Local Activists & Field Workers

Part of Center on Law and Globalization's mission is to foster interdisciplinary partnerships that stimulate exchanges on how global issues are addressed. We aim to create a diverse global community by building platforms that encourage cross-disciplinary communication. We recognize that a single approach cannot address the issue of systematic sexual violence but together we can raise public awareness, advance the courts, empower victims, repair communities, intimidate perpetrators and, ultimately, prevent atrocities.
 
This section is intended to build bridges between individuals and organizations working at the most local level and our global community. Here you will find the profiles of five leaders and champions whom are dedicated to furthering gender equality and combating sexual violence within areas of past or present conflict.
 
  • Justice Masika Bemba; Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Hala Alkarid; Horn of Africa
  • Vesna Nikolic-Ristanovic; Serbia
  • Rosaline Mcarthy; Sierra Leone
  • Renifa Madenga; Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Jean Gakwandi & Beata Mukarubuga; Rwanda

 

Justice Masika Bihamba

Region: Goma, East DRC
Current Position:Coordinator and Co-Founder, Women Synergy for Sexual Violence Victims (Synergy des Femmes pour les Victimes des violences Sexuelles)
Website: http://www.easterncongo.org/success-stories/synergy-of-women-for-sexual-violence-victims/
About Justine and her work combating rape as a war tatic: Justine Masika Bihamba is from Goma, in the East DRC, and is one of the founders of a local platform for the defense of human rights, dealing especially with women victims of rape in East Congo. In 2008, she won the Tulip prize for human rights advocacy, awarded by the government of The Netherlands to human rights activists in the world. Recently, she was nominated by Women Deliver as one of the advocates for women’s rights.   Justine won the Pax Christi Italy Prize in 2009 for her organization’s work, “Women Synergy for Sexual Violence Victims”, which has helped thousands of raped women by providing them with medical and psychological care, socio-economical reinsertion, and legal aid. The organization also raises public awareness to avoid raped women from being rejected by their family and community. Additionally, it gathers all the elements necessary for the prosecution of perpetrators by national or international justice. Despite the threats to its members and their families ‘lives', the organization keeps on fighting for a political change and a change in women rights.   

Sexual violence against women has become part of war. It has even become one of the war’s most terrible weapons. We witnessed it in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994 and we suffer from it in East Democratic Republic of Congo wars, despite all our warnings. In all these wars, rapists have a common ideology: beyond humiliation they aim to annihilate the other by hurting women.

In reaction to this scourge, which often comes with extremely cruel acts, we raise public awareness on sexual violence against women and have caught the attention of national and international communities. Unfortunately, we have noticed that some people consider these crimes against humanity a “black gold” likely to attract money from international lenders and attention. As a result, the women suffering from sexual violence become more and more of a victim: a victim of her physical perpetrators, and a victim from those who make this crime an object of commerce.

My work for the promotion of women rights started in December 1990 in a women’s organization named « UWAKI » (“North-Kivu Farmer Women Union”). Its main goal was to teach farmer women their rights and how to promote them. The very promising results obtained led to the creation of similar women’s organizations within the province.

In 2002, I conducted a survey on sexual violence against women during the war in North-Kivu province. The data was overwhelming, especially regarding sexual violence acts. The population of Goma and its surroundings knew I was researching on this topic and informed me of upcoming cases. The seriousness of the situation and the great number of cases encouraged me to start a fight against sexual violence. The main trigger was the meeting with an 80-year-old woman who was raped in Walikale territory, approximately 350 km South-West of Goma, and was taken to Goma General Hospital. I investigated her case and discovered that because she didn’t carry any money she was given no medical attention and she died. I was shocked by the story and thought that I should do something so that sexual violence victims would be taken care of. We sent an SOS to people willing to help them and the Swiss Cooperation replied favorably through its humanitarian desk in Bujumbura.

UN Security Council Resolution 1820 (June 19, 2008) and Resolution 1960 (December, 16 2010) have put stress on the need to fight against impunity for sexual violence committed during armed conflicts with legal mechanisms and to expose the truth though non-judiciary mechanisms. However, a lot remains to be done. Statistics on rapes in East DRC show that these rapes are only the top of the iceberg of the atrocities committed in the region. Nevertheless, these events removed the veil off this long-hidden issue and suffering. Thanks to the pleading of Congolese civil society and of the international community, rapes in DRC are not hidden any more but are discussed within the region. They haven’t stopped though.

