The Honorees -
- Savithri Wijesekera - She's an attorney and Executive Director of "Women in Need" (WIN) in Sri Lanka.
- Juliana Konteh- A pastor and Director of the "Women in Crisis Movement" (WICM)
It was a disturbing pleasure to hear them speak. They are both involved in such important work in Sri Lanka, and Sierra Leone, giving women in these countries a place to feel safe, and educating them on health and safety. Juliana Konteh offers female rape victims in Sierra Leone, through WICM, medical and psychosocial care, contraception, and HIV/ AIDS testing. She said:
"When you empower a woman, you've empowered a whole country, a family."
Savithri Wijesekera, based in Sri Lanka, works to end Gender Based Violence (GBV). She educates public and civic leaders and mobilizes youth, and men to work with her to end GBV. In her country there is a sense of complacency about GBV, according to WIN, 60% of women in Sri Lanka have experienced GBV. Ms. Wijesekera's organization works through community programs, and even dance and song performances to combat this complacency. The particularly powerful thing about these performances is that they are performed often by boys. With this action, they are being given a counter cultural education, one that will hopefully raise a whole new generation of Sri Lankan men who will not see Gender Based Violence as an acceptable act.
At the end of these talks I was given the privilege of performing a piece from the show Project Girl Congo. It was originally written and performed by Emily Rupp of Project Girl Performance Collective. It tells the story of a Congolese girl who was forced to marry and have a child by age 14. I had never performed the piece before and was extremely nervous at presenting it in front of these powerful women fighting gender inequity on such a huge scale. Well I did it regardless, and the girl's story was overwhelming having just heard from these two honoree's the magnitude of violence they are fighting back home. I just let it pour through me, hoping not to mess it up with any self conscious actor thoughts. As it turned out that wasn't a problem, the words of the monologue and the reality of the presence of these two women honoree activists carried me away. I couldn't really see the paper once I was towards the end of the monologue, because my eyes were watering up. Afterwards people came up to me and said "good job" and kind words, and a couple members of the meeting said they had cried at hearing the monologue, and indeed their eyes were red and puffy.
On my way to the train, after the meeting, I suddenly was attacked by the intense sensation of humility. To have somehow made an impact on these powerful women's afternoon with my monologue, who have made an impact on generations of women to come was an overwhelming thought. I can only imagine how many lives they have touched. I believe this afternoon I remembered this was why I wanted to be an actor. To touch lives. As important as it is to make a living, it is so enlightening to experience how connected we all are. How one woman writes the monologue w/ her heart, another performs it with hers, and the words reach the heart of a woman who will carry that same heart to Sierra Leone or Sri Lanka and touch thousands of other hearts.
Life can be a powerful thing.
Site for "Women in Crisis Movement" in Sierra Leone- http://www.wicmovement.org
Site for "Women In Need" in Sri Lanka- http://www.winsi.net