Soroptimist projects from SI of Europe tackling Violence Against Women and Girls

Female Genital Mutilation


Soroptimists in Ellwangen-Jagst, Germany partnered with Terre des Femmes to support the Bangr Nooma, an association based in Burkina Faso dedicated to the prevention of female genital mutilation (FGM). Funds raised by Soroptimists contributed to the hiring and training of a social worker, whose role it is to educate thousands of people in the rural area of Toukin, on the dangers and negative health implications of FGM.

Soroptimists of the German Bitburg-Prüm Club partnered with Target, to raise funds towards a childbirth clinic for genitally mutilated women and girls of the Afar Tribe in Ethiopia. The Afar, who are 1.6 million in number and lead a semi-nomadic life in Ethiopia’s Danakil desert, took up Target’s idea of declaring FGM a sin and banning it in their tribal law in 2003.


Child marriage


In Turkey, child marriage is a huge social problem and remains dominant in certain regions of the country. One of the biggest obstacle in terms of human rights, child marriage is fuelled by gender inequality, poverty, traditions and insecurity. According to the Turkish Civil Code, the age of marriage is seventeen and according to Turkish Penal Code, non-official marriage is a crime. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child every person is a child under the age of eighteen years and must be protected and supported.

Based on the fact that education is the key to women’s empowerment, training was organized by SI Bursa Turkey,  together with the Turkish Association of University Women of Bursa. A school was chosen, due to the high ratio of child marriage, and girls and their families were invited, together with educators, doctors, lawyers and a psychologist.

Child marriage was discussed, using interactive presentations, in relation to the following subjects: Health complications of being young mother and young bride; Psychological and spiritual effects; Laws and legal rights.

Short films were screened, and the training was conducted with questions and answers, and attendees sharing their experiences.


Human Trafficking


Soroptimists in Craiova, Romania, partnered with the National Agency against Trafficking in Persons, together with School Inspectorates from several counties, to raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking. Targeting local youth, the campaign involved theatre shows, a poster competition, video materials, as well as conferences, movie screenings, and discussions within schools. The goal of the campaign was to involve young people with the issue of human trafficking in a hands-on way, thereby sensitising them to the dangers of human trafficking and helping to ensure greater caution on their side.

Similarly, Soroptimists from Slatina, Romania, partnered with Soroptimist International of Denmark in raising awareness of human trafficking, principally amongst rural children.


Gender Equality – A Solution


The objectives of the conference ‘Gender Equality – a Solution to Stop Violence against Women and Girls’ organised by the Danish Union, were to focus on the possible causes of gender-based violence, and to define how we may engage men and boys in eliminating this manifold violence.

A well-functioning working group of five persons with competences in different fields, planned the conference and raised funds from external contributors. These funds, combined with fees from participants, balanced the budget.

Goals: To illustrate and discuss the extent of violence against women; to focus on the importance of gender equality; to realize the lack of respect for women; to acknowledge the joint responsibility of men and women to stop violence against women; to communicate knowledge and experiences to decision-making bodies, organizations, and society in general; to institute an interdisciplinary cooperation with relevant organizations.

Image: Michael Kaufman and Isabel Yordi Aguirre, Coordinator of Gender and Health at World Health Organization

Danish Soroptimists called upon speakers and participants in the panel-discussion, all of which are internationally or nationally renowned. Soroptimists, women’s organizations, public bodies, and politicians were invited to participate.

The conference proved to be an overall success and certainly a basis for future inspiration for other unions/clubs. There was a general consensus during the conference that gender equality is the ultimate solution to putting an end to violence against women and girls.

Several organizations, enterprises and civil society, including MPs committed themselves to be part of further common actions on the subject and of a network, facilitating common actions thus also ensuring the visibility of SI.


Violence against Women – Raising Awareness


The Soroptimists of SI Toliara in Madagascar supported an awareness campaign to sensitise the public regarding violence against women and children.

The campaign, with the participation of notable speakers, was aimed at students from the faculty of Literature and Human and Social Sciences, and those from the Faculty of law; all of whom are future jurists.

The club designed the project in order to highlight the causes and consequences of violence, and its cultural aspect, and also to disseminate legal and extra-judicial remedies. The project additionally sought to familiarise as many people as possible with the counselling/centre and the legal advice centre.

Due to its huge success, the Malagasy Soroptimists shared poignant feedback and stories. Fofo, a law student commented: “It made me reflect on the cultural side of violence against women and realise that there are legal remedies that exist”.


Ending the Cycle of Violence


Lithuanian Soroptimists from Silute organised an advocacy project to acquaint the public with issues of domestic violence, and the different support mechanisms available to those who experience such violence. Soroptimists introduced the ‘No-Violence campaign’ to raise awareness about domestic violence amongst a large audience of women. A movie about domestic violence called ‘Take My Eyes’ was also presented. Finally, the audience also benefited from the experience and expertise of speakers from the police, women’s employment centres, and social services. The event received a considerable amount of media coverage.

Lead Image: SI Denmark

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