Rape and sexual violence are commonly used as weapons of war. Women and their families living in these war and conflict zones are vulnerable to such violent attacks. Displaced individuals find themselves cut off from both medical and everyday resources, such as food and water. Common trips to fetch water become terrifying journeys where one could risk being raped, tortured, or even killed during times of war.
Together with my fellow classmates, we came up with two suggestions geared towards United States feminist groups that might help to aid these women and their families suffering in areas of conflict. We sought to address the basic necessities within these community that could be immediately addressed and expanded upon to further help women in crisis.
Our first idea was to establish a mobile community organization, similar to a “watch” group, that could walk women and children to and from sources of food and water as well as direct them to established “safe spaces” within their area of conflict. We hope to use social media to connect these citizens through blogs and Twitter, if they are available in these areas. If not, we would operate through safe organizations, such as places of worship, to distribute information on our community.
Our second idea, would be to establish a mobile medical unit that could reach women and their families in areas of conflict. This mobile medical unit would provide needs such as STD testing, rape treatment, pregnancy screenings, birth control, prenatal care and psychiatric treatment for PTSD.
In the hopes that our community would grow both within the area of conflict and the United States feminist organization we would be working with, we would seek to work with embassies in order to establish a demilitarized safe, neutral zone in the area of conflict. We hope to establish onsite grassroots activism as well as work with organizations outside the conflict zone to promote peace and safety for those living in these areas.
“I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen 200 limping, exhausted men come out of line—the survivors of a regiment of 1,000 that went forward 48 hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.” Our world has seen many wars since President Franklin D. Roosevelt made this address in the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater in August of 1936.
War does not solely belong to men on the front lines. Today most of the casualties of war are women and children. These displaced groups of people find themselves and their families vulnerable to attack. One of the most common forms of attack against women and young girls during times of war and conflict is rape and sexual assault. These violations are used systematically as weapons of war.
The staggering rape statistics of war since World War II, reflect how common rape is committed in areas of war and conflict. Especially when taking into consideration that these rapes have been reported. Many rapes go unreported, similarly to rapes committed all over the world, and many victims of rape are killed by their assailants. So even though the statistics are staggering, they are more than likely dramatically less than the actual number of rapes and sexual assaults committed.
Throughout the conflicts in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, rape was reported from women aged 3 years old, to 80 years old and acts of rape were committed in front of family members, included forced incest and gang-rape.
The Republic of Liberia, experienced a devastating civil war where, again, rape and sexual assault were used as forms of weaponry against women. But the women of Liberia, exhausted by the violence and destruction, decided to fight back to bring peace to their country. Women from different religious backgrounds (Muslims and Christians) gathered together to pray for peace. Without weapons or the use of violence, these women used their voices and their prayers and their solidarity to fight against the tyranny they had known for so many years in their shattered country.
Leymah Gbowee and the Women of Liberia show us through the brilliant documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell how grassroots activism can alter the history of nations.