Humanitarian aid has reached its limits in terms of its mandate and capabilities. It cannot by itself ease durably the suffering of civil populations or protect their dignity anymore. Such political disasters can only be stopped if political, economic and military means are set simultaneously, in addition to humanitarian aid. Our experience from the past 10 years has convinced us that, in addition to essential humanitarian action aimed to ease our sisters’ suffering, national and international leaders will have to fight against the causes  in order to reach a durable solution, which means: 
  •  Fighting impunity by establishing mixed criminal trials
  •  Reforming the security system (police, army)
  •  Stopping the illegal exploitation of natural resources that feed the war.

Hala Alkarib

Region: Horn of Africa
Current Position:Regional Director, Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA)

Website: www.sihanet.org

About Hala Alkarib and the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa: Hala Alkarib has worked for a number of years as gender specialist and community worker for various international organizations, foreign aid departments and local civil society groups in Sudan and the Horn of Africa sub-region, and as a refugee counselor in Canada. She has been part of various national and regional research teams on women, refugees and displaced rights in the Horn of Africa.

 Hala Alkarib studied Psychology and English Literature and acquired a post graduate Masters Degree in Peace and Development and Women Studies. She is the current Regional Director of the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) Network, an African civil society agency which focuses on gender equality, women's access to justice and conflict transformation in the Horn of Africa. She has published papers on advocacy strategies of women groups in the Horn of Africa and many articles related to Sudan politics and context.

SIHA, which means “The Outcry” in Arabic, began over  fifteen  years ago, in 1994, when a group of women activists from the Horn of Africa recognized the need for an indigenous regional coalition  of civil society groups, who could work together learning from one another and campaigning for the rights of women and girls in the Horn of Africa. The SIHA Network has over 40 members who are all national civil society organizations operational in the countries and territories in the Horn region.

SIHA’s vision is that all women and girls in the Horn of Africa (HOA) must have the right to live in a peaceful and just environment, and to exercise their rights as human beings. Central to our vision as SIHA is that without the recognition of the rights of women and their contributions, the countries of the Horn stand no chance of development as they will remain swinging at the edge of stability, unable to reach it. The acceptance of women as equal citizens and the recognition of their human rights and their contributions are the core principles we are working on as SIHA Network. SIHA and its members stand clearly on the view that women in the Horn are entitled to acquire their human rights. SIHA’s legal framework is built on the international human rights mechanisms and the articles in the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. (Image: Women farmer in South Kurdofan)

The current focus of our strategy and actions is on the following themes:

  • Influence and strengthen women's access to justice in the Horn of Africa- building universality from below – reveal and advocate against the implications of the violent aspects of religious fundamentalism, customary and traditional laws and  practices on the human rights of women in the Horn of Africa;
  • Increase female economic contributions and recognition and empowerment of women in post conflict and conflict locations;
  • Document and disseminate knowledge – Looking at the experiences of women movements and civil society dynamics inside the Horn. Providing and promoting enlightenment ideas, literature booklets and debates on the rights of women;
  • Support women's right activists and empower them inside their communities;
  • Extend hands to the women of Darfur and Somalia through provision of direct and immediate support and advocacy.

Vesna Nicolic Reistanovic

Region: Serbia
Current Position:Founder and Director, Victimology Society of Serbia

Website: www.vds.org.rs  Contact:vds@EUnet.rs

About Vesna Nicolic Reistanovic, her research and work with vicitms in Serbia: Vesna Nikolic Ristanovic graduated from the School of Law in Belgrade in 1978. She also received a masters degree with her thesis "The Impact of Victim to the Phenomenon of Crime" (published in 1984) and completed her doctoral thesis, "Women as Victims of Crimes" (published in 1989) from the School of Law in Belgrade. Since 2004, she has been a professor of Criminology, Juvenile Delinquency,  Victimology and Child Abuse at Belgrade University, Faculty for Special Education and Rehabilitation/Department for Prevention and Treatment of Social Disorders. She is the Founder of the NGO Victimology Society of Serbia, was its President between 1997 and 2006, and has been its Director since 2006. She is also the Founder, and was between 1998 and 2010 the Editor-in-Chief and Associate Editor of Temida, a Serbian Journal on Victimization, Human Rights and Gender. Additionally, Vesna is the Corresponding Editor of Feminist Review and a member of the Editorial Board of Contemporary Justice Review (USA). She is a member of the Executive Commitee of the World Society of Victimology and of the Serbian Government’s Counsel for Gender Equality.
 
