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25th November marks the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. As delegates gather in Westminster to attend the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (28-29th November), Tearfund’s Gender and Protection Unit Lead, Sabine Nkusi is calling for faith leaders around the world to take a stand and play their part in ending violence against women.

‘Violence against women is wrong, but ending it is possible. I have seen through my work at Tearfund that faith and faith leaders have a part to play in ending violence against women,’ says Sabine.

Sabine oversees Tearfund’s work to challenge harmful gender norms, working with faith leaders through the ‘Transforming Masculinities’ and ‘Journey to Healing’ approaches. She believes that faith leaders are uniquely placed to be able to create a culture of support and allyship with survivors. ‘Faith leaders can use their influence to speak out against gender based violence and to promote gender equality’, says Sabine.

Esperande Bigirimana helped shape Tearfund’s Journey to Healing initiative in its early phase of development and is now an outspoken activist on behalf of the Phephisa Survivor’s Network. A survivor of sexual violence in conflict, Esperande agrees that the church has an essential role to play:

‘Violence against women is a world crisis and it’s everybody’s responsibility to solve it. Men and boys as well as women and girls. We all need to work together. Faith leaders have a particular role to play in supporting and listening to survivors in their communities.’

‘The church as an institution is planted in the community. Victims and survivors are part of that community, so of course, they must be met with equality and compassion. The church can create a safe space where survivors are not met with judgement.

‘Survivors need a chance to be heard and to heal. When you are violated, someone is taking power from you. You are left powerless. So, when you are supporting a survivor you need to use language that is positive and empowering. Faith leaders can ask questions like: ‘What do you need? How can I support you?’

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

Sabine Nkusi is Tearfund’s Gender and Protection Unit Lead and oversees Tearfund’s work to challenge harmful gender norms, working with faith leaders through the ‘Transforming Masculinities’ approach. As a young girl, Sabine witnessed the Rwandan genocide against Tutsi. This personal experience of early exposure to the horrors of sexual violence used as a weapon of war spurs her on in her work to end violence against women.

Esperande Bigirimana is co-leader of the Phephisa Survivors Network. Pephisa “exists to give voice to survivors and to advocate for safer environments for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in South Africa”. Esperande is herself a survivor of sexual violence in conflict (which she experienced at a young age during a period of conflict in Burundi). She is now an outspoken activist. Esperande speaks passionately about her participation in Tearfund’s ‘Journey to Healing’ process, which has been developed through listening carefully to understand the needs and preferences of survivors of sexual violence.

Both Sabine and Esperande will be available for interviews on the afternoon of Friday 25th November. They can speak about the following topics:

  • why, for many, faith is an important element in the healing journey of survivors
  • why survivors need the support of their faith community, especially leaders
  • why and how faith leaders can be active allies to end violence and shift harmful norms
  • their experience providing safe spaces where survivors can heal from their trauma
  • how to go about preventing gender based violence

For further information or interview requests call or email Ann.Hallam@tearfund.org on 07929 330366 or for out of hours media enquiries please call 07929 339813

Tearfund is a Christian charity that partners with churches in more than 50 of the world’s poorest countries. We tackle poverty through sustainable development, responding to disasters and challenging injustice. We believe an end to extreme poverty is possible. Tearfund is also a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee. For more information about the work of Tearfund, please visit www.tearfund.org.

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