People often ask me to write a blog, to talk about my experiences, to share my stories, to convey the emotions: heartache; compassion; confusion; joy; that come from the work that I do and the people that I meet.
In my global travels on behalf of V-Day, I meet Vagina Warriors who have dedicated their lives to ending violence against women. These are women and men who have been through or witnessed terrible violence and rather than getting an AK-47 or retaliating or becoming avengers, they actually grieve what happened to them, they experience what happened to them, and in doing that something transforms them and they then commit their lives to making sure it doesn't happen to anyone else. Vagina Warriors are everywhere. In a time of escalating and explosive violence on the planet, these Warriors are fostering a new paradigm.
In this time of war and escalating violence, the word warrior can be loaded. But for native people, a warrior is one whose basic responsibility is to protect and preserve life. I am choosing this definition when I say 'Vagina Warrior.'
The struggle to end violence on this planet is a battle. Emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical. It requires every bit of our strength, our courage, our fierceness. It means speaking out when everyone says to be quiet. It means going the distance to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. It means honoring the truth even if it means losing family, country, and friends. It means developing the spiritual muscle to enter and survive the grief that violence brings and, in that dangerous space of stunned unknowing, inviting the deeper wisdom.
This is the work of 'Vagina Warriors.'
This Friday in NYC, I have the honor of interviewing such a person - DR. DENIS MUKWEGE MUKENGERE, the Director and Founder of the ground-breaking Panzi General Referral Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Faced with an estimated 25,000 cases of rape and other sexual violence against women and children reported per year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UN Under-Secretary-General Jan Egeland recently described the plague of sexual violence that has prevailed in the country's eastern provinces for nearly a decade, as a "cancer that seems out of control". In too many environments like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Darfur, the mere act of foraging for wood or fetching drinking water exposes hundreds of thousands of women and girls to grave danger, and systematic rape -- and near-total impunity - continue to define the crises.
These issues are the focus of V-Day's 2007 Spotlight on Women in Conflict Zones. Each year, V-Day focuses its spotlight on a specific group of women experiencing violence, with the goal of raising awareness of the problem and funding for the aid organizations addressing it.
With this December 1st event, we hope to expand the awareness of sexual violence in the Congo and beyond, examining mechanisms for prevention and ways to influence policy change on the ground.
So while I will post here occasionally, this V-Day blog will be filled with the voices of 'Vagina Warriors' like Dr. Mugwebe - both through their own words and reporting about their activities. Welcome them and their stories.
Welcome to V-World.
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