Ending Violence Against Women Worldwide

MS. DIANE REHM

10:06:56
Thanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Among women aged 15 to 44, violence is responsible for more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined, that's according to a U.N. report, on women worldwide. Numerous organizations in the U.S. and elsewhere are working to end violence against women.

MS. DIANE REHM

10:07:25
Joining me in the studio to talk about strategies that are working and what still needs to be done: Ritu Sharma of Women Thrive Worldwide and Donald Steinberg of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Joining us from a studio in Massachusetts, Rangita de Silva-de Alwis of Wellesley College. I do invite your comments and questions this morning. Join us by phone at 800-433-8850. Send us your email to drshow@wamu.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.

MS. RITU SHARMA

10:08:15
Good morning.

MR. DONALD STEINBERG

10:08:15
Good morning.

MS. RANGITA DE SILVA-DE ALWIS

10:08:16
Good morning.

REHM

10:08:17
Good to have you all with us. Ritu, tell us about the woman in Afghanistan who was executed.

SHARMA

10:08:28
I think, as many of the listeners know, a few days ago in Afghanistan, a group of Taliban men executed a woman, allegedly for committing adultery, in the open, shot a number of bullets directly into her back. And this is not unusual in Afghanistan and other places, but I think what is shocking to people is that the whole event was recorded on a cellphone camera and then broadcast around the world.

REHM

10:09:02
She had been accused of adultery?

SHARMA

10:09:07
She had been accused of adultery, and I think this is one of myriad ways that violence against women is justified, but rather feebly justified. And that is an easy way to have the authority to put a woman to death is to accuse her of adultery.

REHM

10:09:30
Do we know what the circumstances were that lead to their accusations against her?

SHARMA

10:09:39
I don't know that we know if it was, in fact, true, but what I can tell you is that it is much more likely that there was some conflict in the household. The husband no longer wanted her around. There might have been a conflict between families, one family accusing her of adultery. There is no way for a woman in that culture to defend herself legally or morally or religiously. So it is, in fact, to be accused of adultery is simply a death sentence.

REHM

10:10:20
Because if one is accused, it is assumed that she has done the deed.

SHARMA

10:10:27
It is assumed. I think what more often happens is that the woman is a victim of rape. And to clean things up and keep them tidy, the man can then accuse her of adultery. And she is executed, and life goes on.

REHM

10:10:45
Ritu Sharma, she is co-founder and president of Women Thrive Worldwide. Turning to you now, Rangita, am I pronouncing your name correctly?

ALWIS

10:10:59
It's perfect, Diane.

REHM

10:11:00
Thank you so much. Tell me what you think about the process that went on here.

ALWIS

10:11:09
Diane, I think that out of the ashes of this horrific crime will come some hope for women in Afghanistan and women worldwide. What I see coming out of this is women mobilizing, organizing and galvanizing attention around this horrific act. And for the first time almost, we see Afghanistan women protesting. And it was so heartening to see this protest being lead by Sima Samar who is the head of the Human Rights Commission in Afghanistan, which is a government agency, and she was joined by men protesting together with women.

ALWIS

10:11:50
And I think that goes to the very heart of this issue, the need for men to join. That place is a crime against humanity. And I also see Najiba, the young woman who was executed, as representing not just women in Afghanistan but all women who are sacrificed at the altar of their family's honor. She, to some extent, is the face of Mukhtar Mai in Pakistan who was gang-raped because of an alleged crime committed by her brother. And Mukhtar Mai then became the spokesperson for all women in Pakistan who are sacrificed at the altar of her family's honor.

ALWIS

10:12:31
As well as this being a turning point in Pakistan because of Mukhtar Mai and her outspoken views on this matter, Pakistan reformed and revised the penal code to outlaw honor crimes and to remove the exculpatory measures that, to some extent, created an environment of impunity for honor crimes. So I think of this as a turning point and as a call for action not just for the men in Afghanistan but for women all over.

ALWIS

10:13:10
We saw that happening in Morocco a few months ago when Amina Filali committed suicide because she was forced into marriage with her rapist because of a provision in the Moroccan penal code which allows for men to purify their crimes by marrying the victim and therefore would escape punishment. And because of Amina Filali, the case, although it shocked the conscience of the world and the Moroccan civil society, the penal code now is being revised. And 475 -- the article 475 of the penal code is under revision.

