While at the consultation day on Sunday, I heard a woman say that the parallel events were really great. Well she couldn’t have been more right. My very first parallel event was fantastic. Challenging and Preventing Hidden War Crimes: Screening and Panel Discussion hosted by Agency for Cooperation and Research and Development was held at Church Center at the UN, which was across the street from the UN on Wednesday, March 6 at 10:30am.
The panelists were Salina Sanou (Head of Policy and Advocacy for ACORD), Irma van Deuren (Head of Divison for Gender Equality at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands), and Ngoné Diop (Chief Gender Equality and Women in Development for Economv Commission for Africa). We started the session by watching a 20 minute documentary (http://www.acordinternational.org/acord/en/our-work/a/gender/hidden-war-crimes/) and then the panelists spoke about their reactions to the film.
|From left to right: Ms. Diop, Ms. van Dueren, Ms. Sanou, and the facilitator from ACORD|
While the film’s content was difficult to watch, it was certainly educational. Something that struck me about the film and something with which Salina also briefly spoke about, was the importance of giving a face to the issue. I was surprised to see survivors of sexual violence speaking about their experiences. I thought that speaking out about rape would be too stigmatized (thought there names were not given to maintain privacy). This theme of giving a personal story had resurfaced from consultation day on Sunday. This was something that was talked by Sean Southy from PCI Media Impact during the session on social media. By doing this, the quantitative statistics come alive and empathy is possible.
One of the most significant things that I thought Ms. Diop talked about was the need to make sexual violence a sustainable issue. Her suggestion as that it needs to be put in the center of development economic planning because sexual violence has a costs- for the individual, for the family, and even for the country (in terms of GDP). At this time, there are laws against sexual violence, it is just that they are not enforced. I think her point was well-taken. Later she talked about how the UN and NGOs were doing a great job of coming up with resolutions but that they were abstract unless you translated them into the cultural contexts in each place you are examining. She talked about traditions and how we can use them to our advantage. Instead of highlighting the negative traditions, we can try to make use of the ones that are productive for society.
I look forward to seeing what these amazing women are able to accomplish. They were all very knowledgeable and had some great suggestions as to what we can work on in the future. I left feeling inspired to make change.