I am very honored and pleased to serve as the Chair of the Darfur Women Action Group.
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn subtitled Half the Sky, their remarkable book “Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”. The book, while presenting oppression of women and girls throughout the world, is focused on positive, pragmatic responses by women to the circumstances of oppression.
I have had a life-long aversion toward oppression and victimization. During my childhood in the 1940s, my family sponsored and housed cousins who had survived the Holocaust in Europe. Night after night for two years, I heard stories of the horrors of Auschwitz. My cousin, Rachel, was spared death because she was a nurse and could work in Dr. Mengele’s laboratory as he performed tortuous experiments on children. Her response to this was to smuggle children out of his compound under her clothing. Of course, many were re-rounded up, but many survived and thrived because of her.
I’m also convinced that the power of people lie in their stories. It is in Rachel’s story that I’m reminded of the human resiliency that I see inNicholas Kristof’s New York Times Op-Ed pieces on the Darfur genocide; in the documentary movies on the genocide in Darfur that have been produced over the years; from the Darfuri friend’s I’ve been blessed to make. And for this reason I feel the interconnectedness between myself and the people of Darfur because we share a common story.
Genocide is disgusting. Simple statement but within a complex context. Sadly, I believe that genocide is inevitable where there is a group that considers itself stronger than another group but feels somehow threatened by the perceived weaker group. The most effective response to this supposed threat is to get rid of the “weaker “group. BUT a species cannot survive where genocide is tolerated; a rule of law to protect life is required. So, in order for human beings to survive, we must fight genocide wherever it exists and we must fight impunity for the perpetrators and pursue justice for those whose rights have been denied.
Fighting genocide is often a political act. But it can also be fought by enhancing and strengthening social justice by changing the balance of power, so that the differential between the stronger group and the weaker group is diminished. In Darfur, as in so much of the developing world, women and girls are perceived to be the weaker group. Physically, this is often the case – but social mores and political laws often cause women to be the weaker group on an economic basis. Without economic opportunity, I strongly believe that we cannot have social justice. The concept of responding to the horrors of genocide by developing areas of opportunity for surviving AND THRIVING is quite thrilling to me.
And so, DWAG – and its commitment to developing opportunity and, thereby, empowering women as a positive response to genocide. This requires a multi-lateral approach with a collective effort from all of you who want to make a difference in other people’s life:
• Empowering women with skills to heal from the horrors of rape and torture.
• Empowering women with familial skills to enable them to nurture their families within a hostile environment.
• Empowering women with vocational skills to improve the economic status of themselves, their family and their community.
• Empowering women and girls with first-rate and quality education to develop skills of leadership within their community and, subsequently, internationally.
I encourage you to join us in this most exciting venture. To do so, please go to www.darfurwomenaction.org/ and sign up.
My deepest thanks to all for your support – especially to Niemat Ahmadi , the founder of DWAG who for her vision, commitment, talent and courage and her dedication to the rights of women.