SEMA - the Global Network of Victims and Survivors to End Wartime Sexual Violence.
SEMA is the Global Network of Victims and Survivors to End Wartime Sexual Violence. SEMA literally means “Speak Out” in Swahili. There are survivors of wartime rape from 21 countries in Africa, South America, the Middle East, and Europe represented in the SEMA network. They represent 2000 survivors and 90 years of conflict. The Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation aims to end rape as a weapon of war by putting survivors of sexual violence in conflict at the core of its mission.
Survivors need to heal from their experience and have the ability to rebuild their lives. However, their voices are often actively silenced. Survivors should have the freedom to speak out and they have the right to receive holistic care in order to heal. Moreover, the survivors should have the ability to organise globally and, therefore, the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation supports a survivor-led global movement. This movement empowers the survivors of wartime rape to engage in activism to combat the root causes and consequences of sexual violence in conflict.
Since June 2017, we have been facilitating retreats for survivors from over the world. These gatherings put forward the untapped power of these strong women and the content of their call “Nothing about us, without us”. From that moment on, these survivors have been gathering themselves and developing their own activities.
“Being with all the other survivors made me feel respected, loved and free, this is what I am striving for. With them, I realised that I am not alone, that survivors are strong, and that together we can bring positive change.” – A survivor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, November 2018
The Luxembourg Retreat
The last retreat took place in March 2019 in Luxembourg. During this retreat, the survivors talked to each other about their experiences, build a stronger connection within their group, and shared best practices from their national advocating efforts.
The survivors worked on their four main aims as SEMA network:
1. Maintaining a safe international platform for survivors to come together and strengthen one another: through the adoption of a charter of values, the implementation of an exchange programme between members, and the development of joint strategies at regional level.
2. Raising awareness about the reality, causes and consequences of wartime rape worldwide: through the creation of a website and a Facebook page for SEMA, the development of awareness raising activities & tools
3. Recreating the narrative on wartime rape through memorialisation tools: through the creation of a virtual museum on wartime sexual violence, the celebration of national days of remembrance, and by advocating for an International Day for Survivors of Wartime Sexual Violence on 5 October every year.
4. Advocating for the abolition of the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war: through the launch of a global report and the implementation of joint strategic advocacy to monitor national developments and influence international processes.
Do you want to read more about the stories of the SEMA network survivors? Click here.