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V-Day Karama Program Holds First Regional Workshop

03/28/2006

REGIONAL LAUNCH OF KARAMA
FEBRUARY 13-14, 2006
Amman, Jordan

The V-Day Karama Program in partnership with the Open Society Institute (OSI) held the first Regional Workshop and the Regional Launch of the Karama Program in Jordan. The workshop took place in Amman on February 13-14, 2006.

The 2-day event aimed to introduce the Karama Program and to establish connections with women activists in the nine Arab countries where Karama intends to work in the coming three years. The workshop focused on discussing the impacts of violence against women in politics, economics, health, education, art, culture, religion, media, and the legislative/judicial system.

The 2-day workshop is one in a series of events taking place throughout the nine Arab countries where the Karama Program will be working to support local efforts to stop violence against women. Approximately 35 participants from the Arab region and Jordan, women’s rights advocates, policymakers, academia, media, religious leaders, lawyers, and others attended the workshop. Speakers included: Politics – Amal Mahmoud, Egypt: Economics – Thereza Raian, Jordan: Media – Nafisa Lahrache, Algeria, and Frances Abouzeid, Jordan: Art/Culture – Sumia Awad, Sudan: Religion – Reem Al-Nasser, Jordan: Laws and Judicial System – Bushra Belhaj, Tunisia: Health – Ashgan Farag, Egypt: Education – Fethia Sidie, Tunisia. Facilitators included Maia Al-Rahbi, Syria; Amneh Helweh, Jordan; Fahima Hashim, Sudan; Suad Abou-dayyh, Palestine; Zakia Chramo, Morocco; Aida Touma, Palestine; Zoya Rouhana, Lebanon, and Reem Abu Hassan, Jordan.

Karama is Arabic for 'dignity.' Ms. Hibaaq Osman, the Special Representative of V-Day and Chair of the Karama Program, opened the workshop by emphasizing, “Karama is a concept and idea that will defend us from all types of violence. Karama is an Arab concept that we have to look at throughout our lives, through who we are, what we are doing, how we conduct our selves socially, economically, and how we communicate and connect to the rest of the world. It’s translating Karama to our own reality, and how we see what is happening around us through our Karama.” Ms. Osman added, “The issue is that violence is always looked at from a legal viewpoint alone, disregarding other important angles of life. The Karama Program will try to integrate all these overlooked aspects in the fight against violence.” Ms. Afaf El Jabiri, the Karama Program’s Regional Coordinator, introduced Karama as part of V-Day’s struggle throughout the world to combat violence against women. Afaf explained the policy of Karama as an Arabic concept, and stressed that the discussions and the recommendations of this meeting will be the direction of the Karama Program in the coming time.

Political, Economic Perspectives on Violence Against Women:
In discussing the political and economic realms, participants highlighted that the limited participation of women in politics and at the policy level is partly a product of the political situation in the region: occupations, war, and the continuous violations of the political rights of citizens and especially of women are the main constraints that impede women from achieving their rights. Women stressed that the economic perspective is of importance as it links women’s issues, highlighting the mutual effects between violence against women and economics.

Art, Culture, Media Perspectives on Violence against Women:
In discussing these realms, participants emphasized the role that culture plays in perpetuating violence against women in the society. The culture discriminates against women and often portrays them as inferior to men, which is clear in different types of the media and art. The media also neglects to deal with women’s issues in a positive manner, and women are not represented in the media outside the stereotypical female roles.

Health and Education Perspectives on Violence Against Women:
It was discussed that women are usually enrolled or forced to select particular educational programs and professions that do not enhance women’s position in society. In women’s health, women activists insisted that the issue of violence against women should be addressed due to the dramatic and obvious repercussions violence has on a women’s physical and mental health.

Religion, Legislative/Judicial Perspectives on Violence Against Women:
The question of the impact of the laws and legal system on violence against women was seen as a vital one as most of the laws in the region are reflections of how the society perceives women. In the religion session, participants recommended that there should be a comprehensive analysis of how religions deal with rights of women to live a life free of violence.

At the end of the workshop, participants discussed the main challenges they face when working on the issue of violence against women. In order for each country to move forward in a productive way, it was agreed that women should return to their countries and constituencies to discuss the outcomes of the workshop and to create a working plan for each of the nine countries.

At the end of the event, V-Day Karama held a reception for the participants, Jordanian activists, international organizations, representatives and different groups working on women’s rights and human rights. Nadia Shmroukh, the Vice-President of Jordanian Women’s Union, welcomed the V-Day Karama team and guests. She stated that V-Day Karama is one of the few initiatives that has come to the region with an understanding of the importance of linking women’s issues to the political and economic situations of the region. She admired V-Day for selecting the name of Karama for their program and stressed that V-Day’s opposition to the political occupations in the region has encouraged many Arab organizations to commit to the work of V-Day Karama. Nadia Shmrouk’s statement was followed by welcoming speeches by Hibaaq Osman, the Special Representative of V-Day and Chair of Karama, and Anastasia Posadskaya-Vanderbeck, the Director of Network Women's Program (OSI).

About V-Day
V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness. To date, V-Day has raised over $30 million and educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it, crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns, re-opened shelters, and funded over 5000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in locations such as Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt, and Iraq. http://www.vdaykarama.org

Contact: Susan Celia Swan, V-Day, + 1 212 253 1823, press at vday