Monday, October 31, 2016

Step it up with the WAVE!

The WAVE Team with Kirthi
Meet the WAVE Team!
The WAVE office team, together with the networks members,is the heart or the organisation. In close contact with the organizations, the team manages to coordinate over 100 members from 46 European countries, as well as various research projects. Additionally, we are responsible for organizing network meetings and trainings.  
Currently, the team has five permanent staff, one of them being the team leader, and two dedicated interns. All staff members are multilingual and have different backgrounds, not only in work experience, but also in education and culture. WAVE office Team Leader Patricia Bell is a UK-born feminist, who did her PhD on sexual violence against children in the family at the Eberhard-Karl University in Tübingen, Germany. Starting to work at WAVE in January 2016, she brings almost 40 years’ experience of working in the field of violence against women to the team. Patricia first got involved in women’s rights work when she started helping out at a rape crisis centre and noticed the injustices women survivors of violence had to fight to be heard. The anger at the institutionalized mistreatment of women fuelled her enthusiasm and she became more and more involved with women’s collectives. These groups opened her eyes to the energy, potential, creativity and solidarity made possible by women working together towards a common goal and she has not looked back since.
Anca Ciupa, one of our two Romanian colleagues,started working at WAVE at the same time as Patricia. She has a background in law and did studies in International Relations at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. Currently responsible for administrative issues, she is also involved in different projects related to the network. Anca’s interest in the fight on violence against women is based in her view that a woman’s right to a life free from violence should be common sense, not something that needs to be fought for or protected by laws.
The other Romanian in the office, Andrada Filip, joined the WAVE office in September 2015. With a Mastersin Political Science from University of Vienna she works on WAVE publications and is involved in organizing multi-disciplinary trainings. Andrada became interested in the field of violence against women while working on the femicide project of the NGO Academic Council on the United Nations System. She had always been passionate about human rights, but while working on the project she became aware of how badly women’s human rights were being treated all over the world. The understanding that all societies still have a lot of work to do to make women equal keeps Andrada motivated to do research, learn about women’s struggles and be involved in the women’s rights movement. The WAVE team would not be complete without our Canadian, Kelly Blank. Kelly started at WAVE in September 2014, and she is currently engaged in data collection and working on reports, as well as coordinating internship placements in the WAVE office. She has worked in administrative and fundraising duties on campus women’s centres, in sexual assault prevention and in cooperation with police and hospitals in providing immediate counselling and crisis support for survivors of sexual assault. Kelly was always interested in feminism and became involved in the fight against gender-based violence after realizing she herself was in an abusive relationship. With open eyes and ears she realized that many women she knew were also impacted by sexual violence, making her dedicated to working towards a safer and more supportive world for women.
Last but not least, we present our beloved Barbara Stelmaszek from the United States. Barbara is WAVE’s team ‘senior’, as she has been at WAVE since 2011. Barbara has an MA in Global Studies from the University of Vienna and is responsible for coordinating WAVE projects, developing different project proposals and conducting research.While writing her master’s thesis on gender equality, Barbara realized that she was personally touched by many of the issues she raised in her writing. Taking motivation from her personal experiences, she decided that she wanted to make this world a better place for women and applied to WAVE – the rest is herstory!
Each year, WAVE welcomes a number of volunteers, who contribute their time and efforts to the work of WAVE. The WAVE office is happy and very lucky to currently count on the support of Anna McKenzie from Germanyand Carina Prelucan from Romania. Carina is currently doing her Bachelors in Public Health at the University of Cluj-Napoca. She became interested in the work on violence against women after seeing statistics in a course and realizing how prevalent but invisible the problem is in Romania. Angry at the patriarchal structures that are keeping women in abusive relationships, she decided to get involved and change the status quo.Anna became interested in feminism after reading the book “50 Shades of Feminism” that portrays 50 different views of feminism from different female perspectives. She had always felt very connected to the women in her life and after discovering that a shocking amount of her friend’s lives had been touch by sexual violence, it became clear to her that there was no other field more deserving of her time and efforts.
Our work
The WAVE Network started off as an informal network in 1994 and became a legal entity in 2014. WAVE came by as the desire to fight and eventually eliminate violence against women and children. The WAVE Network aims at establishing gender equality by eliminating all forms of violence against women. Currently counting 114 Members in 46 European countries, we are the only European network focusing solely on the elimination of violence against women and children.
The original idea of founding the network can be traced back to a number of international events. In October 1994 the European/North American Preparatory Conference (ECE Conference) for the 4th UN Conference on Women took place in Vienna. European NGOs working in the field of violence against women took an active part in the conference, setting up a working group on “Violence and Human Rights Violations against Women”. This working group was organised and coordinated by the Information Office Against Violence. It was during the ECE Conference that a group of women working in women’s shelters and institutions combating violence put forward the idea of establishing a European network on violence against women and children.
WAVE is a means of strengthening the feminist movement across Europe andhelps women’s organizations to collaborate, to gain more influence, to more effectively fight for women’s rights and to promote the prevention and combating of violence against women and children on a European level. At the WAVE conferences the European women’s organizations sit down and exchange experiences, share what worked well in their countries and inspire and motivate each other in hard times. The WAVE office keeps an eye on European funding opportunities and, when possible, applies for funding for their members to further Pan-European cooperation, to support the important work done by the different organizations and to engage in exciting new projects.
Time to Step Up!
The WAVE StepUp! Campaign aims at raising awareness about the widespread nature of violence against women and the importance of providing protection and support to the women concerned and their children. It seeks to work together with different key politicians, as well as civil society, and to improve the provision of adequate support services especially designed for women and their children in the EU and in Europe in general. The campaign sets out to improve protection and support for women victims of violence and their children and WAVE will address important decision-makers to:
·       actively support prevention and protection for victims of violence against women and girls
·       commit to improving access to protection and support services for all women and children, especially groups facing multiple discrimination
·       increase in the number of specialist women’s support services in Europe (helplines, centres and shelters)
·       improve the quality of services including a gender-sensitive and women’s rights based approach
·       improve the access of women and children who face multiple disadvantages and discrimination, including those with disabilities and migrant and asylum-seeking women, especially undocumented migrant women
The activities for the 2-year campaign are divided into national activities and European activities. The national activities are mainly conducted by national campaigners, with a little help from the WAVE office, and the European activities are coordinated by the WAVE office. Each staff member together with management was assigned one specific activity throughout the campaign. The established activities are as follow:
1.       Setting up a WAVE campaign group of national campaigners
2.       “More than a roof over one’s head” – setting standards for quality support
3.       Governments commit to stepping up support and protection for survivors
4.       Improve access to protection and support
5.       Video competition and award- Young people advocating for the rights of survivors
6.       Campaign for signing, ratifying and implementing the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention
7.       Lobbying the European Union to step up efforts to combat all forms of violence against women and girls
8.       Lobbying the European Union and member states for a European Women’s Helpline
What we wish for this campaign is to get coverage and for it to slowly develop into a true force for good and for women’s rights in Europe. One way to be part of the campaign, would be to disseminate the project on social media or websites. Taking pictures with the #StepUphashtag/ #StepUpWAVE hashtag and a message what you want politicians/people to step up for, as well as using the #StepUp hashtag when you are referring to the campaign, are great ways to spread the word.
Our journey so far
Throughout this long journey, we have encountered numerous challenges. The lack of commitment by European governments to providing stable and secure funding to women’s NGOs was and still is a big issue. This means that mapping services, what support and help is available where, is difficult because many organisations have to exist from month to month on temporary, short term funding. Thus it is hard to say how many resources exist from one year to the next. This is really bad for women who need well-advertised contact information, so they know where they can go for help.
A major challenge we have is simultaneously a big benefit to the network. There is a huge diversity throughout the political and economic history of the 46 WAVE member countries. This has resulted in differences in the law and in how general support services have developed and this, in turn, has a huge impact on how women’s NGOs have been set up and how they operate.  We welcome and enjoy the variety in services which have been developed, which demonstrate the creativity of women throughout Europe, but this does pose a challenge in producing standardized information on what exists throughout Europe.  The question of definition of terms is a constant challenge for WAVE.
The biggest challenge in recent years is the move towards more right-wing policies throughout Europe, which has had a very bad impact on women’s specialist support services. This not only threatens funding but also means that violence against women is being used to promote right wing politics e.g. anti-migrant sentiment. Additionally, there is a trend to want to return women to the positon they had in the 1950’s when they were much more tied to the home and family.  

