It’s a great honour and pleasure to have this opportunity to thank The Norwegian Nobel Committee for a wonderful evening and a delicious meal. At the same time, I’d like to apologize for being the reason that the gentle hum of conversation around this room has come to a halt. It’s this hum that knits us together. I hope that each table has borne witness to a multitude of important stories and warm words. And I hope these stories and words have been listened to.
Because this is precisely what has brought us together here today.
The power of the story.
The capacity to bring about change by touching people; by reaching out to the hearts and minds of the listener.
This evening we are in the company of two individuals who have nurtured this power. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureates are awe-inspiring. Not simply for their personal courage and the sacrifices they are willing to make. Perhaps even more so for the hope they have given to the silent and the unseen. By relating – time and again – the stories and experiences of these people and many others like them.
As a woman, a mother, a nurse and a politician, I’m deeply moved by the stories, the outstanding courage, and the monumental efforts made by our two prize winners.
They have contrasting backgrounds; their pathways into the fight against sexual violence have been very different. But what they share is the courage to stand in the front line against one of the most destructive and hidden weapons that one person can use against another.
The struggle against war, violence and destruction has traditionally centred on weapons; weapons that can be demolished, banned, or taken away from those who wield them.
Sexual violence as a weapon destroys the lives of girls and women in the most despicable of ways. It requires a totally different kind of disarmament. We must talk about it, document it and prosecute those who perpetrate it. We know how crucial the role of women is in any society; for democratic development, for welfare, and for family stability. These acts strike at the very heart of a society.
As Dennis Mukwege wrote in his book: “Just because one is surrounded by violence doesn’t mean that one has to capitulate to it. An upright and principled attitude towards it can also be a weapon.”
Nadia Murad has put it like this: “I tell my story because it’s the best weapon I have.”
Through the power of their stories, they are helping to break the unfounded shame and silence that has enveloped this violence for far too long. Just speaking about it can give us knowledge and strength in our efforts to fight it.
That’s why this year’s prize winners are so crucial. By standing tall against violence; by opening up about the atrocities that take place; by demanding change, and by being courageous enough to risk magnifying and prolonging their own pain, they provide us with the hope that fewer girls and women will be victims in the future. They give us hope of disarmament.
We can already see some of the results of their courage. And my hope is that this year’s Peace Prize will further the process. A process which recognizes these hateful, violent actions for what they really are: unacceptable crimes, whose cruelty harms innocent girls and women, and causes deep and long-lasting wounds in the communities that are put through it.
I, for one, am sure that not one of us who has experienced this day will remain untouched by it.
Allow me to close by congratulating, once again, this year’s winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. I would also like to extend a warm thanks to our hosts for a worthy and grand evening. This meal has reinforced our faith in the power of the word and the hope for a safer future.