On Friday, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa was joined by 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Denis Mukwege and Céline Bardet, an international jurist for the NGO, “We are not Weapons Of War (WWOW)”, during a press conference to officially introduce the Stand Speak Rise Up! international forum.
The Grand Duchess – who was very emotional – said that she was thankful for the awarding of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad as it helped to raise awareness of sexual violence as a war crime, but that this conference was only a kick off: “What we want to do is assess facts and needs and then accompany them. Which is why I will launch the Appeal at the beginning of the forum so that everyone who wants to sign it can help the movement of the survivors and help defend their cause. There is no obligation or agenda to this appeal; everyone can help to their level, however they want. This movement will be launched during the forum but also on social media”.
Dr Denis Mukwege said that sexual violence was a weapon that was really destructive on a physical and psychological level but on a social and economic level as well. Indeed, he said that it was now possible to estimate the impact of sexual violence on women on the economy of a community.
Céline Bardet praised Grand Duchess Maria Teresa for her engagement for the cause: “When we met a year ago for lunch, I felt that there was the same vision of things for you and me and that you were really wishing to take a different approach to the issue. And this different approach is the one that should be considered normal: letting the survivors of sexual violence express themselves.”
The forum is an initiative from the Grand Duchess and will take place in Luxembourg on 26 and 27 March. The forum 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.
Key actors of the international community in the fight against sexual violence will be in attendance as well as sexual violence survivors and leaders from several international organisations: “The Grand Duchess wished to place survivors of sexual violence in fragile environments at the heart of the conference. More than forty survivors will make the trip to Luxembourg. The Grand Duchess insisted that the first concerned should also be the first to testify and to express themselves.”
Three Nobel Peace Prize laureates were announced as speakers for the forum: Dr Denis Mukwege, Nadia Murad and Professor Muhammad Yunus. Other speakers will include the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the UK Prime Minister’s Special Representative (PMSR) on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Dr Fatou Bensouda, a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court or Peter Maurer, the President of the International Red Cross Committee, among many others.
Grand Duchess Maria Teresa will open the forum with an appeal to influential members of the civil society; it will be “a plea for increased support to the fight against sexual violence in sensitive areas and for an active involvement of civil society”.
This appeal will be open for signatures on social media and during the forum as well. Other key moments of the programme includes several workshops and keynote speeches, a roundtable session with survivors and the Grand Duchess, a gala evening to celebrate the survivors of sexual violence and a closing session where the attendees will be able to discuss what they learned from the forum and where do they go from here in order to fight sexual violence in fragile environments. Grand Duchess Maria Teresa will officially close the conference with a speech.