology, which has been translated by the INTAS project participants. However, we encountered one problem. We have never finished in time and have always been short of time. But everything was very interesting.
* Dinara Alimjanova (Tashkent): I recently talked to Mr Karl and he supported the idea of dissemination of the SEAGA experience. We still have some drawbacks in the notions of gender. I hope that men will also participate in it in future. Representatives of the intermediate level, as well as the officials from ministries, have gathered here; I think they will support the dissemination of the SEAGA methodology and we shall be able to take an active part in the development of the gender equality.
The training has evoked a keen response of the population of Uzbekistan. However, as it impossible to involve all those wishing to take part in it, WRC is pleased to inform that it intends to continue the work on introduction of the SEAGA methodology at all levels of socio-economic development. WRC also has the electronic version of the SEAGA manuals for training trainers and will provide those who wish with to obtain it.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:
(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of man and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;
(b) To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common rsponsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the premordial consideration in all cases.
An answer as to what extent culture and traditions support or confront such a widespread phenomenon as violence is crucial for studies on women’s rights. At this point, there are two controversial positions. The first is a contradiction between the interpretation of human rights and relativism. Local figures, who are often lawyers, justify their disagreement with the international instruments of human and women’s rights on a ground of their incompatibility with cultural values. For instance, some states ratified the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women with reservations that some provisions of this document contradicted some cultural norms of respective states. And Islam was mentioned by these states as the basis for these reservations. The questions of correspondence of human rights and women’s rights in particular to international standards and of the sex equality as a generally-accepted political and cultural value in the region are still open.
The second controversial position is interrelation of the public and private spheres. Recognition of equality between sexes implicates recognition of the fact that the private is also public, which requires identification and elimination of woman human right violation in the family. An important aspect of achieving gender equality in the family is based on changes connected with the labour division in household and public production in modern society and resultant changes in hierarchy and relations among male and female family members, as well as on a wish of family members to have such changes in their families.
We shall consider three major problems emerging in the region: state of the art of women’s rights, the impact of religious dogmas on women’s rights and violence against women. They are all interconnected and influence one another. Women’s rights in large measure depend on which form and how the religious revival takes place and what is understood under the term ‘tradition’, for traditions are often predetermined by religious terms and in their content ascend to religious texts. Adherence to religion requires observance of traditions and when women’s rights are violated the explanation is that this is required by traditions.
However, it should be remembered that CEDAW, as the most detailed international definition of women’s rights, contains a provision which obviously calls for state authorities to combat cultural practice leading to discrimination on the basis of sex. As a study on tradition application shows, there is a significant gap between positive interpretation of religious texts in favour of women, from which traditions originate, and a real practice of the discrimination of women which also originates from these very traditions. However, a problem remains as to who determines criteria on how to apply traditions. The answer to this question is the clue to the dispute about women’s rights between universality and cultural relativism. This answer should be definite in what way of acting women may choose or if they only have to perform the specific role of mothers and therefore keep to an unwritten code of behaviour related to this role (norms of dressing, duties, etc.). Apologists of traditionalism and relativism ignore the fact that culture and traditions develop with time and cannot be considered as something static, eternal, not depending on time.
One must not forget that the national revival develops under the slogan of the revival of cultural values and society usually painfully responds to a criticism of traditions regarded as national. Therefore it is very important to develop co-operation between feminist organisations and mass media whose representatives, not having enough knowledge of human rights and being under the influence of the authority of traditions, create a stereotype of a tender and well brought-up woman, implicating that people must follow traditions and thus sanctifying the violation of her rights.
There is another tendency (which originates from the same tradition) in the society to restrict all rights of women to the rights of a mother, and these rights do not apply to women without children and families. From the viewpoint of cultural values, restricting a woman’s role to the role of a wife and mother does not correspond to the concept of women’s human rights — she has equal rights because she is a human. Her rights must not depend exceptionally on her role of a wife and mother of the family and she must be considered a personality with her own rights who should be allowed to find a balance between her family and civil status.
In many cases women prefer suffering violence at home to leaving it, since the latter means that they will turn into social outcasts, lose protection which they have while they are family members and are going to encounter even heavier problems. This happens because women living in this region have no intermediate environment between the family and state that is friendly to them. However, such an environment can be created by the women themselves. But in the traditional society women are zealots and keepers of traditions and are often, as well as men, intolerant to forms of behaviour and lifestyles other than their own (this is does not include amoral behaviour). But currently emerges a different type of women - adherents of new civil values, such as respect to human rights and democracy, whose enthusiasm helps set up new FNGOs, and who do their best to draw the attention of the society to the problem of violence against women.
The problem of violence is also connected with the tradition of inferior position and obedience of women as humans dependent on males - fathers, husbands and their relatives. Therefore, any attempt made by women to assert themselves as personalities and defend their rights or disobey their fathers’ and husbands’ will is quite often followed by psychological or physical violence, and the society is usually apt to blame women for the fact of violence.
There are only a few crisis centres in the region to which women can appeal. The network of shelters for women is not developed yet - they could be more in number. Such shelters should be set up by women themselves, with the support of feminist movements at local, national and international levels. However, the work on the elimination of violence must be conducted not with women only, but also with men. Violence is not a problem restricted only to a family — society suffers from violence, too.