ALWIS

10:13:55
So to -- going to Egypt, the case of Samira Ibrahim who was subject to virginity testing in custody became, again, the kind touchstone for the supreme court in Egypt to overturn virginity testing as being valid under the Shariah law. So I see this as having some hope.

REHM

10:14:21
Rangita de Silva-de Alwis, she is director of the Women in Public Service Project at Wellesley College, soon-to-be director of the Wilson Center's Global Women's Leadership Initiative. And turning to you now, Don Steinberg, how has the Karzai government responded, and have they made any positive steps toward change?

STEINBERG

10:14:55
You know, this execution outside of Kabul reminds us of how important the gains we've achieved in Afghanistan are and their object lesson to the Karzai regime. They have come out with some very positive statements. And I was just recently at the Tokyo conference on Afghanistan where the government of Hamid Karzai reaffirmed its commitment not to sacrifice the progress that we've seen for women over the past decade on the altar of a withdrawal of international forces.

STEINBERG

10:15:34
And, indeed, we have seen progress. Women's life expectancy over the last decade has increased by 15 years. That's the largest increase that we've ever seen. We now have 2.8 million girls in school in Afghanistan. A decade ago, there were none. We have maternal mortality rates declining. We now have a higher percentage of women in the Afghanistan parliament than we have in the U.S. Congress. And so we have seen changes.

STEINBERG

10:16:03
And to the extent that we needed a reminder, just as images over the last decade of women being raped in Eastern Congo or girls having acid thrown in their face for daring to return to school in Afghanistan, this will be a milestone.

REHM

10:16:19
At the same time, Afghanistan was ranked by a major global poll last year as the world's worst place to be a woman, and some Afghan women say they are being left out of the equation of power and authority and influence.

STEINBERG

10:16:45
And they are. And let's acknowledge that all of the gains that I've described are fragile and could be reversed. It was a positive sign however that in Tokyo, half of the participants from civil society in Afghanistan were women that every single intervention at the plenary, including that of Secretary Clinton, was forceful in terms of achieving lasting changes on the ground for women.

STEINBERG

10:17:17
And indeed, the framework that we signed with the Afghan government makes it clear that protection of women and promotion of their political and economic and social participation is a condition for continuing assistance from the outside world to Afghanistan.

REHM

10:17:35
And what you're saying is that after the American troops leave Afghanistan, you are optimistic that these gains will be not only held on to but increased?

STEINBERG

10:17:52
We're going to do everything we can to ensure that the $16 billion that was pledged from the international community for Afghanistan through 2017 supports women's empowerment and gender equality.

REHM

10:18:08
I hope you're right. Donald Steinberg, he is deputy administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development and former U.S. ambassador to Angola. Also here in the studio, Ritu Sharma, co-founder and president of Women Thrive Worldwide. And on the phone with us, Rangita de Silva-de Alwis, she will soon be director of the Wilson Center's Global Women's Leadership Initiative. Short break, and we'll be right back.

REHM

10:20:04
And welcome back. As we talk about violence against women worldwide, we know that an atrocity occurred recently in Afghanistan with the shooting -- the killing of a 22-year-old woman accused of adultery. Protests followed in Afghanistan following the killing, and some see that as, perhaps, encouraging. Ritu Sharma, I know you wanted to add to what Donald Steinberg offered as a fairly optimistic view going forward.

SHARMA

10:20:51
I'm also optimistic over the long term. But I think that this video that was released was done so intentionally, and it is a shot across the bow from the Taliban directly in the face of the United States and other Western governments.

REHM

10:21:09
Explain then.

SHARMA

10:21:10
Well, I think they want to make it clear who's in charge and who's in charge of women, and they will not accept the imposition of "Western values" when it comes to women. So I...

REHM

10:21:24
So it's not even human values. It's Western values.

SHARMA

10:21:30
Absolutely. I think that that is the mindset, the way they organize their thinking around women's rights, when, in fact, of course, as you said, it is human rights. And I do think, though, that as Don said, you know, the Obama administration really does need to stand strong on this. If the perpetrators of that execution are not caught and prosecuted, we are, in fact, saying to the Taliban, OK, you guys take this one. We're willing to give it up, and we just want to keep the peace. So carry on.

REHM

10:22:08
Donald Steinberg, is there any indication that the Obama administration is looking for ways to find and prosecute those involved?

STEINBERG

10:22:21
Absolutely. And we've called for that publicly out of statements from the White House.

