By cultivating an understanding of violence against women, we seek to transform the way power is used between men and women in society.
A collective understanding of violence against women (VAW) creates strong foundations for our work, and helps us unite as a movement. It allows us to progress toward the same overall goals even as we apply different strategies to address VAW. The SCOEN’s analysis of VAW recognizes that it is part of a broader system of social injustice. Through a “rights-based analysis” we analyze violence beyond women’s individual experiences, but the systems and norms that promote and perpetuate VAW in our societies. We work to achieve social justice and social transformation knowing the positive changes we create will outlive any of our projects, programs, or organizations. We strive to deepen communities’ understanding and connection to a rights-based analysis of VAW through our advocacy and publications, VAW resources, and activities.
What is a rights-based analysis of VAW prevention?
A rights-based analysis of VAW:
- Recognizes violence against women as an issue of social justice, i.e. it seeks to build a world that is equal and fair for women and men.
- Advocates that VAW must not be accepted, tolerated, or justified under any circumstances.
- Explores and deconstructs the systems that promote and uphold violence against women as “normal.”
- Maintains that men’s power over women is a core driver of VAW and that to effectively address VAW we must address this power imbalance.
- Understands that VAW affects us all but has the most direct and dangerous consequences for women.
By accepting a rights-based analysis of VAW, we are able to create ethical programs that honor the equality between women and men and affect more meaningful, lasting change. We lift our hearts and minds above the injustices of the past and reach towards a future where women and men balance power to create happier, healthier families and communities.
SCOEN fosters a shared analysis of violence against women by exploring the following ideas:
WHAT IS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
What is VAW?
The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” In the Network we use the term violence against women to “underscore what each of the abuses has in common, namely its grounding in the fundamental devaluation of women and girls” (Heise 2011).
Violence against women is a gross violation of human rights and a grave public health concern that takes many different forms across all stages of the life cycle of girls and women, including:
- Pre-birth (e.g. prenatal sex selection)
- Infancy (e.g. female infanticide, neglect)
- Childhood (e.g. FGM, child abuse, denial of opportunities to girl children)
- Adolescence (e.g. forced prostitution, rape, trafficking, early marriage, sexual exploitation)
- Reproductive Age (e.g. sexual assault, trafficking, intimate partner violence, killing in the name of honor, homicide/ femicide, sexual harassment, lack of freedom of movement and control of finances)
- Elderly (e.g. widow abuse, elder abuse)
VAW has severe consequences that can be physical, sexual, emotional, or economic (e.g. HIV/AIDS, general ill health, death, child abuse, trauma, low self-esteem, economic decline etc.). It denies women, their families, communities and societies the opportunity to reach their full potential.
A rights-based analysis of violence against women seeks to understand and address the core driver of VAW, i.e. a power imbalance between men and women. Using a rights-based analysis, we recognize that violence against women is a systemic problem embedded within patriarchal structures, rather than a random collection of individual incidents. We understand violence against women as an injustice. We see both the cause and solution to the problem as rooted in power.
Rights-based programs strive to achieve social justice by addressing the core driver of VAW. They are based on an analysis and understanding of power and its strong link to human rights. This means promoting the use of positive power within our own individual lives, our workplaces, and the communities in which we work.
As we create programs to address VAW, it is important to constantly ask ourselves, do our programs encourage people to recognize their power within? Are we making an effort to draw attention to ways in which people use power over others and how it can negatively affect the lives of individuals and communities? Does our work bring people together, and encourage meaningful collaboration between groups and individuals? To what extent does our work foster activism – believing that every individual can and must do something to prevent VAW? All of these questions are central for a rights-based approach to VAW prevention, and our ability to unravel the structures that permit violence in our societies.
Power is the ability to influence your own or others’ experiences. It is important for us to be aware of how we use the power we possess. The power we exert over others is a negative use of power. When men use power to control women it is a negative use of power, and the driving force behind violence against women. SCOEN seeks to transform negative uses of power into positive uses of power, which promote equality and solidarity.
There are many varieties of positive power such as: the fundamental power we discover within when we learn to accept and love ourselves, the power we share with others when we support and respect each other, and the power we use to take action and positively influence our lives and the lives of others. While negative power is at the root of VAW, positive power holds the solution.
In SCOEN, we believe the clearest path to VAW prevention is built upon balancing the power between women and men. Some people are afraid that balancing power means men will lose power and women gain power. Power is not in limited quantity; if one person gains power, it doesn’t have to be at another person’s loss. We all have power within ourselves, we can join our power with others and we have power to create positive change. Positive use of power—by women and men—means we all become stronger, safer, and more respected within our relationships.