Editor’s note: On Thursday, November 20, 2014, "Seeds of Hope", the documentary on sexual violence in eastern Congo, was shown at a special screening at the United Nations. The film, directed by Fiona Lloyd-Davies with support from the Pulitzer Center, tells the remarkable story of rape victims who have banded together to reclaim their lives—and stand up to injustice.
Nearly 60 persons attended the screening, among them representatives from diplomatic missions at the UN and a group of students from Lehman College. Another 100 students participated in the webcast from Cambridge University. After the screening Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer led a discussion with Lloyd-Davies and Innocent Zahinda, a Congolese leader of the team of experts on the staff of Zainab Bangura, the UN Secretary General’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict.
Bangura introduced the screening at the UN. Her remarks follow.
Excellencies, UN colleagues, NGO partners, students from Lehman College, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings and thank you for joining us here today at the UN Secretariat for a very exciting event and what promises to be a fruitful discussion.
I am so happy that my office is hosting this screening of Seeds of Hope, a riveting documentary that takes viewers inside the lives of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who have been affected by sexual violence in conflict.
I would like to thank the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and its Executive Director, Jon Sawyer, for their support in making the film a reality and bringing the filmmaker here today. I also have the pleasure of welcoming the director of this gripping movie, Fiona Lloyd-Davies, who poured her heart and soul into the telling of this story, and has given voice to women who for so long have been voiceless. After the screening you will get to hear more from Jon and Fiona, who will be joined in a Q and A with Innocent Zahinda from my office. Innocent is a Congolese who leads a global team of experts, charged with putting concrete legal and operational tools and mechanisms in place on the ground to address sexual violence in conflict.
As the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, I hear stories everyday of unimaginable brutality, pain and suffering: women who have endured sexual slavery, forced marriage, gang rapes, sexual mutilation and other dehumanizing and degrading acts that are almost impossible to believe happen in the 21st century.
People often ask me how I do not become discouraged in the face of such cruelty and it is because I also hear stories like the one you will see here today, and that is what keeps me forging ahead in this fight to end rape used as a weapon of war. The central character in this documentary, Masika, is herself the survivor of multiple rapes. But she is more than a survivor, she is a champion. She has dedicated herself to helping other survivors of sexual violence rebuild their lives through economic empowerment, solidarity and sisterhood.
It is people like Masika who show me, and the world, that no matter how much brutality exists it will never triumph over the human spirit and the desire to live in dignity and peace. Masika proves that real change does not only happen in the halls of institutions like the UN, it happens in every village and town where a person stands up and says that we will not capitulate to inhumanity and we will not surrender to atrocity.
Next Tuesday is the International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women, so the screening of this movie comes at an opportune time. This film is a stark reminder of why we must make wartime rape a thing of the past, but until then Masika and the women she helps show us that we must counter the ruthlessness of rapists with the rule of law to punish them for their crimes, and we must support survivors in their journey toward healing and rebuilding their lives.