REHM

10:22:26
But what do you do besides call for it publicly? I mean, the Taliban is not going to offer up these perpetrators.

STEINBERG

10:22:37
Well, the minister of justice has already launched an exercise to try to bring those responsible for the actions to justice. Fortunately, we do have the videotape, so it's not as if these actors are unknown.

REHM

10:22:54
Are the men identifiable?

STEINBERG

10:22:56
They are identifiable. I don't think they've been identified yet. But I wanted to get to the question that you just cited because, you know, we all accept the fact that there are differences between countries of historical and religious and cultural importance, but there are certain actions that go beyond the norm. As Secretary Clinton has said, beating women isn't cultural. It's criminal. You know, violence against women is a violation of the universal declaration of human rights, and I stress the word universal.

STEINBERG

10:23:29
These are not Western values that we're trying to import. You know, beyond this sort of situation, we have other practices -- female genital mutilation, child marriage, laws that prevent women from inheriting property -- and we see these as backward practices. For such activities, we also see a responsibility for us to speak out forcefully but perhaps, more importantly -- and this case demonstrates that as well -- to support those women and men on the ground who are trying to stand up against these practices.

STEINBERG

10:24:06
We have programs to support literally hundreds of non-governmental organizations around the world in situations like this to empower those voices who have the courage to step forward and say, enough is enough.

REHM

10:24:21
And, Rangita, I gather that both education and economic power are ways to achieve that, standing up on the part of the women themselves and to somehow shift the thinking culturally or however.

ALWIS

10:24:43
Yes, absolutely. But I just want to add to what Donald just spoke to, the importance of framing this issue as a human rights issue.

REHM

10:24:53
Exactly.

ALWIS

10:24:53
And that this is a universal human rights issue that's being universally accepted, adopted. It's not superimposing Western values. And having said that, Afghanistan is a party to several of the international human rights conventions that outlaw violence against women, but Afghanistan itself has a domestic violence law that seeks to eliminate customs, traditions, practices that cause violence against women contrary to the religion of Islam.

ALWIS

10:25:28
So this law was heralded as a law that attempted to reconcile universal human rights with Islamic injunctions, and law itself makes illegal certain customary traditions and practices, such as selling and buying of women for marriage, forced marriage, child marriage, all of those customary practices that Donald spoke to. So Afghanistan itself -- the government of Afghanistan itself can be held accountable both under national laws as well as international human rights laws.

REHM

10:26:01
And what about what's happened in Syria, Rangita, where rape is being used as a weapon of war?

ALWIS

10:26:12
Right. Before I go to Syria, I wanted to answer your question about economic empowerment, of social empowerment.

REHM

10:26:18
Certainly.

ALWIS

10:26:20
As you know, the World Bank Development Report in 2012 for the first time acknowledged the fact that women's agency and women's voice are two of the pivotal cornerstones of not just women's development but economic development. And so, you know, as Secretary Clinton always says, women's empowerment is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.

ALWIS

10:26:50
And there are reports and research to show that when women are economically empowered, they are less vulnerable to violence and have greater autonomy to resist violence, so -- as Donald says and as I know Ritu will agree -- that we have to see this within that kind of holistic network of rights.

REHM

10:27:11
Indeed.

ALWIS

10:27:14
It's -- in order to address and combat cultural and religious practices, women's economic and social and cultural empowerment must be advanced and addressed. Going to Syria, rape as a weapon of war has now come to the surface in so many different ways. Back in the 1990s, in 1997, after the Rwandan genocide, the first case before the Rwandan Criminal Tribunal that spoke of rape as a weapon of war, as a crime against humanity, was articulated in the case of Akayesu.

ALWIS

10:27:58
So we have a legal norm that speaks to this, and we have the U.N. Security Council resolution 1820 that Secretary Clinton often refers to which, once again, articulates rape and sexual violence against women as a tool of war -- as a weapon of war. So despite these laws on the books, despite these legal articulations, we see, obviously, this happening in Syria. We saw it happening in Egypt soon after the revolution. We saw this happening in Libya. And this has become a touchstone for protest.

ALWIS

10:28:39
And I think it is time for the ICC to investigate rape in Syria and to look at the policy of rape as a weapon of war being used in Syria. They did that in Libya. And I think now the time is right for that to take place. And I know that the U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom has spoken about this that's taking place in northern Mali. And she is very concerned about what's happening in Syria.

REHM

10:29:12
Mm hmm. So I think this report that came out is very timely...

