What are the next steps in sustaining well-being and security?

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What are the next steps in sustaining well-being and security?

Introduction

Many of the feature resource practitioners leading this dialogue have a particular interest and expertise in the concerns and contexts of women human rights defenders (WHRDs). We hope to share interesting feminist debates/approaches and what we have learned from our own experiences working with WHRDs so that these tactics and ideas can be adapted to other human rights defenders, and to explore how we can best address the diverse needs and realities among human rights defenders. We also hope to learn from practitioners and defenders working with other groups on sustaining well-being and security – whether it be in mixed organizations, with male defenders, LGBTI, rural areas, diverse cultures, etc.  Although we may be looking at this topic through the lens of WHRDs, we are not limited to sharing experiences, ideas, questions, and challenges we have in working with all human rights defenders.

If you are new to these dialogues, please take a moment to review our summary of past dialogues on well-being and security


Share your ideas!

To help start the conversation and keep the focus of this discussion thread, please consider the following questions:

  • What are the challenges and gaps that remain in sustaining the well-being and security of human rights defenders?  What strategies are in place to address these challenges and gaps?  Share your ideas on ways to address these remaining challenges.
  • What are the next steps in moving strategies forward to sustain the well-being and security of human rights defenders? 
  • How can we move these efforts forward on institutional levels?  On personal and collective levels?  On international levels?  On local levels?
  • How can we move these efforts forward with a diversity of defenders?

Share your ideas on how to move this effort forward by adding your comments below and/or replying to existing comments!

linking defenders with resources for counseling

One thing we have seen work is linking WHRDs and their organizations with resources for counseling, not simply funds but a pool of practitioners experienced in working with defenders and the specific challenges that they face because of the risks involved in human rights defense. This has been effective in responding to specific incidents, like a raid at an organization's office, but more challenging to approach when it's about processing how to cope with the day-to-day tolls of the work.

Last year we conducted a mapping of "Urgent Responses for WHRDs at Risk", where we listed "medical assistance and psycho-social counseling" as an existing response. Many of the organizations that were interviewed cautioned against "inappropriate medicalization" and the importance of gender-sensitive interventions that place concepts of empowerment and agency at the center of therapy. They described these interventions as "designed to validate a woman's experiences and acknowledge her right to make informed decisions affecting her own life, including what treatment she wishes to receive. The goal of these gender-sensitive approaches is to focus on the woman’s ability to take control of her own life and to make changes that will have positive consequences for her wellbeing and circumstances."

I am curious to hear what other practitioners think about medicalization of stress and trauma, as it relates to defenders, and also about experiences in counseling that relate to the day-to-day (versus as a response to a specific incident).

I wouldn't make a distinction

I wouldn't make a distinction between defenders and non defenders when it comes to medicalisation...if one needs it they just need it...Need it for what? that could be the question. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist though...have a lovely day/evening, depending.

Professional help in times of crisis

In Israel we have a group of mental health workers for human rights, Psychoactive  that has many interesting projects... on volunteer base... They are also giving short term therapy to activists who ask for help. they charge less than usual and  may be in some  cases they charge only a symbolic sum. .

In the past i was more involved with them. Two years ago i facilitated with a young psycologist,, on a volunteer base,  a group of young women activists and workers of Physicians for Human Rights.  to support their work on health rigths of Palestinians, refugees and immigrant workers..Belonging to the occupying society, In their youth they were exposed to human tragedies that they did all they could to prevent.. It was a space to share their experiences and learn together

Today, with the expulsion of the refugees from South Sudan as part of an inhuman policy towards refugees and immigrant workers in Israel the activists and workers of human rights organizations and groups are totally broken.. Among Psychoactie 22 psychologists adn  social workers agreed to work with them....

That is good and the Psychoactive people are very committed... they do good work. It is good that organizations start to ask for help  when they indentify a need or in times of crisis 

 Nevertheless, the next step has to be that organizations and donors understand that the issue of wellbeing and inner balance to cope better with the chaos around us, is an issue of everday. for example we need on an ongoing base , body work to strengthen our health and vitality as well as  skills to deal with stress, trauma and burnout. . the knowledge and use of those  should be integrated to organizational cultures and the everyday...We should own our resources for wellbeing. Donors should understand that safety, wellbeing and sustainability have  to be funded.  We want to create our own safe spaces... not to have a safe space in a rare workshop or retreat.

Relating  to Analya's comment on crisis intervention and everyday work for well being it seems to me that we have to find a way to complete those two ways as part of  a strategy to enhnace wellbeing and sustainability of our movements.  

medicalization of stress and trauma

analia wrote:

Many of the organizations that were interviewed cautioned against "inappropriate medicalization" and the importance of gender-sensitive interventions that place concepts of empowerment and agency at the center of therapy. They described these interventions as "designed to validate a woman's experiences and acknowledge her right to make informed decisions affecting her own life, including what treatment she wishes to receive. The goal of these gender-sensitive approaches is to focus on the woman’s ability to take control of her own life and to make changes that will have positive consequences for her wellbeing and circumstances."

