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HRH The Duchess of Cornwall delivers passionate speech at the reception for the Shameless! Festival of Activism Against Sexual Violence

The inaugural festival, produced by Birkbeck’s SHaME project and WOW - Women of the World, will take place on Saturday 27 November.

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, President of The WOW Foundation, delivers her speech
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, President of The WOW Foundation, delivers her speech. Image credit: Ellie Kurttz

Birkbeck’s Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters project (SHaME) and WOW launched the Shameless! Festival of Activism with a reception yesterday evening at the Wellcome Collection.

Hosted by Professor Joanna Bourke, Principal Investigator of Birkbeck’s SHaME Project and Professor of History; Jude Kelly, Founder and CEO of The WOW Foundation; and Julia Gillard, Chair of the Wellcome Trust and former Prime Minister of Australia; the event was attended by participants, stakeholders and politicians, including Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, Carrie Johnson and Marai Larasi. 

Marking one month until the festival, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, President of The WOW Foundation, delivered a powerful speech, calling for more urgent action to tackle sexual violence against women and paying tribute to women whose lives have been “brutally ended”.

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall said: “The Crime Survey for England and Wales shows that 144,000 women were victims of rape or attempted rape in the last year. The challenges are immense. However, the forthcoming Festival gives us hope that they can be overcome… firstly we have to be Shameless. Together, today, let us resolve to support survivors to be “shameless” and not to take on misplaced feelings of stigma…secondly, we need to get the men in our lives involved in this movement. We do not, in any way, hold all men responsible for sexual violence. But we do need them all on board to tackle it.”

Professor Joanna Bourke commented: “The time to act is now. Sexual violence causes incredible harms, not only to the survivors but for their family, friends, and communities. It doesn’t have to be this way! There are so many things that each of us can do to eradicate violence and create more fulfilling and equitable worlds. Come to the Festival to learn more about what you can do and to celebrate the lives of survivors.”

Jude Kelly added: “Our WOW Festivals across the world are famous for candid conversations so we’ve created the Shameless Festival! to open up vital discussion around sexual violence. It's a day of action, but also a day to come together and build community.”

The Shameless Festival!, due to take place on Saturday 27 November at Battersea Arts Centre, will bring together activism and art to confront and change attitudes towards sexual violence, share ideas, and imagine a rape free world. The festival line-up features high profile speakers, survivors, researchers and medical professionals; alongside performances by artists, poets and musicians; as well as interactive workshops, clinics and wellness spaces.

SHaME is a Wellcome Trust funded research project that explores the role of medicine and psychiatry in sexual violence. Researchers from a number of disciplines work together to remove the shame associated with sexual violence in order to address this global health crisis. The Shameless! Festival of Activism Against Sexual Violence is run by SHaME and The WOW Foundation, a charity that promotes gender equality worldwide through festivals, events and more.

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