REHM

10:29:15
Indeed.

ALWIS

10:29:16
...and is really a clarion call for action.

REHM

10:29:19
Donald Steinberg, do you want to comment?

STEINBERG

10:29:22
Yeah, it's true that we're getting some horrendous reports of rape being used as a weapon of war. But I also wanted to open the focus a little bit. We all know that when social order breaks down, it's women who suffer most. And rape as a weapon of war is one aspect, but we're also seeing in Syria other acts that are targeting women. We're seeing a real problem with mother-child health care. We're seeing women heads of household having to struggle for food and medicine for their families.

STEINBERG

10:30:02
And so what we need to do is to focus not only on the specific acts that we're seeing. And I do agree entirely. We welcome the fact, for example, in the Rome Statute that established the ICC rape as a weapon of war was identified as a war crime. And that's very important. But we also need to focus on the broader picture. United States is providing about $60 million worth of humanitarian assistance to Syria right now. A lot of that is focused on women, health conditions for women, providing food for heads of household and that sort of activity.

REHM

10:30:40
Ritu.

SHARMA

10:30:41
Yeah. I want to talk about money because I think that's where it really comes down how serious we are about this or not. You know, if we are serious about Afghanistan, when we get up to that point where Karzai doesn't respect women's rights and...

REHM

10:31:02
Or do anything really dramatic.

SHARMA

10:31:04
Really dramatic that -- you know, we really have to close the checkbook, and that's going to be a tough scenario.

REHM

10:31:10
I don't see that happening, do you?

SHARMA

10:31:12
I am not going to prejudge the future. But the other thing about money is there are many problems in the world where sort of throwing more money at it is not the solution. This is not one of those problems. We need more resources coming into this area. Programs for women and girls that teach them how to be economically self-sufficient are very cost-effective programs.

SHARMA

10:31:42
Local women's groups around the world, even in Afghanistan, are coming up with brilliant solutions to educate and raise awareness of men and boys, of religious leaders to address this problem at its root cause, which is how men think of masculinity. That is the root of the problem, and Don and others in the administration have really led the way in putting a lot more resources into this area.

SHARMA

10:32:14
But if you look at how much we're spending on, say, agriculture assistance, which is critically important to addressing hunger, you know, violence is -- it's just a tiny fraction of that. So, you know, I think the thing to keep in mind is, you know, if we are really serious about this, let's put our money where our mouths are.

REHM

10:32:35
Well, and doing something about agriculture with money is not really changing the cultural mindset of the men themselves. Don.

STEINBERG

10:32:50
You know, at USAID, we are focused on increasing the amount of resources directly towards women. We now have a requirement that every single one of our projects have a gender impact statement. How is that project being designed to enhance women's empowerment and gender equality? But I also want to stress that we also need to mainstream gender considerations into all of our programs. I'm often asked, do you support women's ministries around the world? Well, yes, we do. But we also want the agriculture minister to be thinking how is he or she working to empower women farmers.

STEINBERG

10:33:30
We want the health minister to be thinking, how am I addressing mother-child health care? We want the education minister to be thinking, how do we expand girls' participation in school? And, just to quote one statistic, we have found, all around the world, that if you could assure women farmers of the same access to capital credit, other inputs that men have, you'd increase world food production by 30 percent and feed 150 million people worldwide.

REHM

10:34:02
Donald Steinberg, he's deputy administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development. He's former U.S. ambassador to Angola. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have many callers waiting. I'd like to open the phones, 800-433-8850, first to Orlando, Fla. Monin, (sp?) you're on the air.

MONIN

10:34:34
Yes. This is Monin.

REHM

10:34:35
Yes. Go right ahead, sir.

MONIN

10:34:37
Thanks for taking my call. I just want to clarify the ruling, when it comes to committing adultery Islamically, it both applies to male and female, and the execution itself applies to married couples, meaning therefore women or men who are married, if they commit adultery, they get to be executed in two cases: one, if they admit they committed adultery, two, if they deny and there are four witnesses, they say they saw them committing adultery, then the execution will apply.

MONIN

10:35:15
And that is, like I said, for both male and female, which means that if they're not married, there will be no execution whatsoever. And the other point that I wanted to make here is that rape...

REHM

10:35:26
Hold on there. Hold on there. Let's address that first point, Ritu.