I am curious to hear what other practitioners think about medicalization of stress and trauma, as it relates to defenders, and also about experiences in counseling that relate to the day-to-day (versus as a response to a specific incident).

Many thanks Analia, for raising this very important issue, it is critical in how we understand a holistic approach to well-being and security. 

I believe that one of the ways that the concept of well-being and its integration into security has been to seek out 'problems to solve' -- i.e., to separate out the integrated issues of stress, trauma, burn-out, compassion fatigue, etc and to treat them as issues that can be addressed through a specific form of 'treatment', often a western approach to counseling, psychotherapy or psychiatric treatment. This is how I perceive it as being 'medicalized'. Before I continue, I want to make sure that I am clear -- I have great respect for these fields and for the need for this type of healing, and I have recommended it in a number of cases (where it has been successful, particularly for urgent interventions).

But here are 3 key issues to keep in mind as we address the medicalization point.

1. We can't simply separate out 'stress' or 'burnout' as 'problems' that are disconnected from security -- they have to be integrated into the entire approach. Otherwise, we are also singling out completely normal reactions to extremely tough work as 'problems', which then can have the opposite effect of making defenders feel guilty or ashamed if they identify as having a problem. 

2. Healing comes in many forms, and each defender is unique in what will work for them. So a western psychoanalytic model might work for some -- for others, though, they might respond better to working with a shaman -- others may respond to energy work, others to physical exercise. We have to be open to all forms of healing -- and as you rightly point out, we always have to consider the gendered dimensions of these approaches.

3. Finally, I see that a thread on the dialogue's second topic is addressing the institutional and structural aspects of integrating well-being and security into our organizations and movements, and I think this is key to also recognizing and rejecting a medicalization of self-care approach. This approach makes self-care an individual 'problem' that needs to be 'solved' at an individual level -- which also separates the individual from the collective as an 'abberation' or a 'problem', rather than recognizing that there is a larger structural issue that needs to be addressed -- we need to ask the question of why an individual can experience trauma, stress, burn-out, depression in isolation -- what is causing it at a structural level. And why aren't there answers at a structural level?

I hope that this makes sense, it is a great opportunity to think out loud and brainstorm around issues that are so important, but I also recognize that some of these ideas need clearer formulation!

Icarus Project

This post makes me think of an organization called the Icarus Project.  This group formed to create a community of mutual aid and care and a common thread throughout their guides and materials is how to take care of one's mental health without medicalization and the over medicalization of mental care.

The Icarus Project began as a group of activists interested in mutual aid. They wrote guides about how to form similar groups and encourage people to develop their own mutual aid groups. There are “Icarus Project Groups” now spread across the world. It's decentralized, so there's no central organization of the groups, and all may have a slightly different method and process, but I think they are an interesting model of mutual support without medicalization.

The main guide, “Friends make the best medicine.”

http://theicarusproject.net/icarus-downloads/friends-make-the-best-medicine+

 

This is their mission statement, I think it might resonate:

We are a network of people living with and/or affected by experiences that are commonly diagnosed and labeled as psychiatric conditions. We believe these experiences are mad gifts needing cultivation and care, rather than diseases or disorders. By joining together as individuals and as a community, the intertwined threads of madness, creativity, and collaboration can inspire hope and transformation in an oppressive and damaged world. Participation in The Icarus Project helps us overcome alienation and tap into the true potential that lies between brilliance and madness.

 The Icarus Project is a collaborative, participatory adventure fueled by inspiration and mutual aid. We bring the Icarus vision to reality through an Icarus national staff collective and a grassroots network of autonomous local support groups and Campus Icarus groups across the US and beyond.

Interview with Icarus Project on Waging Nonviolence

Thank you, Becky, for mentioning the Icarus Project (and all the other great examples and resources you have contributed to the dialogue)!  I found a great blog post on Waging Nonviolence about an interview with Jonah Bossewitch of the Icarus Project.  Definitely worth a read if you're interested in learning more about this interesting initiative.  Here's one quote from the interview:

First, we need to believe in the future — vividly imagine it, talk about it and manifest it. This movement, and activism in general, is notorious for its cycles of energetic bursts of creativity, followed by a crash. We have to be self-aware of these patterns, and take better care of ourselves and each other. We need to be more honest with ourselves about what we can tackle, learn how to recognize our triggers, learn how to say no, and learn how and when to bottom-line, delegate and collaborate. We especially need to avoid replicating habits of exploitation and oppression in our day-to-day interactions. We need to actively build our support networks when we are well, and create wellness plans that our friends can use to help support us when we aren’t. But, mostly, we need to re-learn how to breathe, share and love.

