Archives

Older blog posts and newsletters on human rights issues, including: armed rape, genocide, NGO PROOF’s fieldwork in DRC, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Colombia.

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Welcome to the archives!

If you would like to know more about the work that PROOF has done over the years, as well as read contributions from some of the amazing people we have worked with, have a sift through our archives.

If you're after something in particular, contact us, or try searching below.


Archived Blog Posts

Archived Field Notes

February 24, 2013

Getting to Justice: What It Takes and Why It's Hard to Deliver

For survivors of sexual violence, what does justice look like?

Pointing to PROOF’s panels that graced a soaring foyer of the U.S. Institute of Peace, Rocio Silva Santisteban said, “The victims’ pictures and testimonies are here outside this auditorium. It’s important for me that they are here!”

Dr. Santisteban of Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos of Peru was one of the panelists at the February Missing Peace Conference who explored the meaning of justice and how to achieve it.

While gaining a voice is a critical component of rehabilitation for many survivors, recognition alone is not enough.

During lunch on the second day of the Missing Peace conference, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Francine Nabintu of HEAL Africa, DRC, and posed this question:  What do the survivors of sexual violence most want?

She did not hesitate in her answer. “They want the perpetrators sent to prison.” (See her blog at Francine Congostories: http://www.franccongostories.blogspot.com/ .)

While the global community has made progress in criminalizing sexual violence, for people affected by it justice is often elusive.

In the 20th century, international criminal courts began to identify and prosecute sexual violence as a crime against humanity.

Several Bosnian Serb soldiers were convicted of rape as a war crime by the ICTY, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda considered rape to be part of the genocide against the Tutsis.

Then in 2008, the U.N. passed Resolution 1820, recognizing rape as a weapon of war.  

But at the state and local level, the ability to prosecute rape often breaks down, and panelists at the conference had plenty to say.

While rape requires a multi-sector response--laws, trials, medical and psychological support-- government responses tend to be too slow, although community-based organizations can partly fill that gap.

Veronica Eragu Bichetero of EDG Venture Consult, Uganda, commented that states often fail to enforce international law and treaties or give people the resources to document evidence when it is fresh.

There is quite a long list of social structures that must be in place to prosecute sexual violence. They include:

  • Laws on the books that make it a crime.
  • Acceptance of these laws by the local population.
  • Basic infrastructure: courts, prisons, social institutions.
  • Documentation of sufficient evidence to bring a case to trial.
  • Overcoming barriers of reporting, e.g., when perpetrators are influential or family members.
  • Protection of victims, judges, activists.

Barriers abound.

Dr. Margaret Makanyengo of the Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya, noted that getting documentation to the proper authorities so it can be verified is impossible in rural areas that lack essential services.

She stressed the need for one-stop service for survivors, including resources for capturing enough data and specimens to successfully prosecute.

A dearth of social structures combined with the chaos of conflict sets up daunting obstacles for people seeking redress for their most horrifying experiences.

And yet as we have seen in places as diverse as Rwanda and Bosnia, justice may be served when there is a will to do so, though getting there surely takes much hard work and determination.

– Maya Hadar, Communications Director, PROOF


February 22, 2013

Changing Gender Attitudes for Human Rights

For all of us, our attitudes about gender determine how our society is organized, how we lead our lives, how we assign values to characteristics considered to be masculine or feminine.

In conflict zones, members of armies or militias often have more hyper-masculinized norms than those of the surrounding culture. They often equate brutality with masculinity to chilling effect. 

Gender bias works also by demeaning or dehumanizing people. For example, perpetrators may rationalize an act by framing it as “the woman wanted it.” And  commanders know they will walk away with impunity, so why take responsibility for doing wrong to someone far beneath them?

But gender identities are shaped by culture, not biology. They are learned, and they can evolve. Even armed soldiers can change their attitudes.

Many perpetrators of sexual violence would not rape during peacetime but adopt new social norms when joining an armed group. This is where intervention is key. Groups can train their fighters to separate war, which may be justified, with the masculinity of rape, which is never justified. Some have.

On the other side of the cultural norm divide is the experience of the survivor, for whom justice is often elusive.

