News blog

This blog won't make easy reading. Anne shared her story and we wanted to tell you what happened to her. Together we must face the reality of sexual violence.

“We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence, that the shame is with the aggressor.” That is what Angelina Jolie said yesterday at the opening of the Ending Sexual Violence Summit in London.  

That is why I believe Anne Bucheche is such a courageous woman - for speaking out about an horrific attack by a gang of men from a militia group during clan clashes over land disputes in western Kenya who sexually assaulted her in front of her children and husband.

AnneAnne Bucheche is determined that others should never suffer as she did.

Attacked at home in front of her family

“I was selling onions in the local market when the militia demanded cash from me,” she said. “They were using the cash to buy guns across borders. Later that evening a group of between five to ten men broke into my house and beat me and my husband up.

“They were demanding more money, but I didn’t have it. Two of the men held my legs apart while the others put their fists inside my private parts insisting I must have hidden the money inside there. A gun was held to my head so that I did not scream at all. When they left I was bleeding a lot. They took my two cows and ran back to their hide out in the forest.”

Rebuilding her life and working for justice

Anne was helped by ActionAid with medical care and facilitated healing forums where she and other women spoke out their experiences and started the healing process. She also received a grant from ActionAid to restart her business.

Since the attack Anne has become involved a community group trained by ActionAid to take up cases of violence against women and girls and work with the police, health workers, the judiciary and an organisation of women lawyers who provide pro-bono legal services to women survivors of violence.

She is vocal in campaigning for rights of women and girls against violence. She has also been involved in peace-building activities as a way of protecting women from violence in the future.

She told her story to the Evening Standard last week because she wants to help other women see that they too can break their silence on this taboo issue.

Hear testimonies from survivors of rape and sexual assault

I will be down at the summit today with the amazing women from ActionAid who work with survivors of sexual violence and have come to London to share the testimonies that they have gathered and make sure the voices of survivors are at the centre of this debate.

They will be speaking at a panel discussion at 4.30pm which is one of the huge number of events that are open to the public so do come down if you can.

ActionAid’s She CAN fundraising appeal helps young women break the cycle of poverty and violence so that they can fulfil their potential and live lives without fear. The appeal runs until 25 June and all donations from the public will be matched by the UK government.

Photo: ActionAid

It’s degrading, humiliating and destroys a woman’s sexual identity. These are just some of the words that were used to describe sexual violence in conflict - war rape. They came from ActionAid frontline aid workers and actors and ActionAid ambassadors, Sarah Alexander and Helen Worth.

This week sees the largest ever gathering of politicians, experts and activists led by UK foreign minister William Hague and actor Angelina Jolie aiming to create irreversible momentum against sexual violence in conflict as well as outlining practical action that helps women who have suffered sexual abuse.

A zero tolerance approach

We’ll be at the Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict summit. In particular, we’ll be pushing for a zero tolerance approach to sexual assault. That means punishment of perpetrators - no matter how long it takes, paying reparations and ensuring women can access justice. 

So what do you think can be done? Here are six answers that we think can help.

• Change attitudes around the world so that the stigma that survivors of sexual violence usually face, is instead attached to the perpetrators

• End the culture of impunity and make sure women survivors have access to justice

• Always prosecute rapists

• Stop objectifying women

• Give girls real power

• Give all women a voice 

These are some of the reasons why ActionAid’s She CAN fundraising appeal helps young women break the cycle of poverty and violence so that they can fulfil their potential and live lives without fear. The appeal runs until 25 June and all donations from the public will be matched by the UK government.

It’s almost upon us. The world cup kicks off in a matter of days and at ActionAid we’re caught up in sweepstake fever. 

Mbou Jutenda. Makhnda U17 girls football club
Mbou Jutenda. Makhnda U17 girls football club
Photo: ,Zute & Demelza Lightfoot/ActionAid

I know next to nothing about football, which is almost sacrilege when you’re northern, but there you have it. Following a team every week for months, years, decades, seems a little too much like hard work and somewhat time consuming.