The Victimology Society of Serbia (VDS) is a not-for-profit and non-governmental organization established in 1997 in Belgrade, whose aim is to unite as many academics and professionals as possible who are interested in the development of victimology and protection of victims of crime, human rights violations and war, regardless of their gender, religion, ethnicity and other features. The Victimology Society has 124 members; its work is organized around three main groups of activities: VDS info and support to victims, VDS research and education and VDS Truth and reconciliation program.
 
Current Permanent activities of VSD:
  • Publishing  Temida, a journal on victimization, human rights and gender, recognized as an academic journal by Serbian Ministry of science;
  • VDS info and support to victims: direct support (emotional support, information, legal and psychological aid and referral) to victims of crime, including sexual and other forms of violence;
  • Victimological library;
  • Joint action for truth and reconciliation, and development of a third way approach to dealing with the past in Serbia;
  • Organization of annual conferences;
  • Organization of courses  for professionals;
  • Practical training of students as part of a victimology course at the Faculty for special education and rehabilitation of Belgrade University;
  • Research support and consultancy on request.
Current VSD Projects:
  • Promoting respect for human rights of women in prison - advocacy for battered women;
  • Mapping out the dimension and characteristics of gender discrimination in the labour market and social response to it.
The Victimology Society of Serbia had central role in advocacy for and drafting of new Serbian legislation on domestic violence, sexual violence and trafficking of human beings. It also carried our two prevalence surveys on domestic violence and five surveys on trafficking of human beings (three on trafficking of women, one on women, children and men, and one on male trafficking). VDS developed a course curricula on gender based violence (domestic violence, sexual violence and trafficking of women) and on trafficking of (adult and minor) males, which are recognised by the Serbian Ministry of labor and social policy.  
 

Rosaline Mcarthy

Region: Sierra Leone
Current Position:Principal Leacturer in Education at Freetown Teachers College, Kossoh Town, Sierra Leone

Additional: National Chairperson of the Women's Forum (Sierra Leone)

About Rosaline Mcarthy and the Women's Forum (Sierra Leone): Rosaline MCarthy is an educationist by profession and a gender activist. She is a Principal Lecturer in Education at Freetown Teachers College, Kossoh Town, Sierra Leone, the National Chairperson of the Women’s Forum (Sierra Leone) and a founding member of the Mano River Women’s Peace Network. Rosaline holds a Masters Degree in Education from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. She is a trainer of the Emerging Issues Curriculum (Gender, Human Rights, Civics and Democracy and Health and the Environment) for Tertiary Institutions in Sierra Leone and a writer and editor for the Distance Education Module Writing Programme for training primary and secondary teachers.
 
She has presented a number of papers at home and abroad. In addition to her research, Rosaline is very active and committed in the women’s movement in Sierra Leone with a vision for the overall empowerment of victims of sexual violence during the war and other vulnerable groups.  She has organized training, sensitization and awareness raising activities for urban and rural women alike as well as for traditional and religious leaders. She has attended many conferences and meetings on gender issues.
 
The Women’s Forum (Sierra Leone) is the national women’s umbrella organization.  It was founded in 1994 in response to the need for a channel through which women’s organizations could share information, advocate and lobby for influencing government policy and mobilize to take collective actions on issues pertaining to their welfare and status. WFSL has a membership of over three hundred organizations countrywide all of whom are committed to promoting solidarity for empowerment, equality and development.

