Insist, persist, resist, and exist


The influence of Integrated Security concept on women human rights defenders life

Everyone has the right to stand up, to speak out and to defend human rights. Everyone has the right to defend human rights safely, without fear of retribution, such as physical violence, slander or attacks on their families. Equally, everyone has the right to defend human rights and enjoy a full life, without sacrificing livelihoods, health or happiness.

20141109_104829Over the past few decades, human rights organizations across the world have successfully raised the profile of human rights defenders and their vital role in protecting the rights of ordinary citizens. As a result of these efforts, human rights defenders began to enjoy increasing international recognition and respect. Paradoxically, as awareness of their work blossomed internationally, they were being subjected to escalating violations of their own rights within their own countries – at the hands of their government, armed groups and even their own communities.

In response to these mounting threats, a number of human rights organizations started to work towards developing international legal mechanisms to enshrine the rights of human rights defenders to allow them to do their work, and to do it safely.

These efforts culminated in 1998, in the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Combined security concept is probably one of the best tools for women human right defenders. The meeting-courses of combined security allow women activists to develop self-defense skills and strategies. It’s a place, created in time and space, where the women activists can share their difficulties and concerns, challenges and successes, it’s a place where women can create a community and together develop the struggle strategies and skills: how to live on, how to stay safe and sound, and the same time, to continue the life and activities they like.

More than 300 women from more than 50 countries took part in the combined safety courses. We had an opportunity to meet the trainers of the courses.

The women, who reinvent their lives also due to the concept of the combined safety, who have different experiences and cultural legacy, answered the same question:

Why women need Integrated Security workshops?

Erjona, Albania

ISW provides a safe space for women where they can think of themselves, of their own security, well-being both at personal level and at workplace. I believe that Albanian culture encourages women to look after others, take care of them, prioritize others’ needs and desires before theirs. Women are expected to prioritize their family, their husbands ‘and children’s needs before their own needs. This means that when woman is an activist, she is working full time at her job, and fulltime at home being a mother and a wife, often overlooking herself, her personal health and wellbeing. Therefore, I believe that ISW are a great source of support for activist women. They provide women with a safe space where they can take time for themselves, reflect more on things, and spend qualitative time with them and share experiences with others like them. Many topics discussed during ISW like linking body and mind, emotional intelligence, mindfulness etc are not really encouraged and taught in the Albanian culture. So, women have the opportunity to explore more these concepts, and also the opportunity of developing their own network that helps them sustain wellness and safety in their personal

life and at work also.

Elvira, Armenia

I wouldn’t make a separation between Armenian and non-Armenian women when talking about the need of Integrated Security, because due to my experience of cooperation with women of different nationalities, I have figured out that the situation of women is often common, or at least the roots of the violations they face are similar. Nevertheless if questioning if a women in Armenia needs to participate in an ISW and internalize its ideology, I would say – Yes. We are definitely in need of it, as the system of patriarchy, the oppression of our customs and habits do not ”let” women breathe and concentrate on themselves, to appreciate and to value themselves, to respect them overall. That is why in the countries, like Armenia, this is one of the most essential topics.

Azra, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Integrated security workshop is a great opportunity to exchange security strategies in terms of the structure, different approaches and all aspects. ISWs are very well structured in using a holistic approach on our psychological, physical and organizational safety and wellbeing (and I would add online component as part of IS as well). As such they are a combination of great tools and practical skills.

Natia, Georgia

Georgia is the country where we speak a lot about gender equality, women’s rights, but we have no actual women’s rights movement, we have very few informal groups that protest sexism and advocate women’s rights. Many activists that are pushing forward the change are disregarding their own health and other dimensions of their personality.

Integrated security workshops are more than a set of tools that help us avoid burnout or name discrimination that we face. It is an opportunity to take a structured approach to our activism, to see that however intimate and inherent to our lives, there is a line to be drawn between our personal lives and the work we do. It is an opportunity for women to sit down together, create a space of respect and mutual sharing and listen to each other.

I believe that integrated security helps create new platforms of women activists, platforms that are informal and more change oriented.

Frosina, FYR Macedonia

Women in Macedonia face multiple challenges starting from national politics which accent patriotism and patriarchy and are thereby reinforce traditional gender roles. Even though there is a legislative framework for gender equality and anti-discrimination, there are significant gaps between legislation and implementation. Women are exposed to different forms of violence and our legal system has so far developed mostly in treatment of cases of domestic violence but yet not recognizing it’s characteristics of gender based violence and not providing adequate support for vulnerable groups of women. Violence and intolerance against LGBT communities is frequent and cases are not preceded.

Integrated security workshops are a must for women in Macedonia so that they can be provided with knowledge and tools to raise their awareness on their guaranteed rights, to identify the multiple risks public and private that their facing on daily bases and most of all to exchange and learn strategies for dealing including their own well being.

Heghine Babayan