Ideas for moving forward

At the recent AWID Forum in Istanbul, a group of wellness practitioners supported the development of the Wellness Area, contributing to the discussion of how to keep raising awareness about the importance of incorporating self-care, security and wellness practices as political tools for the survival of women human rights defenders and the feminist movement at large. Here I am sharing some of these ideas:

  • Contact organisers of women’s conferences/gatherings at regional and international levels, in order to share the Wellness Area Concept Note and lobby for the idea of replicating something similar at these events.
  • Make available and disseminate all resources related to wellness, security and self-care, in particular to women human rights defenders, for easy and free access to anyone interested to learn more. Including its translation in many languages!
  • Exchange the expertise among different practitioners and wellness/security groups, to support each other, share ideas and learn.
  • Influence trainers and/or training institutions with expertise on Human Rights Defenders to incorporate wellness, security and self-care and its gender dimension, into their manuals, workshops, etc. 
Cyber anonimity and the Arab Spring

First, thank you very much for all of the practitioners taking part in this dialogue, we highly appreciate your participation. I noticed an interesting trend that some activists in the MENA, who used to be very protective of their personal identity, have become more open to talking in public about human rights violations and abuses in their countries. I wonder if there is any correlation between this and the Arab Spring. Any thoughts?

Human rights violations

 

 I would say that the Arab spring is one of the components of this new awareness. Second, the way people have been organized in Arab countries is very interesting. It might have been a spontaneous movement but the fact that people gathered at one location made them strong and powerful and almost invulnerable.

The second point was that for the first time in at least 50 years a population got together and said "no" to the power in place. Yes,it gave ideas to peaoplein other countries and throughout the world populations started expressing their disatisfaction..

Precious moments of healing in AWID

For sure the Arab Spring was an inspiration to many places that held and are still holding political uprising... one of the current examples  is a strike of students in Quebec that most of us did not hear about. But you also say that the Arab Spring enabled the freedom of expression of criticism and clear voices against human rights violations....What a blessing....


I only wish that the sweet moments of revolution, when people are in the streets, as we witnessed in so many places,  will transform to socially responsible governements with the awareness of the need to stop oppression and heal its wounds. Unfortunately men's greed for power blinds them from their responsibility to serve the people and their wellbeing, safety  and their possibilty to sustain their families.


In the wellness center of AWID I had deep and moving moments of healing with feminist activists of the MENA region. It was a precious  experience of real connection of the deepest sort...I  want to share  my gratitude to those women  who trusted me as a wellbeing practiioner. It was a privilege and a blessing... 


 

How can grantmakers be supportive of well-being and security?

Thanks, Yvonne, for highlighting the need for donors to take a holistic approach when it comes to supporting organizations facing chaos and threats to build organizational and movement cultures that value well-being and security.   As a grantmaker, AJWS has often discussed the different ways that we can provide support for well-being and security (including security planning, leadership development, health insurance, succession planning, legal aid, urgent responses, etc.).   


There are several spaces where grantmakers are taking up questions related to these issues, including International Human Rights Funders Groups and Grantmakers without Borders conferences. In your opinions, what can funders specifically do to better support a holistic approach to well-being and security?  I know that AWID developed this helpful resource.   And we at AJWS developed this policy paper.  What are other ways that donors can support sustainable and secure organizations and movements?


Additionally, it seems that there is a cohort of smaller human rights grantmakers who are committed to supporting well-being and security strategies.  Where are the new spaces and who are the new actors that we need to be engaging with around this issue? Who else might be able to collaborate with human rights defenders to support well-being and security for activists?

to get together :activists, practitioners and donors

It is a complex issue .

on the one hand  activists  don't want external imposition. they are the ones in the field and they have  knowledge to which donors should  listen.

.On the other hand organizations might have also  blind spots. Donors have to create a relationship that enables talking on issues of  self care, wellbeing, safeness and sustainability and their political and ethical importance. By raising awareness or supporting exisiting search to deal with those issues donors  act as social change agenst among groups and organizations.

They should also widespread the importance of the issue within the diverse donors' networks. . 

integrating wellbeing into an organization requires  a line in the budget- wellbeing, safety and sustainability. Yet also groups of activists (not organizations) need this support...

the voices of the practitioners who are committed to the transformation of our organizing cultures should be heard. What do we need in support of our work, what are the obstacles that we cope with ?