Over the years WFSL has been engaged in activities geared towards training, research, advocacy, sensitization and awareness raising on a number of issues.  These include legal reform, women’s equal representation in decision-making positions and sexual and gender-based violence. In terms of sexual and gender based violence, Women’s Forum (Sierra Leone) receives reports from victims especially in the regions, and refers these cases to the Family Support Unit (FSU) which is a unit of the Sierra Leone Police created in 2001 to combat the high incidence of sexual violence after the war.  The FSU then issues a medical form to the victims for medical examination.  Afterwards these cases are charged to court.  Unfortunately, a good number of the perpetrators are not prosecuted for various reasons including lack of evidence and compromise by family members.  A sexual violence bill will soon be passed into law.  This will go a long way to give more access to justice for victims of sexual violence.

Furthermore, WFSL has taken active part in the Sixteen Days of Activism on gender based violence. It has organized sensitization training for religious and traditional leaders on violence against women through the UNWomen ECOWAS project on Mitigation of Violence Against Women, conducted training on women’s rights including sexual and reproductive health rights with support from Action Aid International (Sierra Leone), and, currently, is working on women’s rights, sexual based violence including the rights of women and girls violated during the war to a remedy and reparation as well as on women’s representation in decision-making.
 
WFSL works in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, UNWomen, the Reparations Directorate of the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) and other coalitions to push the gender agenda forward. WFSL is working with the International Coalition for Women’s Human Rights in Conflict Situations with support from Rights and Democracy (Canada) to lobby and advocate for the rights of victims of sexual violence during the war to remedy and reparation.

In addition, WFSL co-hosted an International Conference on Forced Marriage, Gender and Conflict in February 2011. This conference was borne out of the decision by the Special Court of Sierra Leone that ‘forced marriage’ is a crime against humanity. The conference, organized by the Tubman Institute, Women’s Forum (Sierra Leone), The Special Court of Sierra Leone and the Coalition for Women’s Human Rights in Conflict Situations, brought together speakers and participants from Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, U.S.A., Liberia, U.K. and Sierra Leone. The conference confirmed the linkages between ‘forced marriage’ and historical gender discrimination, the need for support and protection of victims and activists working on the issue, emphasis on government accountability for restoring the dignity of victims through provision of services as well as upholding the importance of prosecution of perpetrators of ‘forced marriage’ under international law whilst national laws should reflect international human rights standards. The next steps include embarking on a three year collaborative research between historians of slavery and human rights scholars and activists in countries emerging from conflict, including Sierra Leone.
 


Renifa Madenga

Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Current Position:Appeals Counsel at the Office of the Prosecutor- UNICTR
Education: PhD candidate, Southern and Eastern African Regional Centre for Women's Law (SEARWL)
Website: www.searwl.com
About Renifa, her research and appointments within ICTR: Renifa Madenga has over twenty years experience in the field of human rights related to gender, juvenile justice, transitional justice and criminal litigation at both national and international level. Her area of interest is action orientated research. Renifa is a PhD candidate at the Southern and Eastern African Regional Centre for Women’s Law (SEARWL), a member of the Zimbabwean Women Lawyers’ Association and the Zimbabwean Coalition Group. She has been working at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) since 2001, currently as an Appeals Counsel in the Office of the Prosecutor and is a member of the OTP/ICTR Sexual Violence Committee which is interested in the prosecution of gender crimes. At the ICTR, she has worked as a Case Manager, Trial Attorney, Legal Advisor and Appeal’s Counsel.  In the respective capacities, Renifa has prosecuted perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and interacted with rape victims before, during and after trials.

Prior to her ICTR appointment, Renifa served as the Executive Director of Musasa Project, an NGO focusing on Gender Violence in Zimbabwe. She also worked under the Ministry of Justice as a magistrate at different levels, including serving  on  the Regional Bench primarily presiding over Victim Friendly Courts established to deal with rape and sexual violence relating to vulnerable persons.

Her current recent, Using Women’s Voices/Experiences To Interrogate The Efficacy Of The International Criminal Justice System (Icjs) On Rape: The Case Of Rwanda 1994 Genocide (with the The Southern and Eastern African Regional Centre for Women’s Law: Africa), explores the lived reality and experience of rape survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  This study is sited in the web of fears, needs, relationships and anxieties that affect survivors of rape committed during the Rwandan genocide and their interactions with the international criminal justice system (ICJS) at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Using the voices/ their silences and experiences of women the study interrogates the efficacy of the ICJS. The major question being whether the ICJS acknowledges and condemns the egregious abuses suffered by victim survivor witness and recognizes and addresses their rights, needs, fears and aspirations.
 