The problem of the religious revival, political overuse of religion for introducing some limitations on women’s rights and justification of discrimination on the pretext of sex differences is a grave threat to women’s human rights in the region. From this viewpoint it would be correct to replace the term ‘religious revival’ with the term ‘reanimation of religion’, for a drop in the status of women takes place as a partial reanimation of the pre-Soviet status of women — the period when the society lived under the law of shari’a and women had only an inferior position, being separated from men by walls of houses. Religion is always used for abuses as an ideological basis to strengthen the opinion of a second-grade nature of women in the family and society.
There is ample evidence from various states on the growth of the religious conscience among women: young women quit secular education to join religious sects or move to Arabic states to get religious education. They support men’s rights to polygamy and an idea of gender-discriminating legislative acts based on shari’a. Mass media, also represented by women, highlights gender-based discriminating restrictions. They are under the spell of sexism because of having a biased notion of the feminist movement which took place in the time of Soviets. Nor do they know the scale and actions of the feminist movements in South Asia and the Middle East and follow men in their scornful attitude towards the feminist movement. The state cannot always pay attention to the violation of women’s rights by fundamentalist religious groupings, and therefore the objective of feminist organisations is to work with journalists and draw the attention of the state bodies to facts of the violation of women’s rights disguised as a care for preserving national traditions.
Violence against women is a specific and widespread violation of their rights. There are numerous instances of various forms of violence against women, such as domestic violence, violence during armed conflicts (mainly in Tajikistan) and rapes. On the other hand, there are forms of violence that have historic roots, and they are mainly restricted to families, but they turn to a wider social problem from the standpoint of observance of human rights. However, it has not become a subject for in-depth analyses in media publications and does not therefore stir concern in the society. Domestic violence is a problem of sex inequality in the family — women have to suffer violence not only from spouses, but also from the other male family members, parents-in-law and the like. Women are also major victims during armed conflicts, for they not only lose their family members, but become refugees as well. Society traditionally divides between the public and private spheres and, what is more, it attempts to prevent the private sphere from criticism, particularly criticism of traditions in the family.
An important setback to an effective solution of the problem of violence is the unwillingness of women to express their experience — this also originates from the tradition of the division between private and public spheres, as well as a tradition to blame women for all family problems. A traditional behavioural code of women prohibits them to speak about their problem out loud beyond their homes. This creates problems in collecting reliable statistical data on violence against women. The way to collect such data is through the systematic information amassment from shelters for women. For instance, Turkey has already gained experience of collecting reliable statistical data on violence against women by means of surveys launched by local feminist groups after they have received a respective education and improved their awareness of this problem.
Another problem contributing to the violence against women is their legal illiteracy and economic dependence. Passing the laws on equality is important, but they are practically impossible to implement if women do not have an access to information on legislation. The protection of women’s rights is hindered due to the lack of economic independence and growing unemployment: these are the major setbacks in their fight for their human rights. In each case it is important for women to have not only the access to information on legislation and necessary skills for the labour market, but also develop their consciousness to be self-confident which will enable them to find new solution to their problems.
In 1995, Central Asian FNGOs started working on establishing hot lines, crisis centres and shelters. The first crisis centre was set up in Bishkek. In Uzbekistan, the first hot line and crisis centre Sabr were set up in Samarkand in 1996, and in 1998 a hot line was set up by Society Mehri in Tashkent.
Major institutions promoting women’s rights are governments, NGOs and international organisations that deal with three problems, namely women’s rights, religious revival and prevention of violence against women.
The governments take measures in order to:
- disseminate legal literacy at a family level, using such available tools as community councils in Uzbekistan;
- include the subject of women’s rights into religious education, where it is available;
- take stricter measures at the executive level against violators of women’s rights;
- pass special laws within the Civil Code against specific forms of violence against women, e.g. domestic violence or violence during armed conflicts;
- implement reforms of the Family Code in favour of greater equality of sexes, e.g. prohibition of polygamy;
- train officials, who will supervise the observance of laws, to the means of handling cases of violence against women;
- set up shelters, rehabilitation and crisis centres for women with appropriately trained professional personnel (questions as to whether this problem should be resolved by independent FNGOs were realised);
- collect and disseminated statistical data regarding violence against women in their respective states;
- distribute governmental reports on the status of women among concerned NGOs and agencies and provide NGOs with available data.
Non-governmental organisations include measures into their programmes in order to:
- develop and introduce education and campaigns on legal literacy of women ( ); release awareness-raising information, printed and audio-visual materials on women’s human rights, violence against women and legal literacy ( );
- establish hot line for women victims of violence ( );
- influence mass media to make the society realise women’s rights and to develop skills of maintaining links with mass media ( );
- conduct studies and act as independent sources of information among women, in particular in the sphere of violence against women ( );
- protect and lobby actions for the government and governmental agencies to change legislation and policies towards women ( );
- initiate campaigns on the conscience-raining and training among men;
- improve links among FNGOs in Central Asia and other states for information exchange and technical co-operation;
- maintain links with feminist groups in other Muslim states to launch actions of solidarity (WLUML was cited as an example of the existing international community of solidarity ( );
International organisation work in that direction in order to:
- provide financial support to FNGOs;
- assist in the distribution of the information and experience among FNGOs;
- help to form communities among groups of women doing the same work;
Transitional period is a time of social transformations and it must comprise new interrelations between culture and development. Part of this new culture must be a refusal from traditions which date back to medieval times and have brought to violation or restriction of women’s rights. New culture should envisage open discussion of interrelations between traditions and human rights which are recognised as a universal value now.
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