Consider the obstacles a woman may face when trying to report a rape, talk to police, or meet with a judge. She may be ridiculed, shamed, blamed, or simply turned away. Just getting beyond a gatekeeper can be traumatic or even impossible.

Cultural attitudes are evolving. Gender inequality is widely acknowledged as a major cause of economic inequality.

But not everywhere, of course. Addressing gender-based violence requires a holistic approach that includes community-based organizations working at the local level.

To watch such a change take place, go to MenCare Rwanda Film on  http://www.men-care.org/videos .
You'll see the story of Theresa, who wanted to give her daughters the education she was denied, and her husband, Landuwari, who disagreed.

Like the rest of his community, he believed that girls destroy a family. But when Theresa learned that women can contribute to the family, Landuwari was receptive to that message, which transformed their lives.

There's much more to this inspiring story. Watch the smiling faces of Theresa and Landuwari, and you'll find yourself smiling too!

Let us not forget that while gender attitudes are important, conflict related sexual violence is a human rights issue.

Gender subordination can operate in all directions: woman to woman, man to man, etc. In countries such as Peru and Colombia, rape is tied to class and race. It's the poor and indigenous people who are affected, and they are not only women.

In her keynote address, Nobel laureate Jody Williams emphasized the need to reduce violence and war. And like other panelists, she recommends making men part of the solution.

Despite recent progress in the field, she noted the pervasiveness of gender inequality. For example, systemic rape is tacitly tolerated in the U.S. military and its academies.

To counter this gender-based discrimination, military women created the US, Service Women Action Work (SWAN) http://servicewomen.org/ .

With other women Nobel laureates, Ms. Williams is helping to spearhead a new initiative called the Nobel women's initiative for sexual violence in conflict http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/sexual-violence-in-conflict/.

Let’s hope they make an impact.

– Maya Hadar, Communications Director, PROOF


February 21, 2013

Reasons for Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Promise of Ending It

Why is it that across the globe, armed actors use sexual violence against the most vulnerable members of societies shaken by conflict?

The answer: because it achieves a lot.

  • Sexual violence can be used as a strategic weapon to terrorize and displace the local population.
  • It has no material cost.
  • Sexual violence can promote cohesiveness of an armed group, which can be important to its survival if it is weak.

While research has typically targeted survivors, a new focus on perpetrators is yielding promising information that may help limit future sexual violence.

Studies by Dara Kay Cohen of Harvard University found typical wartime rapists to be ordinary people who would not commit rape during peacetime.

Instead, they are submitting to group pressure, especially when it comes to gang rape. Women and girls are vulnerable as well to group bonding behaviors, as induction practices can turn an 11-year-old girl soldier into a perpetrator of sexual violence.

Conflict-related rape can be committed by troops without being ordered by higher-ups. For an example of unordered sexual violence that included women actors, consider the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison by the U.S. military during the Iraq war.

Contrary to the accepted wisdom in the field, research by Yale’s Elizabeth Wood shows that a majority of armed groups do not rape, another finding that offers hope that sexual violence can be prevented in the future.

Dr. Cohen studied the dynamics of these low rape groups and found powerful disincentives to sexual violence.

Understanding these groups’ perspectives and motivations is key.

From the group perspective, rape may be counterproductive by turning the locals against it. Sexual violence also spreads disease that incapacitates fighters, and it undermines discipline.

Where some or all of these disincentives prevail, rape is much less common or does not occur at all.
In my next post, I'll turn to the effect of gender attitudes on sexual violence in conflict.

– Maya Hadar, Communications Director, PROOF


February 20, 2013

Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: What It Is and Why It Matters

Rape is an act of aggression with severe legal penalties in all societies. But as horrifying as rape may be under “normal” circumstances, the nature and causes of sexual violence are different during armed conflicts. 

To appreciate this difference, put yourself in these two scenarios.

  1. You live in a relatively safe place, go to work every day, think you have a normal life. Then one day you are pulled into a dark corner and raped. Your life is turned upside down, and you feel it will never be the same.
  2. Your country has descended into chaos. Armed men control the streets, and people are fleeing as fast as they can. Before you can even think what to do, six men break down your door and, one by one, rape and torture you in front of your children.

Rape in war and conflict situations often means gang rape and is often accompanied by torture. Sexual slavery and forced prostitution also typically occur during conflicts that involve sexual violence.

