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In Germany, in action for women’s rights worldwide

We educate people in Germany about the significance for all of us of women’s rights and equality, and we work to eliminate 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 medica mondiale has set itself. The women’s rights and aid organisation is based in Cologne, Germany, and was founded in 1993 by Monika Hauser.

It was one woman’s drive and indignation which formed the roots of this organisation. She sees it as her personal responsibility to support survivors of sexualised wartime violence:
“I have the privileges of a European passport, a good education and professional 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 has continued this work ever since. The recent history of Germany, and its current economic and political conditions play a decisive role in shaping this work, since they give rise to responsibility and duties.

The Federal Republic of Germany is the largest national economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the word. So it has both economic and political power as well as significant influence in the international community. The fact that Germany is among the largest arms exporters also brings with it a particular responsibility.

Obligation to work to ensure human rights

Both the Federal Government and the German civil society have at their disposal the resources and tools they need to have a positive influence on the conditions people all over the world are living in. One consequence of this is the obligation to respect human and women’s rights and to promote these rights in an active way.

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

Self-critical attitude is appropriate

Today is more than 76 years after the end of that war, the National Socialist dictatorship and the Holocaust, yet there has still never been a single speech by a German head of state concerning the millions of women raped. Nobody has erected a memorial to them. And nobody has ever made any serious efforts to compensate them or deal with this part of the country’s history.

Germany has more than just a moral responsibility. It 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 for women’s rights to be seen, protected and upheld. Values such as solidarity, humanity, a sense of responsibility and sustainability form the basis of the work at medica mondiale.

The humanist interest of Germany

The organisation’s approach 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. So the aid and women’s rights organisation can be seen to be operating in accord with the political and humanist interest of Germany in many regards.

In 2015 a large number of people sought refuge by fleeing to Germany from countries affected by civil war, such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Public debate since then has increasingly asked how people can be discouraged or prevented from fleeing to Europe.

Views of refugee women are being ignored

However, there has been almost no space in this debate for the issue of female refugees with their particular perspective and their specific risks, both during and after their flight. Rarely have there been any serious visible efforts to ensure real improvements in their situation. As a women’s rights and aid organisation, we are committed to supporting women and girls by demanding a feminist foreign and asylum policy.

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

medica mondiale has taken on the role of making sure the public and political decision-makers know about the facts, contexts and consequences relating to sexualised violence in war and crisis areas. 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 its 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, and lectures, particularly in Germany, medica mondiale raises awareness and provides information about sexualised violence, its backgrounds and effects.

Public awareness and human rights work are key ways by which medica mondiale works 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. It 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), earning medica mondiale a reputation as an internationally recognised expert in the field of gender justice. In this role, medica mondiale urges politicians and governments around the world to comply with international agreements to ensure preventive protection for women against sexualised violence. medica mondiale repeatedly demands a more effective implementation of the UN Resolutions 1325 and 1820. These prescribe 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. Discussions, group work and role play introduce relevant methods to the participants, showing them how to support women affected by violence to process their traumatic experiences even without professional therapeutic skills. These training sessions are primarily designed for people working in the humanitarian and development co-operation fields. Participants include social workers, lawyers, healthcare professionals and psychologists, as well as students and trainees.

In its head office in Cologne, medica mondiale brings together a team of female experts with a range of different skills, such as trauma work, project coordination and finances. Together they all make sure that women survivors receive integrated, interdisciplinary support. Their tasks include advising projects during start-up and implementation, passing on their knowledge in training sessions, and monitoring the use of funding. The aim of the work here is to strengthen the expertise and capacity of the local staff in the project countries. Multi-country programmes concentrating on one specific sector then also facilitate sharing and exchange between partner organisations, promoting common learning processes.

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. 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.

A large part of the funding for medica mondiale comes from donations, with some funds also coming from 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, information stands, the donors’ magazine “memo” and the website are all channels which medica mondiale uses to inform its supporters and donors of the latest developments. 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: 2021)