Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS)

Femmes Africa Solidarity is an African women's NGO created in 1996 and is headed by Mrs. Bineta Diop, Executive Director. FAS is based in Geneva(Switzerland) with the aim of promoting African women Leadership in preventing, managing and resolving conflicts. FAS is member of the AfricanWomen Committee on Peace and Development (AWCPD),which is an Advisory Bodyto the Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) andthe Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in recognition of its work for African women. FAS has also obtained observerstatus with the African Commission on Human and People's Rights.

FAS is mainly active in Africa and has carried out different projects in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo,Guinea, Gambia, South Africa. We worked in close partnership with UNIFEMinour fact-finding mission in Liberia and have participated together to
different Inter-Agency Meetings.

From our field experience we have realised that women are often the foremost victims in conflict situations. They might suffer the directphysical effects, or indirectly, they might have to assume responsibility alone for a family or indeed for a whole community. In addition to that,women are suffering social injustices due to their illiteracy, their lackof legal rights, insufficient health provisions and also the humiliationand pain of domestic violence and sexual violence perpetrated through
rape, genital mutilation or sexual slavery.

In our perspective, one among the reasons why women are victims of violenceis because they are always considered as a neglected major players, asecond class category confined to the sole role of mothers and household.We believe that violence is only perpetrated against the weak and
vulnerable population,  particularly in Africa where the society is dominated by men and where there is an obvious unwillingness to endviolence against women due to tradition or religious beliefs. Women
themselves, are encouraging violence against them because in most cases, they hide their suffering and do not take any action to end violence orsubmit their cases to a tribunal.

Moreover, in the majority of cases, they have no awareness of the existing laws condemning such behaviour. Therefore, it is essential to target both men and women on their rights and sensitise them on the situation at thenational level. In addition, the national authorities should also ensurethe implementation of the existing laws against violence. However, womenshould no more confine themselves in the sole role of victims but should mobilise and raise their voice to ensure their effective participation atthe decision-making level in order to ensure their leadership in the advancement of the society and to end the cycle of violence.

Suggested strategies to end violence against women:

- Advocacy for the leadership and empowerment of women in order to change policies so that women can participate fully in the decision-makingprocess.

- Lobby governments and opposition leaders and regional and international organisations for the implementation of the Plan of Actions adopted at theKampala, Dakar and Beijing platforms.

- Make as much use as possible of the media to get the message across.

- Build strong partnerships with other women's groups through networking, sharing information and enhancing coalition initiatives to raise awarenessof the leading role women can play.

From our experience we have the following recommendations for other NGOs, governments and the UN:

- Set an early warning system as the first step in preventing action to avert violence against women.

- Political will to implement the different legal instruments for the rights of women at the national level so that no one can act withimpunity.

- Participation of women NGO in the preparation of legal instruments and participation of women leaders in all decision-making level so they couldfoster awareness and advocate for the implementation of women's rights, peace and development in their activities. For example: to lobby for theadditional Protocol to the African Charter on Human Rights and advocacyforits ratification and adoption and ensure that violence against women is part of the Protocol.

- Gather and disseminate information on violence against women in order to establish networks and foster awareness within the international community.

- Forward information and cases to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and the Special Rapporteur on Women Rights of the AfricanCommission on Human and People's rights and encourage these two Rapporteurs to work together.

Fatou D. Thiam