Why? As civil society falls apart, armed groups give themselves license to impose their deviant social norms on the civilian population.

For example, group leaders may feel the need to promote bonding for its members, who they can neither pay nor even feed. Be they a standing army, paramilitary, or militia, any armed force may commit these crimes.

Sexual violence as defined by the International Criminal Court include rape; sexual mutilation, torture, or slavery; and forced prostitution, pregnancy, or sterilization.

And during conflict, it takes many more of these forms more often than it does during peacetime, leaving victims with physical and psychological wounds from which they may never recover.

Any civilian is at risk whether man, woman, or child.

And such atrocities do not take place only in the southern hemisphere. During the Balkan war in the 1990s, many Muslim women were held as sex slaves in Serbian rape camps in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Even in the best of times, rape is vastly underreported and underprosecuted across the globe. Issues of credibility and blame, social taboos and stigmatization, even the ability to collect viable evidence all work against the execution of justice.The turmoil of war adds fuel to these combustible factors.

And sexual violence often continues for years after “peace” takes hold.

I have started this discussion of the nature and causes of sexual violence during conflict. There is more to say; I will continue tomorrow.

– Maya Hadar, Communications Director, PROOF

February 19, 2013

In Search of the Missing Peace

Last week, from February 14 to 16, I had the privilege of attending a workshop at the U.S. Institute of Peace called The Missing Peace Symposium 2013, Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post Conflict Settings.

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert in any field related to this topic. As an outsider, I find myself peering into and being absorbed by a remarkable field that touches upon so many aspects of human existence.

To illustrate, here are examples of questions discussed at the workshop:

  • How do we define what it is to be a man or a woman? How can existing attitudes be changed?
  • What makes ordinary people rape or commit other brutal acts during armed conflicts?
  • What are the barriers to reporting sexual violence for people who feel unempowered or who live where civil institutions may not even exist? How can those barriers be overcome?
  • How can we learn from the different patterns of sexual violence to create disincentives that will limit its occurrence?

While this is a young field where much knowledge remains to be uncovered, I felt that the USIP workshop nudged the needle of progress forward.

The commitment and genuineness of the roughly 250 speakers, panelists, and participants—about 20 percent men--was almost palpable. They came from just about every corner of the globe: researchers, health practitioners, lawyers, students, some themselves survivors of sexual violence.

What astounded me above all was this single fact: while conflict-associated sexual violence is a violation of human rights under international law—and therefore prosecutable--perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.

It's hard to think of another human rights violation where justice is so poorly served.

Is this because victims are often women? Is there a lack of agreement as to what constitutes sexual violence? Is there a lack of means or perhaps a lack of will to prosecute?

The answers are yes and no to many such questions. Barriers to prosecution are formidable and complex. In fact, nothing appears to be simple the deeper you dig, although research is shedding light on these critical topics and giving us glimmers of hope for the future.

There is much to say, and I’ll delve more deeply into some of these topics in the next few days. Stay tuned.

– Maya Hadar, Communications Director, PROOF

February 7, 2013

Behind the Scenes:
Designing PROOF’s Exhibitions

The cook Julia Childs said, “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”

As the Creative Director for PROOF, a role that is both challenging and almost unfairly rewarding, I have been lucky enough to be involved in the planning and design of exhibitions that are nothing short of inspiring.

Graphic design is all about communication. In the case of exhibition design, there are a wide range of issues to consider, not least of which are how the stories and images will be represented.

By sharing with you some of the processes we go through to get an exhibition out to the world, it’s my hope that both other designers and curators will benefit from our experiences, and that you, our supporters, will come to know us a bit better.  

Where to begin?


Before I start, I have to mention that before the exhibition planning process even begins, there has already been a tremendous amount of work done by a lot of other people, including photojournalists from all over the world, and people like PROOF’s Executive Director, Leora Kahn, who go out into the field gathering the stories for the exhibitions.

By the time all of the photographs and stories get to me, most have already been edited and translated.

My job begins at this point. First, Leora and I talk about what the content of the exhibition will be and how many photographs and stories will be included.

This is really where project planning begins, and although it’s not as fun as the design stage, it is undoubtedly the most important part of any project.