We witness  growing awareness and we need more and more informations  about diverse practices that are already applied in groups and organizations. (and we started to do that... for example in this dialouge).

there is  a growing group  of practitioners , interested activists and donors....Donors should sieze the moment and create a common space - retreat - to exchange practices, share experiences, and reflect on obstacles, including economic ones... An open reflection is needed for being able to stategize.

and of course we have to create a sense of continuation with all that was already established... and develop it.... In the wellness center in AWID we realized that we did great work with the women  but we did not give ourselves enough opportunities to meet among ourselve for our needs,  to connect wtih each other, learn inspire and be inspired....

 was it not written here before in this dialouge that care takers tend to put their energy outside?  we should go inside together so we can go outside to strengthen the work of wellbeing and sustainability .

Donors should seize the moment.....

DeYvonne wrote:

there is  a growing group  of practitioners , interested activists and donors....Donors should sieze the moment and create a common space - retreat - to exchange practices, share experiences, and reflect on obstacles, including economic ones... An open reflection is needed for being able to stategize.

Well said, Yvonne,

To strategize, a dialogue is not sufficient, useful as it is to lauch an idea, discussion...this is my third dialogue on these related themes.  We need to sit down together and thrash out all the different aspects of the complexities that we have learned about, experienced, experimented with;  we need to be more precise about the contextual specificities: contexts of  identities (individials and groups), geographical and social  locations, political threats and opportunities....and how to approach the issue in these different situations. 

I acknowledge that it is difficult to know what can be done, and how, from the prerspective of funders, having experience of serving on boards of funders; but a group of courageous funders who really want to do something  to further concrete action, can get together to devise a way of discerning, unravelling the complexities, planning  the concrete steps forward that can be taken.   

Most of all, talk to those who are working on the ground..... indeed, as Yvonne also says, activists, hrds and feminists do not to want to be 'donor driven'  - but there is where sensitivity and respect between  'do-ers' and  'givers' come into the relationship -  if we all want the same things, and are honest about our own strengths and weaknesses, why can there not be a productive, if not exactly equal relationship - as long as we are clear about the expectations? We all know that we need one another.....while non-profit work needs funds, without the action on the ground, funders have nothing to do?

Lin

Donors, practitioners and activists seizing the moment...

Like you, Lin, this is my third dialogue on well-being and security in this space and there have been others in other spaces, which is great news for those of us who care about these issues. 


But, I think you're right that it might be time for a group of those who are interested - working as donors, practitioners, activists, etc. - to come together in one space to explore the depth and breadth of their work on these issues, the realities of various contexts, and concrete steps for what could happen next.   To share what we’ve been learning in formal discussions and casual conversation about self-care and security.   


I think a convening could serve to link these different conversations that are taking place in different spaces and cross pollinate some of the efforts, while thinking about whether there are steps that we can take - in our different capacities - to move these issues forward.

Donors could be engaged in promoting wellness & self-care

jwrenn wrote:

it might be time for a group of those who are interested - working as donors, practitioners, activists, etc. - to come together in one space to explore the depth and breadth of their work on these issues, the realities of various contexts, and concrete steps for what could happen next.

I am very much in agreement with this discussion thread and the need to create spaces for this type of discussions, in particular with donors. Despite of the existence of specialized funding for the security of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) at risk and in emergency situations, it is important to start advocating for a culture of funding that includes the work on wellness, security and self-care from a feminist perspective, as an integral part of the human rights work that women take.

As presented in the Ten Insights to Strengthen Responses for Women Human Rights Defenders at Risk produced by the WHRDs International Coalition, a holistic approach for donors to supporting WHRDs “must include self-care in order to sustain individuals, organizations, and movements”. I believe that by strengthening the institutional capacity for responding to the needs of women human rights defenders in a holistic way, donors could be engaged in the development of a culture of self-care, wellness and security in parallel with the collective/organizational responsibility.

accessing grants and support

jwrenn wrote:

Like you, Lin, this is my third dialogue on well-being and security in this space and there have been others in other spaces, which is great news for those of us who care about these issues. But, I think you're right that it might be time for a group of those who are interested - working as donors, practitioners, activists, etc. - to come together in one space to explore the depth and breadth of their work on these issues, the realities of various contexts, and concrete steps for what could happen next.   To share what we’ve been learning in formal discussions and casual conversation about self-care and security.   

I am concerned that shades are lost as we can't concentrate on emblematic cases and work on them, progressively, as if  'in vivo'...there are 'too many' possible variations of same cases needing different approaches'...

So, again, in general (apologies) some criteria:

If Well-being and security are mainstreamed in the defenders work, then I would consider several moments:

A. when writing a fundraising proposal, before the 'need' for support...well-being and security could be mainstreamed in the proposal. I wonder if a donor would be ready to not support it if they fund the 'activities ' that contribute (not main cause) to the impact on well-being and security. (risk of 'loosing investment' if well-being and security not included. Including it and explaining it to teh donor is also a show of 'global reflexion' etc.)

