In May 2017, twelve of us attended the Stop The Violence Activate Training – speak out for girl’s right campaign, at Our Chalet, Switzerland. The 12 participants represented 10 different countries: Australia, Malaysia, Mexico, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Kenya, USA, England and Denmark.
Stop the Violence is a WAGGGS campaign that incorporates the Voices Against Violence curriculum, is an international, non-formal, co-educational curriculum that engages girls, young women, boys, young men, adults, parents and the community in conversations about gender based violence. Stop the Violence campaign builds girls’ and young women’s’ skills as well as their confidence to realise that they have rights. These include a right to live a life free from violence and the fear of violence – and the right to stand up, go out into their communities and claim those rights for themselves and for others.
On the first day of the training, we were all introduced to the topic and the differences between gender and sex. Gender and sex are often grouped together, but they are two different things. It is often thought that one dictates the other.
We then moved on to talk about ten different forms of violence – sexual harassment, domestic violence, forced & early marriage, sexual abuse, HIV & AIDS, sexual violence, female genital mutilation, discrimination, female infanticide and dating violence. As there were so many of us from different backgrounds and cultures, it was really thought-provoking to hear everyone’s thoughts and opinions on the topic.The next topic that we discussed was human rights vs. cultural and religious beliefs. One should respect, but challenge harmful attitudes or actions.
Another discussion we had was on myths around violence and how we could bust those myths. Myths about sexual violence showed a lack of understanding about consent, which lead to the assumption that sexual assaults under these circumstances were viewed as, at least partially, the victim’s fault. These attitudes create a lack of confidence in reporting and thus following a legal process, as survivors feel that not only will they will not be believed, and no justice will be carried out, but they might be seen as having “asked for it.” Violence can never be justified. Below are some pictures of what we came up with.
This was one of the most thought provoking activities throughout the training as it was a real eye opener for me. These myths prevent victims from speaking out and holding their perpetrators responsible for the assault, but also from getting the help that is critically needed, whether it is physical or psychological. Getting the facts and challenging the myths can be the first step in ending gender based violence and can also help find ways to best support victims and survivors.
We also discussed how we could involve men and boys in the conversation and how crucial it is to have them join us in this campaign to stop violence against women. It is not only a woman’s responsibility to end the problem. Men are equally responsible.
While the training was taking place in Our Chalet, the Activate Trainings were also happening in India, Maldives and Costa Rica. We had a Skype Call with them and some of us were able to share our experience throughout the training. It was heartening to see what some member organizations were doing to help educate people on such an important problem that happens in every country and community globally.
I took part in the national training for Stop the Violence in Malaysia in 2015, so this was my second training in the programme. I gained so much from both trainings. I did not anticipate the campaign would have a transformative effect on my life and ignite my passion to work towards ending violence against girls and women. It has taught me how valuable my voice is and how I should speak out for something that I feel so passionately about. It is essential that girls and women realise how important their voices are: it is through our voices and actions that real change can take place to end violence against girls and women.
I personally have become more open and confident in using my voice on violence against women. I urge all girls and women out there to do their part as we have a responsibility towards girls and women all around the world. Every person you bring awareness to is another step in making this campaign successful. Each new supporter adds another voice in spreading the word to take action. When combined, we are no longer lone voices. Together we will be so loud that we will have to be heard. Bit by bit, I believe, we will achieve our goal.