Earlier this fall I attended the #Fearless event held by the charity ActionAid UK in London. My sisters Debbie and Kim weren’t in the country with me but it’s been my privilege to report back to them since. I met some extraordinary women who had faced all the odds to overcome experiences of violence and sexual violence in deeply patriarchal cultures. It was profoundly humbling to hear how such women had transformed their shocking ordeals in to something positive to support others. I was honored to meet one such woman, Kenyan activist Wangu Kanja who, in the wake of a horrifying ordeal, suffered depression and addiction before finding the capacity to reclaim her dignity and start a foundation assisting women and girls in similarly desperate need.
In showing me so much love and spirit, I could never have imagined what Wangu had been through. Such inspiring resilience, born from the darkest of places. I also listened to the heart-breaking plight of Egyptian human rights activist Azza Soliman, currently standing on trial after witnessing the murder of a fellow activist by the police. UK TV presenter Charlie Webster passionately spoke of ending the shaming and blaming of rape victims. As a survivor of such abuse, she is tireless in her campaigning to educate young men about the nature of the crime.
Violence and sexual violence against women knows no borders. It is a worldwide problem and without exceptional organizations like ActionAid and pressure from government bodies, many of these fearless women would remain unaided. I was shocked to learn that one in five women will experience such violence and 60 million girls are sexually assaulted at or on their way to school. We must all strive to be better, more connected, more active in supporting and fighting for those whose shoes we would never choose to walk in. As sisters we stand with ActionAid and these fearless women and are urging leaders of the world, in particular the UK Prime Minister David Cameron to do the same. Together let’s help put an end to violence and sexual violence against women.