Tuesday, March 29, 2016

#NotTheCost: Stopping Violence Against Women in Politics

“The terrible reality is that one in three women will experience violence in their lives,” writes former Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright. “Of those affected, an alarming but uncounted number of women are specifically targeted because they are engaged in public life.”

Below are just a few of the women politicians murdered simply for being politically active in the past few years:
  • Councilwoman Juana Quispe—found dumped near a river strangled to death
  • Councilwoman Daguimar Rivera—shot three times in the face
  • Berta Cáceres—murdered in her sleep
  • Gisela Mota Ocampo—shot just days after becoming mayor
Of course, this list does not include women who are beaten, raped, harassed and threatened for daring to run for office, speak out, or even vote.   Violence against women in politics knows no national boundaries.  In 2011, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and left with severe brain damage.  British MP Jess Phillips received online threats of violence and rape after she began to speak on women’s rights last year.  Most women’s stories we will never hear, either because they are killed, threatened into silence or simply ignored. 

Madeline K. Albright, now Chairman of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), along with Madame Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, activist and wife of the Prime Minister of Canada, are determined to make these women’s voices heard.  NDI launched the #NotTheCost campaign in New York City on March 17th, 2016 as a call to action to stop violence against women in politics.  The first step, NDI says, is to develop indicators to track the prevalence of violence with the hopes that the UN will begin investigating the claims.

A video released by the campaign urges viewers to “Stand up and say that violence is #NotTheCost.” Powerful women and men speak throughout the video directly to women, saying:

“Your time, your energy, your hard work; these are the costs of doing politics.  Knocking on every door, having to fundraise; these are the costs of doing politics.  Your dignity is not the cost.  Being beaten is not the cost.  Your safety is not the cost.  Your life is not the cost.”

While women in politics have undoubtedly come leaps and bounds in the past few decades, many obstacles remain in our way.  Luckily, despite the threat of violence, women leaders have not backed down.  Mimoza Kusari-Lila, mayor of Gjakova in Kosovo, who has received death threats during her time in office, added: “You keep throwing stones at me and I will keep paving roads.”

--Kathleen, MWPC Intern