During the Stand Speak Rise Up! International Forum, she organised on 26 and 27 March, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa gave an interview to French magazine Point de Vue to talk about her fight against the use of sexual violence in fragile environments.
Grand Duchess Maria Teresa revealed that she had the idea of such a forum when she met Dr Denis Mukwege at a conference in 2017: “I was so upset that I asked him what I could do to help him. He had just created a group of survivors who needed a platform to express themselves. I immediately had the idea of a forum to give them the floor. I had long in mind to organise an event where unlike most international conferences in which I participate, the victims would take the central role. I am therefore very happy to have invited 52 victims who, before the forum, were able to support each other, encourage each other and share their suffering. This painful but necessary work opens the door to resilience.” She also said that the attribution of the Nobel Peace Prize to Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad in 2018 gave new strength to the message they were trying to spread.
While speaking of the highlight of the forum, the Grand Duchess said that the strength of these women is extraordinary, and she also said that the words of the survivors touched her: “I remember for example the words of Aline, from Burundi: ‘Those who raped me believe that they destroyed me, on the contrary, I have more strength in me. They won’t have the last word.’ It is an exceptional lesson of life that makes us more humble.”
Grand Duchess Maria Teresa also thanked her daughter, Princess Alexandra for helping organise the forum and her daughter-in-law, Princess Claire who took part in one of the workshops of the conference. The interviewer asked her about Dr Denis Mukwege’s “positive masculinity” notion and how she relates to it as a mother of five children, including four boys. She said: “When they felt the need, I always encouraged my boys to let their emotions speak. If they wanted to cry, but my God, let them cry! Why lock our boys in narrow-minded notions? They have as much right to cry as girls do.”
After the success of her Stand Speak Rise Up! forum, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa wanted to convey a message of hope: “I would like this forum to allow a real dynamic of justice to be put in place. Impunity is still too often the rule for perpetrators of sexual violence. These women need help to rebuild themselves physically, psychically and emotionally. The hand we give them is the least we can do about the horrors they have suffered.”