The Great Silk Road is the most historic
and probably most well known trading routes in the world with a history
stretching back several thousand years.From
Japan through China, Central Asia, Northern India, the Parthians-
to the present day countries of Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, - mention
of the ‘Great Silk Road’ conjures up for many a romantic vision of exotic
sights and sounds of countries rich in contrasting traditions.For
the Women of the Silk Road however, there is little romance.For
many women life is a daily struggle for survival.
WOMENAID SILK ROAD STRATEGY
The WomenAid Silk Road Stategy is designed
to support disadvantaged women and children in Silk Road countries through
projects that facilitate networking and information exchange and dissemination,
promote women and child rights awareness, encourage action against violence
of women and children, provide professional training and skills update
and support civil society development initiatives.
WomenAid believes empowering
women through training and capacity building is the most appropriate way
to build sustainable developmentinitiatives.
Women under the subjugation of Taliban
are deprived of any meaningful existence. Since the Taliban regime
took control over most of Afghanistan in September 1996 the human rights
of girls and women have been denied.It
is apartheid based on gender in which Afghan women are deprived of their
rights to choose how to live.Banned
from work, barred from receiving any education, they are not allowed to
leave the home unaccompanied or to speak in public and are forced to wear
the all-enveloping burqa.Health
care is almost non-existent. Thousands of widows are deprived of the right
to earn any livelihood for their families, their children forced to scavenge
in the streets. Women are virtually under house arrest. There has been
a dramatic increase in suicides of women who cannot cope with their virtual
'imprisonment' by Taliban decrees.
In the past, Afghan women, especially those
living in the main cities, were widely involved in public life, be it as
students, teachers, midwives, doctors, civil servants and even members
of parliament. Schools and universities which were well attended by girls
and female students in the past, are now closed to them. Cut off from the
media - music and television are also banned - their sense of isolation
and despair is deepened as they live under the impression that the world
is not aware of their plight. They are voiceless living shadows - victims
of gender apartheid. By 1998 the women of Afghanistan felt the world had
WomenAid International launched
, a Solidarity Campaign in support of the Women of Afghanistan
and in the first year collected almost 40,000 petition signatures from
individuals and organizations urging all member governments of the United
Nations to withhold recognition of any regime in Afghanistan until women's
rights are restored, and to work towards the restoration of fundamental
The work of Afghan
refugee groups has also been supported.
THE NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union
there has been enormous economic dislocation in all the newly independent
states and whole populations have suffered great hardship, none more so
than women and children. Governments have faced difficulties in making
payments of salaries and pensions, and have been unable to deliver services,
leading to the disintegration of social infrastructures.
WomenAid International, has worked in Silk
Road countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus since 1994, implementing
humanitarian, development and reconstruction programmes during the years
of great need – commonly refered to by local populations as ‘the hardships’.
Although the emergency period is now considered to be over, the period
of hardship continues in most countries and WomenAid has remained in the
region to undertake development and civil society programmes which deliver
benefits to vulnerable women and children.
Health and social services had been seriously
affected by the economic crisis and led to a dramatic deterioration in
the nutritional status of all vulnerable groups, but expectant and lactating
mothers were especially vulnerable.European
Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) funding of 1.6 million ECU enabled
WomenAid to provide 2500 tonnes of emergency food assistance to 86,000
poor pregnant women.'Baby kits'
containing essential items for the care of a new born baby were given to
20,000 of the poorest mothers in the country.Maternity
hospitals struggling to provide basic services also received desperately
needed vital supplies.
WomenAid played an important role as a
major partner of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) distributing over 8000
MT of food to 140,000 refugees and 100,000 vulnerable people throughout
Armenia.Also in partnership with
WFP in Georgia WomenAid delivered over 1200MT emergency food supplies to
vulnerable women and their families in the remote mountainous regions of
Kodory Vally (Apkhazeti) and Svaneti.
HEALTH & GENDER EQUITY CENTRE
Programme activities of Health and Gender
Equity Centre, currently being implemented by WomenAid International together
with our established Caucasus Gateway partner, WomenAid Georgia, include
Be Safe! Be Smart, a multi-media Anti-Trafficking Campaign, and the formation
of a regional Coalition Against Violence.Child
well-being and women’s health programmes are under development.
Advancement of women is one of the main
goals which the global community pursues in its efforts to strengthen capacity
for sustainable human development.Yet
the importance of public awareness of gender issues and women's rights
does not receive adequate attention - especially when States are hard-pressed
to find funds to run the country's infrastructure.
Most women in the CIS remain unaware of
the important role the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action document,
adopted on the 15th of September 1995 by the Fourth World Conference on
Women, has in global efforts to ensure women's human rights.Despite
the considerable input of international organizations and the activities
of the emerging women's groups and NGO's, women evidence low levels of
knowledge about women's rights and protection, or indeed threats to those
rights. Rights awareness activities are an essential part of the Health
& Gender Equity Centre activities.
THE CAUCASUS COALITION AGAINST VIOLENCE
Violence affects the lives of millions
of women world-wide, in all socio-economic classes and cultures, impeding
the right of women to participate fully in society.The
incidents of domestic violence against women have been increasing world-wide
and it is now considered to be a global epidemic.Governments
play a pivotal role in efforts to eradicate domestic violence and a number
of countries have made the elimination of domestic violence against women
a national priority.The Caucasus
Coalition Against Violence aims to support government initiatives and promote
initiatives to combat violence of all forms.
Combating violence against women requires
challenging the very way that gender roles and power relations are articulated
in society.Rights are worth very
little to women where there are no corresponding duties on the part of
governments, organisations and individuals to respect those rights.Violations
of women's rights will go unrecognised and unremedied where there is no
understanding of those rights or no legal services to advocate for remedies.Action
to combat violence therefore needs to occur across all sectors, requires
collaboration at all levels and needs to address factors at the individual,
interpersonal and institutional levels.
A MULTI-MEDIA ANTI-TRAFFICKING CAMPAIGN: GEORGIA
Regarded by the United Nations as the fastest
growing and third largest criminal activity in the world, trafficking of
young women and girls has exploded in recent years.With
the collapse of state economies the young desperately seek jobs as waitresses,
au pairs, etc., abroad - only to fall victim to the trickery of traffickers.The
WomenAid Campaign aims to support Georgian civil society and human rights
development by encouraging and maintaining a productive dialogue between
government, women’s groups, NGOs, civil law enforcement agencies, media,
education and healthcare sectors, and promoting the UN, Georgian Government
and local initiatives to reduce threats posed by irregular migration and
the trafficking of women, youth and children in and through Georgia.
Through its Silk Road Strategy, WomenAid
continues to work supportively in the region and is seeking funds for its
programme of assistance to women and children of the Silk Road - from China
and Afghanistan to Palestine and the Balkans.
WomenAid International is helping to meet
their needs. Please help!