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Strength in Numbers: Madre, KOFAVIV, and the Nobel Women’s Initiative

As the Human Rights Advocacy intern at MADRE, I am learning every day how essential our partnerships are for making change happen at both the community and international levels. On Monday, I met with MADRE Executive Director, Yifat Susskind, to discuss an international effort that MADRE is proud to be a part of: The Nobel Women’s Initiative’s (NWI) Campaign to End Rape in Conflict.

On Monday, September 24, I attended a presentation by NWI about the campaign (read more about the event by fellow MADRE intern here).

At this presentation, Nobel Laureates spoke about our partner Malya and KOFAVIV’s work for women and girls in Haiti, and encouraged audience and Campaign members to show support by voting for Malya as one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes of 2012. Malya Villard-Appolon is one of the co-founders of KOFAVIV, an organization providing support and services to rape survivors in Haiti and one of MADRE’s partner organizations. Malya has been named one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes of 2012.

During our meeting on Monday, Yifat expressed to me how much MADRE appreciates that the Sister Laureates are leveraging “the visibility and access to power they have as Laureates to call for an end to rape.” At all levels of this partnership to end rape in conflict, activists and organizations have distinct roles to play. The NWI is utilizing their skills to advance The Campaign internationally, while community organizations like KOFAVIV advance this work on the grassroots level.

Cassandra Atlas, Human Rights Advocacy Coordinator at MADRE (and my supervisor), helped me better understand why Haiti might be included in a campaign to stop rape in conflict:

The conditions created by a natural disaster, like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, often mimic the conditions created during armed conflicts. Women in disaster and post-disaster contexts experience a breakdown in traditional family and social structures and networks, a decrease in shelter, security, and basic services, and in many cases become internally displaced, refugees, or stateless persons, all of which greatly increase their vulnerability to rape.

On Tuesday, September 25th, Yifat attended the UN General Assembly meeting at which the Nobel Women’s Initiative presented about The Campaign to End Violence in conflict. 

Dr. Denis Mukwege, Founder and Medical Director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC, spoke at the UN meeting about the deafening silence that contributes to the ongoing global epidemic of rape in conflict. The Campaign to End Rape in Conflict calls on international leaders to prevent rape in conflict, to protect survivors with adequate supportive services, and to prosecute those responsible for these devastating crimes.

In our meeting on Monday, Yifat emphasized The Campaign’s work in bringing the experiences and needs of locally-based activists and organizations to the attention of international leaders: “Women at the community level have always organized against rape, but they haven’t always had women in positions of power to hear them.” NWI and The Campaign to End Rape in Conflict are dedicated to listening to women living in areas impacted by conflict who are fighting to end the sexual violence in their communities, women and organizations like Malya and KOFAVIV.

MADRE is proud to partner with both KOFAVIV and The Campaign, serving-Yifat described-as “a bridge between our sister organizations in communities and international organizations like The Nobel Women’s Initiative.” The Campaign to End Rape in Conflict, Malya and KOFAVIV, and MADRE are part of a vast network of community and international advocates working tirelessly to prevent, protect, and prosecute violence against women and girls worldwide. I am proud to call myself a part of this network as well.

Join me in building this partnership further: become a member of The Campaign to End Rape in Conflict and vote for Malya as one of CNN’s Top Heroes of 2012.