25th of November

Gender-based violence is a pandemic.

Photo: Julie Schroell

Today as we take the streets or social media platforms on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women let our voice be loud saying: this pandemic needs to stop.

I am proud to present this interview to Susanna Viljanmaa produced by PlusCollective. The production team was composed of Gloria De Felice, Susanna Viljanmaa, and Shirlene Green Newball.


“The first time a man disrespects you with his hands, It’s a goodbye”. Ninosca

I wrote a review for the Latin American Film Festival Cinemaissi. I was glad to write this story because of two reasons. First, I met the film director years ago and second because I am a immigrant woman like Ninosca. Here is the article. I highly recommend to see the film.

Aino tool: Helping violence victims

The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide
have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

Three years ago, at a workshop, I met Anna Juusela, who is CEO and founder of We Encourage.We were in the same group working on a project. The second time I had the opportunity to join force with her was last year for the Campaign We Want We Do, against women violence. I asked Anna to describe of her organization and the activities they are developing to help women.

Women Wheel: What is the story behind the creation of We Encourage?

Anna Juusela: Few years back, in 2016, I was watching a documentary about an Afghan girl, Sonita Alizadeh, who wanted to be a rapper, but she was forced into marriage. Fortunately, the documentary maker ended up buying her freedom. Something shifted in me. I got a strong determination and vision about helping other girls get educated instead of being forced into marriage. Few years, later I let that vision grow in me and in November 2018, I took action to make this vision a reality.

“Forced marriages are not happening just somewhere over there, they happen under our eyes even in Finland”.

In an article published on We Encourage Blog (March 5, 2020), Anna states “using culture or religion as an excuse for behavior (forced marriages, genital female mutilation etc.), is wrong. In all societies, we should respect everyone regardless of religion, culture, or gender”.

If you are interested in knowing more about, We Encourage visit medium.

WW: What is your mission?

AJ: Our mission is to empower women and girls. We started by building the prototype of a fundraising platform to support NGOs that are helping women and girls. We pilot tested it during last fall and succeeded by getting three girls into school. While interviewing NGOs to understand their path points for fundraising, they brought up another problem, domestic violence. To help out with this need, we created AINO chatbot for the violence experiencers. It is a conversational companion offering guidance, help, and psycho-social support.

During the interview, Anna also explained that We encourage is a bootstrapping startup, which means that currently they don’t have funding; however, she said “luckily, I have found amazing people from all over”, for example, from Australia, South Korea, Canada, and others. In total they are 20 people.

Photo: We Encourage

WW: What is AINO?

AJ: AINO is a conversational Artificial Intelligent (AI) tool for providing psycho-social support and guidance to women victims of intimate partner violence, gender-based violence, and promoting sexual, and reproductive health. The AI tool is expected to act as a reliable source of information for women on their rights and where to seek different levels of support. The tool provides step by step recommendations to victims, and acts as a helping friend.

Other things that you should now about the tool is that it’s available 24/7, it acts as a first line response to support, it provides life-saving information such as how to prepare safety plans and how to access emergency shelters, and it also considers the accessibility of disabled people.

WW: When will it be available and who can use it? Can it be used out of Finland?

AJ: We are still in the development phase. We have the first prototype ready and now we are in the middle of creating the next version with more functionalities. We don’t yet know when it will be launched for the public, as we need to have many test rounds first to ensure it is safe to use.

Also, we need massive amounts of data to train the tool and we are always looking for people to help us out with data collection e.g.  survivors who would be willing to share their story (anonymously), violence professionals to help us with reliable data, etc. The tool is aimed for global markets and we are currently taking our first steps to explore the Tanzanian market.

WW: Who are the partners for this development?

AJ: The tool is built as an open-source project, in collaboration with survivors of IPV, violence professionals, and collaborating NGOs like Nicehearts ry, Naisten Linja, Kynnys ry, and United Nations Technology and Innovation Lab (UNTIL). We also have strategic partners builders like Hyvinpitely, GetJenny, and Datasaur.

WW: Is there something else you would like to add?

AJ: As a woman, who is a firm believer of gender equality, I know there is no such thing as women would be less qualified or weaker than men. There are strong women and weak men, as well as there are weak women and strong men. We all are unique and perfect in our own ways; it is time to break free from the collective conditional programming of gender issues and move towards a new paradigm of valuing each other as human beings. As a mother of a girl child, this way of treating millions of girls as a commodity is unacceptable. We cannot afford to live in a world, where girls are exploited, raped and abused.

