Soroptimist Convention Montreal 2011
In 2002, I was appointed an Envoy to the Peace Process in the Sudan. As part of my job I went to Northern Uganda. When I arrived in the evening I saw hundreds of children walking,
The children were as young as six years old. Everywhere I looked there were young children walking with a purpose? They were not dawdling or lingering. They were walking towards a goal. The person accompanying me explained to me that they were Commuter children.
What does it mean to be a Commuter child?
Every evening their parents would take them to the door and they would join other children to go to sleep in a safe Hall.
In a safe place so that Joseph Kony would not abduct them.
I did not understand this concept. For me it was like putting your cat or dog outside at night.
The next day I went to a detention Centre where very young teenagers had been brought from the bushes. Children who had been abducted from their parents and had forcibly become part of Joseph Kony’s Army. Joseph Kony is a Ugandan Rebel who leads the Lord`s Resistance Army who abducted children from Northern Uganda and now from the Congo. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court and has been on their list for many years for Crimes he has committed against Humanity
My job was to meet with the parents and convince them to have their children return home.
The next day I went to meet with the parents thinking it would only take me a short time to complete this assignment.
Nothing had prepared me for what happened next.
When I entered the Hall I met with very hostile parents. I could not understand why the parents would not want to their children to return home. I started arguing with the parents. We were sitting in a circle. Then a mother stood up. She was sobbing.
She told me her story.
She said five years ago at night Joseph Kony`s men came to her village and gathered them all in one place. Then they burnt their homes. They raped many women in their village. She was spared. She had three sons.
Kony`s men grabbed her older son. She saw him put an injection in her eldest son’s head and then they handed him a gun. They instructed him to kill his father and two brothers. He did. He also killed or maimed many other people in the village. There were other boys from the village that killed their families. Altogether twenty boys and girls were taken from that village. The youngest was twelve years old.
The next morning the village was devastated and the people were buried. The ones who survived walked to a refugee camp. This woman had lost her husband and two sons at the hands of her eldest son. She was alone.
Now she said it was very hard for the villagers to welcome her son and the other children back.
We then started working with the boys and the families so that one day the boys would be reunited with their parents.
I have become friends with one of these young girls Evaline who was abducted by Kony. She is truly a very special person.
This past November I welcomed a very special young woman to Parliament Hill.
Evaline Apoko is 19 years old and is from northern Uganda.
This young woman personifies strength,
Growing up in a time of political instability and conflict, Evaline is no stranger to tragedy. From a very young age, Evaline and her family were overwhelmed with fear, and they often moved around in hope of escaping the Lord’s Resistance Army.
One night, when Evaline was nine years old, Evaline and her family sought refuge in what they thought was a safe house.
Unfortunately, they were mistaken. They had walked into a house occupied by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Evaline, who often had nightmares about being abducted, was in fact taken captive by the Lord’s Resistance Army and was subjected to an incredibly unfortunate fate. After being separated from her family and loved ones, Evaline walked vast distances with the Lord’s Resistance Army forces, who abused her both physically and emotionally, and who often deprived her of basic nourishment.
Almost a year after her abduction, when Evaline was 10 years old, tragedy struck again.
While walking with the rebel forces, she was caught in an air raid. She managed to dodge several bullets, until a bomb exploded near her, blowing away part of her face.
Evaline did not receive medical attention. Instead, she was left to suffer alone as the rebel forces left her for dead. After enduring such a traumatic experience, Evaline no longer feared death because she felt it would be a less painful alternative to living a life full of pain and suffering.
However, Evaline knew she was special and she knew she had to speak out; she had an important message to share with the world. At the tender age of 13, after being emotionally scarred and physically disfigured, Evaline mustered up enough courage and successfully escaped from the Lord’s Resistance Army.
She returned home to Uganda, where she received the medical attention she desperately needed, and underwent three surgeries. She was then taken to the United States, where she had four additional surgeries. Evaline has another year of reconstructive surgeries ahead of her. She wakes up every night with severe headaches.
