UNiTE in the World
A Promise is a Promise
Aldijana Sisic, UNiTE Campaign Manager
The 57th session of the Commission on Status of Women (CSW) takes place in New York from 4th – 15th March 2013. During the two weeks of discussions, governments will focus on preventing and ending violence against women and girls. Expectations are high and rightly so. They are founded in a conviction that human rights belong to all and in a shared vision of a world free of violence against women and girls. They are guided by collectively agreed promises and the voice of victims and survivors. It is those internationally agreed promises that will provide a structure and the specific framework for all CSW discussions. But it is voices of victims and survivors from around the world, the hopes of real women and girls behind the statistics and numbers, that will be a reminder that must guide discussions beyond just ink and paper, towards a real change.
In my work as a human rights practitioner I am very privileged to meet individuals whose lives, work or knowledge in one way or the other, shape my efforts in working to end violence against women and girls. These are people I learn from, who motivate me to go forward, take an extra step or ‘push the envelope’. Among them, there are two extraordinary women who will no doubt be a source of my inspiration for time to come, Enisa from Bosnia and LingyaChea from Cambodia.
I had the honor of meeting Enisa as one of the speakers in an event organized by the UNiTE campaign during the 55th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2011. She was invited to tell her story. During the war in Bosnia, Enisa was taken to a “rape camp,” where she was held for months and repeatedly raped by soldiers. Wanting her story to be told, she participated in a documentary Healing The Wounds of War, produced by United Nations, and courageously went back to the place where she was held. It was a very emotional experience and in her words, she did it for “all the women who suffered like she did but did not have a voice”.
LingyaChea, a 19 year-old resident and leader in AFESIP Somaly House center in Kampong Cham in Cambodia, I met last year at the UNiTE campaign Global Youth Forum. She was one of the 40 young men and women who came from all over the world to share with us their knowledge, experiences, successes and the challenges they have faced in working to end violence against women and girls. LingyaChea’s personal story, individual courage and her determination to build a safer future for young women in Cambodia touched us all.
“My father was a gambler and I didn’t know what they discussed with him. He told me that he wanted me to work in Thailand with those two men. I could not reject his word. He told me to do as I was told. I didn’t know what to do but to follow them. I had no choice, so I went to Thailand with those two men. But when I was brought to the border with Thailand, I didn’t get the job that they promised. They sold me to a brothel while I was only ten.”
Violence against women and girls is no abstraction - it is personal and intimate. Whether in times of peace or war, women and girls are subjected to it simply because they are women and girls – they are beaten, raped, murdered and assaulted on a daily basis.Enisa and LingyaChea’s stories are all of their stories – millions of them, severe, hidden, widespread and with many different shapes and forms.
So, yes, hopes are high.