On the occasion of her birthday on 23 March, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa welcomed 50 survivors of sexual abuse and their companions to Luxembourg. They are there to take part in the Grand Duchess’ ‘Stand Speak Rise Up!’ international forum to end sexual violence on 26 and 27 March.
The forum is an initiative from the Grand Duchess and aims to raise awareness and find solutions to end sexual violence in fragile environments: “This initiative addresses one of the major issues of conflict, rape as a weapon of war, terror, and submission. While women are generally not on the frontlines, they are the first civilian victims of wars and terrorism and are often the strategic targets.”
The Foundation of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg partnered with the Dr Denis Mukwege Foundation and the WWOW NGO to organise the forum. The forum also benefits from the support of the Luxembourg government and the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society.
On 20 March, three days before her birthday, the Grand Duchess also took part in a flashmob in order to raise awareness about the use of sexual violence as a weapon. She has also launched an appeal on social media asking people: “We might not end war. But we will end rape as a weapon. I STAND UP with survivors, will you too?” Several well known Luxembourgish personalities have posed with a Stand Speak Rise Up! card on social media to support Grand Duchess Maria Teresa’s initiative – including Grand Duke Henri.
The fight against the use of sexual violence as a war weapon has been one of the Grand Duchess’s most important causes over the past few years. In 2014, she attended the World Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London, and she met with survivors in 2018 during her humanitarian trip to Lebanon. She first met Dr Denis Mukwege in 2016 and has worked with him since then, trying to raise awareness about women’s rights during wartime.