Achievements of the Regional Centre for Women's Law:
  • The Centre has successfully taught on researching, reforming and implementing human rights, law reforms as they affect women and girls.  It undertakes a holistic approach to problems encountered by women in the region and continent of Africa.
  • A gender perspective is the fundamental part of the research plan.
  • Each research examines, among other things, constitutional and legal implications and need for law reforms within the context of the country under research.
  • There is a thorough analysis on how women and men are affected by conditions surrounding identified problems.
  • Programs focus on using a human rights compliance and implementation framework to assess, promote, implement and conduct research on the rights of women and girls in the region and the continent of Africa.
  • The Centre's research findings has a  far reaching impact on law reforms in respective countries, and the research projects are consistent with international developments and are grounded in international law principles.
  • The work of the Centre brings international human rights law theory to communities within the region and Africa.
  • The work has shown great potential to change the application of laws to women’s lived realities.
  • Topics for research are very relevant; they touch on women’s rights, access to law, resources, good governance and reforms.
Achievements of the ICTR:
These are well documented on its website: www.ictr.org and includes cases taking the gender agenda further such as completed cases defining rape as Genocide like the Akayesu, Muhimana, Gacumbitsi, the recently delivered judgment of the only woman ever indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity, Pauline Nyiramahusuko who was convicted on 24 June 2011for rape as a crime against humanity and sentenced to a life imprisonment.
 

Jean Gakwandi & Beata Mukarubuga

Region: Rwanda
Current Position: Founder and Director & Head of the Counseling Department, Solace Ministries
Websitewww.solacem.org
Biography: The genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, took with it an estimated one million individuals who were killed in about 100 days. Solace Ministries began in 1995 and was developed into a charity in 1996. The call to set up Solace Ministries was based on Isaiah 40:1: “Comfort, comfort my people”, and was received by Jean Gakwandi, a survivor of the genocide himself. While then working with an international Christian organization, the founder faced everyday the misery and hurt of widows and orphans in his daily interactions with them which ended up as a rule in tears. Here was a society which felt rejected, lonely, desperate, stripped of everything and people and sometimes resentful. Hundreds of thousands of women and girls were raped, but also men and boys suffered from such violence. As a result the country was left with thousands of orphans, widows and women with HIV/AIDS. Beata Mukarubuga, a former primary school teacher, is a survivor of the genocide as well and lost her husband and five of her eight children during the genocide. After having been comforted, she devoted herself to comfort others, and this is what she has been doing at Solace Ministries for already twelve years. While counseling the emotional and spiritual needs of widows and orphans has been the core program Solace Ministries was founded on, the organisation has always had a concern for the health of the whole person. 
 
Work in the field: A particular concern arose for around 1500 women at Solace Ministries, including little girls, who had been raped during the genocide. During this period, rape was used as an instrument of the genocide. Women were raped massively and often instantly killed after these terrible suffering and humiliation, including mutilation of organs. Others were left for dead when sometimes up to twenty militias, one after another, abused them. Although some eventually survived these attacks, they suffer from deep trauma which is still vivid after 17 years. Many of those who survived were made pregnant and had children born of rape and/or were infected with HIV/AIDS and left to die slowly. The consequences of the sexual violence go from deep sorrow, loneliness, lack of identity to self hatred. Also poverty is a concern.
 
The aim of Solace Ministries is to positively impact these women and girls by attending to their physical, psychological, material, social and spiritual needs and fostering their empowerment. Solace Ministries has stood up to help them restore their hope through a loving counseling and care, especially through the Solace community that stands up as an alternative family. With the support of the Ministry of Health, a medical clinic has been established to meet their health needs providing treatment. The community concept has helped to undertake a community home based care. To date, 734 women have pursued treatment at the Solace Clinic were they receive ARV and other support. Solace also set up income generating projects to support the women in an economical-social manner. Also men who survived rape are encouraged to speak up and they receive support from Solace Ministries.
 
Read some testimonials of survivors of sexual violence (sixteen women and one man) who are all beneficiaries of Solace Ministries in the book “The Men Who Killed Me”. For more information, see: www.menwhokilledme.com