Actions against Violence*

There are many types of gender violence. Be aware.

On the 25th, of November women around the globe will take the street or internet to manifest on the International Day for ​the Elimination of Violence against Women. This day was established in 1993 by the General Assembly of the United National. 

In it’s declaration article 1 states that violence against women “means any act of genderbased violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.

A lot of time went we talk about the term violence against women we only think of physical, psychological, and sexual violence,  however that is not the case since there are several types of violence. According to a Reporting on Violence against Women and Girls Handbook for journalist published  in 2019 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)  these are also actions of violence against women:

  • Cyberbullying and online harassment to women includes several:

Trolling: post or comments to try to provoke controversy

• Doxxing: online researching and publishing of private information about a person

in order to cause them harm

• Obsessive online stalking (cyberstalking), intrusive and threatening harassment

of a person

• Cyber-control in relationships

• Revenge porn: non-consensual dissemination of intimate images, online public

sharing of sexually explicit content without the consent of the person concerned,

often for the purposes of revenge.

  • Early marriages or child marriages
  • Female genital mutilation/cutting
  • Forced marriages
  • Gender-specific foeticide and infanticide
  • Sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape
  • So-called ‘honour’ crimes
  • Trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants women
  • Violence by an intimate partner or ex-partner and murder (femicide).

Is important to remember that all these actions of violence are based on a patriarchal structure, which is defined by  the power between women and men globally. 

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

In Finland  +Collective which is a group of individuals of different backgrounds, networks, and organizations has a shared goal to support human rights and equality, promoting social change, and inclusion. Toward the 25h of November, it launched  the campaign ​“We Want We Do”.  The 6-week campaign program includes workshops, webinars, podcasts, and exhibitions; however, the main events will take place at Central​ ​Library Oodi and in Kansalaistori, Helsinki, from November 17 to 29, 2020. 

One the webinar that will be discussed is Online violence that was mentioned above. This way of violence is common today since the use of social media platforms are part of daily routine. You are welcome to join us on 20.11 at 16:30-18:00. For more information click here

In the campaign We Want We Do transgender women voice is hear about the violence they experience. In an interview to Susanna Viljanmaa from Transfeminiinit she manifested, “the violence that most transgender people experience is verbal. For example, the year I came out I got multiple harassment on the street everyday. Also, transgender immigrants face their own problems in Finland, sometimes their diagnoses from other countries aren’t respected or they might not need any diagnosis to get hormone replacement, thus their treatment ceases”. 

The artistic itinerant installation of Red Shoes created by the Mexican artist Elina Chauvet  which ​denounces the high percentage of violence against women and femicides during the 90s in ​Ciudad Juárez, Mexico  is one of the events that will take place on the November 25. Is the first time that this installation will be presented in Finland. During an interview for the campaign she said “the death of my sister by her husband  (femicide) was the cause of  my art. I was really excited when I got an email requesting that my art be presented in Helsinki, it will be at the very north of the planet”. 

Finland is not an exception for women violence. According to data from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in 2019 there was an ​increase of 6% in relation to 2018 in people who sought help from shelters. 91% of people out of 5,354 who sought services were women. In addition, statistic from the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy (Krimo) states that in 2019, 15 women were murder in Finland. 

Women violence is a public issue, so please join us, act, and be part of this chain of change.  We Want and We Can Do it.

*This article was published in the We Encourage blog.

8 of March: Stop gender violence

This 8 of March manifest yourself for women equality.

Photo: Julie Schroell/Managua, Nicaragua

This 8th of March is International Women’s Day declared by the United Nations in 1975, but it was on spot from the early 1900’s in New York City as National Woman’s Day.

In 1910, an International Socialist Women’s Conference was held in Copenhagen. Inspired in part by the United States of America, German socialist, Luise Zietz, proposed that every year in each country it should be a celebration on the same day as “Women’s Day” to press for their demands. This was seconded by advocate and activist,Clara Zetkin. No date was established at this conference, so for years it was commemorated during the last Sunday of February.

It was until 1914, that it started on the 8th of March in Germany to demand the right of women to vote in several European countries. However, women in Finland were the first to be granted the right to vote since 1906.

Gloria Steinem, a renowned feminist, journalist and activist once said: “the story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor any organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

This day is celebrated worldwide.  Women join their force to call to action the acceleration of gender equality. In Helsinki, Finland, women from different countries, associations, organizations, and activists will be gathering to shout out against women violence and to remember those women that are not present because they were  victims of femicide.

