The Zonta Club of Olympia, USA, District 8, spread awareness of child marriage throughout the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
Club members received a sheet with all 16 days worth of talking points so they could share in their everyday life, and the club posted each day on their Facebook page. Their posts received likes and shares from around the world, with 50% more traffic and interaction than usual.
In addition to receiving positive media attention, the club noticed an interest in learning more about Zonta and in building an advocacy focus with their local legislature to end child marriage.
The Zonta Club of Pampanga in the Philippines, District 17—in partnership with Angeles City and SM City Clark—convened to for their Zonta Says NO to Violence against women and children activity.
The women’s desk from the local government units, private companies’ corporate social responsibility department heads, different foundations, non-governmental organizations and students were gathered and raised the flags to join Zonta in their quest to eliminate violence.
The club also recognized three Centennial Champion Awardees and three Centennial Community Awardees for their exemplary contribution to 2019 projects of Zonta.
The highlight of the event is the dance interpretation of “Break the Silence, No to Violence” performed by four groups from different schools in Pampanga. The performances had intense messages on the issue of violence against women. Also included in the show is the Aeta children’s dance interpretation on the issue of child marriage that is commonly practiced in their community.
The Zonta e-Club of West Africa, District 18, unveiled a new advocacy project during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
The project, “Orange the World: Men Against Rape” calls on men to take a stand against attitudes that normalize rape culture, child marriage and all forms of violence against women and girls.
Throughout the 16 Days, the club is posting graphics featuring photos and quotes from men supporting their initiative on their Instagram and Facebook accounts.
The Zonta e-Club of West Africa is asking men to fill out a form to show their support.
The form, in part, reads: “There is overwhelming evidence that the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men against women. However, not all men are perpetrators! In fact, some men are victims and the majority of men have never raped or sexually assaulted anyone. For decades, men have been left out of actions geared toward the elimination of rape and other forms of violence against women but, at Zonta e-Club of West Africa, we are looking to change this by giving men an opportunity to speak up as advocates for women’s rights. To this end, we invite you to add your voice to our 16 Days of Activism Campaign. Show the world that you stand against gender-based violence!”
The club is partnering with Thrive Care and MDM Entertainment for the project.
On 25 November, the Zonta Club of Burg Staufenberg/Giessen Area, District 28, organized a ceremony in Giessen’s main church.
During the event, attendees heard four reports from women who were victims of violence.
This was followed by a short period of meditation and words of condolence spoken by a cleric. The singing of the gospel choir increased the feeling of empathy and compassion. At the end of the ceremony members lit candles in memory of all women who have suffered violence in the city and in the world. The church, along with other prominent buildings, was illuminated inside and outside with an orange light which made the whole even more of a spiritual experience.
Zonta Club of the Black Hills, USA, District 12, created a display, “What Were You Wearing?” that incorporates sexual assault survivors’ experiences with clothing similar to what each person was wearing when assaulted.
“‘What were you wearing?’ is a question rape and sexual assault victims are often asked and infers that somehow victims are to blame for their assault,” said Mary Kaiser, chairman of Zonta’s Advocacy Committee. “You wouldn’t think in 2019 it would still be an issue, but it is. So many sexual assaults go unreported and part of it is the victims feel guilty. The assaults are the perpetrator’s fault only.”
The “What Were You Wearing?” display fights back against victim-blaming and raises awareness about gender-based violence. The display shows that sexual assault can happen to anyone, anywhere, Kaiser said.
The survivors’ stories are real. Most are culled from a similar display in Montana and from online research, Kaiser said. One story comes from a local Zonta Club member. The Salvation Army Thrift Store in Rapid City donated clothing that Zonta club members used to replicate the survivors’ descriptions of what they were wearing, Kaiser said.
“There’s everything from a teacher’s business wear to a child’s pajamas,” Kaiser said. “We really wanted to … point out that it doesn’t matter what the victim was wearing.
“The response has been overwhelming,” she said. “Victims are so grateful for shining light on this issue. Usually, when sharing what they were wearing and sharing their stories of (assault), they felt like they were blamed. The response has been extremely positive.”
The Zonta Club of Dhaka I, District 25, hosted a discussion focused on ending child marriage in a school near Dhaka on 30 November as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
The discussion was conducted in partnership with the Ayna Foundation. Students from Aim Model School presented a skit on child marriage and shared their thoughts on getting married at an early age.
The Zonta Club of Cradle-Coast, Australia, District 23, has put shoes and personal stories into more than 20 shops on the Coast as a way to bring awareness to gender-based violence.
Each shoe, which could be a high heel, flat, boot or sandal, had a survivor’s story with it.
“We should always challenge the ‘myth’ that the way a woman dresses somehow suggests ‘asking for it’ or ‘inviting’ discrimination, violence or abuse,” club secretary Karli Franks said.
The displays are part of the Walk in My Shoes project, started by Zonta clubs in South Australia.
Women survivors of male violence wrote their stories, which were then published in a booklet.
“We hope these stories inspire those experiencing domestic violence or supporting someone who is, to seek help and support. Our aim is to raise awareness of the fact that abuse and violence can happen to anyone in our community; it doesn’t discriminate.”
For the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the Zonta Club of Cheektowaga-Lancaster, USA, District 4, is raising awareness of child marriage.
This year, the Zonta club will continue with some traditional projects, as well as incorporating new ways to advocate for women’s rights.
Throughout the 16 Days of Activism, club members read A Good Wife by Samra Zafar, an autobiography of Zafar’s own experience with an arranged marriage at a young age and the challenges and opposition she faced to overcome them and live the life she wanted.
Upon reading the book, many members were surprised to learn how drastically child marriage will affect the bride’s life and limit her control. It helped inspire many members to want to help, conjuring powerful emotions as they read about Zafar’s experience.
The Zonta club initiated a letter-writing campaign to discuss the importance of education in a child’s opportunity for economic independence. At the end of November, club members wrote and sent letters to Sen. Charles E. Schumer, asking him to support one piece of legislation, the Protecting Children Through Eliminating Visa Loophole Act S.742 and to co-sponsor S.1071 and the Keeping Girls in School Act.
For the past seven years, Zonta Bahamas has been at the forefront of activism to end violence against women and girls. Zontians have been out there in the community, on public and corporate platforms, bringing awareness and encouraging Bahamians to change the face of violence in this country.
This year, they were at it again, launching the 16 days with a big event in Rawson Square held in conjunction with the Department of Gender and Family Affairs, the Ministry of Health and NGOs. The launch was held on 25 November, the International Day to End Violence Against Women and Girls. The 16 days officially ends on 10 December, which is the United Nations’ appointed International Human Rights Day.
The club’s theme for this year is “From Activism to Advocacy.” One of Zonta’s partners for the 16 days this year, the National Congress of Trade Unions’ Women’s Association, is pushing for the Bahamas government to ratify C-190 – the International Labour Organisation’s Convention to end violence and harassment in the workplace.
It takes a lot of work to pull off the many events Zonta holds – and it’s all volunteer work. Kayla calls it a passion of hers and despite her busy professional life, she will continue to work hard for causes for the betterment of women and girls.
As part of the Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign, the Zonta Club of Prowers County, District 12, worked with the city of Lamar, Colorado to issue a proclamation. The proclamation declared the days between 25 November and 10 December as the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
Club members are also raising awareness of the issue of violence against women around their community by distributing posters and banners to local businesses.
Read more about the club’s actions here.