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A day with many meanings
Three generations ... (from left) the author's grandmother Rachael, mother Sharon, cousin Antonia and the author in Suva.

A day with many meanings

By SIAN ROLLS

It’s the 25th of November and that means several things to me.

Firstly, it’s my grandmother’s 76th birthday so we as a family need to find somewhere to sit down to dinner to celebrate her life in all its majesty.

Secondly, it is the school prizegiving for my cousins so dinner will not only include several walks down memory lane, but also mean praising the two precocious children in my generation and their first prizes and such.

However, the 25th of November also marks a significant day in the activist calendar; the beginning of the 16 days of activism otherwise regarded as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Thus, it is both an incredibly inspiring and depressing day.

We start with the bad news. Globally, one in three women face violence in some form. These range from physical to psychological forms of violence and all the things that fall between. Worse news? In the Pacific, it’s every two in three.

The root of all this seems to be the value placed on women. Of course, there’s no dollar figure (because human beings in all their forms and expressions are priceless) but generally speaking there is a lack of respect for women; their capacity for leadership in the private and public spheres, the value of their health, the recognition of their contributions to society and so forth.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about consider this: from girls we are told it is our duty to be mothers, wives and do all the female things because, because, because … that’s the way it has always been and should be.

If you do not dress the female way, you are a tomboy. If you put your career first, you’re cold. If you are dominant in a relationship, you’re “wearing the pants”.

Then, to counteract these refusals to conform, those “in charge” decide to use violence as a means to “put you in your place”. It may be physical or it may just be words but at the end of the day, it ends up because an act of negative power to reinforce archaic, harmful thinking.

Society then continues to reinforce these harmful norms and those who experience such things are mocked or shamed for speaking out.

While things are changing, on the surface at least, there is still much work to be done.

Reporting of violence needs to be an empowering undertaking because it takes a lot from a survivor of violence to speak out.

Communities need to change how they raise their children to allow for this systematic violence to stop alongside being supportive and taking no nonsense from perpetrators today.

Decision makers need to make legal redress accessible and just to allow for those who commit the crime do face the punishments they deserve, while providing the re-education to address whatever allowed the crime to be committed in the first place.

There are multiple levels to creating true peace and safety in our homes, communities and world. We need to start somewhere.

For me, at least today, it’s celebrating the legacy women like my grandmother contributed to and the future my younger cousins represent.

What is it for you?

* MaiLife.com.fj will run this blog as part of the 16 days of activism for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

 

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