Conferences/ Events / Life

Oslo Freedom Forum Sheds Light on Women Under Threat

Oslo Freedom Forum Sheds Light on Women Under Threat

This post is not like any others I have written. I do not have answers nor am I trying to present this to entertain you as a reader. I hope that it will make you ask some questions to yourself, and also wonder what happens to women in this world around you and far away from where you are when you read this. I will be updating it later, but for now I put it up minutes after the panel session finishes.

Oslo, Norway– The stories told by four women of the Women Under Threat panel at Oslo Freedom Forum delved into the many dimensions of women around the world, but also emphasized, that abuse is not just a woman issue. Syrian, Egyptian, Mali, and Democratic Republic of Congo spoke about the ways abuse is not just a woman’s movement, the way that media helps and at times does harm, and also the role women play in the uprisings in the world.

Oslo Freedom Forum is on its second day, and the first day of having sessions of speakers who share their stories. The stories here are powerful, touching, humbling, and have been chosen to have those who are aware of the issues of human rights in the world to gain a deeper look into the issues faced. As someone who has been living inside San Francisco, I am now remembering my past of promoting toilets, and promoting human rights in Burma.   The conversations are powerful, and these women are some of the strongest people I have met.

The second session this morning was about Women Under Threat. Four amazing women presented the issues in their home country and those of women elsewhere.

I can’t do this talk justice, instead I share some quotes by the speakers that shed light in the struggles of women in other parts of this world, and also the issues faced in the United States:

“When we think of sexualized violence there are so many root causes that have to be expressed, when we [talk] about sexual violence, we have to talk about these topics as well.”- Lee Ann De Reus (Panzi Foundation founder)

“How can you expect to be free, if the whole society is not free?” Jenan Moussa (correspondent of Al-Anan) asks the audience in the end of her talk. She sheds light in the way we view freedom too. With the current issues being at the front page of American papers about women kept hostage for over ten years, one has to wonder, how free are we in the United States actually? Can a country be free but still promote a sort of society in some parts that promote female abuse?

What about message underdstanding?  The panelists discussed the ways that many times people do not fully shed light on the different perspectives and topics that play important role on the existence of the topic.

“I have endless stories in ways that people that are culturally inappropriate and end up [causing harm at times for the locals].” – Lee Ann Reus

“You have to take the cultural context into consideration.”- says one of the other speakers.


What can we do to help, was a question that was asked, and received some great responses:

“Conflict minerals, that is an issue, the US government has not been willing to implicate some of the neighbors of Congo. I think that we do get results, in some levels, when we take the issues in what is happening there in the Congo. As an individual, play to your strengths, I encourage use their own talents and their own skills, help us to raise awareness, start by educating yourself. Simple things like not having a latte once a week that can help to educate someone else.” – Lee Ann Reus, Founder Panzi Foundation

“Egyptian women are empowered, please keep the pressure coming, I’d like to say that, the first people to pick up on the movement to help women was international media. To shed light on such atrocious sexual assaults (in Tehrar Square), teh government and the local media felt the pressure.  Please keep the pressure.  Program about gender equality are very useful.” – Soraya Bahgat founder of Tahrir Bodyguard.

“Syria as a whole is a destroyed country, I mean as a whole country it is getting destroyed, men, women, children.  People like food, people like resources.  I mean everybody can help even with a little bit. What I want to say to Arab activists, what I notice, they want to get western passports, tehy all want to leave, but I believe change comes from inside. We need a revolution in the society, it has to come from inside and if everyone leaves, who is going to provide for that?”- Jenan Moussa, once again closes the conversation with a powerful statement that leaves me at the least captivated.



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