I make a list of all the content required and whether or not it has been received, and then, create a project timetable so that the project is delivered on time. Once we have this, we step into the world of fabrication.

When deciding what the exhibition will be printed on, we have to first be aware of our limitations. As, no doubt, any non-profit organization will tell you, the only place to begin is with the budget.

For designers, this is an incredibly important step in the design planning process, as it will tell you what is possible to create and what’s just pie-in-the-sky.

Other limitations are more physical: PROOF’s exhibitions always travel, and as such, anything we print on needs to be portable, easy to set up, strong and relatively light (this is particularly important for freight costs further down the road).

Getting creative


Once all of the more practical details have been decided on, the design process really begins, and it’s at this point that I get to know more about the people being represented.

Although all my work is done in what I affectionately call my ‘cave’ here in Japan, I never walk the journey alone. The people within the exhibitions are my guide; I read their stories (and have been known to bawl over my pen tablet), and am reminded that my role is to carry every word from them to the people all over the world that will read them.

That means making decisions about type that uphold the dignity of each while making it easy to read for multiple people at the same time. It means bringing colors into each panel that will enhance the beauty of their photographs while not overshadowing them.

It’s about understanding where the exhibitions will be, and knowing that, sometimes, you will have only a five-second window of opportunity to attract the attention of a passer-by. It’s part instinct, part technical expertise, and part hit-and-miss experimentation, of that there is no doubt.

Post-op


Once an exhibition is out there traveling, it’s my time to dissect both the workflow of the project and the design itself.

I scrutinize what worked and what didn’t and why. Sometimes the idea and the reality can be different, for better or worse, and this real-world experience plays a huge role in making improvements to the planning and execution of our next project.

If you’ve been to see one of PROOF’s exhibitions, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

– Willhemina Wahlin, Creative Director, PROOF


December 11, 2012

Exploring Rwanda

Fortunately, while staying in Kigali I met a fellow American who was living in Gisenyi with his Rwandan wife. They had fled to Kigali for the time being, but were planning to return as soon as things settled down. I arranged to send the exhibit along with them on their return journey. PROOF's photo panels are now safely awaiting pick-up in Gisenyi. 

I would have to spend the rest of my trip exploring the other regions of tiny Rwanda. Not a terrible prospect, save the reasons behind my change of plans.

Rwanda is simply beautiful. Every which way you look is stunningly lush and green. A volcanic mountain range runs across the Northern border. An ancient rainforest makes up much of the southern province. The flat savannah of safaris can be found in the East.

The turbulent portion of the country runs along the Western border of the DRC. This area I would avoid.

Rwanda’s attempts to move forward from its conflict have been remarkable.

Kigali is now considered one of the safest and cleanest cities in East Africa and tourism is the country’s third largest source of income. They have done an excellent job with their road system making travel through out the country simple and comfortable.

While there I was able to take advantage of the extensive national park system and track mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. I had an amazing visit even with my quick change of plans.

– Anna Strizich, Development Assistant, PROOF


December 5, 2012

PROOF’s Congo Mission Thwarted by New Armed Conflict

I’ve recently returned from my first trip abroad on behalf of PROOF where a new conflict in the region halted my mission to transport our photo displays to the American Bar Association (ABA) base in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Our Legacy of Rape project’s 16 seven- by two-foot displays depict anonymous photos of survivors of armed sexual violence along with a caption recounting each woman’s attack.

Our displays were supposed to accompany legal aid clinics hosted by the ABA where local staff attorneys provide legal and psychological counseling to survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence. The clinics are one of many projects sponsored and run by the ABA in the region.

The situation in Congo is dire. The conflict has been the deadliest of any since the end of World War II. The UN Secretary-General’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallström, has called the country “the rape capital of the world.”

In this conflict that has raged since the late 1990s, sexual violence is openly used as weapon with potentially hundreds of thousands victims.

My original plan was to fly to Kigali, Rwanda and then travel by car or bus to Gisenyi, Rwanda where I would meet with Winnie Yaya Lorie, the Executive Assistant at the ABA. I planned to pass along the photo panels to her and discuss their current projects in the region.

Gisenyi is the border town directly across from Goma in the DRC. Ordinarily, it’s a lovely lake town with a thriving tourist industry. I was greatly looking forward to the visit. But my trip was cut short by events on the ground.

