The Women''s Human Rights Program applies international human rights standards to advocate for women''s rights in the United States and around the world. Using research, education and advocacy, the program has partnered with local organizations overseas and in the United States to document domestic violence, rape, employment discrimination, sexual harassment in the workplace, and trafficking in women and girls.
Founded in 1993, the Women''s Human Rights Program has partnered with organizations in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Morocco, Nepal, Mexico and Haiti. We have worked with these partners to document such violations of women''s rights as domestic violence, rape, employment discrimination, sexual harassment in the workplace and trafficking in women and girls and to follow up with training and advocacy initiatives. The Women''s Program uses traditional human rights fact-finding methods to document violations of women''s human rights. Staff and volunteers conduct in-country research through close collaboration with local women''s non-governmental organizations.
The Women’s Program has published 17 reports on violence against women as a human rights issue, consulted extensively with advocates who are drafting and beginning to implement new laws on violence against women, and presented numerous trainings on domestic violence legal reform.
The Women’s Program’s reports include an analysis of each country''s legislation related to women''s rights and of the local law enforcement system, as well as recommendations on bringing laws and practice into conformity with international human rights obligations.
RECENT INTERNATIONAL WORK
Bulgaria: We have worked in partnership with Bulgarian women’s rights activists since 1994, publishing a human rights report on domestic violence in Bulgaria in 1996 and continuing with extensive consultation on drafting and passing that country’s first Order for Protection law (modeled after a similar statute in Minnesota) in 2005. We have done trainings for police and judges on effective implementation of the new law through our partnership with the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation, and continue to monitor this implementation in order to make recommendations for improvement in law, policy and practice.
Republic of Georgia: At the request of a consortium of United Nations agencies, the Women’s Program researched and published an assessment of domestic violence and child abuse in the Republic of Georgia. We have also provided trainings for judges, police and prosecutors on the implementation of Georgia’s 2006 domestic violence law in partnership with the Anti-Violence Network of Georgia.
Tajikistan: The Women’s Program has conducted fact-finding on the government response to domestic violence in Tajikistan in partnership with the NGO Social Development Group. A report of our findings and recommendations is being printed in English, Tajik and Russian.
The Stop Violence Against Women Website
In a project that combines education and advocacy efforts, the Women’s Program developed the Stop Violence Against Women website (www.stopvaw.org ), a forum for information, advocacy and change. We developed this website as a tool for the promotion of women''s human rights in countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the former Soviet Union (FSU). StopVAW was developed with support from and in consultation with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Open Society Institute''s Network Women''s Program. The website addresses violence against women as one of the most pervasive human rights abuses worldwide. StopVAW provides women''s rights advocates with information and advocacy tools focused on ending the most endemic forms of violence against women in the region: domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and trafficking in women and girls for commercial sexual exploitation.
We also publish The VAW Monitor, a free monthly e-mail newsletter featuring news updates, alerts regarding new topics discussed on StopVAW and, periodically, commentary on law and policy developments relating to efforts to eliminate violence against women in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
International Training and Advocacy
The Women''s Program advocates for the advancement of women''s rights in every aspect of our work. For example, the Women''s Program reports serve as important advocacy tools for both international and local human rights organizations in the subject countries as they draft and promulgate legislation against domestic violence. From these reports, staff and volunteers also work with partner organizations to develop and deliver trainings for judges, prosecutors, lawyers, law enforcement agencies, direct service providers, journalists and others. In response to requests from international partners, the Women’s Program has provided numerous in-country trainings on domestic violence, drafting and implementing laws related to domestic violence, and court monitoring of domestic violence cases. Teams of staff and volunteers have done training in Bulgaria, Nepal, Republic of Georgia, Albania, Hungary, Morocco and Great Britain.
The Women’s Program also reviews and comments on draft legislation regarding violence against women both nationally and internationally. We have recently commented on I-VAWA legislation and on draft domestic violence legislation in Moldova, Montenegro and Bulgaria.
In addition, the Women’s Program has sent delegations to and presented at international women’s rights conferences, including the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995) and the 2002 and 2005 Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) conferences.
Battered Immigrant Women Project: In 2004, the Women’s Program released a report concerning the government response to battered refugee and immigrant women in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. The full text of this report, The Government Response to Domestic Violence Against Refugee and Immigrant Women in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area: A Human Rights Report, is available here. Although domestic violence is a serious problem for women of all backgrounds, refugee and immigrant women are particularly vulnerable to certain forms of abuse and face unique problems in gaining protection from violence. The Women''s Program used the human rights methodology that it has used in other countries to investigate and document immigrant women''s experiences in the Twin Cities in accessing legal, medical and other services and gaining protection from domestic abuse. The purpose of the project has been to identify both the barriers that battered immigrant women may encounter in seeking such protection, as well as models or programs that have been particularly effective in addressing the specific needs and concerns of immigrant women. We now provide presentations and trainings on the findings of the report to a wide variety of government agencies, educational institutions and civic groups.
Journey to Safety: The Women’s Program has collaborated with Pangea World Theater to create a dramatic presentation based on our 2004 battered immigrant women report. This stage presentation highlights the challenges facing battered refugee and immigrant women when negotiating legal, medical and government systems. In order to access services and protection, battered refugee and immigrant women must overcome obstacles such as language barriers, fear of deportation, and community pressures. A DVD of the performance and accompanying Facilitator’s Guide are now available. For more information, see the Journey to Safety section of this website.
Trafficking in Minnesota: In 2007, The Advocates’ Women’s Program was selected by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Justice Programs to conduct a human sex trafficking needs assessment for the state. The assessment, requested by the Minnesota Trafficking Task Force, will identify facilities and services currently available to trafficking victims in Minnesota, assess their effectiveness, and make recommendations on how the community might better coordinate and serve the needs of trafficking victims statewide. In preparing this assessment, we will apply the documentation and fact-finding techniques we developed in our overseas work and have adapted through our local work to analyze the services available to and the barriers faced by trafficked persons when seeking safety and support. The Advocates will publish its findings in a report due out in the summer of 2008.
LOCAL OUTREACH PROGRAMS
The Women''s Program works to improve awareness of women''s rights locally through a variety of educational programs:
· For the past thirteen years, the Women''s Program has organized the largest International Women''s Day Celebration in the Midwest, presented in partnership with the Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota and co-sponsored by numerous local organizations. The day includes a keynote speaker, workshops on women’s human rights issues, film, performances, visual arts, and a multitude of resources for further activism.
· Women’s Human Rights Speaker Series: In partnership with the Briggs and Morgan law firm, we present a bi-monthly series of speakers on critical issues in women’s human rights. Presentations are free and open to the public.
· Women’s Human Rights Film Series: For the past several years, we have partnered with the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library to present documentary films on women’s human rights issues, followed by facilitated discussions. These programs are free and open to the public.
· The Women’s Program staff also provides presentations and trainings on request in a wide variety of settings around the region.