Grand Duchess Maria Teresa at the Stand Speak Rise Up forum in March. / © RTL Archives
In March, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa hosted the Stand Speak Rise Up! forum, an initiative to combat and end the taboo surrounding the survivors of sexual violence in combat zones.
The forum was born from a meeting with now-Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr Denis Mukwege in 2016. Mukwege's campaigns to build a solidarity network for the survivors of sexual violence deeply moved the Grand Duchess, who threw herself these initiatives and came up with the idea to hold the Stand Speak Rise Up! forum alongside Mukwege and lawyer Céline Bardet, founder of the NGO We Are NOT Weapons of War.
The forum's purpose was twofold: to expose the realities of rape used as a weapon in conflict zones and the accompanying trauma, terror, and shame following sexual violence and to move beyond emotional reactions in order to reflect on better supporting survivors of sexual violence and prevent the spread of sexual violence in conflict zones. The forum's purpose was to focus on survivors of sexual violence, as evidenced by its paradigm shift in referring to them as survivors rather than victims, and gave them agency as many survivors participated in the forum and shared their experiences.
On Tuesday, the Grand Duchess released a special video message to commemorate the publication of the forum's white paper, which details the main lines of action as debated at the forum. In Her Royal Highness's editorial in the white paper, she writes: "These are the guidelines we will follow at Stand Speak Rise Up! For this first forum was not an end in itself, but a beginning. It is the beginning of a struggle, which I feel is going to be fierce, to induce change."
The Grand Duchess thanked all those who participated in the forum and dedicated her message and the white paper to the survivors - "the heart and the centre of this forum" - and ended her message with the forum's slogan: "Nothing about us, without us. I am at their side."