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WHAT IS A VAGINA WARRIOR?

“Being a Vagina Warrior “means developing the spiritual muscle to enter and  survive the grief that violence brings and, in that dangerous space of  stunned unknowing, inviting the deeper wisdom.”  — Eve Ensler

Over the years since V-Day launched at the very first event in 1998, we encountered incredible women working to end violence against women and  girls in their communities. These women have often experienced violence  either personally or witnessed it within their communities and dedicated  themselves toward ending such violence through effective, grassroots means.  These women have been the very heart of V-Day since it was conceived as a  worldwide movement to empower and enable local activists to raise awareness  and funds locally through V-Day benefit productions of "The Vagina  Monologues." 

V-Day’s 2004 campaign honored such women around the world whom Founder/Artistic Director Eve Ensler has named “Vagina Warriors.” Each  V-Day production will select and honor up to three Vagina Warriors in their  own community. 

Examples of a Vagina Warrior:
  • Agnes Pareyio was circumcised as a young girl; she has dedicated her life  to eradicating female genital mutilation in the Massai community in Narok, Kenya.
  • Marsha Lopez was abused by her husband as a teenager; she left her husband  and launched V-Day in Guatemala to end violence in her community.
  • Suzanne Blue Star Boy experienced the murder of her cousin on a  reservation. She is now spending her life working to stop violence in Indian Country.
  • Catherine Fannin was physically and sexually abused by her biological  father. Through her efforts as the organizer for the V-Day College Campaign  at Hanover College in Indiana for many years, she has educated, helped and  inspired many women and men to end violence in their own lives and the lives of others. 
At the conclusion of the V-Day 2004 season, a page on vday.org honored the Vagina Warriors that were celebrated around the world.

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“Vagina Warriors: An Emerging Paradigm, An Emerging Species” by Eve Ensler 

I have sat with women in crowded factories in Juarez, in crumbling shelters  in the back streets of Cairo, in makeshift centers for teenage girls and  women in Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Pine Ridge and Watts, in mansions in  Hollywood, in burnt-out backyards in Kosova and Kabul, in a moving van  after midnight with sex trafficked girls in Paris. Sometimes these meetings  went on for hours; in the case of the 17-year-old Bulgarian sex slave, we  had 35 minutes before her pimp came looking for her. I have heard the  staggering stories of violence - war rapes, gang rapes, date rapes,  licensed rapes, family rapes. I have seen first-hand the scars of brutality  - black eyes, cigarette-hole burns in arms and legs, a melted face,  bruises, slices and broken bones. I have witnessed women living without  what is fundamental - sky, sun, a roof, food, parents, a clitoris, freedom.  I have been there when skulls washed up on riverbanks and naked mutilated  female bodies were discovered in ditches. I have seen the worst. The worst  lives in my body. But in each and every case I was escorted, transformed,  and transported by a guide, a visionary, an activist, an outrageous fighter  and dreamer. I have come to know these women (and sometimes men) as Vagina  Warriors. 

It was Zoya who first took me to the muddy Afghan camps in Pakistan; Rada  who translated the stories of women refugees as we traveled through  war-torn Bosnia; Megan who led pro-vagina cheers on a freezing cold campus  in Michigan; Igo who made jokes about land mines as we sped in her jeep  through the post-war roads outside Pristina, Kosova; Esther who took me to  the graves marked with pink crosses in Juarez, Mexico; Agnes who walked me  up the path with dancing and singing Masai girls dressed in red,  celebrating the opening of the first V-Day Safe House for girls fleeing  female genital mutilation (FGM). 

At first I thought this was just a rare group of individuals, specific  women who had been violated or witnessed so much suffering they had no  choice but to act. But after five years of traveling, forty countries later  a pattern has emerged, an evolving species. Vagina Warriors are everywhere.  In a time of escalating and explosive violence on the planet, these  Warriors are fostering a new paradigm. 

Although Vagina Warriors are highly original, they possess some general  defining characteristics:
  • They are fierce, obsessed, can’t be stopped, driven.
  • They are no longer beholden to social customs or inhibited by taboos.  They  are not afraid to be alone, not afraid to be ridiculed or attacked. They  are often willing to face anything for the safety and freedom of others.
  • They love to dance.
  • They are directed by vision, not ruled by ideology.
  • They are citizens of the world. They cherish humanity over nationhood. They have a wicked sense of humor. A Palestinian activist told jokes to an  Israeli soldier who pointed a machine gun at her as she tried to pass the  checkpoints. She literally disarmed him with her humor. 

Vagina Warriors know that compassion is the deepest form of memory. 

They know that punishment does not make abusive people behave better. They  know that it is more important to provide a space where the best can emerge  rather than “teaching people a lesson.” I met an extraordinary activist in  San Francisco, a former prostitute who had been abused as a child. Working  with the correctional system, she devised a therapeutic workshop where  convicted pimps and johns could confront their loneliness, insecurity and  sorrow. 