I'll be basking in the atmosphere

However, it’s hard not to get swept up in a wave of excitement when the national team are playing, and so I will watch, along with the rest of the country holding my breath, hoping for the win and hopefully basking in the incredible atmosphere that such events bring with them.

Whilst you’ll no doubt be vying for your team to win, there’s also the team you got in the sweepstake to consider. Admit it. What huge competition would be complete without an office/ university / friendship group sweepstake? Not one is the answer you’re looking for!

Download the ActionAid sweepstake

At ActionAid we’ve designed our own that we wanted to share for anyone who hasn’t been quite so organised. Download the sweepstake (pdf)

Whilst you’re downloading we’re also encouraging you to make a donation to ActionAid’s She CAN appeal which runs until the 25 June. All donations made during that time will be matched by the UK government and will help some of the world’s most vulnerable girls in countries such as Kenya and Myanmar overcome poverty and violence. At least if your sweepstake team gets knocked out you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you contributed in some way to making a difference.

News of the horrific gang rape and death by hanging of two so-called ‘low caste’ girls - 14 and 15 year old cousins from the Dalit community in Uttar Pradesh, northern India shows how vulnerable the poorest women and girls in India still are to violent sexual attack.

Young activists join with ActionAid in India to protest violence perpetrated on women and girls
Young activists join with ActionAid in India to protest violence perpetrated on women and girls
Photo: Florian Lang/Actionaid

Colleagues in India tell me there is anecdotal evidence that sexual assault, rape and murder of women is an increasing feature of atrocities committed against the Dalit community.

What is worse is that the rape of Dalit women in many places, but especially in northern India, is not being taken seriously enough.

So the initial reported laxity of the police in investigating the case has come as no surprise to ActionAid in India and our partners on the ground. Although as outrage grew, the local police chief insisted on a thorough investigation.

What was welcome was that Indian Minister of State for Women and Child Welfare, Maneka Gandhi immediately condemned the slow police start once it was brought to her attention and affirmed the importance of establishing rape crisis centres.

Another welcome development was the across-the-board condemnation by the Indian public and the widespread recognition by ordinary people that women's rights are central to a mature democracy: a very clear achievement of the robust and strong Indian women's movement.

Yet more still needs to be done.

A rape is reported every 22 minutes in India

A rape is reported every 22 minutes in India according to official government statistics although this in no way reflects the true numbers which are much higher. Additionally, three in four rapes in India occur in rural areas amongst predominantly lower caste women.

That is why ActionAid’s new ‘one stop’ crisis centres for survivors of rape which we are setting up with government support will be targeting this most vulnerable of demographics. 

But sexual and other forms of violence are not just an Indian problem. It is an international disgrace, affecting millions of women and girls every year. In the UK the number of recorded rapes of both adults and children has risen steadily since 2008.

Poverty increases vulnerability to violence

As our UK-based She CAN campaign shows, and as our recent blogs on the plight of Nigeria's schoolgirls affirm, poverty and violence against women and girls are interlinked and feed off one another.

Poverty increases the vulnerability of women and girls to violence, while violence traps women and girls, their families and communities in poverty.

Worldwide, ActionAid is committed to helping women and girls break the cycle of poverty: to fulfil their potential and live lives without fear. The UK government is doubling all donations to our She CAN appeal until 25 June.

Next week London will host the largest ever conference on the issue of ending sexual violence in conflict – organised by Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy for Refugees Angelina Jolie.

Women in DRC protest against sexual violence in conflict
Women in DRC protest against sexual violence in conflict
Photo: ActionAid

Sexual violence in conflict, including the rape of women and girls, is one of the most destructive and widespread violations of human rights. According to former UN Peacekeeping Commander Major General Patrick Cammaert it is more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern conflict.

Among the thousands gathering at the Excel Centre from 10 to 13 June will be government ministers from around the world, technical experts, survivors of sexual violence and people who work on the issue in countries affected by conflict. The first three days will also be open to the public with more than 150 free live events, including 60 debates and discussions, exhibitions, films and a marketplace.

