London, United Kingdom—The UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was marked by a conference held in the House of Lords.
The U.K. chapters of Universal Peace Federation and Women's Federation for World Peace (WFWP), an affiliated organization, jointly organized the event.
Speakers included Baroness Pola Uddin, Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece, Ms. Caroline Makaka, Ms. Carole Stone OBE, Ms. Jacqueline Onalo, and Ms. Raj Holness.
The event was kindly hosted in the House of Lords by Hon. Baroness Sandip Verma.
We were honored to have three baronesses of three main parties, all notable women and each with a moving story to share. We were most impressed with the interest and commitment the baronesses had in helping the cause of abused women.
Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece, who has worked with abused women from the Turkish-Cypriot community, informed us about the Bill Department of the organization Women’s Aid and asked us to visit their website, www.womensaid.org.uk, to find out more about women’s aid efforts.
Human rights is a topic that here in the United Kingdom we should not take for granted. Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed at the United Nations 70 years ago, in December 1948, violence against women still continues.
Ms. Jacqueline Onalo, a human rights lawyer, spoke of a woman who had come to her after being sexually abused by her husband, treated as a slave and even used as an ashtray. Ms. Onalo wanted to help her. However, since the abusive husband had passed away and they had no legal marriage, the woman had no legal status in the United Kingdom. Ms. Onalo noticed that as this woman continued to visit, she became thinner and thinner. Ms. Onalo discovered that this woman had been walking three hours each journey, there and back, just to seek her help.
The deep hardships that these women face are heart-breaking. Listening to these stories, we felt a deep sadness and awe that they are still standing to share their stories.
Such a story was told by one of the speakers, Ms. Raj Holness. She had lived a happy life as a young girl, looking up to her grandfather who loved her. She had sensed that her family disliked her, but she was safe under her grandfather’s protection. Everything changed when her grandfather passed. Her life turned upside down. She was beaten so badly that she was hidden away by her family for weeks for her wounds to heal. She used innovative thinking to survive: She had her friends pretend to be the police and call her every day. Finally, after being beaten so badly that she was hospitalized, she ran away for good.
Ms. Caroline Makaka spoke about her work with abused women under the banner of Ladies of All Nations. This organization regards survivors of abuse as heroines, giving them opportunities to share their stories, thus empowering them to move beyond being victims. She was very passionate and urged the audience to come together to help women who are victims of violence.
Ms. Caroline Stone OBE, the patron of Global Foundation to Eliminate Domestic Violence, stated passionately that although there are so many organizations working in this area, there is still no clear light at the end of the tunnel. It is therefore time that all those who are working to stop abuse of women collaborate strongly and seriously to make a difference, she said.
Following the meeting on November 28, many of the participants have been impacted by the testimonies they heard and have taken it upon themselves to create programs to help victims of violence.
UPF-UK has started working with our Ambassadors for Peace who are skilled in coaching and mentoring to create a one-year resilience program which we will offer to victims of violence. We hope that change will come here and abroad. We hope that by the next anniversary there will be fewer victims, less suffering and more heroines.
One of the participants, Gill, said she was so touched by the testimonies she heard that she could not sleep that night. She therefore sat down and wrote a proposal of how all the providers of services from charities and NGOs as well as public services can come together to help victims of abuse access needed services more easily.
Another participant who became tearful when Ms. Raj was speaking, as she comes from the same city as herself, spontaneously offered to help Raj with her work, helping others in vulnerable situations.
Everyone in the room was touched to various degrees. Let us use our deep impressions, which expanded our hearts, to go and help abused women in need.