Not the Only Survivor in the Village

Survivors of gender based violence and their supporters can deliver powerful messages for peace, reflects Betsy Kawamura.

Betsy Kawamura
25 May 2011

Here I am at the second day of the Nobel Women's Initiative conference in Quebec on ending sexual violence in conflict. The atmosphere has been most electrifying and I am so very glad that I am not the 'only survivor in the village' as I have often found myself in other international meetings!

So far, I have engaged in intense discourse with other survivor women on their transcendent stories toward recovery, and how they are able to use their strength and competence in their own campaigns in various parts of the world toward healing.

Meeting with Laureates Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams and Maireed Maguire has catalyzed my belief that they are deeply with us 'in spirit' when we share our recovery experiences to the public. I will continue to focus on strategies in joining forces with them to have our voices be heard globally.

On the flight en route to Quebec, I had the opportunity to watch the film, The King's Speech. I originally did not know what the fanfare concerning this film was about, but after watching how King George VI of Britain struggled to overcome his speech disability in delivering the difficult public radio message of declaring war on Germany, I understood how critical 'voices' can be in changing history and galvanizing the public. I am hoping that with the sister- and brotherhood of Nobel Peace Laureates, we as survivors of gender based violence and our supporters can deliver powerful messages for peace, and that the time has come for sexual violence to end globally.

I believe it is our spiritual mission as politically active survivors to stand as 'eternal lights' at the end of tunnels for those who could not speak out due to political, economical or social threats. I also had the great fortune of dialoging with Dawn Engle, one of the founders of PeaceJam who reminded me of the importance of including men in the equation to end violence against women. I really hope that by the next Nobel Women's Initiative conference, more men will 'come out' and present on how they were honoured to proudly stand by their partners who tragically endured sexual violence. We need to know of these heros who chose to stand by their loved ones to successfully implement UNSCR 1325 – 1960 beyond the status of 'paper tigers'.

I had started out on my campaign several years ago to represent voices of Asian women and survivors of other minorities, because doing so made me feel 'beautful' inside, and I still feel the same today. With the lessons-learned from this important conference, I do hope to transform 'blood monies' into 'funds of compassion' which could drive our global efforts further. Last but not least, I wish to extend my greatest and most sincere gratitude to the women and the organizers of this conference who reminded us of our inner strength and beauty.


This article was first published by the Nobel Women's Initiative.

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