On 26 and 27 March 2019, the « Speak Rise Up Stand » Forum was held in Luxembourg. At the initiative of H.R.H. the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, this forum is co-organized by Céline Bardet and the entire We Are Not Weapons of War team, and Denis Mukwege and the Mukwege Foundation team. This Forum will be a time for discussion and action on all themes related to sexual violence in fragile environments.
From justice issues to reparations issues, including the theme of support for victims and responses to violence, a wide range of topics will be discussed. But for each of them, it is the approach of the field and the action that will be privileged. This is also why this Forum will put at the centre of the discussions different survivors of this violence, from all over the world. Without a miserable will, they will be able to explain their daily lives and the difficulties they encounter and will be able to address themselves directly to state or legal authorities. This forum also aims to highlight the work of professionals in the field. As such, the two 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winners, Congolese Dr Denis Mukwege and Yezidi activist Nadia Murad will be present.
This forum must be the starting point for change in which everyone must participate. The time for failure is over, the time for solutions must prevail. Because the first weapon against sexual violence in conflicts is WE.
CELINE BARDET, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF WE ARE NOT WEAPONS OF WAR
The « Speak Rise Up Stand » Forum aims to bring together the different actors working on sexual violence in fragile environments. But above all, this Forum wants to be the one of action. Time to move from words to deeds!
This is also why survivors from all over the world will be present at the centre of this Forum. Coming from Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda or the DRC, they will be able to speak. It was also the very dear wish of H.R.H. the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and Celine Bardet to allow these women to express themselves during this Forum: not to dwell on a painful past, but rather to highlight the resilience and courage of these women!
They will also be able to talk about their daily lives and express themselves on the stigmatization they may have suffered, the rejection of their community, the family, social and economic difficulties that followed their aggression. Because the words of experts are not enough, it is essential to allow these women to speak out and express the reality of their daily lives. Some of them had to undergo operations. Others have never been able to find a job as a result of their rape. Still others have been rejected by their husbands, families and communities. All of them have experienced enormous psychological trauma that still leaves its mark today. The « Speak Rise Up Stand » forum wants to put words to this reality, but also wants to highlight the strength and energy of these women.
They may also address themselves directly to State authorities, presidents and members of NGOs or international organizations; or to international justice authorities. Fatou Bensouda, Attorney General of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be present and will be able to respond to these survivors.
Among these women, the WWoW team works particularly with Mildred, from Zimbabwe. At the end of 2005, during the parliamentary elections of a Zimbabwe held in an iron fist by Robert Mugabe, she was raped. As a result of this rape, she became pregnant. Her husband then rejects her and leaves with the son he had with Mildred. She wants to have an abortion, but the law in Zimbabwe requires that the victim has a certificate issued by the authorities to prove that her pregnancy is the result of rape. The police refuse to receive her complaint, so she will not get this certificate, and therefore will not be able to have an abortion.
Mildred gave birth to her child. She then explains: « I expected to see the devil, I saw my daughter ».
His granddaughter is now 12 years old. Rejected by her community and having lost her job following her rape, Mildred has since experienced significant financial difficulties. She is the first survivor to participate in the Foster A Survivor program: WWoW has accompanied her and allowed her to complete her studies, obtain a diploma and finance the schooling of her little daughter who is following a brilliant path!
Mildred and her daughter will be present at the Speak Rise Up Forum Stand. It’s an incredible moment for them. The entire Zimbabwean women’s survivor community around Mildred congratulated her and encouraged her to participate in this Forum. It therefore wants to take this opportunity to show how strong and resistant it is, but also to ask for answers and to call on the international authorities on the issue of children born of rape. All too often, the latter are forgotten and mothers are left alone and helpless in the face of psychological trauma, but also alone in their child’s education.
Another wish of H.R.H. the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, encouraged by Céline Bardet and Denis Mukwege, was to involve professionals from various fields to show that the response to sexual violence must be plural.
Many questions will therefore be raised by professionals in the field, but also by experts in law, international relations, history and economic solutions.
Professor François Heisbourg will focus on the history of sexual violence in conflicts and the situation in contemporary conflicts. ICRC President Peter Maurer will discuss the medical stigma of sexual violence in an exchange with Dr Raphaël Pitti, emergency doctor, and Dr Denis Mukwege, doctor in the DRC and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018. Psychological trauma or social and family consequences will also be discussed by specialists. Joyce J. Wangui, a Kenyan journalist, will also give a voice to survivors who have had a child from their rape. Nadia Murad, a Yezidi activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, will also speak to remind us that survivors must be the first to take the lead in responding to sexual violence.
And these answers will be discussed, because this Forum is intended to be a forum for action. Les réponses par le corps with Laurence Fischer of Fight For Dignity who accompanies survivors through sport; or Bolewa Sabourin of Recreation by Loba who helps victims reclaim their bodies through dance. The answers that justice must provide will be discussed by Philippe Grant, Director of Trial International, or by Thierry Cruvellier, editor-in-chief of JusticeInfo.net. WWoW founder Celine Bardet will also meet with Fatou Bensouda to discuss the ICC’s role and action in addressing sexual violence in conflict. Innovative solutions will be highlighted, particularly those using new technologies: Fabrice Croiseaux, General Manager of InTech S.A. will speak on this subject and will talk about Back Up, the digital tool launched by WWoW to serve victims and justice. Finally, socio-economic support for survivors will be addressed, in particular with the intervention of Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Many specialists will therefore be speaking, but also professionals in the field and survivors. Three Nobel Peace Prize winners will address the Forum. It is from this diversity that the richness of exchanges will emerge to say that today more than ever, war rape is not inevitable.
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