B. Another moment is if nothing was 'budgeted/raised for etc', and the need arises: defenders are part of a wider network and if there was a 'inventory' of who is who, and if 'agreements' existed (or could exist) between organisations to support each other according to needs, that in itself would be a direct contribution to well-being and security'

Example: X needs psychosocial support and  has access to it through the network as X's organisation has not built internal dedicated skills...Accessing to the network is access to 'well-being' already.

the need for support hardly comes out of the blue...it is something that builds up...there can be peaks/culmination of processes...so if organisations developped the capacity to observe it...(I am not speaking about emergencies that absorb most energy to deal with them before 'one' can afford to 'crack'. and look for support..)

Organisations that have build 'trust' with donors, can access to other organisations, networks, embassies etc would probably have more chances to find support as they need it...which doesn't mean it should not be anticipated...

Shelters can be of many types. some time even just withdrawing for some times...

C. there is also the moment to think about close relatives/firends/colleagues...the idea of building mutual support groups is part of the well-being process

It is complex, multifolded...difficult to put it in a nutshell. I am not talking about techniques, methodologies etc...

Udefegua (Guatemala), EHAHRDP (East and Horm of Africa), Somos defensores (Colombia) and others have integrated also psychosocial support in their network of hrd...or access to it. GAC (Grupo de Apoyo Comunitario, gives online classes on several aspects related to psychososcial support...

If organisations could 'budget it' in the 'a' phasis above...Or access to it, in the "b" phasis above without loosing track of it having to be 'budgeted'. Not all is a matter of budget, of course...

sincerely yours, Marie

international support and responsibility

Hi Jesse,

Thanks for posting the AJWS policy paper! I had not seen it before and found it really useful. I really liked the best practices and examples.

One of the things that has been on my mind is the question of our responsibility as international organizations, whether we are donors or support groups, to understand the risks that our local partners are in, how we can support reducing those risks (in the context of this dialogue, by actively supporting efforts for well-being and security) and also how we can avoid increasing their risks through our actions. Things like informed consent, ensuring that WHRDs on the ground are the ones deciding what responses are required, issues of digital security and how the information we manage can put WHRDs in further danger, etc. And in the context of this dialogue, our responsibility to listen to WHRD's priorities and possibilities regarding self-care and security, so it does not become one more mandate, one more pressure, one more "should". Would love reactions on how to support without mandating, and also generally on reflections for how we can make sure that what we do is helping rather than harming.

Please, Inspire Us With Fundrasing Tactics

 As part of the next step conversation i would like to consult with you about our next step in fundraising.

It is for long that I am involved, in different ways,  around issues of wellbeing- as an activist and on volunteer base.  It is quite a time that I am aware that politically it is necessary to develop a systematic program on the issue and personally it is time to get back to make a living.  (apropos taking care of oneself).

As part of  a  cooperation I have with Kvinna till Kvinna  for  almost two years , I start now a new pilot project  of Capacitar training for feminist  and peace activists.  For creating a small team to run this project and make it also Jewish –Palestinian  (of 48, meaning Palestinians living within the 67 border) the money we have is not enough.

Yet, I made the decision that I will start the project  with  Itaf Awad, my Palestinian friend, a Capacitar trainer and group facilitator. We also want to include in the team at least one or two   Palestinian young activists who were in the Naya Integrated Security retreat that Kvinna funded and its follow up.  As the facilitators we cut drastically our income as  in other components of the project.  Yet  we don’t have enough money to pay for documentation, translations Hebrew-Arabic  and other  needs to make this a serious pilot. Not to say that we also   need a fundraiser to help us. English is not our language.  Fundraising is not our profession. We are practitioners of wellbeing.

There is additional catch.  

  • Wellbeing is not on the agenda of organizations so to have us as part of their agenda is not organic yet.
  • To be able to get the trust of both Jewish and Palestinian women – we need to be very sensitive through which organization we are asking  for  money…  for example what is the political stand of an organization around the conflict? Cooperation between Jewish and Palestinian women is complex.  
  • For being  able to conduct  wellbeing projects the facilitators have to be insider/outsiders in the movement. It is difficult to contain all the complexities of an activists’ group - if the facilitators are part of the political game.  (from activist to a healer activist…. it is a slow and interesting transformation with ups and downs).
  • There might be competition between the organization and the project on funding sources.  In our case we are getting the money from Kvinna through the Coalition of Women for Peace. I cannot appeal now through the Coalition to another feminist fund – because the Coalition is waiting for an answer from that specific fund.
  • The possibility of establishing   a new organization or NGO  makes us waste energy around administration and structure -  we want to do WELLBEING.
  • Donors give money to organizations and not to individuals or  autonomous  groups.  

 I would like to hear from you,  practitioners , about your  experiences of fundraising for wellbeing work that you are doing. I need to find a solution for that important initiative.  Do you meet the same problems? Did you find creative solutions?

