‘We have to speak and speak about our traumas’

WC Desk:

The more we speak, the more we heal ourselves. So, we must not stop speaking about our traumas. When we speak other women, who are voiceless, get their energy to go further.
Thus, the panelists of the first webinar of Women Chapter International (WCI) emphasized speaking about traumas.
WCI, a not-for-profit organization, conducted its first webinar on 26th of March, 2021 on the theme “Transgenerational Trauma of Rape and Our Future” on the occasion of 50th Independence Day of Bangladesh. The panelists from different parts of the world talked about cases of wartime rape and the transgenerational impact among communities affected by war and conflict.

The one and half hour session was co-hosted by Supriti Dhar and Shumu Haque (board member of WCI). The panelists included:
● Leesa Gazi, a British Bangladeshi writer, theatre-worker, award-winning filmmaker, and co-founder of Komola Collective.
● Jeanne Celestine Lakin, a human rights advocate and founder of One Million Orphans. She is a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
● Consolee Nishimwe, an author, a motivational speaker, women’s rights defender and a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
● Dr. Feride Rushiti is founder and executive director of the Kosovo Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (KRCT).
● Wiola Rebecka, psychotherapist and author of the book Rape. A history of shame. Diary of the survivors.

Leesa Gazi shared how she learned about the Birangonas at the age of 17 and began her journey to meet some of them and spend time with them. According to her, she found a sense of purpose by making films on their stories. Shumu and Leesa reflected over how the title Birangona, which was meant to honor the rape survivors of the 1971 war of Bangladesh ended up backfiring and the survivors were accepted back at the cost of being silenced about their experiences. A trailer of Ms. Gazi’s award-winning documentary “Rising Silence” was shown during the session.

Jeanne Celestine Lakin and Consolee Nishimwe talked about their extremely powerful personal stories as rape and genocide survivors during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. They talked about the aftermath of the genocide, and how they struggled to cope with their traumas and tried to hold onto their faith in God to heal and find their way to heal and rebuild their lives. Ms. Nishimwe talked about how she and her mother embarked on a healing process at the same time. Ms. Lakin emphasized on the need to seek counselling in order to heal, and to be able to speak up and forgive.

Dr. Feride Rushiti talked about her holistic approach to working with wartime victims of sexual violence. She emphasized on the need for a multi-dimensional approach through psycho-social support, legal assistance, medication, treatment and policy advocacy.

Wiola Rebecka talked about her grandmother’s story and the situation in her country of origin, Poland, where she witnessed the denial of sexual violence. She drew attention to the sexual trauma impact on our psychology and body, which passes across generations. She emphasized the importance of speaking up, as losing the ability to share our stories can severely impact us. She concluded by lauding the government of newly- formed Bangladesh in 1970s for officially honoring the wartime sexual violence survivors, by giving them the title “Birangona.”.

The session ended with the intention to organize more events in the near future. Everyone from the panelists have agreed to work together and to help each other. Supriti Dhar, founder editor of Women Chapter and chairman of WCI asked everyone to come forward to making a Support Center in Bangladesh, so that the victim women of Bangladesh can get mental, physical and legal help from this center.

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