The world’s unlikeliest power couple, Angelina Jolie and William Hague, are ‘rallying’ London to descend on the ExCel Centre for next week’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. Animations, twitter, blogs and newspaper articles have been mobilised. Every time I sit down on the tube I seem to be opposite a poster for the event. Have you picked it up yet?
Women on the Move Awards are taking part in the Fringe attached to Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. We are joining 150 other NGOs in a programme of public events, discussions, performances and celebrations over the three days. We are in illustrious company: our 2014 winner of a Special Jury Award, Diana Nammi at IKWRO is hosting an exhibition and will be screening the film, Banaz: A Love Story; Leslie Thomas at ARTWORKS Project is screening a taster of her film The Prosecutors about those who don’t stop at to getting justice for the survivors of rape and sexual violence in conflict. We are delighted to be screening short films about our astonishing winners of the Women on the Move Awards on Thursday evening and hosting a panel discussion, Q&A and drinks reception afterwards.
So, why do we think it’s worthwhile and why do we want you to join us?
Lots of NGOs at the summit know that the many voices of groups and individuals involved in the Fringe could get lost. The main Summit programme is separate to the Fringe: ministerial delegates will be hustled in and out, the real decisions happen behind closed doors, and nuances can get missed. Amongst the ‘noise’ of all these voices and events, ordinary people doing everyday extraordinary things will get drowned out. Already emails are flying around lists: ‘can we build a Fringe coordinated response?’, ‘who is going to draft our recommendations?’, ‘how do we get inside those meetings?’
We applaud the attempts to involve more than just the usual suspects. It is great that the Summit organisers have invited lots of groups to contribute to the Fringe. It is smart to ensure there is a process for a rapporteurs from each panel discussion to feed into the main summit programme.
But for the women we celebrate and champion, when they are busy managing their communities’ needs on the front-line in a context of increasing pressure, the time and effort to put into this event seems like too much. I hear this time and time again in the community. And this is difficult, because it is at exactly these moments of pressure that voices from the margins, from the grassroots and from the community are most important. I know several groups that would have loved to run their own event, but just don’t have the capacity to do so – and we are honoured that we can give them the space to share their experiences and thoughts on our panel.
There is also a major gap that has been overlooked. In all this discussion of justice for women and the survivors of sexual violence, whilst the Foreign and Commonwealth Office urge our support and William Hague shouts about the issue of sexual violence from every platform, no one is giving any thought to how those same survivors are treated when they arrive in this country. Just this week, concerns were raised about discrepancy between Foreign Office efforts to address the issue of sexual violence in conflict, while the Home Office is still failing to treat women asylum seekers with due care and respect. I’ve heard that immigration officers have been patrolling in Queensway with dogs, stopping people that look foreign and demanding their ID cards or documents. I had a conversation yesterday with a woman who after years of sexual abuse and violence was still locked up in a detention centre for months, despite all the recommendations against this. Last week I spent time with a family who are struggling to stay in this country, despite their fears of FGM if they return home. They are not alone.
At the grassroots, we need something to give us strength. And this is why we want to make sure that women who are doing extraordinary things in this country to support some of the most vulnerable people have a place to speak publicly about their work.
At the Women on the Move Awards we believe there is power in being connected and that the brilliant but often isolated women we meet can find strength in discovering they have allies for the fight. But even more importantly, we know that people who work tirelessly day and night need to be celebrated and championed. We want to take any opportunity to put their work on the stage it deserves, and ensure their knowledge and expertise is recognised in global debates.
We’ve nominated our women who work on this issue as ‘experts’ who need to join the conversation. And we’ll be bringing to the Fringe a line up studded with our own stars. Come and meet them – and, we hope, be dazzled.
Join us at the Silent Cinema at 5pm on Thursday 12th June in the Summit Fringe for a screening of our short films and a fascinating discussion with former winners and those who work on the frontline with survivors of sexual violence. The event is free and open to the public. Come and see what all the fuss is about!
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org