Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, has stepped up as an international spokeswoman for women’s rights. amNewYork spoke with the Duchess about International Women's Day on March 8 and “Half the Sky,” a night of programs spotlighting global violence against women based on a book of the same name and being simulcast in movie theaters Thursday.
Why did you sign on to the project?
What inspired me was that I heard of a 14-year-old girl who was raped by four men and then she was meant to marry one of them in Ethiopia.
Have you witnessed such violence firsthand?
I’ve been to Nepal [with anti-poverty nonprofit CARE] and I saw women who are called the untouchables, and they’re put in sheds, and they are fed outside with a bowl of rice put at the door.
Why were they cast aside?
Because they’re unclean, and because they’re having a baby or their periods. I don’t think that’s very good. Not on my watch. That’s why I’m determined to work with CARE and absolutely put a stop to all this nonsense and give women the right to education.
What are you doing to raise awareness?
Right now I’m a foghorn for silent whispers. Little whispers. I can hear these little whispers. And I need to be on the public stage, shouting for the rights of women.
What does that for women suffering violence, here or overseas?
What it really means is that out in the big world, somebody’s listening. And when you’re suffering under such persecution, you don’t know any different. You can hear the little tinklings of the voice and you can think, Maybe … I should dare to make a change with my life.