Wake up to women of war

Fashion designer Alice Temperley and the architect Zaha Hahid are joining Women for Women International’s campaign to raise awareness of the brutal violence – often sexual – against women in war zones. And you can help too…

Celebrities including fashion designer Alice Temperley and the architect Zaha Hahid are helping the charity Women for Women International (WfWI) to launch their #sheinspiresme campaign – highlighting the atrocities suffered by the women of war.

With the continuing use of rape as a war weapon and more than half of the world’s maternal deaths happening in war-torn countries, female survivors are in urgent need of care and support. After all, alongside children they make up 80% of the world’s 42 million refugees.

A video released by WfWI – who provide practical and moral support to women survivors of war – uses Major General Patrick Cammaert, the Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s powerful quote: “It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern wars.”

These words are poignantly placed after the harrowing opening scene, where a survivor talks of witnessing her husband being murdered using a machete, before they turned on her. She says: “They told me to choose; either have sex with us or we will abort your child.’”

This short film is part of a wider campaign calling for support of women the world over who have suffered, and are suffering, because of what they’ve witnessed or endured. But also, to acknowledge the awe-inspiring courage of survivors.

For more than 20 years, WfWI have reached out to women in conflict zones – in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo, Iraq, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Sudan. They are often deeply traumatised, have seen loved ones killed and survived horrific violence, often sexual.

And their work is making a difference; they are helping to transform these women’s lives.

So get involved: make your own short film, write a tweet, post a Facebook update or put a quote up on Instagram explaining which woman inspires you, using the hashtag #sheinspiresme.

For inspiration, here is what some of the celebrities have said…

Zaha Hahid, architect:
“When I was growing up in Iraq, it was my mother and father who gave me the confidence to try new things and ignited my passion for discovery. I am forever grateful for their enlightened guidance and selfless support.

The headmistress of the nun’s school I attended as a young girl in Baghdad was deeply committed to the education of women. We were all these girls from different religions – Muslim, Christian, Jewish – it made no difference to her. She understood the importance of supporting every young girl; to give her the confidence to conquer the next step.”

Alice Temperley, designer and Women for Women International UK Ambassador:
“I am very inspired by the people behind the #SheInspiresMe campaign and the dedication and support they have put in to teaching women how to survive in the toughest environments. This campaign makes life-changing differences to women around the world whose situation is often unimaginable to the Western world.”

Sarah Bailey, Editor of RED magazine:
“So many women have inspired me – my mum, my aunt, my drama teacher at school… Professionally, Melanie McFadyean (then editor of Young Guardian) gave me my very first break. She answered the phone to me when I was a journalism post-Grad literally pushing coins into the pay phone in the corridor of City University (yes, this was before mobile phones dear readers).

I have said it many a time before that Brita Fernandez Schmidt is one of the most stirring women I have met in the last ten years – she always shakes me out of my complacency and fills me with zest and derring do for struggles ahead.”

Who inspires you? Tell us using the hashtag #sheinspiresme

Read more about the campaign 
Check out the Facebook page
And YouTube channel
Follow it on Twitter

Photo credit: Millie Harvey