Shattering the Silence of Violence against Women

UN Chronicle, Spring 1998 | Go to article overview

Shattering the Silence of Violence against Women

The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has launched a $1.2-million Trust Fund dedicated to eliminating violence against women. Initially, UNIFEM has selected 23 projects in 18 countries in Africa, East and south Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean. All the projects are aimed at eradicating gender-specific violence.

"Violence obliterates women's self-esteem, destroys their health, denies their human rights and undermines their full involvement in society," says Noeleen Heyzer, Director of UNIFEM. "More than one third of women in the developing world are victims of domestic violence. UNIFEM is working to break the silence of violence in women' lives. We are bringing it out into the open and demanding accountability and action." The selected projects, spread throughout the world, represent a range of innovative approaches to preventing and eliminating violence against women. The criteria for funding included areas of awareness-raising and advocacy, capacity building, literacy, training, action-related research, and prevention and deterrence of violence.

In one of the projects in Quezon City, the Philippines, women migrant workers who have been victims of abuse will be writing and producing a video on their experiences, under the supervision of the Kanlugan Center Foundation, Inc., a non-governmental, non-profit service organization committed to helping distressed migrant workers.

The objective of the project is to launch an information campaign on the situation of Filipino women migrant workers. Since the 1980s, the "feminization" of labour migration from the Philippines has been accompanied by reports and testimonies of harrowing acts of violence committed against women migrants, particularly those in vulnerable occupations. Thousands of women, mostly domestic workers, have been forced to flee from employers who have abused them physically, emotionally and sexually. Many others have been thrown into jails on false charges. Kanlugan monitored 27 women who met violent deaths in 1996.

The harsh reality remains that the exodus of women migrant workers from the Philippines has increased further due to economic need. But the women migrant workers leave their homes unprepared and totally ignorant of information essential to their own protection and survival in a foreign country. In this context, Kanlugan aims to launch a campaign, if not to discourage women to migrate, then to raise their consciousness about their rights, both as workers and as women.

A 30-minute video on Filipino women migrants will also be produced as an educational tool for a mass information campaign. Ten women returnees will participate in all phases of the production. They will be trained in technical aspects of video-making, from scriptwriting to camera-work and editing; and, at the same time, the training will also aim to raise the critical perception of women returnees. Upon completing the film, Kanlugan expects to conduct a series of educational sessions for its clients in Manila, as well as for communities in other regions of the country.

A second project, this one in Alexandra, South Africa, addresses violence against women in dating relationships. The programme, which is being undertaken by the Agisnanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training [ADAPT], will begin with a survey aimed at determining the nature, extent and prevalence of violence against young women in high schools. Special focus will be placed on sexual assault. To help ensure the effectiveness of the programme, a pilot project will first be developed in one high school in Alexandra. Once the material has been developed and tested, the programme will then be expanded to include the other three high schools there. Class instruction will be presented to the ninth and tenth grade classes. The programme will be presented in the form of modules of approximately one hour, presented in five consecutive days over three months. …

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