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Rome Summit Addresses Violence Against Women and Children - 2002-09-20

International activists opened what they called a summit in Rome Friday to discuss how to end violence against women and children. Participants are working on a three-year plan of action.

The group calls itself VDay, The Global Movement to Stop Violence Against Women and Girls. It was established by playwright Eve Ensler five years ago to promote creative events to increase awareness and raise funds for anti-violence groups.

Addressing the activists in Rome Friday at what the group calls the VWorld Summit, Ms. Ensler, urged women to transform the world, so that they can live in safety and peace. She said efforts are needed to combat poverty and the lack of education, water and infrastructure in the majority of the countries in the world. "I believe all this comes from patriarchy," she said. "It comes from greed. It comes from power. It comes from the need to have more and the need to dominate, and that time is over; it's over. VWorld is here to announce the new time."

She urged women to stop being afraid of men.

Actress Jane Fonda told the meeting, women suffer unspeakable horrors in abusive relationships, they are too afraid to end. "It's a violence that's invisible," she said. "It's a violence that causes women and girls to silence their voices, disown their own power, for fear of not being accepted, for fear that, if they speak up, they will be alone."

Among those attending the meeting were women who had personally suffered rape, war, incest, assault, genital mutilation and sexual slavery. Ms. Ensler explained the purpose of the Rome gathering. "We've brought these grass-roots activists, revolutionaries, women who are fighting with all their lives together, because we want for all of them to know that there is a world of women who are doing the same kind of work," said Eve Ensler. "So that they can be mutually empowered and energized, but also to come up with strategies to overcome the obstacles to ending violence."

Ms Ensler established the VDay movement, following the success of her award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues. The play, based on interviews with more than 200 women, spurred many more women to approach her with their own experiences of violence. In its first five years, the VDay movement has raised more than $14 million.