According, to the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women adopted by the United Nations in 1993, violence against women  means “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.

Probably you are thinking, she is writing again about this topic. Well yes, because, it is causing the death of more women every day and it is not a new pandemic like the coronavirus.

As a journalist and blogger, I feel like writing is a way to combat this topic. So, here I will list ten types of gender-based violence with an example from the handbook for journalists published by the United Nations.

1-Cyberbullying online, this act of violence occurs by using the information and communication technology (ICT) such as mobile phone, internet, social media platforms and others to aggravate a woman because she is a woman. Doxxing is to published private information of a person.

Women journalists in many countries are victims of a double attack by threats, insults, harassment, etc. A friend and colleague of mine, Ileana Lacayo Ortiz, from Bluefields, faced doxxing when the social-political crisis broke out in Nicaragua April 2018.

2- Early marriage or child marriage, is defined as a union of a couple in which one of the members is under 18 years old. According to a study globally, 21% of girls (now 20-24 years) married before 18, and 5% before they turned 15 years. This is a violation of children’s rights that has significantly increased over the years with the humanitarian crisis or conflict around the world. In a lot of countries, girls are forced to get married at an early age if they become pregnant.

3- Female genital mutilation (FGM), is the partial or total removal of the female genitalia which is done without any medical reason. This is non- religious practice, a high violation of girls’ and women’s rights, harmful for their health and sexuality, and a discrimination to women.

A lot of women that had gone under this procedure have spoken against this brutal practice, such as the former Dutch, parlamentarian, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and top model, Warris Dirie.

4-Forced marriages, refers to the imposition of a marriage that is not-consented by one or both parties. This type of act can involve violence, blackmail, and physical threats. Countries in conflict, often experience this issue because armed groups used this tactic as a war weapon. For example, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) did it with girls in the countries they occupied. Regardless of context where it is done, we need to remember that it is a crime.

5-Gender-specific foeticide and infanticide, female foeticide “is a gender-selective abortion”. The fetus is aborted on the grounds of its sex.

On the other hand, female infanticide refers “to the murder of a young girl (after birth)”. This practice is done in several countries in Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans.

Both practices are linked to a patriarchal structure of society, which gives a higher status to boys than girls. One of the main backgrounds of this practice is that boys will provide for the family and take care of their parents at elders’ age. Girls are a burden because, at the time of  marriage, their parents will have to pay a dowry to the husbands’ parents, a costly custom for many families.

Photo: Julie Schroell/Managua, Nicaragua

6- Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, sexual assault is non-consensual physical contact, for example, forced kissing, touching etc. with threat, violence or coercion.

Whereas, “harassment can be a precursor of sexual assault”. This abuse occurs when the aggressor is in a position of hierarchical superiority. Rape “is an act of sexual penetration without consent.  It is  carried out with violence, threat or surprise”.

All three types of violence are unacceptable behaviour and practiced in our society by individuals, state and armed groups.

Since the rise of the MeToo movement in 2017, hundreds of women have told their stories of sexual assault and rape, allegedly in the political and film industry.

7- So-called ‘honour’ crime, is the act of killing a girl or woman by a family member (male or female) to protect the family’s reputation in society. According  to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 5,000.00 of this crime is committed each year.

A renowned case of this crime was the killing of the Pakistani social media influencer, Qandeel Baloch, in 2016, by her brother.

8-Trafficking persons and smuggling of migrants, this act of crime means to transport human beings with the objective of forced labour, sexual exploitation, and organ trafficking. Many girls and women are used for this lucrative business worldwide

The smuggling of migrants, which is the illegal crossing of a border for remuneration, constitutes a unique contractual relationship. For instance, at the Mexico border with the United States of America, many migrants, girls and women; from Central America, daily are exposed to both cases.

9- Violence against women in conflict, this crime covers many of the above acts of raping, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity, perpetrated against women and girls. The Democratic Republic of Congo is a vivid example of this crime.

10-Violence by an intimate partner or ex-partner and domestic murders,  these acts include physical violence (slapping, hitting, etc.), sexual violence ( pornography, forced sexual intercourse with others etc.), emotional abuse (insults, constant humiliation, cyberbullying, threats to take away children), and controlling behaviour, (isolating a person from family and friends, depriving them of identity documents etc.).

The ultimate way of violence is femicide, which is the act of killing a woman.

Gender-based violence is a world illness. We have the right to have a life free of violence, so I insist that we need to talk about it, combat against it from our home, and press to improve the public political strategies.