SHARMA

10:35:30
Yeah. Monin, thank you for raising that question. We are really living in a world where rules just don't apply. It doesn't matter even what the Taliban code is. It's irrelevant. The fact of the matter is a man with a gun or men with many guns have the power to do whatever it is they please. And so I think that passing new laws or trying to amend the Islamic law around or Shariah law around adultery is probably not the right long-term solution. But I think it's helpful what you're saying in terms of pointing out the hypocrisy even inherent in that system.

REHM

10:36:15
All right.

MONIN

10:36:15
Yes, yes. I do agree. I mean, the Taliban, they're -- I mean, they're not representing the -- Islam in any way, shape or form. They're representing themselves. The other point I wanted to make is that, in a rape situation, Islamically again -- I'm talking about from Islamic perspective -- there is no such punishment or any ruling for someone who commits rape on a woman. And that woman should not be punished in any way, shape or form just because she was raped. And that was it. Thank you for taking my call, though.

REHM

10:36:48
Thank you for calling, Monin. Ritu.

SHARMA

10:36:52
Again, a few things are what is necessary here, I think -- and Don can really speak to this -- which is what happens to women in conflict situations. When countries are awash with weaponry and explosives, women become extremely vulnerable to all types of violence and coercion. So I think that, you know, there is a strategy that the U.S. government came out with recently called the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, which addresses this issue of violence in war head-on.

REHM

10:37:33
Ritu Sharma, co-founder and president of Women Thrive Worldwide. Short break now, and more of your calls, your comments when we come back. Stay with us.

REHM

10:40:04
And welcome back as we talk about violence against women around the world. Donald Steinberg, you were a former U.S. ambassador to Angola. What about the actions of Jonas Savimbi?

STEINBERG

10:40:22
Well, it's Jonas Savimbi. It was our friend Kony in Uganda...

REHM

10:40:29
And we won't call him our friend.

STEINBERG

10:40:31
He's not my buddy. And, I would say, Foday Sankoh in Sierra Leone, I think there was an understanding, unfortunately, of a group of rebels all around the world that rape used as a weapon of war can demoralize local populations...

REHM

10:40:50
And so these soldiers are thereby instructed to carry out that action in order to achieve demoralization.

STEINBERG

10:41:01
Yeah. When we -- I was part of the group that looked at this situation in Darfur, and we interviewed women on the border in Chad. And they would say that the men who were raping them said to them, you will never have another black child again. And that was clearly -- they were being told that, time and time again, as an effort to say, we are ending, you know, your race. This is a conscious effort.

STEINBERG

10:41:35
We're seeing this too frequently around the world, and that's one of the reasons why the International Criminal Court is so important in terms of addressing these, setting a norm that this isn't just an act of war. It is a crime against humanity.

REHM

10:41:52
Rangita, what does that say about the Taliban and its actions toward women?

ALWIS

10:42:00
Yes. I want to build on what Donald just said. It's also about power and control over women and women as property and women's bodies as property. Just to add to Donald's own articulation of this, it is also about stigmatizing and shaming women and making sure they're not only ensuring that a certain population or a certain clan does not endure, but it is also shaming women and making sure that men -- women do not have autonomy. But what this (word?) is that it shames both men and women.

ALWIS

10:42:43
And until men take action -- men join the struggle on women's rights -- we're not going to see any transformation. And, as Ritu earlier mentioned, transforming gender roles is the only way -- is one of the most important ways in which we can address this issue. Stereotypes about men and women, concepts of masculinity harm both men and women. But I also agree with Donald that gender mainstreaming, mainstreaming gender into all aspects of policy planning is very important, including agriculture.

ALWIS

10:43:24
I don't think the importance of agriculture in women's lives can be undermined. It speaks to women's access to agriculture, women's access to fertilizer as a way of improving women's empowerment. In Mali, it has improved development by 13 percent just by giving women greater access to fertilizer. And in China, I was just -- I'm just back from China, and one of the issues that's really become a lightning rod for reform is using access to land and land tenure as a way of addressing the devaluing of the girl child.

ALWIS

10:44:05
When women have greater economic empowerment and greater agency, they tend to be valued more by their families and by their communities. So one way in which we can address the devaluing of the girl child is by economic agency and social agency.

REHM

10:44:21
All right. There's a caller in Cleveland, Ohio. Good morning, Flora. You're on the air.

