November 25: Are we ready to “orange the world” and contribute to the elimination of violence against women?
Lately, I have been spending my weekends exploring the online world. Instead of visiting new places and seeing new faces, I have been visiting different thoughts, ideas and projects shared online; differing viewpoints on social issues transcending borders.
It was during my last online trip when a new friend expressed some concern over the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – and girls, observed on 25 November. They were somehow left with the impression that international organisations want to end violence toward women only and not toward men as well. They found it hard to understand the purpose of gender awareness initiatives and projects such as the UNiTE Campaign. Let’s see…
Orange the World!
This Sunday sees the launch of 16 days of activism, to end violence against women and girls, from 25 November to 10 December, Human Rights Day. This year, the UNiTE Campaign’s global advocacy theme is: Orange the World; #HearMeToo. Women and girls, who would not usually have a place reserved on social media, are presented with the opportunity to get their own voice heard; to share their personal story of violence; to promote their work on raising gender awareness within their community.
More and more women around the world experience abuse and violence because of their gender; because of stereotypical assumptions about the meaning of being a woman and the social roles attributed. Roles are defined in terms of cultural beliefs and expectations about the position of men and women in the society that surrounds them.
In the course of time, women would be educated and expected to face life from a place of weakness. In other words, to be, sound, look gentle and kind, patient and tolerant, caring and giving, even if they would have to put on a brave face. Such assumptions take time to change and be replaced by beliefs that promote gender equality in practice; that encourage men and women to interact with and relate to each other from a position of equality and equity.
Collective effort and support
That is why there are systematic calls for collective effort and support, για συλλογική προσπάθεια και στήριξη to end violence against women and girls, by both men and women.
Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, has just declared:
I will never stop defending equality between women and men. I owe it to my mother, wife, daughter and all women who, at the cost of enormous sacrifices, have won their rights over the centuries.
True. Research on gender issues indicates that men may experience abuse and violence as well. The same research data unveil the alarming and frightening proportion of women around the world experiencing violence because of their gender.
According to UN Women:
For far too long, impunity, silence and stigma have allowed violence against women to escalate to pandemic proportions – one in three women worldwide experience gender-based violence.
Violence is part of everyday life and may colour everyday communication with others. As a result, it isn’t always easy to recognise and define it. Yes, violence is behaviour that hurts. And it is the individual who is experiencing violation of basic human rights, who feels hurt, that would define an action as violent. This may serve as an explanation of the various observance days around the concept of violence, and the need to highlight all aspects.
Raising gender awareness through education
Gender awareness, including awareness about gender-based violence, can be promoted through education – in class. Sharing my personal experience with you, I witnessed positive change when I was working as gender equality educator within a nationwide project. First of all, there was a change in me. Being encouraged to revisit gender stereotypes, I would reflect on my own assumptions about perceived differences between men and women, including patterns of behaviour; what is considered acceptable behaviour for men and women.
The purpose of the project was to sensitise teachers on gender issues, to explore new approaches to issues of interest. Why teachers? Because they are closer to students and may act as role models. Participant teachers were encouraged to use personal experiences as the basis for learning: to reflect, analyse, question, redefine, reject, accept. They, in turn, would support their students – boys and girls, to become aware of how people develop their belief system; to recognise gender stereotypes; to make gender-free and informed life choices.
Challenging the stigma of violence
Gender-free choices include the choice to lead a life free from violence; gender-based violence. Violence may leave an indelible mark on the human soul. It may affect the course of one’s life. That is why it takes time to heal and remove the stigma attached. When you realise that your rights are being or have been violated, when you find it hard to stand up for your own rights, you may feel helpless. As if there is no hope for you; as if you have done something wrong; as if you need to be punished; as if you don’t deserve something better. Well, you do. We all do; all women and all girls. It may take time to turn difficult feelings into a source of inspiration and creativity, yet it is possible. When we are reminded that we are of value and worth as we are. And when men and women work together to end gender-based violence.
The big question
So, what colour are you wearing these days 🙂
To find out more about the initiative launched by the UNiTE Campaign and to download the logo, please visit: 16 days of activism