Although Evaline has a past full of tragedy and heartache, her future is one that is inspiring and full of promise. She has courageously decided to complete her high school education and hopes to be a spokesperson for young children who have been abducted. She is the voice for the thousands of children who have not lived to tell their stories.
She speaks at every opportunity she gets of what is happening to children in Northern Uganda.
I introduced Evaline in the Senate of Canada. She was warmly welcomed in the Senate and received a standing ovation. In the House of Commons when she was introduced the Prime Minister and all the Members of Parliament almost jumped to their feet and gave her a very warm standing ovation. She also spoke very eloquently on Parliament Hill.
For my family and I Evaline is a young girl we love. She has the same aspirations as we do. To improve the lives of children
Last week when I spoke to Evaline she told me she had just been admitted into a New York Hospital for further reconstructive surgery. She was frightened.
Evaline’s family has disowned her and now she moves from family to family. Some very generous American families look after her while she is undergoing reconstructive surgery. She has been in many hospitals. Last week was her 12th surgery.
Evaline Apoko who is a 19 year old girl is an example of how women can be catalysts of change in the Government.
Evaline came to Parliament Hill with the intention of raising AWARENESS about children living in war zones.
She was an ADVOCATE for all of those children who had lost their lives and who were unable to share their stories.
Although many politicians had read about the violence perpetuated by Joseph Coney’s Lord’ Resistance Army meeting Evelyn, seeing her scars, listening to her story and witnessing the beauty and hope in her eyes made them all recognize that all of those children who are living in countries plagued by violence are someone’s sons and daughters.
This made politicians want to re confirm their desire to take ACTION and help PREVENT future generations from being casualties of warfare.
I stand before you on behalf of Evaline to thank you for trying to change the lives of children like Evaline and the other children.
Thank you very much for warmly welcoming me this week.
Thank you for letting me be part of this convention.
I have found it truly a inspiring week.
I am very humbled and privileged to be part of your deliberations.
Bienvenue a Montreal. Je suis vraiment heureuse que vous avez choisi MontrÃ©al pour votre convention. Je voudrais parler en francais mais malheursement il n’y a pas de traduction. Je suis desole.
As a Canadian Senator I want you to welcome to Montreal and Canada. Montreal is one of our very beautiful cities and I am happy you chose this city for your convention.
At this time I also want to take the time to thank Karima Hudda, Your Programme Chair for her persistence. She and her team have been so patient with me. Every time Karima called the office I was travelling.
I do not think Karima believed I would turn up.
On a number of occasions I have attended your events and there is nothing that would keep me away from this event. If I did not attend then that would be my loss. Thank you Karima for your invitation to this great convention.
and the Convention Committee thank you for your excellent organization.
May I please ask you to all stand and give them a standing ovation for their hard work and the excellent work they have done on our behalf.
This week`s convention is titled Women Leaders in civil Society.
It is you who are the Women Leaders in your communities.
It is you who are improving the lives of women and girls.
It is you who get up every morning and work on these issues on a regular basis.
I would ask all of you to stand and give each other a standing ovation for the work you do day in and day out to improve the lives of women and children
I salute you for the excellent work you do. I have worked with many of you and I know of your great work.
I would like to recap some of what we heard this week. When I was listening to the various presenters it often felt that we had all worked together as I have found that each speaker has built on the previous speaker’s ideas
Madame Clarkson spoke of welcoming people with differences in Canada and her work to make that possible. I know that you would go further by the work you do and say you acknowledge differences all over the world. Whether it is to extend your hand and love to your sisters in Japan; or to help young girls attend schools by making toilets available to them or making safe births possible in South Pacific.
You– Soroptimist members, who are women leaders in civil society, already do acknowledge differences and work with them.
Dr. Nutt spoke articulately of the universality of the feminine experience.