A big motivator within the WAVE office is the unwavering sense of support, acceptance and comradery that all members of staff have. We as women are working for the rights of other women, as well as our own, and try to uplift and help each other as much as possible; working together is a wonderful experience of lived feminism. Knowing that we are working towards a better world and having an idea of how we want to shape it in hopes of unleashing the full positive potential humankind carries within is a big inspiration. Kindness, selflessness and the good feeling of a job well done can bridge many dark days when it seems as if the situation isn’t getting better and we are fighting an uphill battle. As Barbara puts it: “Seeing which rights I have thanks to previous generations of feminist activists shows me that future women will benefit greatly from our work – this thought makes me believe that it is all worth it.”
Zooming out: The situation in Europe
Unfortunately, despite 45 years of feminist work against violence against women in Western Europe and 25 years in Eastern Europe, it is still the case that approximately a third of women in Europe experience some form of gender-based violence, whether that is physical, sexual or emotional from a partner, family member, friend, colleague or stranger.  Such experiences are difficult to talk about and many women feel ashamed or that they themselves are to blame for the violence they have suffered.  One improvement in the lives of women is that the number of centres, telephone helplines and shelters offering specialist support to women is increasing steadily, although in almost all countries there are still not enough to help all women who need someone to talk to.  Women living in rural areas, women with disabilities or migrant women who do not speak the language of the country in which they are living, still have a hard time finding the support they need.  In Western Europe small groups of committed women have had a huge impact on public attitudes and, in particular, have been able to improve how the police respond, in general, to gender-based violence.  Women’s specialist support services are, on the whole, established and accepted as part of local social service provision, although they still have to fight against cuts in budgets.  In Eastern Europe, feminists are making great progress but their services are not as well established and in the current climate of austerity some vital services have lost all public funding.  One problem that is still common to both Western and Eastern Europe is that the criminal justice system has a poor record of delivering justice to women who have experienced gender-based violence.  The level of convictions, in particular of rapists, is still very low and women are too often traumatised by the court appearance in which they are blamed for having provoked the perpetrator by the way they dress or their behaviour.  There is still a long way to go until women and girls in Europe can go about their lives without fear of violence, but every year a little progress is made.  European feminists give each other support and encouragement to continue working towards their goal of ending gender-based violence – we will not give up!