A day or so after I touched down in Kigali news sources began reporting that the M23 rebel group was less than 20 miles outside of Goma and were marching toward the city.

I had brushed up on my knowledge of the region prior to my departure and knew that Goma had been considered relatively safe for some time. A large community of aid workers is based there, its position along the Rwandan border making it particularly attractive to international organizations.

The M23 were known to be moving through out the North and South Kivu region, but it was assumed that Goma with its 1500 UN peace-keeping troops would be safe.

The next day however, as we anxiously followed reports from Kigali, it became more and more clear that the M23 were intent on taking the city.

They marched straight in with very little resistance from local forces who were fearing a blood bath.

A mass exodus of the city preceded their arrival. Thousands of refugees were seen on the roads leading out, carrying what little they could, many fleeing to the safety of the hills beyond Gisenyi in Rwanda. Stray shells were reported to have struck the Rwandan side of the border.

I would not be going to Gisenyi.

– Anna Strizich, Development Assistant, PROOF


September 22, 2012

David Garrison: First Impressions From the Field

Today was the first day of true field work. We drove two hours north of Trincomalee into the former conflict zone, where tensions are still a little high, and conducted eight interviews.

If you’ve never done this before – as I have not – you should know that eight interviews on conflict is a crazy schedule.  Each is draining in its own right, and a schedule like this means you have to maintain focus and find themes across 12 hours of intimate and politically charged discussions.

As a photographer working with this volume, your challenge is to quickly take some candid shots to document the interview, run outside to scout appropriate locations, get context shots of the surrounding area, and, when you’re told you have 10 minutes with someone, get your act together and take a great portrait.

That last one is the toughest. Generally, I’m given 10-15 minutes with each of these people after they share their stories.

Finding a way to connect in that amount of time and not contribute to concerns of exposure, particularly when they’ve just told a potent, life-changing, traumatic, and sometimes very private story, is not an easy thing.

Like water, our emotional biases take the easiest path – the psychological downhill, so to speak.

I find that, in the moment, my own bias often pushes me away from that raw emotion, and I initially look for comfort in the lines of a shot – things that will make it technically beautiful. In the end, though, it’s the emotion in their eyes that draws back me in and helps me see the image of them that emerges.

Sadness. Compassion. Pride. Hurt. Vision. Love. These are the things that pull you to the person and make for a great portrait. These are the rare moments in life that, when you have them in front of you – even for 10 minutes – you don’t waste.

NOTE:  These images are of five of the Rescuers we spoke with today. Each has a powerful story that we'll share as this project takes shape. Each is a person who's demonstrated moral courage in exceptional circumstances. Each is a rescuer.

– David Garrison, Chairman of the Board of Directors, PROOF


September 20, 2012

Sri Lanka Workshop Builds Shared Understanding and Plans to Move Forward

How often do we actually come together to solve shared problems?

How often do we gather leaders from four different religions to discuss peacebuilding and shared values across their communities?

How often do they see the process as something to not simply work through, but as an experience to enjoy, an experience to inspire the people around them, a forum in which they can help each other build stronger communities together?

This is what yesterday’s workshop did to kick-start the Sri Lankan extension of PROOF’s successful project, The Rescuers.

Islam. Christianity. Hindu. Buddhist. Leaders from these four religions, as well as secular community leaders came here from across the region to explore ways to uncover and promote acts of moral courage and positive behavior following the end of the Sri Lankan civil war.

These shots were from the workshop. I loved how the trappings of the different religions became more striking in each others’ company. The differences became less important as separating mechanisms and more important as challenging perspectives to move the group forward.

By the end of the day, all these people had a shared understanding of not only what a rescuer was in their communities and why that was important in developing moral courage, but they had laid out plans for how they wanted to gather and disseminate their local stories.

The goal of workshops like these is to train the trainer, so to speak, and to end up with both a large archive of stories to serve as the basis for peacebuilding and real momentum, critical relationships, context, and dialogues started with others involved in the conflict.

This is inspiring work to watch and be part of.

– David Garrison, Chairman of the Board of Directors, PROOF


September 19, 2012

Out of the Ashes of Conflict, Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka

Today we begin the Sri Lankan extension of PROOF’s "The Rescuers," a peacebuilding program that supports healing and reconciliation in post-conflict countries. 

