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In Germany, in action for women’s rights worldwide

In Germany we educate and inform on the significance of women’s rights and call on the government to take measures to prevent violence against women.

A woman with a pink shawl around her shoulders is standing in front of the German parliament building.

Countering sexualised wartime violence on all levels is the task that the women’s rights and aid organisation medica mondiale has set itself since it was founded in 1993.

It was the drive and indignation of one strong woman, Monika Hauser, and her allies which formed the roots of this organisation. As founder, Monika Hauser sees it as her personal responsibility to support survivors of sexualised wartime violence: “I have the privileges of a European passport and a good education and training, and I am strong. I have to make use of these privileges to help disadvantaged women living in the shadows,” wrote Monika Hauser in the preface to her biography. This ongoing and active commitment is made possible by numerous supporters and women’s rights activists around the world.

Portrait of Monika Hauser

“I have to make use of my privileges to support other women.”

Monika Hauser

medica mondiale and its partner organisations in war and conflict regions around the world have ensured that this work still continues today.

Germany’s political and economic power make it an important global actor when it comes to how the international community deals with sexualised wartime violence and provides support to survivors. The country also has a particular responsibility to help uphold human rights around the world because of the German crimes of World War II. medica mondiale provides criticism, support and specialist advice regarding the work of the German government, especially for its foreign policy, but also when it comes to effective combatting of patriarchal causes of violence in Germany, for example by implementing the Istanbul Convention:

The Federal Republic of Germany is the largest national economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. So it has both economic and political power as well as significant influence in the international community. The fact that Germany is one of the largest arms exporters in the world leads to a particular co-responsibility for addressing violence and conflicts around the world where German weapons are used. medica mondiale frequently highlights the human rights obligations arising from this.

Obligation to work to ensure human rights

The Federal Government has at its disposal the resources and tools it needs to have a positive influence on the conditions people all over the world are living in, in order to contribute to the upholding of human and women’s rights. So it should commit to this.

Considering the Holocaust, other crimes of the National Socialists, the Second World War which they provoked, and that war’s massive long-term consequences, it is entirely appropriate for Germany to adopt a self-critical attitude.

There were also millions of rapes committed against women and girls during that war. The perpetrators were generally male and included soldiers in the German Wehrmacht armed forces. Women in Germany were also affected by sexualised violence. The German government needs to live up to these twin responsibilities.

Germany is a member of the United Nations and therefore legally obliged by relevant UN resolutions to take action against sexualised wartime violence, especially with regards to its development aid and involvement in peacekeeping missions.

Legal commitment to work against sexualised wartime violence

It has to be an aim of German policy to assert and uphold the equal and inalienable rights of women and girls worldwide. At the core of this duty is the respect of dignity and the right to physical inviolability as the foundations of justice, development and peace in the world.

medica mondiale campaigns for an end to human rights violations against women and girls, and for women’s and girls’ rights to be seen, protected and upheld. Values such as solidarity, partiality for women, an awareness of power, mindfulness and tenacity, taken together with our feminist identity form the basis of our work at medica mondiale. For this, it is essential to explicitly consider multiple discriminations and also take into account other existing power inequalities.

The approach devised by medical mondiale is based on human rights and designed to deal with trauma which enables it to have an impact preventing crises, in turn leading to beneficial societal transformation.

We are committed to supporting women and girls worldwide by demanding the German government shape and implement a feminist foreign policy. With regard to sexualised wartime violence, this policy needs to include a comprehensive, long-term programme of support for women’s rights activists in conflict regions. Feminist foreign policy also focusses on the interests of survivors and guarantees protection from violence for refugee and displaced women and girls.

Logo of medica mondiale

medica mondiale

Since 1993, medica mondiale has been campaigning to achieve more solidarity and responsibility in the fight against sexualised violence. In this regard, the women’s organisations appeals to national and international institutions and decision-makers, local authorities, communities and the general public. Humanity, sustainability and a feminist approach form the basis of this human rights work at medica mondiale.

Focal points of work

We call for a public discussion of patriarchal norms and structures – both in Germany and in our priority regions. medica mondiale has taken on the role of ensuring the public and political decision-makers know about the facts, contexts and consequences relating to sexualised violence. We do this both as an individual organisation and within feminist networks. Here, our aim is to raise awareness of how the causes and consequences of sexualised violence are similar around the world, regardless of whether a country is currently in a situation of conflict or not.

At the same time we want to make the whole German population more aware of gender-based injustice. We also encourage both men and women to assume responsibility for increasing justice in the world.

