Welcome to the Women for Women International Book Club! This month we’re reading Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: War Through the Lives of Women, by award-winning journalist, war correspondent, and activist, Christina Lamb.
The survivors in this book shared their deeply personal stories for a purpose: that the world may know the realities of war from women and end the use of violence against women as a weapon.
It is now our responsibility to listen, share their stories, and advocate on their behalf around the world.
Don’t forget to join the #WFWIBookClub Facebook Group…
We’ve launched a space for passionate readers like you to dive deeper and connect with each other while exploring women’s power. We hope you’ll join the discussion online!
Why Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: War Through the Lives of Women is important...
From ancient cultures to today, sexual violence against women during times of war is considered an inevitable outcome. Rape and sexual violence are viewed as casual spoils of war, or strategically used to humiliate, demoralize, or systematically destroy an entire culture.
For too long, the war stories told by women have been intentionally stripped from history books and cultural consciousness. And so, the atrocities continue. We see surging cases of sexual violence used as a weapon of war today in Ukraine, Ethiopia, and Myanmar with impunity.
Too often, women are told they’re “lucky” because they survived the violence instead of being killed—but that is no consolation. Evidence is not collected, victims are not prioritized, offenders go unprosecuted, and women are often ostracized after their traumatic experience.
But many of the women in Our Bodies, Their Battlefields are taking matters into their own hands by collecting evidence, creating cases against their rapists, and personally tracking them down to be held accountable.
This is a profoundly important book that explores the generational impacts of wartime sexual violence and immediate consequences of such brutality.
The atrocities examined in Our Bodies, Their Battlefields are the reasons why Women for Women International exists.
We work in Afghanistan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda and many more countries where women have experienced extreme violence and war. We’re led by community members to help women heal and connect with others, reclaim their lives, and achieve their highest ambitions.
* This book is not an easy read. It tackles the reality of war through the traumatic stories of women who have experienced atrocities. As you can imagine, the violence discussed is disturbing. It is important to take care of yourself while reading. Take breaks, find a friend or professional who can help you process, and stop reading if you need to.
Trigger warning: Sexual violence, violence, terror, loss of children
Check out the discussion questions below and connect with readers on Instagram to share your reactions, thoughts and questions by using the hashtag #WFWIBookClub, and tagging us with @womenforwomen. We want to hear what you think—share your take on the book with us!
- What does the author mean when she writes, “Rape is as much of a weapon of war as the machete, club, or Kalashnikov.”
- In Rwanda, following the 1994 genocide where neighbors turned against neighbors, what were some tactics that were used to help heal communities and the nation? What are the continuing impacts of the violence?
- What are some of the reasons women do not share their traumatic experiences with authorities, family members or friends? What were some of the reactions that survivors endured after coming forward?
- Were you aware that violence against women was used as a weapon of war? Did you know the extent to which sexual violence was prevalent during times of war?
- Throughout the book, we see how governments and leaders actively suppress the stories of women survivors of war. What are the motivations to overwrite their experiences from history books? Why is it so important for survivors to share their personal stories?
- Many survivors said that they wished they had died rather than survive their ordeal. Why do you think that is? Why do you think that is a difficult concept for people to understand?
- What are some ways that you can take action to support women survivors of war? Are there ways that you can help hold war criminals accountable?
- What are some examples from the book of survivors taking action to hold rapists accountable for their crimes?
- Throughout the book, how do we see women survivors supporting each other? In what ways do they encourage each other to process their traumatic experiences?