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'Vagina' Playwright Tours Kabul

Originally published in:

By Beth Lewandowski

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- "Vagina Monologues" playwright Eve Ensler is taking her message of women's solidarity to Kabul, Afghanistan, this weekend in honour of Friday's International Women's Day.

Ensler will participate in roundtable talks with 30 Afghan women leaders on Saturday and Sunday.

The meeting is a follow-up to the Afghan Women's Summit held in Brussels in December 2001, when several dozen delegates met with officials from the European Union, the United Nations and the U.S. State Department.

"From Kosovo to Kabul, women are often the targets of war, but in order for peace to be restored, they must be the centre of the solution," Ensler told CNN recently.

"We are focusing on bringing the stories of these women to the world. These stories must be told if we are going to stop this from happening again."

Ensler also will be delivering satellite phone systems with solar chargers and free airtime to the women so they can communicate with each other and their advocates in the West.

She also might be sharing some of her works with the women, according to her press staff -- including perhaps some of the newest monologues she wrote in honour of V-Day 2002, Ensler's worldwide campaign to end violence against women.

V-Day has grown from a Valentine's Day benefit performance of "The Vagina Monologues" in New York in 1998 to more than 800 events taking place around the world this year between January 24 and April 20.

One V-Day 2002 event at the Folk Theatre in Manila was attended by a sold-out crowd of 8,500.

To date, Ensler has raised more than $7 million to benefit grassroots organizations working to stop rape, incest, female genital mutilation and sexual slavery of women and girls.

This year's funds will go to safe house projects for rape victims in Kenya and the Native American Sioux reservation in South Dakota.

Ensler previously visited Kabul about 18 months ago while researching a new play.

While "The Vagina Monologues" may seem an improbable launching pad for a social and political movement like V-Day, Ensler -- who is the first to admit that just saying the "V" word can cause enormous controversy -- believes the world is ready.

"Women are really hungry to tell their stories and to really say what's going on, and for the most part they don't have a lot of opportunities to do that," she told CNN backstage at a recent performance of "The Vagina Monologues" at the National Theater in Washington.

"I think when they are given an opportunity, it's a wellspring. Things just open up and it comes pouring out."

Ensler will be in London for a star-filled benefit performance of "The Vagina Monologues" on April 5 at the Royal Albert Hall.