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V-Day Appoints Hibaaq Osman V-Day Special Representative to Africa, Asia, and The Middle East

01/23/2003

Based out of Washington, DC, Osman is currently working in partnership with diverse women's networks in Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan and Palestine

January 23, 2003

As part of its ongoing mission to end violence against women and girls, V-Day is thrilled to announce the appointment of Hibaaq Osman as V-Day Special Representative to Africa, Asia and the Middle East. As V-Day's Special Representative, Ms. Osman will spearhead efforts to build broad political and social movements for women's rights at national, regional, and international levels in those regions.

The Washington, DC-based Osman is already working in partnership with diverse women's networks in Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan and Palestine to strengthen and support their common agenda of ending violence against women and girls - specifically to end bride burnings, female genital mutilation (FGM), honor killings, sexual assault, rape and the many other forms of gender-based violence that plague these regions. The V-Day effort collaborates with organizations that have a commitment to working across ethnic, religious, and class lines.

Speaking about the appointment, V-Day Founder/Artistic Director Eve Ensler stated, "Hibaaq brings her experience in working with women in conflict areas like Somalia, Sudan, and Afghanistan, her unique flair for getting things done in coalition, and her passion for women to this newly created position as V-Day Special Representative to Africa, Asia, and The Middle East. I cannot think of a more talented or committed candidate: Hibaaq inspires and with her help I know that V-Day will make a real impact in the extremely challenging work of ending violence against women and girls in these politically complex and war-torn regions."

Born in Somalia and raised in Ethiopia and Sudan, Hibaaq Osman has been involved in women's rights issues in Africa for over 15 years. Building on her understanding of the existing cultural and political beliefs in various developing countries, she has collaborated with religious leaders, spiritual leaders, politicians, prominent individuals ,scholars, women's rights activists, governmental organizations, research institutes, feminist institutions, and universities to bring women's rights issues to the forefront of the domestic and international agendas . Through her work, she has helped to establish women's rights organizations and form coalitions around women's issues, most recently SIHA (Strategic Initiatives for the Horn of Africa) to promote women's rights, peace and human development. Ms. Osman has done extensive research on conflict resolution, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), and women's rights in Islam, and was previously a Senior Fellow of the Academy for Political Leadership and Participation at the University of Maryland.

Groundwork for the V-Day Initiative has already begun in Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan and Africa: The groundwork for the V-Day Initiative has already begun. From Thursday, December 11 through Saturday, December 21, 2002, Osman convened a series of visits to Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestine to listen intensively to women as they discussed their urgent need for women's security, equality, justice and peace.

Like previous V-Day visits, a series of meetings were held with diverse groups of women politicians, grassroots leaders, artists, doctors, intellectuals and teenagers amidst a variety of locations and activities. The V-Day delegation, comprised of several prominent U.S. women artists, activists, and philanthropists - including V-Day Founder/Playwright Eve Ensler, V-Counsel member/Activist/Actress Jane Fonda, and Osman – attended a series of meetings to listen, discuss, learn, explore and support the work, joint peace initiatives and other strategies of women, teenagers and young girls. Following the visits, V-Day is working to amplify the women's voices in the international community and media and to bring back specific actions or recommendations to policy makers to develop real security for women and girls.

In Spring 2002, Hibaaq traveled to Kenya with Eve to attend the opening of the first V-Day Safe House - a safe haven for young girls seeking refuge from FGM and early childhood marriage; to Sri Lanka to speak at the International Conference on "The Role of Women in Peace Building and Constitution Making"; and to Uganda to explore trends and future challenges of women's rights in Africa, identify key areas of concern and to formulate recommendations to better address these challenges and concerns.

In December 2001, V-Day participated in the "Afghan Women's Summit for Democracy" (in Brussels), as one of the main sponsors and donors. As a follow-up to the Brussels Summit, Ms. Osman traveled with V-Day Founder/Artistic Director Eve Ensler to Afghanistan in March 2002 to participate in International Women's Day in Kabul, celebrated there for the first time in five years. In Kabul, V-Day sponsored a series of roundtable talks on Afghanistan and Pakistan, gathering together more than 100 Afghan women, including the Brussels participants, to share status updates and feedback on their situation and to encourage strategic alliances among the women's groups.

While at the Brussels summit, the participants cited numerous times that lack of communication (there was and is no telephone infrastructure in Afghanistan) prevented them from effectively working together on a common agenda. To bridge this gap, V-Day provided and delivered at the Kabul talks over sixteen satellite telephones to women's groups, including the Afghan Women's Ministry, to build better communication and develop a network among the groups.

'Friends of V-Day' networks to be created within each country:
On the national level, the team will convene a diverse, strategic core group of women and women's organizations within each country to become the "Friends of V-Day." The aim of the groups will be to define violence in their cultural context, identify the specific types of violence in their communities, and prioritize one campaign and one strategy to stop violence against women and girls in their country using the funds raised from V-Day benefit events. Through this inclusive, broad–based, participatory approach, the expressed needs of local partners will lead and shape V-Day's work in their area. The "Friends of V-Day" will work together as a coalition, cross-fertilizing ideas and experiences and supporting key campaigns to have maximum impact.

Taking the work to a second level, "Friends of V-Day" networks will also forge strategic alliances across borders on a regional basis to stop honor killings, bride burnings, FGM and other life-threatening issues for women, and help end the isolation that may be felt in individual countries. An annual regional meeting is planned for the "Friends of V-Day" groups to compare experiences, evaluate campaigns and develop future strategies.

About V-Day
V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a palpable energy, a fierce catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop worldwide violence against women and girls including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sexual slavery. V-Day provides funding to create and nurture innovative programs to stop the violence.

Through V-Day campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual benefit performances of "The Vagina Monologues" to raise awareness and funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities.

V-Day itself stages large-scale benefits and promotes innovative gatherings and programs (The Afghan Women's Summit, The Stop Rape Contest, Indian Country Project, and more) to change social attitudes towards violence against women. In 2002, more than 800 V-Day benefit events were presented by local volunteer activists around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls.

The V-Day movement is growing at a rapid pace throughout the world. V-Day, a non-profit corporation, distributes funds to grassroots, national, and international organizations and programs that work to stop violence against women and girls. In its first year of incorporation (2001), V-Day was named one of Worth Magazine's "100 Best Charities." In its first five years, the V-Day movement has raised over $14 million, with over $7 million raised in 2002 alone.

The 'V' in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.

Contact
Susan Celia Swan (212) 445-3288, press@vday.org