FLORA

10:44:29
Thank you for taking my call. I live in an area where we see many Muslim families. And, over and over again, in observing them, I wonder how complicit the women are in the behavior toward them. For example, in non-Muslim -- in a non-Muslim world, you continually hear of women running with their children to authorities for restraining orders, for help, leaving the country with their children, whatever from abusive husbands. I don't hear or see any of this among the Muslim population.

REHM

10:45:05
Ritu.

SHARMA

10:45:08
That is a really tough dynamic, and I think that if you can put yourself inside the head of a woman who has grown up in a family that has told her she's worthless, she has no rights, she has no power, she need to uphold her own honor and the honor of her family, you know, she needs to make sure that her daughter has undergone female genital mutilation, et cetera, we also have to change the consciousness of women.

SHARMA

10:45:41
There were some -- an amazing piece of research done by the World Health Organization several years ago, and they asked women in the survey, for what reasons is your husband justified to beat you? A, I burnt the dinner. Ninety-plus percent of women in Africa said that that's a justifiable reason. And so it went on down the list. So it's, you know, these ways...

REHM

10:46:08
They take on.

SHARMA

10:46:10
...they have internalized.

REHM

10:46:11
Yes.

SHARMA

10:46:12
And again, you know the concept of, you know, liberation begins from within. You know, we have to help women liberate themselves from within. And I agree with Rangita. It's really about liberating men as well from this distorted way of being.

REHM

10:46:31
Flora, does that answer your question.

FLORA

10:46:34
It does to an extent, but when I -- particularly at the beaches, 97 degrees, children and men swimming and frolicking in the water and women willing to sit in 97-degree sun, not in the shade, black trousers with robes to the ground, the head wrapped and, in some cases, even the face covering and gloves.

REHM

10:46:58
But, Flora, what are you asking? Are you saying, why don't these women throw off their bonds? Why don't they just go else...

FLORA

10:47:08
Oh, fall on the ground for the ER to pick them up is a beginning.

REHM

10:47:11
Well, I think that what you're asking indicates, perhaps, that you did not listen carefully to what Ritu had to say. Rangita, do you want to add to it?

ALWIS

10:47:28
One thing that we are here to speak of, Diane, is the fact that this is also about an extrajudicial and arbitrary form of execution. And that undermines the rule of law in Afghanistan, so this is not only about a crime against a woman. It's a crime against humanity.

ALWIS

10:47:50
It's an extrajudicial and arbitrary form of execution that was carried out by the Taliban without any due process, and that affects the very core of the rule of law and the legal system in Afghanistan. So we do need to have more men involved in protesting against not only the death and the murder of Najiba but also the potential death to rule of law.

REHM

10:48:18
All right. To DePauw, Ind. Good morning, Butch.

BUTCH

10:48:23
Morning glory.

REHM

10:48:24
Hi.

BUTCH

10:48:27
I'm going to start in a quick call to action. My observation is that at no point when people have power can you talk them out of their power. Telling that the use of their power is wrong just doesn't work. You have to take the power away from them. So I'm hopeful that everyone should join my wife's campaign to take over the world. Her campaign slogan is castration without representation.

REHM

10:48:59
All right. Sir, thanks for your call.

SHARMA

10:49:00
I'm there. I'm joining up.

REHM

10:49:02
OK. Donald.

STEINBERG

10:49:03
I'm not obviously.

STEINBERG

10:49:06
You know, I think this whole...

REHM

10:49:07
But he makes a good point that, in order to shift the power toward women, you have to be willing to withdraw some of that power from the men to try to begin to equalize the situation. Going back to what Ritu said, if you continue to provide the money to those in power, they will work to keep the money to stay in power.

STEINBERG

10:49:42
And let me reaffirm that in the case of Afghanistan and the commitments that we made in the mutual accountability framework, we have said that if you fail to protect women's rights, there will be a cost to that.

REHM

10:49:56
Where have you seen that succeed? Where have you seen it occur and succeed?

STEINBERG

10:50:02
I've seen it work in a number of cases.

REHM

10:50:04
Where?

STEINBERG

10:50:05
Primarily in Africa where you -- but -- where you use conditionality in order to propel governments forward. But I wanted to also...

REHM

10:50:16
Can you name a particular country, Donald, where it does work?

STEINBERG

10:50:20
Angola, where I was ambassador, where we did say to the government, if you want assistance, we insist that you involve women in the peace process. We insist that you pay attention when you're demobilizing soldiers who are going back to villages and then abusing their wives because they don't have a place in their society. They feel demoralized. They are engaging in rape. They're engaging in other kinds of domestic violence, where we have indicated that we want to see increase in participation of girls in school, and it worked.

