I Am Inspired, Ending Violence.

Carmen Barroso, Regional Director

I met Ana* when we served on a Commission together, appointed by the President of Brazil, to advise on policies to promote gender equality. She was a beautiful young woman who spoke confidently about effective strategies to empower women, and I was impressed by the many useful contributions Ana made to our work. One day, after she and I became friends, we had a private moment. Ana whispered to me that she was a survivor of domestic violence.

Ana’s former husband was a prominent politician. For years, she endured his physical and psychological abuse until he locked her in their bedroom and threatened to kill her. Ana managed to escape by jumping out of the bedroom’s window, even though she was on the second floor.

Many women suffer similarly sad situations, but what struck me about Ana’s story was that such an accomplished, professional woman—who by then had a supportive new husband, a lovely family, and was a feminist activist—still did not want to reveal her history as a survivor publicly. It made me think of how deep was the hurt, and how our societies do not offer survivors of violence the supportive, judgment-free environment they need to heal from their past without fear.

Ana had a very rational response to her own experience: she devoted her life to eliminating the structural causes that create incentives for violence against so many women around the globe: lack of access to resources, power imbalances in the family and in public life, gender stereotypes, impunity for crimes against women, school systems that do not promote comprehensive sexuality education, and gender inequality.

Ana is leading a life of full dedication to women's rights. She has founded NGOs, led important government agencies, and is one of the leading voices of the women's movement in her country and internationally. I am filled with admiration for all Ana has achieved, and I continue to work to create a world where she and other women are empowered to tell their stories.

* Not her real name.


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