With campaigns such as “Time to Talk” (2005), “In Action” (2008-2011), “My body is no battlefield!” (2018) or “Never merely history” (2020), fundraising and protest actions, photo exhibitions and lectures, especially in Germany, medica mondiale raises awareness and provides information about sexualised violence, its backgrounds and effects. Via our social media channels and our website we provide up-to-date information about women’s rights. Our topic pages offer background information on sexualised wartime violence, trauma, women’s rights and more.

Public awareness and human rights work are key ways for medica mondiale to bring about societal and political changes in favour of women. At specialist events, in dialogue with politicians, in position papers and via open letters, the organisation makes its position clear regarding the issues surrounding sexualised wartime violence, as well as the need for a feminist foreign and human rights policy.

medica mondiale proposes tangible strategies to prevent sexualised violence, and appeals to decision makers to take appropriate action. In 2017, for example, this led to the progress of a trauma-sensitive approach being adopted within the new Gender Action Plan of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The organisation has also published scientific studies and documentation on topics such as the treatment of female witnesses at international courts (2009) or the long-term consequences of wartime rapes in Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014), gaining medica mondiale a reputation as an internationally recognised expert in the field of gender justice. In this role, medica mondiale urges compliance with and implementation of international agreements to ensure preventive protection for women against sexualised violence.

The relevant international agreements include, for example, the Agenda Women, Peace, Security of the United Nations and the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. The UN Agenda Women, Peace, Security prescribes a stronger representation of women in peace processes and the guarantee of women’s security as a direct prerequisite for sustainable peace in our world.

Patriarchal attitudes and power structures give rise to violence. They also make it more difficult to process traumatic experiences. By offering training courses we want to enable specialist staff to adopt a Stress- and Trauma-sensitive Approach (STA) when, in the course of their work, they have to deal with the consequences of violence and traumatisation. medica mondiale also offers training courses on this approach in Germany.

Our Stress- and Trauma-sensitive Approach® (STA) promotes a sociopolitical and power-critical understanding of trauma and sexualised violence that takes into account the intersections of various structures of oppression such as racism and sexism. These training courses promote self-reflection and self-critical attitudes with regard to gender justice and global justice.

The training is primarily targeted towards specialist staff in the field of international co-operation, especially peace-building, as well as students on internationally oriented degree programs. Furthermore, medica mondiale trains experts to be trainers and outreach workers in the field of stress- and trauma-sensitivity.

We also offer training sessions and talks on staff- and self-care for specialist and management staff, as well as activists.

The foundation of our work is the cooperation with women’s rights organisations and activists in our priority regions. Strong local women’s rights defenders within a country’s civil society are absolutely necessary in order to ensure ongoing advocacy for and upholding of the rights and interests of women and girls. We support our partner organisations in their practical work, helping them to implement their strategies and enhance their structures and staff capacities.

It is the struggle for social justice which connects us with our allies within a transnational feminist movement. This is not just technically a cooperation with our partner organisations: we work together politically, cooperatively and in solidarity in order to achieve social justice, which needs to be shaped in a manner which is specific to the context and critical of power. We shape our cooperation with our partners based on shared visions and values, a respect for differences, and mutual accountability.

We acknowledge the independence of our partner organisations and offer them the support they need locally. As part of our joint projects, programmes and actions, we help our partners gain access to funding, specialist advice, organisational development and networking. Multi-country programmes concentrating on one specific sector then also facilitate sharing and exchange between partner organisations, promoting common learning processes, and helping to enhance the political and societal influence which these like-minded women’s organisations have, as well as the broader impacts of their activities.

In order to ensure that effective support is provided for women and girls affected by violence in war and crisis zones, medica mondiale conducts regular impact monitoring and evaluation together with its partner organisations. The perspectives of the women and girls, their perception, description and evaluation of changes and impacts: these are essential and decisive for our work.

Independent consultants and our own staff visit the project countries and check the results of our work by means of interviews, expert discussions or workshops. The same is true for our work in Germany. The insights are used to further develop and manage our ongoing and future programmes and strategies. We react to changes and together with our partner organisations we then adapt the projects.

The majority of our financial resources are directed to regions where conflict prevails or prevailed. We consider this re-distribution to be practical solidarity and a contribution to global justice. A large part of the funding for medica mondiale comes from donations, with some funds also coming from the public sector.

Private donations are essential to our success. They enable us to act true to the spirit of our commitment and independently of external funding stipulations. Fundraising letters and events, the donors’ magazine “memo”, the website and various social media are all channels which medica mondiale uses to inform its supporters and donors of the latest developments in the projects.

Public and private funders play a valuable role, with the most significant funders being the German Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation), the KfW (the German development bank) and foundations, as well as individual German city and federal state governments.

(Status of: 10/2022)