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“The issue of sexual violence cuts across the whole spectrum of South Africa society,” said Karabo Kgoleng, a Johannesburg writer and host of a talk show on contemporary literature.

Kgoleng marvels at the understanding Ensler, a foreigner, has brought to a subject so central to the lives of South African women.

“We all have our story of our pain, and what you need to hear when you’re in a position of pain is that it happens to other people and you can get out of it,” Kgoleng said in an interview.

Since its 1994 off-Broadway debut in New York, “The Vagina Monologues” has been made into an HBO movie, translated into nearly 50 languages, and performed around the world.

Ensler has traveled with the play and its message that women own their bodies and their sexuality. Along the way, she started a project to use theater to raise awareness about violence against women and to raise money to help abused women.

Earlier this year, Ensler spent weeks at an eastern Congo hospital that treats women who have been brutally raped, and she has helped raised money to build a haven for survivors there.

She first visited South Africa in the 1990s for a staging of “The Vagina Monologues,” and was eager to come back to launch her newest work.

“Africa’s the heart of the world,” she said. “It makes sense that we should do a play that’s about the heart, at the heart.”

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Donna Bryson can be reached on http://twitter.com/dbrysonAP

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On the Internet:

Market Theatre: http://markettheatre.co.za/

V-Girls: http://www.v-girls.org/