Yesterday, members of Congress and human rights advocates, including Amnesty’s celebrity spokesperson Samantha Mathis, made the case for passing the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) on Capitol Hill. At the breakfast briefing in the Rayburn House Office Building, the audience listened to a distinguished panel present compelling accounts of the heroism and bravery of women and girls globally. The briefing, titled “Stories of Courage and Success: Surviving and Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Internationally,” was infused with the possibility of overcoming gender based violence around the world.
The panel was joined by members of Congress who are IVAWA champions in the House, Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). Both members, who coordinated the event along with lead bill sponsor Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA), made inspiring remarks on why they personally endorse and support the legislation.
One of the panelists, Rose Mapendo, a survivor and advocate from the Democratic Republic of Congo, gave some of the most gripping testimony. She began by sharing a song she had gained strength from when she was imprisoned with her family in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rose detailed how she escaped with nine of her 10 children and eventually resettled in Arizona. She was finally reunited with her lost daughter more than a decade later. Ms. Mapendo has survived the violence of genocide and is helping to bring peace to her country and others. She is the subject of a new documentary by PBS called “Pushing the Elephant.”
Other speakers included retired Ambassador George Ward, senior Vice President of World Vision, actor and celebrity spokesperson for Amnesty International Samantha Mathis, the president of Women Thrive Worldwide Ritu Sharma, and the CEO of PBS Paula Kerger.
Ms. Mathis gave a personal account of her own experience campaigning with Amnesty against femicide in Guatemala. She said “I came face to face with the horror of brutal murders of women when I met with the family members of victims”. Ms Mathis ended with an impassioned plea to all members of Congress to cosponsor IVAWA. “Violence is taking place on an overwhelming scale and there is no time to waste”.
Violence against women and girls is a global human rights violation. Around the world, women and men are taking a stand to end violence against women and girls. They are working to stop attacks against girls on their way to school, reduce trafficking of women and girls, end violence in the home, and rape during armed conflict. These courageous human rights defenders would benefit from United States support to achieve their goals.
Congress is now considering IVAWA (H.R. 4594/S.2982), which will help in the global fight for a world free of violence against girls and women. IVAWA is a comprehensive and coordinated response to violence against women. Investing in women and girls and ending violence generates returns for families and communities, nationally and internationally. Contact your member of Congress today to urge their support for this bill that will change the lives of women around the world.
As Samantha Mathis said yesterday on Capitol hill, ”Now is your chance to stop the atrocities, take this chance and help pass the International Violence Against Women Act”.