News / Africa

Q&A With Rep. Schakowsky: Boko Haram's Violence Against Women Must Be Stopped

FILE - Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, (C) joins immigration reform supporters as they block a street on Capitol Hill in Washington, August 2013.
FILE - Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, (C) joins immigration reform supporters as they block a street on Capitol Hill in Washington, August 2013.
VOA News
Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) entered Congress more than 15 years ago. She is a senior member of the House Democratic Leadership, and is a member of the Steering and Policy Committee. She serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where she is ranking democrat on the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade panel, and on the House Intelligence Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where she is ranking democrat on the oversight committee.

She is particularly passionate about protecting the rights of women, especially combating what seems to be an epidemic of sexual violence. She recently introduced the International Violence Against Women Act, designed to create a comprehensive strategy to deter violence against women and girls abroad. This bill would give the U.S. State Department new tools, ranging from health programs and survivor services to legal reforms to promote economic opportunities and education for women.

The act also would increase funding humanitarian funding and update mechanisms for responding to emerging outbreak of violence, which seems all the more urgent in light of the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Schakowsky discussed the situation with Boko Haram in Nigeria with VOA's Carol Castiel on the Press Conference USA program.

Castiel: What specific measures are you proposing to fight gender-based violence?

Schakowsky: First of all because I know we are talking to an international audience, I want to be perfectly clear that we haven't solved this issue at home, and I'm acutely aware of that. It's not only, you mentioned some violence against women in the military, which is far too prevalent, we're also seeing violence against women on college campuses around the country.

We have a lot of work to do here at home, but as women that are often more empowered than our sisters around the world, it seems that we can take some of the principles of our violence against women act here at home and pass the International Violence Against Women Act.

The good news about the legislation is that we do have bipartisan support, Republicans and Democrats, and it would make as a priority of United States foreign policy, dealing with issues like gender violence and discrimination against women around the world, address the status of women in many countries, which puts them at a place where they're actually sold.

And it's so incredible what we're seeing right now going on in Nigeria. Boko Haram translates into "no Western-style education." That is an organization, really a terrorist organization against educating girls, to the point that they have been kidnapped. Its leader has bragged on camera that they are being sold -- apparently some for $12 -- even across borders.

And that, fortunately, has evoked international outrage. And here in the United States, a team has been sent now to Nigeria to provide the expertise to rescue those girls, and hopefully to work with the Nigerian government -- to go after that organization and its leader, and treat him as the criminal and outlier and terrorist he is -- in an appropriate fashion.

Castiel: What would the International Violence Against Women Act do?

Schakowsky: This would become a priority, certainly under the category of emergence situations that would spark action by the United States government, Fortunately, this administration has done just that.

Castiel: Speaking of the situation with the Nigerian girls, as bad as it is, do you think it can be a catalyst to spur the legislation further?

Schakowsky: I saw one news account that the response of the United States government is also a reflection of increased power of women in the congress. We have 20 women in the Senate, 79 women in the House of Representatives, so we're just short of a 100, 99. Some of the women listening around the world may know that their parliaments and their legislatures are actually doing better in terms of the number of women.

But I think that the growing power and influence of women in our country has moved this to the top of the agenda, perhaps even more quickly, and I'm hoping that also will spur the kind of sense of urgency on the International Violence Against Women Act. And we're certainly following up on that, trying to get more women and more men in the Congress to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill and to move it.

Castiel: Speaking of the emergency in Nigeria, are you satisfied with the level of technical assistance the U.S. has pledged or should we be doing more, not only to help the Nigerian military find the girls, but also to combat Boko Haram?

Schakowsky: Yes, I would like to see even more activity. Let's see what happens in the next day or so, but it's already now been weeks that these girls have been kidnapped. This is the most shocking thing in a way that I've seen. I've been to Eastern Congo.

I've certainly seen the systematic rape of women, and rape used, as you mentioned, as a weapon of war. It's low tech, low cost. It destroys villages by tearing families and communities apart, and certainly undermines countries. But as a single event, the brazen abduction of these hundreds of girls - the "crime" being that they have gone to school -- is just, I think, in some ways a wake-up call for the entire world.


(Click here to listen to the full interview on Press Conference USA)

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dan Slezak from: Cleveland, Ohio
May 16, 2014 1:05 AM
This woman says she has been to the Congo and seen the systematic rape of women. I cant help but wonder if she saw any men or boys. Oh, that's right because their all DEAD! I think I would much rather be captured alive, with a possibility of escape/rescue than to be butchered. Her IVAWA wont even be deployed until after the fact. That just goes to show how much they care about innocent men and boys. A girls education is more important than a boys life. We cant even educate our boys over here, so lets commit resources to girls over there. Its not just the girls being deprived of an education, the boys aren't getting one either. I've only seen one MSM article about the slaughtering of those "students", and it was written by a female. You people should be ashamed!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs