Finnish League for Human Rights
Negativ social kontroll
Work to combat honour-based violence and female genital mutilation (FGM)
Teori och kunskap
Our work as a whole at the Finnish League for Human Rights is based on international human right conventions and the principles included in them. As for the work to combat HBV and FGM, the most relevant human rights convention is the Istanbul convention which obliges the member states to take various measures, including legislative ones, to tackle both HBV and FGM.
The forms of our work are a) advocacy, b) training of relevant professionals and authorities and c) preventive attitude-change work and disseminating information among the people who are subjected or in the risk of become subjected to human rights violations such as HBV, forced marriage and FGM. We have done preventive work (c) to end FGM since 2002, and have been pioneers in the field in Finland. In 2010, we widened this form of work to include HBV more generally. We have mainly developed methods for best practices to work with different communities on sensitive matters through trial and error, also regularly asking for feedback from participants.
We have also made ourselves familiar with other projects to combat HBV/FGM in Finland and shared good practices, as well as read about other projects’ experiences abroad.
We have published two studies:
Kunniakäsitykset ja väkivalta. Selvitys kunniaan liittyvästä väkivallasta ja siihen puuttumisesta Suomessa. Ihmisoikeusliitto
English summary: Violence and conceptions of honour. Summary of the study report on honour-based violence and measures for intervention in Finland.
Our leading principle throughout our work has been that we mainly offer discussion and peer groups in participants’ mother tongues. We have received very good feedback from the participants about this. However, as the number of the employees (and their language skills) in our team is limited, we also use Finnish and English with some participants.
Our group discussions are not open to everybody, but each individual must have one to one discussions with our employee before joining the group. Even the groups are not fixed, but our employee picks the participants for each session on the basis of certain criteria (including age, gender, educational background, current situation concerning HBV/FGM etc.). However, participants with different backgrounds and situations are sometimes invited to discuss together.
One important criteria in our group discussions is the principle non-discrimination, mutual respect and confidentiality. To guarantee a safe environment to each participant, we meet the participants before to make sure they can be included in the group, as mentioned above.
We work with both women and men, the most common age group being somewhere between 25-50 years. We have mainly worked with Ethiopians, Eritreans, Somalis and Kurdish people.
However, we also co-operate with other NGO’s and even communal actors providing Finnish for foreigners courses or different integration activities. We visit their groups to inform and discuss FGM, HBV and right to self-determination in general. These groups mainly consist of women (with various national, ethnic, age etc. backgrounds) and we cannot choose who attends.
The goals are to a) increase participants’ knowledge on FGM and HBV, b) change (or strengthen) their attitudes so that they resist all forms of FGM/HBV, c) provide a safe forum to discuss these issues individually with the employee or in peer groups and d) encourage the participants to talk about these issues and spread knowledge about them in their our networks and communities.
The goals are not formulated in writing to the participants, but communicated verbally.
Practice requires special competence and skills. First, there are requirements for individual’s personality. According to our experience, the best results are achieved when the employee is a trusted and valuated member of his/her/their community, as well as someone easily approachable. This is essential to build trust for open discussions, as well as creating further networks. Participants in our work often spread the word within their networks and “recruit” people to our activities, which is a sign that they value our work. In the similar way, if they would not feel comfortable or didn’t like the employee, they would probably spread that information further as well.
As said before, ability to speak participants’ language is a further asset, which makes discussions deeper and more natural. In addition to language, it is valuable that the employee and the participants share the same cultural background.
As for gender, we think that in preventive work, employees’ gender is not utterly relevant. However, when working with people coming from cultures where lives and roles of e.g. women and men are highly segregated, it might help, if the employees are of the same gender as participants. When helping people who are already subjected to different forms of HBV, it depends on the case and situation if the gender matters. However, e.g. a woman who lives in a forced marriage with an abusive husband, a female employee is recommended.
As for other competences, the person must have wide understanding of HBV/FGM. Experience of living in a culture where harmful traditional practices are common provides certain understanding, but it is essential that the person studies the phenomena in question to have a larger understanding of the context.
We do not have written instructions for our methodology, which we have developed during the years. Furthermore, the methodology is not exactly the same with all participants and groups, but depends on the participants’ education, ethnic background etc. That is why the methodology can be best taught e.g.in workshops. (For instance, this year, we are training a handful of our key participants and other activists from different backgrounds on FGM, including the methodology to work within their own communities.)
We write annual reports every year as part of our organisation’s work, as well as give a report every year to the funder.
Spridning och implementering
We are capable and willing to organise e.g. a workshop, if requested.
Uppföljning av insatsen
We gather feedback from a) participants, b) professionals that we train as well as c) members in our networks against HBV and FGM. From all of these groups, we have received very good feedback.
Participants’ feedback can be summarized like this: Discussion groups/individual discussion are very useful and make them understand more deeply HBV/FGM, but also wider e.g. one’s right to self-determination and women’s rights. Some newly arrived people say they hear about these things first time in their lives.
Professionals: The training has added their understanding of the phenomena, but also given them courage and competence to lift up HBV/FGM with their clients.
Network members: Networks have added their knowledge of the phenomena as well as provided an important forum for a cross-sectoral dialogue between different actors.
Our own understanding is that our work is very influential.
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