REHM

10:50:54
And how well has it worked?

STEINBERG

10:50:58
Well, it has worked. And we've seen that in a number of situations. And, frankly, we're seeing it in Afghanistan. Again, 2.8 million girls are in school right now.

REHM

10:51:08
But there remain instances of girls being poisoned going to school. Ritu.

SHARMA

10:51:18
Definitely. Again -- and I really agree with the caller that the dynamics have to shift. But I want to tell you a really helpful story about a friend of mine who've shifted these dynamics successfully. A very good friend, Marlene Contreras, in Honduras was very tired of the violence in her community. This is in a rural community outside the city.

SHARMA

10:51:40
And instead of taking violence on -- kind of head on, she decided to organize the women to start growing coffee, so they bought some land. They started growing coffee. They have now become incredibly successful. They export 10,000 pounds of fair trade coffee a year. And the violence stopped.

REHM

10:52:00
Against them?

SHARMA

10:52:01
Against them, against all the women in the community, and, now, if there is a threat against a woman in that community or against kind of the community with people coming in from the outside with some of the political instability in Honduras, the whole community is now mobilized because they want to protect.

REHM

10:52:20
And where did the money come from?

SHARMA

10:52:23
The money came from the women themselves. They literally sold beans and put together, you know, $100. They started with a very small piece of land, and they grew it from there. And, again, this gets back to the point about money. It does take some money, but we're talking about very small investments for an incredible impact. And I think it's really important for people to know that this is eminently doable. As depressed as we can get about it, there is something we can do.

REHM

10:52:55
Rangita.

ALWIS

10:52:57
Yes. I want to add to that. You know, we've been talking a lot about the impact of U.S. money, USAID on changes on the ground both in terms of policy and social change. But I want to stress the fact that till -- until both men and women in their own countries take ownership over social change, social change is not going to happen. It cannot be superimposed. It has to come indigenously. It has to come from within, although it can be supported from these external forces. And that's very important.

ALWIS

10:53:31
I'm not in any way trying to discount importance of U.S. policies in Afghanistan or in other parts of the world, but what is most important is for women and men to take ownership of social change...

REHM

10:53:44
Indeed.

ALWIS

10:53:44
...in their communities and in their countries. And as Ritu pointed out, there is so many, you know, ways in which -- at the micro and the macro level where women and men can do that. And transforming power relations is very important, but it's not just an abstract concept. It can be done in concrete ways by joint heads of household policies and joint heads of household initiatives that make sure that land and property are registered in both men and women's names. In several countries, just, you know, changing the title registration of land to ensure that both signatures...

REHM

10:54:21
Mm hmm. Interesting.

ALWIS

10:54:24
...can be reflected on the title deed is a way in which to increase women's autonomy and enhance women's economic power.

REHM

10:54:33
All right. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have time for one last call. To Mary in Monkton, Md. Good morning.

MARY

10:54:45
Good morning. Thank you for taking my call.

REHM

10:54:47
Sure.

MARY

10:54:48
I've been listening to this all morning, and I have also worked as a victim advocate in domestic violence. But what I've been listening to all the way through -- and I can't seem to get my head around is why women, particularly like your guests, cling to the Muslim religion. It -- the religion itself is -- it's horrible towards women. You're not going to change governments that are based on religions if you support the religion.

REHM

10:55:20
Ritu.

SHARMA

10:55:21
I would point out that our own major faith in the United States at times in history, Christianity, has condoned and supported violence against women. Islam is a religion of peace fundamentally. What has happened to it is it has been distorted beyond recognition by these people in power. There is a strong rationale in the Quran for equality between women and men, for protection of women and girls. But it is like any other religion where those in power pay attention to what they like, and they disregard what they don't like.

SHARMA

10:56:04
And I don't think that attacking Islam as the religion -- I think we make the mistake of objectifying all of those women who are deeply steeped in their faith and that are trying to change this from within their faith. They're trying to bring out the best and highest expression of their faith as a solution to these issues.

REHM

10:56:32
And I would just point out, think about the nuns in the Roman Catholic Church who are attempting to do the same thing. I'm not talking about violence but the hope for change. Thank you all so much for being with me, Ritu Sharma, David Steinberg, Rangita de Silva-de Alwis, for a very important program. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

ANNOUNCER

10:57:05
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