by Katharine Daniels,
Executive Editor, The WIP
What began as a simple introduction to Zimbabwean child rights activist Betty Makoni in 2007 through an article published on The WIP has since developed into a partnership with the filmmakers of Tapestries of Hope and a nationwide event to end violence against women worldwide.
Tapestries a Hope, a film documenting Betty Makoni and the Girl Child Network she founded to create a refuge for girls in Zimbabwe, will be shown in 100 theaters around the country for one night only on Tuesday, September 28. In 2007 Director Michealene Cristini Risley traveled to Zimbabwe to film Betty’s work to help the victims of rape and sexual abuse and to expose the pervasive myth that sex with a virgin cures HIV/AIDS. As a result of her filming Michealene was jailed, interrogated, and deported from Zimbabwe.
Drafted in consultation with more than 150 groups across the globe, I-VAWA is the centerpiece of a nationwide campaign led by Women Thrive, Amnesty International USA, and the Family Violence Prevention Fund. Its supporters in Congress are both Republican and Democrat. And the only reason it may not pass this fall is because the problem is too remote, and we are too busy and too distracted to get the job done.
If you are like me, stories of rape in Congo, femicide in Guatemala, stoning in Iran, or acid attacks in Afghanistan, render you helpless and resigned. It is so much easier to focus on my one-year old son, my family, and my friends than to be steeped in the awareness of what the world is really like for so many millions of women. I would like to think that someone else is watching out for the victims of violence and that it is not my responsibility. But unfortunately, that is not the case.According to CARE Policy Analyst Milkah Kihunah, “Violence against women and girls is often underreported, even in countries where such violence is prohibited under law. This is because social attitudes and beliefs often condone such violence and may stigmatize and blame the survivor. Many countries also lack appropriate health and psychosocial services for survivors and strong mechanisms for their protection and legal redress.”
In an informal interview, Women Thrive’s Director for Global Development Policy Seema Jalan told me “Violence cuts across all countries, communities, all socio-economic lines.” The good news, she said, is that I-VAWA addresses some of the root causes of gender-based violence, such as when women lack resources or are living in poverty they are more vulnerable to experiencing violence. While many countries are already passing their own legislation to protect women and girls, violence continues unabated in many places - victims suffer unaware of their rights and unable to protect themselves, while perpetrators roam freely with no threat of incarceration or punishment.
Some wonder how the U.S. can make I-VAWA a funding priority now when we have a major budget crisis at home. According to Jalan, I-VAWA is a small percentage of the funding that the U.S. already spends overseas. In addition, “the way the bill is written is that it leverages current foreign assistance investment. It leverages our work to end poverty. It leverages our work to stop the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS. And it builds on [current foreign assistance] to integrate work to end violence against women and girls.” She added, “We feel like it’s an efficient investment.” I agree.Without a personal connection to a situation of violence, we may not feel compelled to do the work necessary to get this legislation passed. It may be difficult to prioritize I-VAWA as an important solution to such an egregious problem. But on Tuesday, September 28, there is an opportunity to witness a film exposing the unspeakable violence that I-VAWA addresses.
Please take this opportunity to see Tapestries of Hope and to connect with I-VAWA. Bring your partners, your colleagues, your family, and your friends. Each of the 100 theaters screening Tapestries of Hope on September 28 will provide the opportunity to sign a petition to Congress and to join organizations like CARE and Women Thrive and pass I-VAWA.
Click to find a theater near you.