SI President’s Message: The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

“25 November marks the start of 16 Days of Activism, culminating in the celebration of Human Rights Day on 10 December 2016. On the 25th of each month the call is for us to wear orange as a sign we want to eliminate violence against women.

The connection is that to live in safety is everyone’s right. To be treated with dignity and respect, to be free from harm, whether it be physical, psychological, or sexual, is one target of the 2030 agenda.

Soroptimists worldwide campaign for gender equality because women feature disproportionately in the statistics on violence. Domestic violence in particular, results in proportionately more deaths and injuries for women.

We want violence against women to stop.

The question is how can we assist, how can we contribute to achieve the Soroptimist vision of peaceful communities.

The Soroptimist vision: Women and girls will achieve their individual and collective potential, realise aspirations and have an equal voice in creating strong, peaceful communities worldwide.

I believe it starts with respect. Respect for ourselves and respect for others. If we truly respect ourselves we would never treat another person as any less than we would like to be treated.

In the Maori culture the value of ‘mana’, the prestige of a person is a something we are born with and no one can take away. No one can destroy your mana. Others can lift it up – by showing respect and nurturing. If you try to bring a person down, you damage or destroy your own mana. if you neglect an opportunity to care you are passively bringing another person down.

Neglect is the silent violence. it is the most common form of abuse. If we stand by silently, we are guilty of abuse too.
Soroptimists “Educate to Lead”. Educating, Empowering and Enabling are active ways of lifting the mana, the dignity of others. We can educate for respect. We can teach that respect is the cornerstone for a better world. We can role model respect. We can stand up when disrespect is shown and indicate that it is not to be tolerated. We can lift women out of poverty. We are a Global Voice for Women – and women everywhere want a peaceful, respectful world.

Collectively, when we lift and are lifted, when we respect and are respected…. then we will live in peaceful communities, and violence against women will no longer be the scourge on our mana. We will no longer need to wear orange, or hold 16 Days of Activism, but will truly celebrate Human Rights Day as an achieved reality.

Yvonne Simpson
Soroptimist International President 2015 – 2017

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