Women on the Move at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

Last week we were at the Global Summit representing the voices of women who managed to seek protection and yet whose stories are still not  heard or understood, even in countries such as the UK.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in our panel discussion and Q&A session, and watched the short films about the 2014 winners of Women on the Move Awards.


We were so glad to have Leslie Thomas join us, whose film The Prosecutors follows prosecutors trying to secure the conviction of those who have committed or orchestrated this crime against humanity. We were honoured to have two brilliant speakers who could share from their own experience of supporting women: Deqa Salat, CEO of Hear Women and Producer of The Truth About FGM Documentary and Kudakwashe Nyakudya, Founder and Director of Kahrmel Wellness. And, of course, the highlights of our discussion were the wonderful winners of the Women on the Move Awards themselves. It was great to have two generations there: from 2013 Emina, Honorary Winner of the Young Woman of the Year Award and Rema, Joint Winner of the Woman of the Year Award; from 2014 Tatiana, our Young Woman of Year and Diana, the winner of the Special Jury Award.

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Photos by Maryam Pasha, Women on the Move Awards

It was an emotional few days. As I sat watching the powerful and devastating film, Banaz: A Love Story, I noticed lots of people with their heads in their hands, brushing away tears. On Thursday I bumped into a old friend who had surprised himself by suddenly getting very tearful in a session. Several people told me that at a certain point they just felt overwhelmed by these stories – Angelina Jolie was no exception. Even the Daily Mail seemed moved by the stories of those who have survived sexual violence – no small victory for Angelina !

It was also a very positive space. Someone who participated in the Women on the Move Awards discussion said, ‘I’ve attended a lot of events, but this felt like such a positive place, where we could have an open discussion’. I know many of the panel members from our session have already been in touch with each other, and the Women on the Move Awards has received offers of financial support, volunteering help and other collaboration. I and colleagues met many women doing incredible things around the world and built interesting connections.


Photo by Maryam Pasha, Women on the Move Awards

The Summit Fringe often felt like a safe space to have conversations – but also space for challenge. There were several protests outside, rightly drawing attention to the incongruity between the Foreign Secretary’s determination raising this issue and boldness in recognising how little – and how the Home Office is doing here to support survivors of sexual violence. Teresa May, the Home Secretary, was due to attend on Thursday, but cancelled at the last minute, after controversy over Passport Office delays in processing passports are due to affect holiday-makers this summit. With an immigration backlog of tens of thousands, it’s clear where her priorities lie.

So, was it worth the fuss? The commitments secured by the core summit run into several pages. I have a copy of the hefty International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict on my desk, which makes grim but important reading.

The coverage the Summit got helped make a link between this and UK issues such as forced marriage, trafficking and detention. And finally, in our role with Women on the Move Awards of celebrating and championing great refugee and migrant women who do extraordinary work at the grassroots, we are glad we made sure their voices were added the discussion.

The Summit was an important first step, but there is a long road ahead of us. It is up to all of us to use this opportunity to continue working for positive change.

Now, it is #TimeToAct

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