BREAKING THE SILENCE by Katrina Syran
Last week at the 'Global Summit To End Sexual Violence In Conflict' at ExCel, London co-hosted by Angelina Jolie and William Hague, our play 'Breaking The Silence' was peformed each day by a stellar cast of actors and was chosen to be peformed on the last day in front of US Secretary of State John Kerry, Angelina Jolie, William Hague and Brad Pitt. It captured the voice, the moment and broke the silence.
Here is the story of Breaking The Silence.
My sister-in-law who works for the oldest Help Centre for men and women in Oslo told me about a woman at the Centre who had been sexually violated and trafficked and after five attempts had managed to escape from her perpetrators . She stayed for two years at the centre applying for immigration papers and she sang all day and spread a lot of joy until her application was rejected. Norway was going to send her back to the place that she had fled. She attempted suicide three times and on the day the authorities came to get her she had escaped.
There are thousands of stories like this one out there.
About two years ago, I was invited to the first dinner hosted in Geneva by Human Rights Watch. I was lucky to be seated next to a lawyer and now a Researcher at Human Rights Watch. He asked me the standard question one asks when sitting next to someone at a dinner. I told him that since moving to Geneva from London, where I trained at RADA and Guildhall and played leads in the West End, I was now a producer, director, writer, singer and mother of four children. He got excited and asked me to write a play for Human Rights Watch. I had premiered The Vagina Monologues five years earlier for Solidaritè Femmes Geneva, and thought that the play, Breaking The Silence, should contain a series of monologues.
So with my friend, Suzan Craig, who introduced me to Human Rights Watch's Women's Division, we started to write a series of monologues based on the shocking and harrowing stories we heard from researchers at the Women's Division in order to raise awareness. The research was all based on the work carried out by Human Rights Watch and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Because of their indepth research we are able to break the silence and fulfill the mission to raise awareness. We tried to cover as many issues as possible in the monologues and these include sexual violence, rape as a war crime, trafficking, child marriage, domestic violence, right to a (political) voice, right to ownership/education and free speech. Somalian supermodel and UN spokeswoman on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Waris Dirie, wonderfully let me use her words from her book, Desert Flower, so 'Breaking The Silence' also addresses FGM.
The lead character in 'Breaking The Silence, is of course the Researcher. To me they are super-heroes - their work is amazing. They listen. This is an extract from the play that I want everyone to hear: "It helps many people to just have someone listen and to record their stories, if their suffering is noted, then they can more easily let it go".
In October last year 'Breaking The Silence' was successfully premiered in Geneva with the wonderful Liesl Gerntholtz, Executive Director of the Women's Rights Division of HRW, coming all the way from New York to make her memorable speech.
With Madeline Rees' help, an ex lawyer and now Secretary General of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom , 'Breaking The Silence' performed last week as part of the 'Global Summit To End Sexual Violence In Conflict'. The Summit had three days of free public events and was the largest gathering ever brought together on this subject.