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Methodology of Work

Who Prepares a Women’s Court? – International experiences

A women’s court (WC) is organized and convened by women’s organizations and/or networks at local, regional or international level. It can also be convened by Initiative Committee for the Organization of Women’s Court, as in the case of WC in former Yugoslavia. There is a variety of preparatory activities. Experiences of previous WCs show the diversity of ways and methods of preparation, and we will list the most usual ones:

Educational activities: seminars, round tables, public debates, presentations that open a space for dialogue, debate, exchange of information on various issues.

Artistic events: performances, movies, theatre shows, traveling art-activist caravans etc.

Establishing core groups for the organization of WC: women’s working groups set up a framework for the analysis of context and include women from activist organizations, academic community, media, artistic associations etc.

What Does the Preparatory Process for the Organization of WC Look Like?

The preparatory process depends on the context and on the assessment and decision of the organizers of WC. In India organizers prepared WC for two years; in some countries it took longer and in others shorter periods of time. In former Yugoslavia, systematic and organized preparations started at the end of 2010, even though the initiative for organization of WC exists for about a decade already. 

The WC preparatory process is inclusive and democratic and it means that it is necessary to include women’s activist groups, human rights groups, women trade union activists, women members of the academic community, women from the media, women artists and, of course, all interested women with no formal social engagement. Shortly put, the preparatory process includes women regardless of their class-economic position, ethnic or religious belonging, level of education or sexual orientation.

When organizing a WC, the goal and the process are equally important – the goal is very important, but it is the process that takes us to the goal.

Who Testifies at a WC?

The experience of previous WCs shows that the organizers are trusted to autonomously establish the criteria of „choosing“ women who would testify.

Korin Kumar, an organizer of numerous WCs, says: „The most important part of our WCs, as we symbolically call them, is public hearings – places where a woman can really be heard. All of us can tell each other many stories about violence, but all the violence often remains buried under the overwhelming silence. WCs started looking for such violence, started naming it. WCs are inviting us to learn something new, to gain new knowledge.“

It is very important that women witnesses at WCs are supported both during the preparatory process and the hearings, but also after the WCs.

Which Methodology is Used by a WC? What does the WC procedure look like? 

WC methodology links a subjective text (a woman’s testimony) with the objective analysis of political, social-economic and cultural context of the violence that took place.

Expert witnesses at WCs explain the political, gender, social-economic, ethnical-racial and cultural context of violence, analyzing it’s causes and consequences and formulating the context for individual testimonies, which clearly shows the significance of personal testimony intertwined with political analysis.

Jury at local and regional level consists of women and men who enjoy high level of respect among women and women’s organizations – and they are primarily women activists, scientists, legal, economic and media experts etc.

International jury consists of women and men who have an excellent knowledge of the situation and the context and who enjoy great international respect and moral integrity. Shortly put, it consists of persons whose words carry a significant weight in the world.

WC does not deliver judgements, but does deliver public condemnations and does put pressure onto national and international institutions. WC can initiate appropriate measures against a perpetrator of a crime, including collecting evidence for legal action.

Aesthetics is an important dimension of WC – introducing this dimension enabled women to transform the pain they have experienced into yet another form of resistance. Through various forms of artistic expression, from poetic expressions, painting and music to dance, handicrafts and theatre forms, women have conveyed their most painful experiences to others.

Women’s Court Regional
Organisational Board

Bosnia & Herzegovina:
Mothers of the Enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa
Foundation CURE (www.fondacijacure.org)
Centre for Women’s Studies (www.zenstud.hr)
Centre for Women War Victims - ROSA (www.czzzr.hr)
Kosovo Women’s Network (www.womensnetwork.org)
National Council for Gender Equality (www.sozm.org.mk)
Anima (www.animakotor.org)
Women’s Lobby Slovenia (www.zls.si)
Women’s Studies (www.zenskestudie.edu.rs)
Women in Black (www.zeneucrnom.org)
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