I was hesitating whether to share  this in our dialogue… but if we are creating or expanding an existing community of practitioners should we not also consult with each other on  actual steps to help current projects and initiatives?

 Thank you all….

 Yvonne 

Resources on fundraising for human rights work

DeYvonne wrote:

I would like to hear from you,  practitioners , about your  experiences of fundraising for wellbeing work that you are doing. I need to find a solution for that important initiative.  Do you meet the same problems? Did you find creative solutions?

These are great questions, Yvonne, and they are on minds of many human rights groups.  I look forward to learning from the other practitioners in this dialogue.

Although this does not speak directly to your questions on how to fundraise for well-being work, I wanted to let you know that New Tactics hosted a very interesting dialogue in January 2012 on Fundraising for Human Rights: Lessons-learned and practical advice.  One topic that was raised was - how do human rights groups get funding for their own well-being and security efforts?

This is taken from the dialogue summary:

Beyond fundraising, human rights practitioners need time to reflect and plan in order to work effectively. Without it, they end up forsaking their own safety, health and happiness to get the work done. Donors need to recognize this and while some do, even encouraging grantees to include line items for this in their budgets; it is an ongoing dialogue between grantmakers and their partners to ensure that this trend continues and grows.

You'll find a great list of resources on the dialogue summary page.  I hope it's useful!  And I hope your questions can inspire more resources and ideas to be added to this conversation!

coming down to tacks.... not just tactics

 

Thank you, Yvonne, for raising these very pertinent questions:  indeed, since our first meeting in 2008, we have been thinking and puzzling about how to start concretely, since our motivation is not just to resolve to ‘take care’ of ourselves, but also to to share the awareness and whatever resources we have with the groups and communities we work with, and who are the most in need of respite, re-creation and rejuvenation:  these are the marginalized, ‘resource-poor’ communities and their organizations – women informal workers, migrant workers, sex workers, LBT activist groups  …. 

We have finally formulated concrete plans, but the efforts we made to raise funds to take the first steps stranded, for different reasons;  my own analysis is that 

  1. Funders then did not know actually what it was about, and could not assess whether what we wanted to do was feasible ..and dared not take the risk.  Of course we also do not know exactly whether what we proposed would work… but how best can you learn, other than by doing?
  2. Lack of knowledge of how intrinsically attention to integrating well-being and self-care in our strategies and processes not only will lead to more sustainable (and productive) organisations and impacts, but also raise the keen awareness in individual behaviours that is necessary for discerning potential threats and the acuteness of mind, spirit and body that will respond to these threats in an effective way.
  3. In the midst of (many funders’) internal re-organisations, financial crises, and all the other social and political crises that scream on resources to abate the suffering women everywhere, I do understand that there is a hesitancy to “jump into the fray” of what appears to be a “luxurious problem”……  but slowly even funders are realizing that this is not a ‘luxurious problem, but one that can mean life or death (actually and metaphorically) for individual activists/ hrds and/or their organizations …..

In addition, I think we need to think about resources in a broader framework than actual hard cash, though this is truly necessary… and we need to think about ways of doing things -  including mobilizing resources, including all our work – DIFFERENTLY.

I do believe that it is not about adding ”wellness, self-care and security” to the agenda (so the question arises – well, how much and how much will it cost?)…. like it was not about “adding gender.. and stir”;  it is about re-thinking and re-creating our organizational systems and strategies and relationships and leadership models, so that we, and our organizations will  “be well and safe”… for everyone involved. For me, this is real ‘sustainability’.  

Lin   

 

 

some things are intangible

Some of it is not about tactics. Some of it is about synergies that are created when we open spaces and open ourselves to those spaces. It is about doing things "differently" even if we don't fully know what it means to do it differently.

Yvonne and I were just reflecting on the Wellness Area at the AWID Forum, and that it is difficult to relay why so many people came through and felt it was special. Was there intention and planning that contributed? Yes. But there was no planning that could have foreseen the amazing group of practitioners who came forward voluntarily to build the space together. We arrived the day before the Forum, put down some carpets and saris, pillows and batik cloths, sat in a circle and added ideas, offers, time, wishes to the center of the circle. I don't know that there are clear instructions on how to do it again.

As practitioners, I think one of our roles is to document experiences and share them with others. But it is not a recipe book of add water and mix. I like Lin's points below:

linchew wrote:

… and we need to think about ways of doing things -  including mobilizing resources, including all our work – DIFFERENTLY.

I do believe that it is not about adding ”wellness, self-care and security” to the agenda (so the question arises – well, how much and how much will it cost?)…. like it was not about “adding gender.. and stir”;  it is about re-thinking and re-creating our organizational systems and strategies and relationships and leadership models, so that we, and our organizations will  “be well and safe”… for everyone involved. For me, this is real ‘sustainability’. 

re-think, re-create, try out new things, re-float old ideas... look for connection and take what can be useful in your context.

love, compassion and solidarity as a base for wellbeing.

I agree with everything Analia wrote about the wellness center... we all connnected to our deep place of healing and it affected also our relationships... for me the main thing to learn from our good experience with its diverse experiences, is also to integrate collective reflections of the staff or practitioners for their own visions, needs, challenges and work....


I also agree with Lin's words about the way we have to transform our organizations so they are safe for everybody......


and the next step.... well, the first next step for me is to take now the bus to the north, to haifa, and continue my meetings with organizations to create a training group.... will be happy to join more next steps both for our local and international work.....


sending you loving energy and a very BIG hug....

Next steps for this group?

analia wrote:

As practitioners, I think one of our roles is to document experiences and share them with others. But it is not a recipe book of add water and mix...re-think, re-create, try out new things, re-float old ideas... look for connection and take what can be useful in your context.

I couldn't agree more, Analia!  This is exactly what we're trying to do through the New Tactics project.

As we think of next steps for practitioners, defenders, trainers and funders in sustaining the well-being and security of defenders...would it be helpful for us to continue to document experiences and share them with others in order to inspire the process of re-thinking, re-creating, and adapting?  How would we continue to do that?  Through these New Tactics dialogues?  Via a listserv?  Or, is there a more formal network that could be created?  It would be great to collect the ideas of this group on next steps!

combining training in security, well-being, and managing fear

Coming from a technical security perspective, I've worked to develop programs and train activists and journalists in mobile phone security. In these programs and trainings, I have mostly been expected to give technical advice, but feeling as though technical tactics are just a small part of being secure and an even smaller part of feeling safe (and therefore, feeling empowered to act), I have been trying to familiarize myself with other people's areas of expertise.

Together with people who have thought a lot and practiced a lot in the fields of technical security, radical health and mutual aid, privacy and legal advocacy, medical healthcare, we've been discussing the need for us all to know more about what each one knows and to have resources to help us to train in all of these areas at once, so that no technical security training is complete without discussion of the effects of security on individual's well-being, their community, their activism.

We hope to combine some of our training materials and to share training lessons so that we can better do this. I'm very interested in Jane's work in Integrated Security and think this goes a long way in this goals.

  • What other resources do you know of that address technical or physical security tactics?
  • What other resources do you know of that address the well-being and self or mutual care of activists working in high risk environments?
  • Do you know of any resources that discuss fear culture and fear responses as they relate to taking action for social justice?

We are aware of and working to remix the following work:

Becky I think your

Becky I think your perspective here is spot on ... it is not enough to address technical security needs, they have to be understood and contextualized within the larger framework of issues facing human rights defenders.

In the work Digital Democracy has done, we end up thinking a lot about the links between mental health & civic engagement. It's hard for people to tell their stories and speak up for their rights - not to mention change the status quo - without a baseline level of support and well-being. We've found that initial training on digital literacy actually offers an opportunity to better understand the complex issues faced by our local partners. Whether access to health care services, cultural norms, threats from police or civilians, our partners DO face complex threats, and understanding the larger picture helps us address the specific areas (technology) where we have expertise.

I'll never forget one of the first workshops we did with our partners in Haiti, where we did a community mapping exercise. Drawing maps allowed them to be explicit about the challenges they faced living in the post-earthquake tent camps, litterally mapping out the obstacles they face to accomplish basic tasks - fetching water, using the latrine or getting to school.

Using VPN to insure anonimity

In the MENA, some tech-savvy activists have used a virtual private network to avoid having their IP addresses exposed to governments and intelligence apparatus. Is this tactic also common in other areas? How would this help people with less tecnical abilities? Also, have governments not been able to develop some sort of VPN busters or something to detect that?

Hi Mohammad, I was just in a

Hi Mohammad,

I was just in a series of lectures today on cybersecurity and one was dedicated to vulnerabilities of VPN.  Information about the Applied Cybersecurity lectures: https://sites.google.com/a/mit.edu/applied-cyber-security/home

I'd suggest getting in touch with him directly.  My description will be lacking - some of the information he showed was new to me today.  The lecturer presented a series of vulnerabilities.  Here is a link to the slide presentation: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=bWl0LmVkdXxhcHBsaWVkL...

Slide 8: VPN Vulnerabilities, SSL-VPN

Lack of Security on Unmanaged Computers
• Viruses, worms, network attacks, and Trojan horses
• Can penetrate corporate LAN though secure tunnel

Data Theft
• Browser (cache, histories, cookies, saved forms)
• Documents on unmanaged computers
• Sensitive information leakage
• Keystroke loggers or other Trojan horse programs
• Capture users input and take screen shots

Web Application Attack
• SQL injections
• Buffer overflow
• Directory traversal (../ (dot dot slash) ) attack
• Cross-site scripting (XSS)

Thanks a lot Becky, really

Thanks a lot Becky, really appreciate it!

