“This baby is not part of me. It is a stone in my body”
This is how Safa Konakovic described her feelings about being raped in Bosnia in the 1990s.
A group of women in Canada felt that they had to do something about the mass rapes. Led by Heather Menzies, a Carleton University adjunct professor and award-winning author, they came together in shared grief and outrage after reading about the horrific ordeals suffered by women in Bosnia.
Menzies says that it was the voices of the women survivors that moved the group members to act in solidarity. Voices like Safa Konakovic or Sejma Alukic: “It was worse when they lost a battle — then they came wanting more.”
The group of women, including Carleton Professor Emerita Bessa Whitmore, Farhat Rehman, Ivana Felice and Judith Wouk, were determined to make a difference. They formed the Women’s Health Project to raise public awareness and funds for the health needs of the rape survivors.
The project has raised $4,000 to date through public fundraising events, as well as private events in individual’s homes, and has been able to transfer these funds to organizations working directly with women who have been assaulted.
The Women’s Health Project members will lead a presentation at the Women’s Worlds 2011 Congress that examines how women in Ottawa have gone about building relationships with women who have experienced rape in war and ways that they have responded to their needs.
Menzies hopes the presentation will provide the project with the names of other organizations that need money, as well as attract new participants for the project.
The project is now exploring possibilities to support women in Kashmir, Darfur and the Congo.
Women’s Worlds 2011 is taking place in Ottawa-Gatineau until July 7. This is the largest gathering of women from around the world in Canada’s history. Co-hosted by Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, this 11th installation in the Women’s Worlds series is celebrating its 30th anniversary by examining women’s unique experiences with globalization and its impacts.
Carleton is a pioneer in the field of women’s and gender studies. Carleton established the Joint Chair in Women’s Studies 25 years ago with the University of Ottawa and created the renowned Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies in 1987. The university offers both specific academic programs and takes an integrated approach to this field of study by offering courses across all disciplines – from Canadian studies, communications, history and human rights to sociology, social work, psychology and political science. The university is proud to co-host Women’s Worlds 2011 to foster discourse and share knowledge about key issues that impact women around the world.
-Written by Tegan Ford