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25 September 2018

Monika Hauser, Geneva Peace Talks at the UN: "No peace without gender justice!"

On the International Day of Peace this year, the founder of medica mondiale Monika Hauser was invited to the United Nations Office in Geneva to address the Geneva Peace Talks, which this year had "Peace without Borders" as their theme. Broadcast worldwide, the talks were an opportunity for nine activists to share their personal motivation for their commitment to peace and human rights. In Geneva, some 500 representatives of international organisations, government and civil society had accepted the invitation to attend, and the event was also livestreamed. The moving reports of the speakers’ experiences filled the large venue with hope for peace.

Each speaker had eight minutes to talk about their political and social activities. They included a journalist, a psychotherapist, a streetworker, a student, a museum director and other peace activists from various countries. Monika Hauser told the audience how, as a young gynaecologist in 1993, she set off from Germany to Bosnia, indignant at the reports of mass rape of Bosnian women during the ongoing war. And angry that nobody wanted to help those women and girls. She felt she had something she could use to counteract this: her strength, her compassion and her determination to change things. Together with Bosnian female specialists she established a therapy centre in Zenica. There she met a young, pregnant woman named Sabina. "How can I love this child?" Sabina was asking herself. "Every time I look at it, it will make me think of the rapist. And how on Earth am I supposed to bring up this child on my own?" Even today, 25 years later, women who survived sexualised wartime violence face stigmatisation and social isolation – worldwide. They still do not receive enough assistance.

Monika Hauser asked her audience why this is the case. Why is it the women and girls who have to suffer all their life from the consequences of rape? Why not the perpetrators? Why are most rapists not prosecuted? Why can they walk around freely? Why is there no political will to ensure that women can live a life free of violence? The answers are connected to our world order, where the wealth and power of the few is based on the exploitation and discrimination of the many. And until we have gender justice there will be neither development nor peace, says Monika Hauser.

Back in Bosnia in 1993, Sabina decided to keep her child. Thanks to the support she received from the colleagues at Medica Zenica, she also later found the courage to talk to her daughter about what she had experienced. Today her daughter is studying psychology and has joined with other young people like her to found the charity "Forgotten Children of War", working for the benefit of all children conceived during wartime rape. Sabina and her colleagues have had enough of being forgotten. They are no longer prepared to accept the exclusion and isolation that they and their mothers experience. They want to change something, raise awareness, and in this way contribute to positive development and to peace in their country.

medica mondiale will support these young people as they establish their organisation since we know how important it is to join together, share experiences and raise public awareness of injustice. Solidarity and empowerment are important keys to change.

"There can never be too many women and men acting out of solidarity with the survivors of sexualised wartime violence and working towards genuine women's rights," said Monika Hauser, appealing to her audience: "All of us assembled here, from civil society or from politics, women or men, can begin to do this NOW."

Related topics

UN Web TV: All the talks as video (Monika Hauser from 0:41)
Sarajevo: Children of War – Decades of Silence
Sexualised wartime violence: “Trauma is a serious obstacle to peace-building.”