 

 

Expanding the theoretical foundations of women's human rights

Dear colleagues,

We are following the discussions framed by AWID jointly with New Tactics in the 4th Online Dialogue with a great interest and appreciation. We are finding this a really interesting set of discussions and contributions. Barbara Williams (a Canadian consultant working in and with feminist international organizations) and I (a Bulgarian senior researcher from the Tavistock Institute in London) are researching psychoanalytic frames for understanding gender-based violence and the attacks to femaleness and femininity, including on women human rights defenders. Committed to ending violence against women, we are working to understand "how violence works to produce the gendered female body” symbolically as well as psychically and physically.  We are trying to expand taken-for-granted notions of patriarchy as explanatory of violence, toward psychically-oriented explorations of female-ness and an ethics of care.  We want to continue to work with the question of 'how has femaleness as gender become such a site of violence for individual women and womanhood as a whole'. There is an urgency to this politic and question of care, security, and well-being for all of us to which we hope our work might contribute.

 

Warm wishes,

Barbara and Milena

 

Dr. Milena Stateva

Senior Researcher/Consultant

Research and Consultancy

The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations

30 Tabernacle Street

London EC2A4UE

Tel. +44(0)20 7417 0407, extension 211

www.tavinstitute.org

 

Dr. Barbara Williams

Managing Partner, Williams O'Connell Associates Inc

252 Augusta Avenue

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

M5T 2L7

www.williamsoconnell.com

Tel: 1 416 203 8879

 

 

well being and security

Dear all,
I am joining this discussion a bit late, but nevertheless I want to share my reflections on hrds’ well-being. I work as a coordinator of the project” Women’s political participation and leadership” under the Human Rights Center “Citizens Against Corruption”.
Hrds’ well being and security includes both financial and technical security. Adopting new IT technologies, such as providing equipment for sending a signal or message in case of threat, training hrds on security is a crucial element in maintaining hrds security. Unfortunately, this support comes often late to the hrds which are in danger and under risk, because very few NGOs possess funds for quick response and support.
In their struggle for human rights, human rights defenders, especially women, often become victims of violence themselves and often cannot protect themselves and their families because of the regimes. And this situation in the country makes it necessary for the families and hrds themselves, to undergo a medical treatment abroad, or to leave the country in order to continue their activity for a while, and then return home. This problem is especially actual for such countries as Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkey.
After tragic events in the south of Kyrgyzstan in 2010, state bodies failed to provide protection of citizens and the only organizations which they asked help from, in this situation, were NGOs and International organizations, which provided legal and medical assistance to victims of those events, victims of violence.
Hrds saw the lack of access to justice for the victims, which also negatively influenced their psychological and physical health. And in some cases there was pressure of police and nationalists and it made hrds themselves think about their own security.
The stress they undergo during their work negatively influences their mental and sometimes physical health, which, in consequence influences the organization’s efficiency. So, applying meditative techniques, yoga trainings for human rights defenders on the organizational level is rather significant.
One of the fields of our work of our organization is the protection of rights of person, sentenced to life term imprisonment. Members of our organization often visit prisons and there is a threat of getting tuberculosis, which is a risk also. They go there in the most difficult situations: when there are prison riots, conflicts; hrds are exposed to risk of being attacked by aggressive prisoners.
Hrds often work with victims of violence and vulnerable groups and in some cases there is some information which is revealed during work, in connection to which law enforcement agencies start to exert pressure on them. Fund of Human rights defenders which helps hrds to leave the country in emergency situations is a useful instrument in maintaining hrds security. Training programs on gender basis, including exclusive methods of acquiring methods of yoga and self-defense exercises and quick self-help, especially for women-hrds is a cruicial element of sustaining well-being and security of hrds.  And it is also necessary to promote IT trainings skills.

Kymbat

Until the next time!

This online dialogue has been an amazing experience! It was my first time and I feel that everybody’s contributions made my commitment to self-care, well-being and security for WHRDs [and myself] even stronger.

On behalf of AWID, I would like to express our gratitude to all of you for sharing your amazing thoughts and to New Tactics for organising this online dialogue allowing feminist debates/approaches to enter into this realm.

I am sure we will keep hearing from you about ideas and strategies in order to continue strengthening wellness, self-care and security, into the mainstream work of human rights and WHRDs.

Until the next time!

Thank you!

Thank you everyone for creating such great conversation!  And thank you AWID - Katherine and Analia - for helping to frame and facilitate this conversation!  We will write a summary of this conversation, which we will post on this dialogue page by the beginning of August.

If you feel these dialogues on well-being and security are important to this community, please let me know so that we continue to keep these topics in the mix of dialogues!

Take care of yourselves and each other.

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