Here is part two of our interview with journalist Rana Husseini. For more information about Ms. Husseini and her work, visit www.ranahusseini.com.
It is often difficult for human rights activists to campaign effectively on certain Violence Against Women (VAW) issues which also have a cultural taboo- whether it is to do with religion, gender or cultural practise. How do you recommend campaigners break through taboos as effectively as you did?
I believe that you have to go to the field…meaning you have to talk to people… ordinary people and not just officials. This is what we did. We went to different governorates and explained to people our missions and what we were aiming at doing. We addressed our demands in a way that did not contradict any religion or human rights beliefs. Our slogan was simply the right of life to all and that if there were any “violations of certain social or judicial matters then everyone is entitled to a fair trial and that no one had the right to take the law into their own hands.”
You spent some time working for the United Nations Development Fund for Women. I understand that you were conducting research on VAW within five Arab countries. Please tell us a little bit about the areas you conducted your research in, and what you found out.
It was an interesting experience because I had to travel to some countries to explore the work there. So I went to Morocco and Yemen and collected a lot of interesting and useful information about the work that their organisations were doing and the problems they focused on. It was clear to me that every country had its own priorities although of course, VAW remains a big problem in all the countries I researched. In Jordan, there were many activities that were done to address this issue; including drawing competitions in schools, marches and other activities that also helped raise awareness about VAW.
You have also conducted several training workshops at the Jordanian Media Institute and the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) for journalists and journalism university students on gender, human rights and violence against women reporting. Please tell us about these training workshops and what your students learn about reporting in this field.
I believe that these are very important training sessions that basically focus on gender-sensitive reporting as well as learning more about VAW and human rights. One of the main focuses was to offer the students bad examples of how women are portrayed in the press and the stereotyping that they need to avoid. Also, the training focuses on basic journalism concepts and how to report on issues related to VAW such as humanizing the victims and writing features,etc.
You have received nine awards internationally and locally for your work in your field. It must feel wonderful to be so recognised and appreciated for your achievements. What advice would you give to a campaigner or a journalist who has just started out in the field of the human rights campaigning and investigative journalism?
One of the most important things is to believe in what you are doing and to be committed to your work. Your work should be conducted in the most objective and ethical way possible. Students and individuals entering the field should accept whatever they are assigned to and do it with enthusiasm and honesty. By time, things will develop on their own and they will be able to know what they need to focus on and what their strengths and weaknesses are. It is also very important to respect your bosses and your colleagues.
In your opinion, what can we do to help end “so-called honour killings” internationally, and in our own countries? What can we do stop VAW for good?
Unfortunately, it is impossible to stop VAW for good. This is an international problem that is growing. Almost 10 years ago, UN figures said 1 in 4 women in the world would be subjected to some form forms of violence in her life. Recent figures say 1 in 3, so the number is obviously increasing and this is an indication that work needs to be done on all fronts to address this issue.
As for addressing the issue of so-called honour killings, I think the best way to tackle this problem is to address it in a global manner and not to pinpoint this problem on a certain culture or religion. This will surely not solve the problem and will only create more hatred and resistance in these communities to address this issue.