And then she went on to make four suggestions
- Begin with knowledge and information
- Have wise consumer and investment practices
- Make a difference in the lives of women and girls
You- Soroptimist members, are women leaders in civil society and already do improve the lives of women and children in society.
President Yvonne Simpson spoke eloquently of her regions work and she summarized thier work in the beautiful cloak she wore. The work of weaving the communities together to improve the lives of women and children.
President Liz Morgan-Lewis of Great Britain and Ireland gave us a detailed report of what work she with her team are doing and very clearly showed how they were integrating differences in their work.
We all attended different workshops.
I attended the session on Maternal Health led by Robyn Cain. Both in Parliament and outside Parliament I work on the issue of maternal health. I believe that we need to look at health issues generally and not in silos. So that communities are not at the whim of what is being addressed globally. It does not become the flavor of the year. All issues faced by the family need to be addressed from maternal health vaccinations, polio malaria TB and aids. It has to be a comprehensive package. On my last trip a few months ago I observed midwives working through the night with a small candle burning. They had no lights or water for three weeks as the authorities had not paid the bill. There were twelve deliveries that night. During the ninth delivery the candle had burnt out and in the dark not only did these amazing midwives deliver twins but they also had to stitch the mother.
In our workshop I learned these realities existed in many parts of the world.
I have had the honor to have breakfast with Reilly Anne Dempsey your Programme Director and look forward to work with her and to obtain recommendations from her as to what I should suggest to our government on Canada`s G8 initiative on maternal health. We compared notes on the terrible situation of some girls who suffer Fistula. I am going away with many presents from this convention. Reilly has kindly agreed to educate me further on maternal health issues. Thank you Reilly.
I then attended the Trafficking session led by Cathy Standiford and panelists Liv Handeland of Norway, Sue Riney of USA and Carell Wingrave of Canada. I know of your work as I have worked with Yanke and have worked with her.
I introduced in the Senate the first Bill making Trafficking of persons a Criminal Offence.
During the Winter Olympics in Vancouver I was very much involved in the issue to stop women being trafficked to Vancouver during the games. I worked really hard with others to make sure women were not trafficked. While the Olympic Games were being played I walked on the streets and to my horror saw 12 year old Aboriginal or first Nation girls on the street. This violence against girls needs all our voices.
I once again came away from the workshop learning 4 things we have to do to combat traffickingÂ-
- 1. Awareness raising
- 2. Advocacy
- 3. Action
- 4. Prevention
On Tuesday we heard from Anna Maria Tremonti who told us how people can slow her down but not stop her. I thought of all of you.
Nothing can stop you Soroptimist members.
Lee Graff empowered us by sharing how by a stroke of a brush we could achieve self esteem and my colleague Kirsty Duncan had us listening with awe as how she uses science to change lives of women and girls.
While listening to Alison Sutherland speak of the Sierra Project I wanted to stand up and shout. I wanted to share with you the pain of the Sierra Leones. Freetown looks like Halifax. Its buildings are the same architect as in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. When I went to work in Freetown the country had gone through a terrible civil war. A war fought for blood diamonds.
I had visited camps where I witnessed a year old child whose four limbs had been hacked off. Her mother’s arms had been hacked off. She tended her baby with her legs. There were so many people especially children who had their limbs cruelly hacked off. After a number of days of working with different groups to my shame a young child came up to me. I went to give him a chocolate. I kept handing it to him and I knew he wanted it but he would not extend his hand. I was growing impatient.
Suddenly I looked at him and saw his arms had been hacked off. To this day I feel the pain I caused him. Thank you for the work you do.
President Elaine Lagasse shared with us the realities of water and sanitation. She and her team truly change the lives of women especially to enable girls to attend school regularly.
President Sharon Fisher and her team are doing tremendous work in different areas including Haiti.
I know we will never forget your Japanese sisters’ presentations. They have witnessed so much pain in Japan and yet were here with us to continue Soroptimists worldwide work.
Thank you for letting me be part of these presentations.
