1. “The reason I like to tell this story is to educate the incoming generation.”
Famatta, 39, was 22 when the conflict in Liberia threatened to spill into her village. Along with her brother and father she attempted to leave, heading for relative safety in Bomi county. Famatta and her family were taken aside where Famatta was brutally raped and assaulted by three men, whilst her father forced to watch. The injuries she sustained left her unable to walk properly. She has since been diagnosed as HIV positive. Famatta’s attackers have never been brought to justice.
“The reason I like to tell this story is to educate the incoming generation,” she says.
“I believe it would help them to see women like me who have passed through it and are still alive. Even though I am HIV positive, it will help save many young people.
The only thing I want the international community to do is to pass a law to stop violence against women, because it is terrible.”
2. “I wanted to explore how gender identities shift when war occurs.”
Last year photojournalist Francesca Tosarelli travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo. She met rebel groups and created “Ms. Kalashnikov,” a photo series about the largely unknown subgroups in the African rebel scene.
She says: “I wanted to explore how gender identities shift when war occurs: how women move from mothers and daughters to killers.” The photos are stunning:
As Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds pointed out at the conference, there are 250,000 child soldiers in the world. A third of them are female.
Among the women she met was Colonel Fanette Umuraza, a senior member of the M23 rebel group. She is a 32-year-old with a university degree in political science, who idolises Angela Merkel and Joan of Arc. She’s a proven fighter, and men under her command stand at her attention.
3. “I want leaders to make sure rape stops.”
Rita (name changed to protect identity), 16, was raped by a 23 year old well respected man in her community who she went to for help with her school work. After the attack he told her not to tell anybody, but her father noticed her behaviour had changed and pressed her on it. When she admitted what happened he took her to the local health centre and police who referred her to THINK. Her father wanted her to get support to overcome the ordeal.
“The safe house is advising me, taking care of me giving me food and teaching me to cook,” she says.
The perpetrator is now in prison and Rita’s family have been persistent in following up with police. She says her mother did not say anything when she told her what had happened.
“I want rape to stop. I want leaders to make sure rape stops. I want to be a doctor and attend to girls in a similar condition to me,” Rita says.
4. “Bosnia has been let down.”
Lejla Damon was born after her mother, a Bosnian Muslim, was raped repeatedly by a Serb soldier in a concentration camp. She was later adopted by two Londoners, Siân and Dan Damon, who had filmed her mother after the birth in a Sarajevo hospital, saying that she wanted to strangle her child.
“I sat with my dad and watched the video. It was very hard to take,” she told the conference. “I visited Bosnia and saw the scars of war and found my birth certificate. I wasn’t born in a maternity ward because it had been bombed. Sexual violence has to be tackled head on and the perpetrators brought to justice, but Bosnia has been let down in that regard.”
She now works for the charity War Child. She said it was important to speak about all survivors of sexual violence, including children born as a result, and male victims, to work out how to prevent it.
5. “I saw people being killed with my own eyes.”
Emma (name changed to protect identity), 12, at the Save the Children offices in Goma, DRC.
Her family were recently displaced by inter-ethnic violence that came to her village, during which Emma witnessed people being killed, including her uncle. During the displacement, Emma injured her foot. One day after the displacement, Emma was going out to the fields with her friends and mother and was unable to keep up due to her injured foot. She was left behind and was cornered by a soldier who threatened her with her life and raped her. She escaped the soldier after the rape but has had no access to medical or psycho-social care. She continues to go to school but has not told any of her friends for fear of them telling other people.
6. “I know that girls are targeted for men’s satisfaction.”
In 2002, Polline Akello was abducted by militiamen in Uganda when she was 14 years old.
She told the conference: “My parents’ home was destroyed, my brother was taken away. I saw people being raped and killed. I suffered sexual violence too. I became pregnant and I lost my baby while I was in the bush. I saw young girls delivering babies while there was the sound of gunshots in the background. I had no food, nowhere to sleep, no hospitals to go to. I knew that was the end of my life.
“I ended up in Nairobi hospital. War Child help me escape the rebels. We have to act on this problem: it needs to be eradicated in every country. I come from an area destroyed by war. I know that girls are targeted for men’s satisfaction.”
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