Invest in women in conflict zones to promote change

April 3, 2012

Where would you put your money as an investor? A leading campaigner against gender-based violence says there is only one answer – invest it in women in conflict zones.

“Conflict zones have the biggest potential for change,” Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women, told delegates at the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford last week.

“If I were an investor I’d invest in conflict zones and women who live there,” said Ensler, author of the award-winning play, “The Vagina Monologues.”

She spoke at a session called “Victors, Not Victims: Women Driving Social Change and Striving for Peace in Conflict Zones,” which included panelists from some of the most dangerous places in the world for women.

Fartuun Abdisalaan Adan, one of the panelists, returned to Somalia, a country in the midst of what aid agencies say is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, to continue the work of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre, after her husband was killed by warlords.

“The focus is always on what is wrong in Somalia, the violence, the warlords. But there is so much more to it. There are women in my country that have energy, who want change, but nobody talks about that because women are silenced,” she told me after the debate.

Fahima Hashim, director of  Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre in Sudan, said her country’s legal system conspired against women.

“There is no definition of rape. I get raped in Sudan and go to court, I will be told that I committed adultery,” she told delegates. “We really have the most horrible legal system.”

Hashim said to bring about lasting change in Sudan, South Sudan and across Africa, women need to unite on “a common platform” to discuss the issues facing them and channel their drive for change.

Christine Schuler Deschryver, another panelist, sees this drive every day in her work as director of V-Day Congo and director of City of Joy, a centre for survivors of rape in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, often called “the rape capital of the world.”

“There is a lot of energy coming from the women at City of Joy,” she said. “My vision for women in Congo is to be leaders, so they can take back their country.”

But nothing will bring about lasting security for women without the rule of law, she told me after the debate.

“There is a lot of work to be done. But what we’re working on is helping women to communicate, and they go back to their communities with information to share.”

* For more news, features and blogs about women’s rights go to our website TrustLaw Women and our The Word on Women blog. *

Picture credit: An internally displaced Somali woman mourns near the body of her son, who died of malnourishment, in Hodan district, south of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu September 20, 2011. REUTERS/Feisal Omar




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