When Maude Barlow explained that by 2030 demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent I thought of SI Europe`s work on water.
You are already taking steps to respect water.
What we are trying to do is create harmony
When we talk of differences, I agree we need to acknowledge them and empower people but we should never let that be an excuse to deny women and girls universal rights
Too often Northern governments and non-governmental organizations are accused of imposing “northern values” when assisting southern countries especially when they seek to promote women’s rights.
Although we all recognize the need to be culturally sensitive when working in other countries I think it is of great importance that we remain mindful of the fact that certain values are universal in nature.
What do I mean by universal rights?
Basic rights that cannot be compromised.
Universal means something that is applied throughout the universe, that is applicable everywhere in all cases. This belongs to all>
What is a right?
That which is due to a person.
All women, in all parts of the world should be granted access to quality education.
When I was a young girl I remember the Aga Khan stating that if you have a son and a daughter and you can only afford to educate one educate you daughter because when you educate a girl you educate a family.
All women, in all parts of the world should have access to basic healthcare.
All women, in all parts of the world should have access to justice.
All women, in all parts of the world should have the freedom to speak and to be heard.
We have not only a right but an obligation to ensure that all women, all around the world enjoy these basic universal rights.
By doing this we would be promoting universal values and universal ideals and in turn helping ensure that the dignity of a woman is always equal to that of a man.
For example, during a study that was undertaken by the Senate Standing Committee on Human Right’s last year that focussed on the plight of women in Afghanistan we heard about the importance of advocating for universal rights.
During this study we learned that women in Afghanistan have a desire for improved access to services like quality education, skills development and healthcare.
It was also pointed out that all too often, charges of the imposition of “northern values” are used by extremist and conservative groups in an effort to stifle the points of view of women.
During this study our committee had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Sima Samar who is Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, stated:
“Human rights are universal human values as well as Afghan values”
When confronting issues that women are consistently battling with, we must remain mindful that universal rights must be granted to all women, regardless of their race, religion or creed.
I am adamant that no man, religion, institution or government can deny a girl or woman universal rights of education, healthcare, freedom of movement. I am a Muslim woman. A practising Muslim. I would challenge any man institution religious leader if he denied any me or my sisters our universal rights.
I am also very much aware that I cannot do it alone. We need to build a movement.
A movement is a group of people working on a common goal. In my life I have organised many protests. I am patient. I am tough. I am persistent. No man will tell me what to do.
I was the first South Asian woman to become a lawyer in Canada. This was forty years ago. At that time I had to face sexism, racism and all kinds of isms. I out worked them all.
I am the first Muslim Senator, the first African Senator and the first South Asian Senator. Nobody handed this position to me. I outworked them all. No job was too small or too dirty for me. I outlasted and out worked all.
So no one will change our sisters or our status. We will have to do it ourselves by building a movement in our democratic governments.
If I have one frustration it is the naivety of women in not exercising our rights.
We all know we want to improve lives of women and children in order to obtain harmony in this world.
You- as Soroptimist have built a movement to improve lives of women and girls.
I am very much a believer that it is a movement that makes the change.
I have been involved in the political arena for my entire life.
My father was a Member of Parliament in Uganda so ever since I was a young girl I have been witness to the power of the political process.
I have seen how a Government can tear entire communities apart, ripping them away from their jobs, families and homes as was the case in Idi Amin’s Uganda.
However, I have also witnessed how a Government can bring people together and fight for what is right as is so often the case in Canada.
In a democracy like the one most of us are so fortunate to enjoy the Government has to yield to our will.
Each of us is provided with a voice. We all have a hand in how our country is governed.
However the onus is on us to exercise this right. It is up to us to ensure that our voices are heard.
We need to be sitting at the table if we want change.
We need to ask the tough questions of how our country’s money is used.
The daycare fight â€“ won and now lost
Women around the world often struggle for food, water and other very basic necessities.
One movement whose victory was particularly fruitful was one that pressured our Government to provide universal healthcare to all Canadians.