Vagina Warriors are done being victims. They know no one is coming to  rescue them. They would not want to be rescued. They have experienced their rage, depression, desire for revenge and they  have transformed them through grieving and service. They have confronted  the depth of their darkness. They live in their bodies. They are community makers. They bring everyone in. 

Vagina Warriors have a keen ability to live with ambiguity. They can hold  two existing, opposite thoughts at the same time. I first recognized this  quality during the Bosnian war. I was interviewing a Muslim woman activist  in a refugee camp whose husband had been decapitated by a Serb. I asked her  if she hated Serbs. She looked at me as if I were crazy. “No, no, I do not  hate Serbs,” she said, “If I were to hate Serbs, then the Serbs would have  won.” 

Vagina Warriors know that the process of healing from violence is long and  happens in stages. They give what they need the most, and by giving this  they heal and activate the wounded part inside. 

Many Vagina Warriors work primarily on a grassroots level. Because what is  done to women is often done in isolation and remains unreported, Vagina  Warriors work to make the invisible seen. Mary in Chicago fights for the  rights of Women of Color so that they are not disregarded or abused; Nighat  risked stoning and public shaming in Pakistan by producing “The Vagina  Monologues” in Islamabad so that the stories and passions of women would  not go unheard; Esther insists that the hundreds of disappeared girls in  Juarez are honored and not forgotten. 

Ensler_Fonda_high.jpgFor native people, a warrior is one whose basic responsibility is to  protect and preserve life. The struggle to end violence on this planet is a  battle. Emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical. It requires every bit  of our strength, our courage, our fierceness. It means speaking out when  everyone says to be quiet. It means going the distance to hold perpetrators  accountable for their actions. It means honoring the truth even if it means  losing family, country, and friends. It means developing the spiritual  muscle to enter and survive the grief that violence brings and, in that  dangerous space of stunned unknowing, inviting the deeper wisdom. 

Like Vaginas, Warriors are central to human existence, but they still  remain largely unvalued and unseen. This year V-Day celebrates Vagina  Warriors around the world, and by doing so we acknowledge these women and  men and their work. In every community there are humble activists working  every day, beat by beat to undo suffering. They sit by hospital beds, pass  new laws, chant taboo words, write boring proposals, beg for money,  demonstrate and hold vigils in the streets. They are our mothers, our  daughters, our sisters, our aunts, our grandmothers, and our best friends.  Every woman has a warrior inside waiting to be born. In order to guarantee  a world without violence, in a time of danger and escalating madness, we  urge them to come out. 

CELEBRATE VAGINA WARRIORS. 

LET THEM BE HONORED AND SEEN. 

LET MORE BE BORN. 

Eve Ensler,
Founder/Artistic Director, V-Day
Playwright, “The Vagina  Monologues” 
 


The preceding passages were excerpted from V-Day, www.vday.org.

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Vagina Warriors Clara Tempongko and
Kamala Harris with Marily Mondejar (2005)


Nominate a Vagina Warrior for 2013 now. (Deadline - March 15, 2013)

2012 Vagina Warriors
Adam Keigwin
John Delgado
Julie Soo

Katrina Socco
Noelani Sallings
Nwe Oo
Susie Quesada

Geraldine Nuval
Gloria T. Caoile
Nilda Guanzon Valmores
Rozita Lee Villanueva


Elizabeth "Liz" Aguilar-Tarchi
Genevieve Jopanda
Paulita Lasola Malay
Rodel Rodis

2008 Vagina Warriors

Annalisa Enrile
Ken Marquis
Ken Theisen
M. Evelina Galang
Mona Pasquil
Nenette Flores
Sonia Delen
Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye

2007 Vagina Warriors

Al S. Perez
Bettina Santos Yap
Bincy Jacob
Elena B. Mangahas
Krittika Ghosh
Laureen Laglagaron
Perla De Jesus
Rudy Asercion
Venessa Manzano

2006 Vagina Warriors

Beverly Upton
Dorka Keehn
Gloria Megino Ochoa
Imelda Oppenheim
Jonah Oliverio
Ligaya Hattari
Sarah Jane Ilumin
Tess Crescini

2005 Vagina Warriors

Kamala D. Harris
Giovannie Pico
Gloria Ramos
Rita Villavicencio Schmidt
Velma Roset Veloria
San Francisco Department
and Commission on the
Status of Women represented by
Dr. Emily Moto Murase, Executive Director

2004 Vagina Warriors

Blesidla Ocampo
Cherie Querol Moreno
Clara Tempongko
Genevieve Dwyer
Leni Marin
Tisa Mendoza
Vangie Cononizado Buell





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