When the UN Commission on the Status of Women adopted a declaration to combat violence against women in March of this year, it was a cause for celebration. The long-sought agreement faced many challenges and for many countries, many challenges remain, but the greatest is the work that lies ahead in making the declaration a reality. For far too many women and girls, violence is a part of daily life. The horrors are often unimaginable and their pervasiveness far greater than most realize. But, with the dedication of The Advocates for Human Rights and organizations, individuals, and governments similarly committed to ensuring the right of women to live free from violence, progress is being made.
For this and many other reasons, it was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to work with the Women’s Human Rights Program at The Advocates for Human Rights this summer. The work of the Women’s Program focuses on violence against women and, particularly, domestic violence in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and countries of the Former Soviet Union (FSU). For 20 years, The Advocates has partnered with organizations throughout these regions to promote women’s human rights. They conduct fact-finding missions to document violations of women’s human rights; train police, prosecutors, and judges on effective enforcement of new and existing laws; and provide commentary and consultation on new and proposed laws.
During my time at The Advocates, the Women’s Program was in the process of finalizing a report on Mongolia after conducting two fact finding missions, had just completed a training session in Serbia, and was preparing for several upcoming missions. In addition to on-the-ground advocacy, the Women’s Program hosts STOPVAW —a website dedicated to all issues of violence against women (from sexual harassment to femicide) and the progress being made and many challenges that remain—specifically in CEE/FSU for which it includes detailed country pages. With its hundreds (if not thousands) of pages, STOPVAW is an invaluable international resource. It is also an immense project to maintain.
My time was largely spent providing content updates to STOPVAW. During the first part of my internship, I was responsible for updating the Enforcement Mechanisms in the United Nations section to provide advocates with the most up-to-date information available on engaging with the UN human rights system on issues of violence against women. The updates include information tailored to working with the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, the Commission on the Status of Women, and the human rights treaty bodies. The second, and much larger project, involved updating the Domestic Violence section including general information on the types and prevalence of domestic violence and law and policy. In addition to these projects, I assisted with updates to the UN Women’s website and STOPVAW’s What’s New on violence against women throughout the world.
When I started my internship at The Advocates, I knew it would be an incredible learning experience. It was that and so much more. It is with deepest gratitude that I thank the University of Minnesota Human Rights Fellowship Program and those who make this program possible with their generous donations. I have the greatest respect and appreciation for the staff of The Advocates and others who dedicate their lives to protecting the human rights of others. I will continue to volunteer with The Advocates through the school year and look forward to supporting the work they do for many years to come.
The views expressed in this article represent those of the author and not necessarily those of the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center. As a forum for dialogue and education, and an acknowledgment of the contentious nature of human rights issues, some views expressed on this blog may not necessarily be those of the Human Rights Center as an institution.