Anyone can come along to these events so do come down - you can check out the full programme of events here - and come and see what ActionAid is doing at the summit. We will have a video booth, being run jointly with the Guardian, where people will be asked to record a message to world leaders on ending sexual violence in conflict. The Guardian has also asked people to send in their video messages in advance.

Abducted by rebels

Ten women who work for ActionAid around the world will be attending the summit to give their firsthand experience of working on projects to end sexual violence. Women like Raisa Ndogole from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has suffered years of conflict.

In 2000, Raisa’s sister was abducted, raped and abused by rebels. She was kept in the bush for two years before being returned to her family. Raisa’s father has also been harassed, kidnapped and interrogated by rebels during the country’s ongoing civil war.

Despite these atrocities and being forced to flee her home in Goma, Raise finished her diploma of graduate law and soon after established the Association for Women Lawyers. The association has been operating for over a decade and supports survivors of sexual violence to seek justice. Raisa now works with ActionAid as a Policy and Campaign Coordinator.

Time to act

If you can’t make it to the summit you can add your voice to the debate by using the #TimeToAct hashtag on Twitter. The Foreign Office have also launched a global photo campaign encouraging people to take selfies of themselves holding a sign with #timetoact on it with a watch or clock in the picture.

The aims of the summit are hugely welcome, but what's also important for ActionAid is to act to reduce all forms of violence against women and girls in times of peace, as well as times of war, and to recognise that these are intrinsically linked because they are fuelled by the same attitudes towards women which mean they are not listened to or valued. It is also not uncommon for violence against women and girls to increase after conflicts have formally ended.

That is why ActionAid’s She CAN fundraising appeal will help young women break the cycle of poverty so they can fulfil their potential and live lives without fear. The appeal runs until 25 June and all donations from the public will be matched by the UK government.

Warning: we’re going to blog about periods. A subject that most people don’t want to talk about, let along blog about. At ActionAid we don't agree.  Our appeal "The worst period of her life" aims to help women retain their dignity during the hardest times in their lives and beyond.

Mugunga refugee camp, the Democratic Republic of Congo
Mugunga refugee camp, the Democratic Republic of Congo
Photo: Lionel Healing/ActionAid

Many of us have been there, caught short of sanitary products – tampons, menstrual cups or sanitary towels – at the worst possible time: at work, travelling, during an important event. It’s frustrating and can ruin your day.

So much so, that in a survey published this week*, almost half of British women admitted they would not to go to work if they found themselves on their period unable to access sanitary products.

Feeling unclean and the fear of visible stains 

This doesn’t surprise me. I can imagine how uncomfortable I would be in the office, stressing about feeling unclean and the fear of visible stains when I’m in a long meeting.

It seems I’m not alone as fear of stains and feeling unclean were seen to be some of the worst impacts of not having access to sanitary products for British women*.

So if we consider what a negative effect this has on the lives of many British women, for a moment please think about what it would be like for women and girls in refugee camps.

Travelling long distances is a reality for thousands of refugees

One in four British women believe the worst time to get a period would be while travelling long distances. I’ve been there. It’s not nice.

Now, imagine being in the shoes of a refugee, perhaps a young girl who has fled her home with few or no belongings. She has limited access to water or soap and has to travel long distances often on foot. When she gets her period, the chances are she has no sanitary products either. She has to cope with this on top of everything else.

Could you?

We work to ensure women and girls retain their dignity

We have distributed sanitary kits to women and girls who have fled their homes in Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We’ve also distributed 3,000 sanitary kits to women affected by the recent flooding in Afghanistan.  We are working to ensure that women and girls retain their dignity during the worst periods of their lives

Now you have put yourself in their shoes, we’re asking you to donate to our She CAN appeal, running until June 25, to help some of the world’s most vulnerable women and girls.

Donations to the campaign will be matched by the UK government, so ActionAid can do twice as much to help women and girls escape poverty.

There’s less than a month to go to donate to ActionAid’s She CAN appeal.

* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1181 British women (aged 18+) of which 606 are currently working and menstruate. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th - 16th May. The survey was carried out online.