KUWAIT: Several local organizations including WEORITU, Soroptimists and members of Abolish 153 hosted a seminar entitled ‘Symposium on women and social change’, on Wednesday night at the American University Of Kuwait (AUK). The aim of the seminar was to raise awareness about a variety of issues facing women including domestic violence, so-called honor killings and how women can leverage engagement with the media to further women’s rights.
Rana Husseini, award-winning journalist and human rights activist, talked at the seminar about the symposium on women change makers, provided a platform for individuals and organizations to introduce their vision for social transformation.
Husseini brought the issue of honor crimes against women to public attention, as our keynote speaker and she shared her journeys and her methods towards fulfilling her goals. By telling her experience in Jordan Husseini said that until the mid-1990s, the press shied away from reporting on these crimes and issues such as female genital mutilation and domestic violence in the region. The issue of domestic violence and so-called honor crimes remained a secret but the exposure encouraged a group of young men and women to conduct several grassroot activities to highlight these issues and as a result the Jordanian National Committee to Eliminate so-called honor crimes was established in the late 1990s.
“One activity was a public march to the parliament in Jordan in the late 1990s that was led by two male princes demanding changes in laws that offered leniency to killers and discriminated against women. Activists visited various governorates to collect signatures and spoke to people face-to-face about the problem and succeeded in convincing many. And as a result of the many activities, there were several editorials, letters to the editor, columns and articles that appeared in the print press that addressed the issue, with and against it. This eventually steered a public debate and broke the taboo around this issue forever,” She explained.
Husseini added that the result of activism in Jordan started to show as the issue drew more and more local and international media attention and forced the government to acknowledge the problem and take action.
“Police and the criminal prosecutors became more serious in investigating crimes against women, and the government opened the first shelter for women. Then in July 2009, a specialized tribunal was established at the criminal court to try perpetrators of so-called honor crimes.”
Husseini called on people in Kuwait to similarly fight to improve women’s rights. “We need to constantly address the problem of domestic violence in a global manner. Leaders should become more vocal in addressing and condemning violence against women. And we should try to focus on one of the perpetrators to become an outspoken figure in this matter, and continue to involve more men in the campaigning against these crimes. Also laws should be changed to better protect women, and constant training for judges and criminal prosecutors,” she said.
At the end of the seminar, she noted that the education is the key word, and the government should focus on improving the education system and rehabilitating teachers, especially in Third World countries. Women in leadership positions have leveraged their influence in business, philanthropy, education and the arts to align their passion and expertise to resolve key social challenges and amplify the voice for change.
Husseini has recently published a book entitled Murder in the Name of Honor: The True Story of One Woman’s Heroic Fight Against An Unbelievable Crime, which sheds light on the sensitive subject.
By Faten Omar