The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence will only lead to real change if governments start to do things differently.
This was the main message from Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee who addressed the summit during the main plenary this morning.
She said: ”To imagine we can stop rape in conflict without stopping wars, is like imagining we can draw blood without breaking a finger or cutting ourselves. It is impossible. To do things differently we must endeavour to put an end to the militarism that has engulfed our world in ways that are unnecessary.”
Gbowee referred to a recent trip she had made to the Democratic Republic of Congo where she met with her “Congolese sisters”.
She said: “From Bunia to Bukavu, the stories were the same – women stepping up and responding to the need for counselling, humanitarian assistance, solidarity and a strong sense of sisterhood. This was a testament that women who been abused who were no longer going to allow rape and sexual violence to define who they were. They had the purpose to do things differently. If the survivors of such horrific crimes are doing things differently to repair their lives, it is time for those of us who have vowed to journey with them to take the cue: we must start to do things differently.”
Leymah Gbowee is a Nobel Peace Laureate and co-founder of the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict. The vision of the Campaign is that survivors will be seen, not as victims, but as women who have overcome the trauma of sexual violence and are now helping others to access services and move forward with their lives.
The Campaign is calling for three main actions:
Prevention: calling on world leaders to commit to having policies in place by the time of the 2015 UN Security Council High-Level Review of UNSCR 1325 to ensure women’s participation and independent civil society representation in 100% of peace processes and negotiations.
Protection: calling on world leaders to commit to the sustained resources for the full range of medical, psychosocial, legal and livelihood services for survivors and increase direct funding to local women’s organizations providing survivors with these services.
Prosecution: calling on world leaders to commit to the development and enforcement of robust national laws to hold perpetrators accountable for sexual violence, with particular focus on the training law enforcement officials in investigation and support for prosecutors.
Campaign member, Liz Bernstein: “To effectively stop rape as a weapon of war and bring sustainable peace to communities that have experienced conflict it is important to work with survivors and grassroots women’s organizations. The Summit offers a critical opportunity to turn two decades of international commitments to end rape in war into concrete action to bring about real change on the ground. It is a turning point in the struggle to stop sexual violence in conflict and to address the urgent needs of survivors and communities affected by sexual violence in conflict.”
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Leymah Gbowee’s full speech reads:
Your Excellences, Distinguished ladies and gentleman, fellow activists, one and all. It is truly an honour for me to be here today and I would like to thank the organisers of this event for the invitation to share my thoughts on this important issue today. I am honoured and truly humbled by the invitation.
I would like to recognize my fellow Nobel Peace Laureate sisters Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman for being here as part of the delegation of the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Sexual Violence. To the survivors who are here to share their stories and interact, I congratulate your bravery and strength. To sisters and comrades in the flight for women’s rights and social justice, thank you for keeping the flame of advocacy alive.
I ask you to indulge me in a moment of silence for every girl, boy woman and man who have died as result of conflict.
In February of this year, I found myself in DRC as part of the Nobel Women’s Initiative delegation. I was very excited to be in the field because these trips with my sisters are what keep my adrenalin pumping as it is an opportunity to see my Congolese sisters and to listen to stories of resilience and immense strength.
From Bunia to Bukavu, the stories were the same – women stepping up and responding to the need for counselling, humanitarian assistance, solidarity and a strong sense of sisterhood. This was a testament that women who been abused who were no longer going to allow rape and sexual violence to define who they were. They had the purpose to do things differently. My take from the DRC which I bring here today is that if the survivors of such horrific crimes are doing things differently to repair their lives, it is time for those of us who have vowed to journey with them to take the cue: we must start to do things differently.
This conference is the first step in the right direction. It is an opportunity for national governments to make rape an agenda item; however to imagine we can stop rape in conflict without stopping wars, is like imagining we can draw blood without breaking a finger or cutting ourselves. It is impossible. To do things differently we must endeavour to put an end to the militarism that has engulfed our world in ways that are unnecessary.
We must be proactive about these issues in peace time. Sexual violence and rape doesn’t arise solely out of conditions of war; it is directly related to violence that exist in women’s lives during peace time. Militarization and the presence of weapons legitimise new levels of brutality and impunity. This violence, unfortunately, continues in post conflict in post conflict where chaos adds to the many frustrations exacerbated by the war.
Finally in the short-term, it is my hope that national governments will invest in the justice structure at the local and national levels. We must improve the police capacities to investigate at no cost to the victims and their families.
This is the right direction. Our sisters in Congo and other parts have taught us how suffering can be transformed into a force that builds a secure future for humanity. It is upon each and everyone us to journey with them in the right way.