In April 1942 75% of Canadian’s joined forces and expressed to Prime Minister King’s Government that they supported the idea of a contributory health plan.
When three quarters of your population express that something is of great importance to them, believe me the Government has no choice but to listen.
After constant and consistent pressure the Liberal government heeded to the peoples plea.
By 1971 all provinces had joined the federal plan to create a national health insurance program.
Thanks to the pressure that the Federal Government experienced from the public, Canada now has an international renowned health care system.
Why can we not build a movement for rights of women?
The United Nations defines violence against women as:
“Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
- Conflict 1325
- Human trafficking
- Arab Spring
- Sex Selection
- Domestic Violence
- Female genital mutilation
- Honor killing
- Maternal health
- Girl child
- Pay Equity
- Forced marriage
When dealing with issues like the ones I have described we should remain mindful of the fact that they all fall under the umbrella of violence against women.
We should not look as these issues in silos.
Instead we should look at them all as pieces of the larger problem which is violence against women.
By focusing on the broader problem we will be ensuring that all forms of violence against women are brought to the forefront rather than just those forms that are temporally in the public spotlight.
When I was a little girl, I clearly remember my mother reading poems to me about young men travelling to the battlefields to fight in the war. I remember listening to how they would travel through the trenches and how their bodies lay dead in the muddy fields.
Now, when I read poems to my grandson about war, there is a stark difference. War has come into our communities and into our homes, literally and figuratively.
For those lucky enough, war has come to their homes only by television.
Others are not so fortunate.
The Rwandan genocide, the war in Afghanistan, the war in the Congoâ€” these are no longer wars fought on a battlefield; rather, they have come to our streets and backyards, directly affecting our men, women, boys and girls.
It is for this reason that Security Council Resolution 1325 holds such great importance. It is a landmark document that clearly recognizes the distinct impact of war and conflict on our men, women and children.
In acknowledging how war affects men, women and children in different ways, Resolution 1325 calls for women’s full and equal participation in the peace processes and, of course, specific protection for the rights of women and girls. Resolution 1325 is the first of its kind to deal exclusively with issues of women’s peace and security, and results from many years of intense work.
As Kofi Annan stated, “Just as your work can promote gender equality, so can gender equality make your work more likely to succeed.”
In Canada, both government and civil society have a clear desire to see Resolution 1325 implemented to the fullest possible extent.
The changing face of war has brought us new challenges, and we must recognize the importance of 1325 in meeting these challenges and the role of women in contributing to the critical task of building sustainable peace for all.
We must work to make Resolution 1325 a living reality.
When I was in Sudan as Canada’s Special Envoy I worked hard to bring women to the table. Although we faced many challenges the women who did participate in the negotiations had very valuable input.
Darfur Negotiations: presence of women made a difference.
Another issue that continues to harm women around the world is human trafficking.
Human trafficking is the transportation and harboring of a person for the purposes of forced service. Traditional images of trafficking victims are of women and children forced into the sex industry, but trafficked persons also include men, women and children exploited through farm, domestic or other labor.
The United Nations estimates that 700,000 people are trafficked annually world-wide and that this illegal activity generates annual global revenues approaching US $10 billion. Other estimates have indicated that as many as 4 million women and girls are sold world-wide into forced prostitution, slavery or forced marriage.
Canada has been identified as a source, destination and transit country for trafficking victims. Human Trafficking victims can be Canadians or foreigners. The RCMP conservatively estimates that between 800 â€“ 1,200 people are victims of human trafficking each year; however, nongovernmental organizations estimate this number is as high as 16,000 per year, most of who end up working in forced labor or the illegal sex trade. The International Labor Organization has estimated that at any given time a minimum of 2.45 million people are in situations of forced labor as a result of human trafficking.
Prior to when Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics Canada was warned that the games would provide the ideal climate and business opportunity for human traffickers. During this time there was a call to action.
