In July, the Nobel Women's Initiative led a group of prominent women on a three-week fact-finding mission to investigate the status of women in Burma and Sudan. The group met with women's groups, government officials and representatives from international organizations, and visited clinics and refugee camps to hear first-hand what is required to bring a sustainable peace to these areas.
The delegation met with women who build schools; form rape crisis centers; provide legal aid; give health care; support political prisoners; defend migrant laborers; campaign for equality; advocate for peace; and fight violence against women. With unfathomable resilience, these women defend ideals that one might expect would be long dead: the ideals that democracy will reign in Burma, that justice will be done for the women of Darfur, that violence will end in Sudan.
Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams (1997) and Wangari Maathai (2004) led the delegation, together with actress-activist Mia Farrow. They were accompanied by other notable women including the Chair of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, Dr. Sima Samar, notable human rights activist Dr. Gloria White-Hammond and labor activist Qing Zhang, as they traveled to countries and regions directly linked to the crises in Burma and Darfur: Thailand, Ethiopia (the seat of the African Union), South Sudan and Eastern Chad (home to thousands of refugees from Darfur).
There are several links between Sudan and Burma. Both Sudan and Burma have long-standing dictatorships, supported by foreign currency, brought in through natural resource revenues. In both countries, China's military, political and commercial support is critical for the survival of the regimes. Both are host to long-term violent conflicts and counter-insurgencies against uprisings by marginalized peoples. Both have seen the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war, and other forms of systemized violence against women.