By reaching out to condemned groups, "The Rescuers" records and highlights stories of those who resisted overwhelming prejudice and violence. These rescuers are the emblems of hope.

Sri Lanka, an island country that recently ended a long civil war, is a potent example of the power of these stories. This will be my first time working in the field with PROOF. To share my experience with you, I’ll be posting a short daily photoblog about the development of the project.

I frequently find myself reflective when I leave NYC, and today was no exception. Perhaps because I expected such contrast among Manhattan, Dubai (where I stopped for a layover), and Sri Lanka, I find myself surprised that I can only notice similarities.

It’s not that these places are the same – far from it – but that, while the particulars may be unique, they share a common world.

This is the foundation of the peacebuilding we’re here to do: it is a realization that the baseline of a shared understanding of narrative, of beauty, and of communication supersedes the conflicts that arise between us and gives voice to renewed relationships and new beginnings.

As Adam Gopnik says of lives lived and worth writing of, when he points out Fluellen’s comparison in Henry V:

Lives lived in one time have similar shapes, and the common shape is itself a subject… ‘There is a river in Macedon; and there is also moreover a river at Monmouth – it is called Wye at Monmouth, but it is out of my prains what is the name of the other river; but ‘tis all one, ‘tis alike as my fingers is to my fingers, and there is salmons in both.’

I thought I’d start this photo blog with a few images from the past 36 hours that represent the trip from one end of the world to the other.

I started in NYC and, after a brief layover in Dubai, flew on to Colombo, where I met Leora Kahn and our team at the airport. From there, we immediately jumped in a van and began a seven-hour trip across the country. These images are from stops along the way.

Despite their clear differences, I find comfort and hope when I look at these photos together. In them, I find a familiar sense of flow, a familiar sense of tone, a familiar sense of beauty.

I hope you’ll join me on this adventurous project over the next week. And, if you’d like to donate to support PROOF’s important work in Sri Lanka, we’ll be launching a Kickstarter project to realize our goal of publishing a booklet with USAID that local peacebuilding groups can use in continuing to gather and share stories of local rescuers.

– David Garrison, Chairman of the Board of Directors, PROOF


November 2012

In Congo, Justice Deferred. Again.

Last week, as rebel fighters overtook the provincial capital of North Kivu, Congo, the dream of justice dimmed for survivors of armed sexual violence.

This country is the rape capital of the world.* On a daily basis, innocent civilians—primarily women, but boys too—are victimized by renegade soldiers who use rape to humiliate and subjugate communities. During the Second Congo War and the ten years since, perpetrators of rape have largely gone unpunished.

A culture of gender violence prevails. Until recently, few outsiders took note. But that’s beginning to change.

Responding to the problem of rape in conflict, the United Nations condemned “in the strongest terms of all sexual and other forms of violence committed against civilians in armed conflict, in particular women and children.” UN Resolution 1820 caf gender violence prevails. Until recently, few outsiders took note. But that’s beginning to change.

Responding to the problem of rape in conflict, the United Nations condemned “in the strongest terms of all sexual and other forms of violence committed against civilians in armed conflict, in particular women and children.” UN Resolution 1820 calls for specific steps to counteract these abuses.

In Congo, the American Bar Association (ABA) and other humanitarian groups developed mobile clinics to provide legal and psychosocial services to rape survivors. Traveling courts were also established.

At the request of the ABA, PROOF created a special Legacy of Rape exhibit to accompany these mobile courts.

The Legacy project documents the brutality endured by rape survivors, through testimonies and portraits.
Women who appear in these exhibits have courageously stepped forward, in the hope of gaining justice for themselves and others. PROOF amplifies their voices, so they are heard in their own villages and at the highest levels of government.

Photo: Anna Strizich stands next to a panel from the Legacy exhibit prior to her departure.

PROOF’s Anna Strizich was en route to Congo with the exhibit when the latest violence erupted. She got as far as Rwanda, before having to turn back.

“There were a lot of American aid workers who had fled to Kigali,” said Strizich. With stray bullets and mortar fire crossing the Congo-Rwanda border, it was too dangerous for her to go on.