To exercise control over ones body and maintain dignity is a universal right that all women are entitled to. Those who are victims of human trafficking deserve no different.
By working with NGO’s, community stakeholders and all levels of government to address shortfalls within the current legislative framework we will be helping ensure that there is better protection for trafficking victims.
Over the past several months a revolutionary wave consisting of a series of demonstrations and protests taking place in several Arab countries including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have been referred to as The Arab Spring.
Throughout The Arab Spring we have seen a series of strikes, demonstrations, marches and rallies, all of which have helped raise awareness about state oppression.
Although The Arab Spring has been highly publicized on a number of mediums, the price women have had to pay for participating in these revolutions often goes unmentioned.
Women whom have been brave enough to participate in Arab Spring protests have been subject to an extremely gruesome fate. They have been beaten, harassed and raped.
Speak about personal experience and Amnesty International
Sex Selective Abortion
All around the world pregnancies are terminated based upon the predicted sex of the fetus. Unfortunately in the majority of communities around the world male children are valued far more than female children. As a result sex selective abortion where female foetuses are aborted, is a common practice in many parts of the world, including right here in Canada.
Fought sex selection clinic in Vancouver
Now will get my American sisters to help me fight.
Domestic violence is an issue that many women in Canada and abroad are facing. In Canada, each year over 40,000 arrests are made in relation to domestic violence.
Over the last few years, I have visited a number of family violence courts located across the country.
Unfortunately, not all provinces have family violence courts. Sadly, my province of British Columbia is among those provinces that do not have a court in place to deal specifically with family violence. I have, however, urged successive Attorneys General in British Columbia to start a pilot project regarding the establishment of family violence courts and will continue to do so. I believe that establishing such a court would reduce the number of women who are abused.
In my experience, some of the best family violence courts are located in Calgary. I commend the Government of Alberta for this initiative. These courts are particularly designed to help women deal with the after-effects of abuse. The women get the help they require from one place. When speaking to the Calgary court officials, I was particularly impressed by their work in identifying serial abusers. These are men who have, over the years, abused many women. When these men realize that they will have to deal with the same court officials every time they are arrested for assaulting their partners, they are less likely to reoffend.
These courts are dealing with the root causes of the abuse and changing the behavior of routine offenders in the process. Not only do they protect women who have been victims of abuse, they also require men to attend anger management courses that are run by the court, giving them the help they require to deal with their anger.
I urge all of you here today to recognize the urgency of this situation. Each of you can come together and push your respective provinces, states and countries to establish family violence courts like the one that has been established in Calgary. Too many women in our country who have been victims of violence are suffering in silence. We must hear their cries.
Female genital mutilation is a gross human rights violation that continues to victimize women and girls in Canada and abroad.
Throughout history, roughly 114 million women and girls have undergone some form of female genital mutilation. This procedure is practiced in 27 countries in Africa, 7 countries in the Middle East, as well as in several parts of Malaysia, India and Indonesia. Although many people are quick to dismiss this practice as an African issue or an immigrant issue, female genital mutilation is in fact very much a Canadian issue.
The Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women claims that between 1986 and 1991, approximately 40,000 women who had arrived in Canada had been subjected to some form of female genital cutting.
This does not include the thousands of women who arrived in Canada from Somalia after 1991, as statistics indicate that many of these women were also victims of female genital mutilation.
As a woman who sought refuge in Canada, I am extremely grateful for the warm welcome that was extended to me by the Canadian government as well as the Canadian people. I am well aware of how fortunate I am to be able to call a country as great as Canada my home. However, I am also aware of the several obstacles that many newly arrived immigrants face in their day-to-day lives.
Although the federal government, through the implementation of Bill C-27, has made the practice of female genital mutilation a criminal offence that is punishable by law, that is simply not enough. Women who have immigrated to Canada having already experienced some form of genital cutting need to be provided with appropriate health and natal care.
