Spotlights have been shone on this area of concern in recent days and weeks, but it is not new. The latest headlines in the UK have focused on the death of Sarah Everard but contemporary deaths elsewhere are also being highlighted. From the UK to Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Africa, China, Asian Subcontinent, the Caribbean and across all countries in our Federation. The UN has called the increase in VAWG during the Covid pandemic a shadow pandemic.
What are we, as Soroptimists, doing about it?
VAWG has been a focus of the UK Programme Action Committee (UKPAC) for a long time, including the way in which women are disadvantaged within the criminal justice system. Its website includes reference to Sarah Everard’s death (https://sigbi.org/ukpac/2021/03/12/sincere-condolences-to-family-friends-of-sarah-everard/) and the Domestic Abuse Bill going through Westminster currently. Soroptimists in the UK are encouraged to write to their MPs raising concerns about the Bill’s provisions (https://sigbi.org/ukpac/2021/03/01/domestic-abuse-bill-what-can-you-do-to-lobby/) which is currently in ‘ping pong’ between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
A call for evidence by the UK Government about VAWG from the public has been extended until 26th March – please respond to it – https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/violence-against-women-and-girls-vawg-call-for-evidence.
Our fellow Soroptimists in the Asian Subcontinent and the Caribbean are addressing VAWG/’Gender based violence’ in all its forms as it applies in their own countries. For example:
- SI Pune Metro East (India) runs its ‘One Billion Rise’ programme following the rape of a young girl in New Delhi in 2012 which provoked much public anger and demonstrations; it seeks to enable women to know their rights;
- SI South Kolkakata (India) helped to set up a free legal aid clinic to raise women’s awareness of their rights;
- The Dalits in India and Nepal
- SI Newtown in Trinidad & Tobago helps young boys and girls to understand the importance of non-violent behaviour;
- SI Newtown, SI Esperance and SI Anaparima in Trinidad and Tobago helping Venezuelan victims of trafficking;
- and so it goes on….
No part of the world is immune to this scourge – we need to work across all our clubs and with partners worldwide to combat this unacceptable behaviour, whether based on entrenched cultural norms (e.g. Female Genital Mutilation) or the failure to treat women equally. In 2019, I heard Antonio Guterres suggest that we need to apply the principle of equity before we can truly expect to achieve equality and justice for women and girls. I agree!
This week and next we have over 130 members ‘attending’ the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) taking place virtually ‘in New York’. Altogether there are over 25,000 activists registered – a wonderful opportunity to network, listen to other people’s perspectives and to influence the outcome statement produced across the UN. If you have not signed up the UN system nor the NGO CSW platform you can watch many events both within and without the UN on http://webtv.un.org, Facebook and Youtube. Join us and learn more about the work being undertaken by soroptimists and non-soroptimists alike to combat VAWG and Gender-based-violence around the world.
Videos of sessions at CSW65 are being released on YouTube (the link includes the search criteria. Click on the video you are interested in watching.
Dr Kay Richmond
SIGBI Programme Director