Read Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific President Anusha Santhirasthipam’s Message for Day 1 of 16 Days of Activism Campaign 2019

Anusha Santhirasthipam at UNDear Soroptimists, friends, donors, and corporate partners,

Femicide is a global scourge with over 50,000 women every day being intentionally killed by their partner or family member worldwide, according to official United Nation statistics. And that is what gets reported! This reminds us that the battle to end all forms of violence against women must be fought tactically and smartly on all fronts.

It was 6 years ago at CSW57 in New York that I delivered a strong written statement to the heads of governments at the UN General Assembly on behalf of Soroptimist International and other partner women's organisations to End Femicide and Female Infanticide. We prescribed regulatory reforms, enforcement measures and preventative programmes that involved all stakeholders. This led to the reviewing of laws in many countries and greater consolidation of efforts to eradicate violence against women and girls, including ending FGM, "honour killing", women being used as "weapons of war", sex slavery and killings on the grounds of "witchcraft".

Women in Asia and the Pacific countries are shot, stoned, burned, buried alive, strangled, smothered or stabbed to death with what the UN describes as "horrifying regularity" often in countries where the laws exempt the perpetrators from punishment. This devastating situation is blamed on deep-rooted gender inequality and damaging cultural stereotypes of women as being weaker and less valuable members of society.

So what can we do as Soroptimists to stand up for women and girls in all our member countries and make a lasting tangible difference beyond just talking and walking to galvanise support?

We have excellent programmes to tackle and prevent violence that merit attention so that we may replicate and upscale as national projects in all our towns, districts and villages. We have a great example in the Safe Cities project that SI Papua New Guinea is carrying out in collaboration with UN Women to ensure Safe Market Spaces and Safe Transportation for Women in all towns in Papua New Guinea. Also, our Federation Project Sanctuary Shelter which will not just be a temporary refuge for victims but also a holistic transformation programme to help heal and rebuild lives, including skills development and economic empowerment. Find out how to Donate here.

Then we have the "Tu Tonu - Rise Up" SI New Zealand National Project that runs education camps for teenage girls who are victims of sexual abuse to provide necessary healing, rehabilitation, total image, self-confidence and safety training. So many great programmes that you all do at club level to make us proud as a UN accredited ECOSOC status organisation.

The next 16 days are crucial for Soroptimists to be visible, wear orange as the colour of non-violence and orange your homes, streets, buildings and any other creative campaigns that can use the Color Orange with powerful messages to end all forms of violence.

Make sure to invite your local Parliamentarians and municipal councillors to join your campaign events as joint advocacy with law makers and local government is essential for follow through to keep our cities, towns and neighbourhood safe.

Sign up schools, colleges and universities in your town to join your campaign activity during these 16 days. Nothing is more impactful than hundreds of students alongside Soroptimists in parks, shopping malls and other public spaces doing flash mobs, singing songs of peace, showcasing an art exhibition or readings of works from a poetry competition to end violence against women. Just some creative ideas I am sharing to show how fun and exciting this experience can be to turnaround a horrific state of affairs for women and girls.

Get on radio talks shows about your programmes, call upon local television network show hosts to partner on your advocacy messages, write an article for your high circulation local newspaper. Reach out and embrace your local journalists and newscasters as our "partners for peace". Violence can happen to anyone as 1 in 3 women worldwide are victims at some point in their lives.

Here's the final key to success. Get our men and boys to join our peace revolution. When men and boys say NO to violence loud and clear, it resonates far and wide to stop the scourge being perpetuated by menfolk!

I wish you all the very best in your efforts during these 16 Days of Activism. Do share your photos, videos and news stories with us at hq2@siswp.org so we can celebrate your work on SISWP website and social media too.

Click here to read more about the Club activities across our Federation that have been planned to focus on advocacy and public awareness of this important worldwide event to promote Ending Violence Against Women and Girls.

With the Spirit of Soroptimist Service

Anusha Santhirasthipam
SISWP Federation President


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