In addition, these women should be educated about the laws surrounding the practice and also the health complications that accompany it. By doing so, the women who have already been victimized receive a standard of health care consistent with that which has been granted to all Canadians
Women will also be less likely to subject their daughters to this practice if this is the case.
The practice of female genital mutilation we wish to condemn, not those women who have already been victimized by it.
Simply making the practice of female genital mutilation is not enough.
This is a cultural practice that I believe is a form of child abuse and we need to deal with it as such.
By doing so, we will be taking a step toward eradicating this practice and protecting women and girls for generations to come from the life-long physical and psychological complications that accompany female genital mutilation.
- Honor killing
Women and girls are harmed based on the perception that a families honor is stained
Who demands this?
This is a practice that needs to have severe consequences.
Human Rights Watch: acts of vengeance usually death committed by male family members against female family members who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family.
UN Population Fund estimates approx 5000 women and girls are killed each year by members of their own families.
These women are shot, stoned, burned, poisoned, buried alive, strangled, smothered or knived to death.
- Maternal health
I believe that if men experienced pregnancy they would receive the best care
Maternal health is a human right and governments must be forced to provide services.
Work place harassment is violence against women
Takes away my right to earn a living
- Girl child
Rights of a girl
Minimum age of marriage
These are all preventable diseases
Every 30 seconds a child in Africa dies of Malaria
Abuse of young
- Pay Equity
-Women make 60-70 cents to every dollar earned by their male counterparts
-Women make up two thirds of all minimum wage earners.
-Abuse of person
-Can’t earn as much as men
-Speak of federal guidelines and Senate Study
- Forced marriage
What is it?
How do we stop violence against women?
We change attitudes of people.
In 1982 MP Margaret Mitchell was openly laughed at in the House of Commons when she raised the issue of violence against women. The outcry from women brought national attention to the issue.
I have worked on two Commissions on violence against women one I chaired and of one I was member working on issues to address violence against women.
I can tell you with confidence that many attitudes have changed.
Go through the example of drink and drive. You may state violence against women is more ingrained. Yes it is. But we are as a movement in a democracy stronger to change attitudes at home and to work to change attitudes elsewhere.
I stand before you to state that we have to insist on women’s universal rights by forming a worldwide movement ( you already have one so three quarters of the work is done)
And in a democratic country we must use all the resources we have to change our government’s priorities. I have seen many changes in my lifetime.
I know we can stop violence against women
Building a movement and stopping violence is a continuous job
The Democratic Republic of Congo has been called a war against women. In the eight years of civil war, tens of thousands of women have been victims of rape as a weapon of war on a scale the world has never seen before. They are physically ravaged, emotionally terrorized and financially impoverished. This war has killed over 5 million people since 1998; more than any other conflict since the Second World War.
Today, I want to share a story about a Congolese woman I met who changed my life. Her name is Bernadette. The first time the militia invaded her house, they killed her husband, one son, and they raped and killed her daughter while she was forced to watch. That day, Bernadette was also raped. She shouted for help, but no one answered her pleas.
The second time the Congolese army invaded her house, they raped and killed her second daughter while Bernadette was forced to watch. Bernadette was raped again. She shouted for help, but no one came.
The third time the militia invaded her house, luckily her other three children were not at home. Bernadette was again savagely raped. This time her genitals were mutilated. The militia poured kerosene in her vagina and lit her on fire. Although Bernadette survived, this time she did not shout for help. She knew there was no one to answer her pleas.
We all need to hear Bernadette’s cry. We have a duty to stand for the sake of humanity, but we have a further duty. Canadians have many mining interests in the Congo. We benefit from all those interests. The cell phones we use come from the Congo. If Canadian companies are extracting these resources, there must be a program to give something back in the way of social responsibility.
Please get your cell phones out
Every time you use phone think of Bernadette and the reason to build a movement to stop violence
All women enjoy universal rights and by building a movement within our democratic countries we can change lives of all women
We can all be catalysts of change in our Governments so long as we use our resources to stop violence against women.