NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 29 – A coalition of gender activists and social entrepreneurs from Africa gathered in Nairobi on Tuesday for a three-day summit to kick-start a new campaign against all forms of sexual violence against women.
At the meeting, convened by V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls founded by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, 46 activists and social entrepreneurs from 18 countries in Africa are to learn from one another, establish a regional and continent-wide agenda, and create a platform to communicate about their work and demands to the international community.
“More than one out of every three women on this planet will experience violence during her lifetime. With seven billion people on the planet, that’s one billion women. Stopping this violence is as crucial as addressing the issues of disease, hunger, and climate change,” said Ensler.
The activists say there is systematic violence against millions in Guinea, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Zimbabwe, the countries which have recently witnessed political upheavals.
The trends show an urgent need to protect women against violence. The summit is expected to create momentum for One Billion Rising, a global campaign to mark the 15th anniversary of the V- Day global movement to end violence against women and girls in honour of the one billion women survivors of abuse.
Ensler said One Billion Rising is a global strike, a call to refuse to participate until rape and rape culture ends, adding it’s solidarity reach, a new refusal, and a new way of being.
“Bringing these passionate, knowledgeable and innovative women and men together, will help to connect women so they understand the problem is much larger – one that is taking place on a human scale – and that it must be addressed collectively,” said Ensler.
V-Day Kenya Director, Agnes Pareyio, a former UN Personality of the Year laureate, said the summit has been convened to help women create a powerful network that would help strengthen their own campaigns across Africa.
“Bringing women together will help break the isolation, shame and taboo that often surrounds sexual violence, as survivors often believe violence is because of their family or culture alone,” said Pareyio, whose campaign against female genital mutilation led to her global award.
Statistics showed more than half a million women and girls were raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) as a result of the 14-year long war there and that a woman is raped every 25 seconds in South Africa, worsening the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Among high profile activists attending the forum are Denis Mukwege, a contender for the Noble Peace prize, from Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mukwege will make a call to men throughout the continent to create a vision to rise to end violence against women. Five teen girls from South Africa will attend the summit to bring the voices of youth into the V-Africa network.