Strizich is home safe now, but the fate of the mobile courts and PROOF’s exhibit is unclear. As fighting rages in Congo, will the noble survivors spotlighted in Legacy of Rape ever achieve justice?


August 2012

“The Rescuers" Underscores Urgent Need for Upstanders

“Every single person has the obligation to speak out against racism, vilification, discrimination and brutality whenever or wherever it occurs,” said John Searle, chair of the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Searle spoke at the opening of PROOF’s Rescuers exhibit at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in in Melbourne, Australia. The diplomats, politicians, and genocide survivors in attendance got a first-hand glimpse of PROOF’s peacebuilding method.

PROOF’s Rescuers uses portraits and testimonies to draw attention to ordinary individuals who engaged in extraordinary acts of moral courage. These men and women saved others by providing safe haven or the chance for escape.

The exhibit identifies rescuers from the worst genocides of the 20th century—from the Holocaust to Bosnia, Rwanda to the killing fields of Cambodia. Pictured side-by-side, the “everyday-ness” of the rescuers suggests what has been called “the banality of heroism.”

The ability to stand up for others resides within each of us.

As Searle put it, “There are within the wastelands of desperation and the vast planes of human agony, small sparks of hope and optimism.”

The Rescuers opening was covered widely in the Australian press and by the Huffington Post.

  • Jewish Holocaust Centre – John Searle’s opening remarks
  • The Age – The ordinary heroes who stood up
  • The Australian – Courage of ordinary heroes on show to stop genocide
  • ABC radio Melbourne – Histories, revolutions and retribution from the 17th to the 21st century
  • Huffington Post – Heroes Of Genocide: Australian Exhibit Celebrates Ordinary People Who Stood Up To Evil

July 2012

In Colombia, PROOF Helps Rape Survivors Seek Justice

Though the Colombian government has made strides in its long-running struggle with drug cartels and guerilla groups, the conflict is far from over. Nearly three million people have been displaced from their homes.

Among the victims of the unrest are women subjected to armed sexual violence. Earlier this month, PROOF’s executive director, Leora Kahn, traveled to Colombia to meet with rape survivors and document their experiences.

“My story is about my body as a war zone,” says Maria, a community organizer in Santa Marta. She is one of eight courageous women who, though fearing reprisal, came forward to speak about the brutality they endured.

“Most of them never told their families, because they were scared,” says Kahn. “They were ashamed, and they were traumatized.”

By speaking out now, these activists hope to find justice for themselves and others who have suffered in silence.

PROOF will feature their portraits and testimonies (identities obscured) in a forthcoming Legacy of Rape exhibit, slated to appear in the Colombian cities of Cartagena, Bogota, and Santa Marta later this fall.

PROOF's exhibits are meant to spur public dialogue and policy change.

With this exhibit, PROOF keeps its promise to Maria, who implored, “Please don’t forget us…we want the exhibit to be here [in our community], so others know what happened to us.”


June 2012

PROOF Award Sheds Light on "Prayer Camp" Abuses in Ghana

In a country with few practicing psychiatrists, Ghana's so-called prayer camps have become the scene of indescribable suffering for people living with mental illness. These camps subject patients to inhumane "cures" for conditions customarily ascribed to evil spirits.

PROOF is helping change that, by granting its first-ever Award for the Emerging Photojournalist. The award provides financial support to a photojournalist covering human rights abuses.

This spring, PROOF honored Swiss photographer Scott Typaldos for his work documenting the dire situation in Ghana. The award will help Scott continue his important work.

Scott's project was selected from nearly 100 entries representing 68 countries. The projects were judged on urgency, visual impact, and relevance to human rights.

Click here to read more about the Emerging Photojournalist Award.


Nepal Visit Paves Way for Public Dialogue on Rape

As Nepal recovers from the Maoist insurgency that ravaged the tiny Asian nation for a decade, PROOF is on the ground helping survivors of armed sexual violence.

Executive Director Leora Kahn traveled to Nepal last month to lay the groundwork for the Legacy of Rape media campaign.

The campaign—a partnership with Swiss humanitarian organization TRIAL and Nepal-based photo.circle—aims to spur public dialogue and policy change, helping rape survivors get the clinical, social, and legal support they so need.