Violence Against Women in War-Network Japan and Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace
We are deeply saddened to have lost a dear friend and great supporter. For those of us in Japan in support of the women victims of Japan’s military sexual slavery system until 1945, Rhonda had been a very important friend who helped us in many ways. We will always remember her big smile, and her very caring attitude to everyone, including those of us who worked very late to put handouts together for the next day and the cleaning ladies who tended her hotel rooms. She came to Japan twice; we are too sorry that there will not be a third visit, which we were so much looking forward to.
Rhonda was a key person in holding the “Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery” in Tokyo in 2000 as an international effort to help bring justice for the survivors of the system. Officially she was the leading Legal Advisor to the Tribunal. She was a primary force in organizing and carrying out the Tribunal to end, organizing the International Advisory Committee, putting together the Tribunal’s Charter, which was adopted by the International Organizing Committee including representing NGOs from seven different Asian countries and regions, and bringing together the international panel of Judges who are internationally eminent figures in legal profession. She saw to it that its Judgment was finally delivered in The Hague, the Netherlands one year later in 2001. Then Rhonda came to Japan again to join us to directly address the Japanese government with the Judgment in 2002. In 2003, when the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women discussed Japan’s periodic report, she welcomed the few members from our organization who went to lobby at the committee and helped organize a lobbying team to help us while she was also busy supporting the Gujarati women.
After the Tribunal, many of us took part in the effort to build a museum where all the Tribunal materials are kept, and where the reality of war crimes is recorded and kept for posterity. We wanted Rhonda to see this museum so - the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM). She would have liked the entrance, where visitors are met by the many portraits of those brave survivors who came out. The faces of these women give us power to go on, to keep our voices high to say “never again, anywhere in the world!”
Rhonda must now be with our former representative MATSUI Yayori (1934-2002), who was one of the Co-conveners of the Tribunal. We hope that those survivors who left us are now talking to her directly, rather than through an interpreter, as there must no longer be any language barrier where they are. Rhonda used to say to us that one of her wishes was to be able to listen and talk to the survivors directly, so that she could tell them directly how much respect she had for their courage for breaking the historical silence.
NISHINO Rumiko and NAKAHARA Michiko
Violence Against Women in War-Network Japan (VAWW-NET Japan)
Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM)