WASHINGTON – At a forum of women world leaders Wednesday, former Irish President Mary Robinson said the stories of women who have been raped during wartime and other atrocities suffered by women “stay with us as women. We get it.”
Women leaders from around the world, members of the Council of Women World Leaders, said the issues of crimes against women, climate change and family planning deserve more attention. The council is a network of 46 women who have served as prime ministers and presidents that strives to increase the visibility of women leaders and to mobilize them to solve global human rights crises.
“Women have a sense of the importance of listening to the realities on the ground,” Robinson answered. “It’s bottom up – the stories and the livelihoods of women and it’s top-down – women leaders listening, and saying we are going to change things.”
Margot Wallström, a special representative to the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict for the United Nations and former member of Sweden’s parliament,recalled a woman from the Congo telling her that a “dead rat is worth more than a raped woman.” The Congolese woman could not marry after being raped the night before her wedding.
Wallström brings women’s stories like that to the United Nations Security Council, where she hopes they will inspire an end to impunity for rape in places like the Congo and Bosnia.
Robinson and Wallström suggested the need for studies on the monetary consequences of rape. Sabrina Roshan, coordinator of a World Bank program on poverty reduction in Africa, noted that her institution already conducts quantitative rape studies.
“The stakeholders are members of the economic community,” she explained, “and they do need to see what the cost-benefit analysis looks like.”
The President of the Republic of Finland, Tarja Halonen, urged women not to subvert their caring natures in order to succeed in a male-dominated world. “Don’t underestimate the importance of the feminine traditions,” she said.