Survivors Speak: Book Launch and Workshop on Women and Girls in Conflict

6/15/2016

NEW YORK, June 15, 2016—Evelyn Amony was just 11 years old when soldiers from the Lord’s Resistance Army kidnapped her from her home in Kalalo, in northern Uganda. She spent 11 years with the LRA. Like thousands of other children abducted by the armed rebel group, she was trained as a fighter. But at age 14, she was forcibly married to Joseph Kony, the notorious LRA leader wanted by the International Criminal Court, and bore three of his children. Eventually, she was recaptured by the Ugandan military and reunited with her family.

Amony’s harrowing story of her years in captivity with the LRA, and experience of grinding poverty and stigma after returning home with two children, is told in her new memoir, I Am Evelyn Amony: Reclaiming my Life from the Lord's Resistance Army*. Her autobiography, which tells the difficult truths of women and girls in wartime as only a firsthand witness can, will be launched today in New York, at the Japan Society.

Like Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIL in Iraq, the LRA and other armed groups in Uganda specifically targeted girls and young women for sexual violence. The LRA’s pattern of violations included systematic abduction of females followed by forced marriage, rape, and forced pregnancy, leading to forced child bearing. The majority of those abducted were adolescents, aged 10–18, like Amony, when she was kidnapped.

“I experienced such terrible things, but I am not the only one to have had this experience,” says Amony, who has spent the last decade connecting with other survivors in Uganda through the group she formed, the Women’s Advocacy Network. “I have found courage from listening to other women tell their stories.”

Through the survivors’ group, women are able to share their stories, give peer support and form collective groups. This networking and support are crucial, as women who suffered conflict-related sexual violence in Uganda, and the children they bore as a result, have been largely overlooked by the government in terms of targeted support.

Women and girls freed from the LRA have faced discrimination and rejection by their families and communities when they return home. These young women, and the children they bore as a result of sexual violence, need better support from the government and NGOs.

According to a 2015 study by ICTJ, the consequences of motherhood as a result of conflict-related sexual violence, including sexual slavery and rape, can multiply and worsen over time if left unaddressed — making survivors and their children vulnerable to new violations.

“The prevalence of sexual violence in conflict is receiving increasing media, policy, and academic attention,” says Nahla Valji, Deputy Chief of Peace and Security, UN Women. “However, most of the reports and responses to come from it are missing the voices of survivors; they focus on survivors’ short-term needs, overlooking the long-term impacts of these violations, like the needs of children born of wartime sexual violence.”

To expand the discussion, the book launch will be followed on Thursday by an all-day policy-focused workshop that will use Amony’s book as a starting point to explore the need for “learning from lived experiences” to develop better responses to the needs of women and children affected by conflict.

Panel discussions will highlight personal stories from Uganda, Kenya, and Colombia and look at other contexts, like Nigeria, where women and girls freed from Boko Haram face similar discrimination and rejection. This workshop will bring survivors of conflict in direct conversation with the policy makers, practitioners and donors responsible for peace and security programming.

Participants will hear from Jacqueline Mutere, founder of Grace Agenda, a Kenyan community-based organization that supports survivors of sexual violence, and Maria Alejandra Martinez, a former child soldier from Colombia, in addition to Amony.

These women, all of whom have profound stories of how conflict has affected their lives, are now leaders in their communities, seeking justice and social repair and advocating for the rights of women and children affected by conflict and conflict-related sexual violence.

“Dialogue can be the basis for developing more responsive and realistic programming for survivors and their communities,” says David Tolbert, president, ICTJ. “Engaging with survivors forces us to move past our own preconceived notions, to really listen to the priorities and challenges these women identify and their suggestions for possible solutions.”

The workshop is co-organized by UN Women, the International Center for Transitional Justice, and the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia, and generously supported and hosted by the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN.

The book launch will take place today, 5:45–7:00 pm EST, at the Japan Society, Murase Room, 333 E 47th Street, New York, NY. The interactive workshop will take place on Thursday, June 16, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 pm EST, at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN, 885 Second Avenue, 14th Floor, New York, NY. RSVP by e-mailing emily.kenney@unwomen.org

Contact

Marta Martínez, Digital Strategist, International Center for Transitional Justice
Email: mmartinez@ictj.org Tel: 917-637-3824

Lindsay Marsh,, Manager, Communications and Program Development, Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
Email: lindsay.marsh@ubc.ca Tel: 604-822-1672


Photo: Survivors Speak poster, June 15-16, 2016.