Schakowsky Op-ed: Why I'm Rising
Politico, February 13, 2013
By Rep. Jan Schakowsky
Two years ago, I traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the opening of the City of Joy, an amazing initiative launched by Eve Ensler and Dr. Denis Mukwege. In the DRC, where rape has been systematically used as a weapon of war, I saw women who had survived unthinkable abuses and hardship. Yet I also saw them turning their pain into power at the City of Joy, a six-month program that not only helps women recover from horrific violence but also empowers them to be leaders for Congo's future. I saw women, who have borne the brunt of the conflict, regaining their voices and their smiles.
I'm rising today because we must stand with the women of Congo.
And it's not just Congo. One in three women across the planet will be raped, beaten, or otherwise sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Whether it happens in India or Indiana, rape, sexual assault, and gender-based violence are unacceptable. I'm rising today because women's rights are human rights, and our rights are threatened every day.
I'm rising as part of a global sisterhood, a revolution of activists around the world who are committed to ending the violence. Today, in approximately 200 countries, women (and men) are joining their voices together in a global outcry to say this must be a priority.
As a member of Congress, I'm rising because women's voices must be heard in Washington, in capital cities across the world, at the United Nations, and throughout the halls of power. As a community, a nation, and a global society we will not succeed if half our population is threatened, intimidated, or shamed into remaining silent.
I'm rising because I want my children and grandchildren to live in a world free from violence against women and in a country that takes sexual assault seriously and actively works to prevent it. I want my granddaughters to know that their voices are critical and my grandson to know that he is part of the solution.
Here in the United States, women's rights are under attack. We've seen ongoing efforts by Republicans in Congress to restrict women's access to reproductive health care and birth control. They blocked Violence Against Women Act reauthorization last year and voted down a bill to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work. We've even seen an effort to redefine rape.
The United States must be a leader in ending violence against women. We must reauthorize VAWA. We also need to pass my legislation, the International Violence Against Women Act, which would require a comprehensive U.S. strategy to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls internationally. IVAWA would give us critical tools in the fight against gender-based violence around the world.
Today, we rise because we refuse to stand by as one billion of our sisters are raped, beaten, or otherwise sexually assaulted. We rise today because we are committed to ending the violence and to ensuring that our mothers and daughters, sisters and friends can live a life free of the fear of rape and abuse. We rise today to show that we have the power to assure women and girls – and ourselves – safe, violence-free, and productive lives.