Today is the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women and White Ribbon Day which kicks off the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and ends with World Human Rights Day on 10 December.
I could reflect about how horrifying it is that in the 21st century, women, who form half of humanity and the backbones of societies and families, still have to face the same violence that they have faced for centuries simply because their only crime was to be born female.
I could throw statistics at you such as the United Nations’ estimate that one in three women worldwide will face gender-based violence in her lifetime and in some countries – 59% of women face chronic violence.
I could even start a detailed no-holds-barred rant about the ridiculous and horrifying news about violence against women this year that ranges from the petition to free Roman Polanski (and the Swiss court that let him walk), to the near-stoning and constant threat of hanging of Sakineh Mohammadi in Iran to the appointment of Saudi Arabia to the board of UN Women… and that is just for starters.
But I will not.
Instead, with this year’s International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women falling on Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., I want to ride the tide of thanks and goodwill by suggesting that we look towards positive solutions towards ending violence against women in our neighbourhoods, our communities and our cultures regardless of where we are in the world.
Here is an idea: How about getting men and women to proactively work together to stop violence against women?
No pretending that the violence isn’t there.
No hitting people on the head with aggressive blame-game gender rhetoric.
Just good people stepping up to collaborate wherever they live to end this universal scourge that causes irreversible damage to the health of women and girls, destroys families and hampers the economic well-being of communities.
“Men and women working together to end violence against women” – it sounds like a simple, common sense idea, doesn’t it? Yet while we happily work together to build businesses, help the needy and run paedophiles out of neighbourhoods, collaboration to end violence against women in our communities has not happened on a widespread basis to date.
We tend to give the subject a wide berth instead.
Many would not even touch it with a barge pole.
Maybe it is the controversial nature of the issue. Most of us do not wish to think of our mothers, sisters, nieces, aunts, women friends and female co-workers facing such vicious violence. When choosing a charity or cause to support, it is easier to avoid facing up to the ugliness of human nature.
Maybe it is because the issue has been seen as a “women’s issue” for far too long. Indeed, it is convenient enough to stereotype women’s rights campaigners and nonprofits working to end violence against women as aggressive activists who frequently very loudly blame all men for the violence. (As someone working in this field, I am embarrassed to say that many of us are guilty as charged).
Yet it remains an immutable fact that violence against women is not simply a random act of violence – it is a part of a larger social pandemic that affects everybody. If we are to truly end this human rights violation, we must involve everybody. We must make it possible for everyone to recognise their stake in the issue, and take ownership of it.
Perhaps the most important step in this direction in recent years is getting good men actively involved in ending violence against women. Even as thousands of men worldwide take the oath to avoid and prevent violence against women on White Ribbon Day today, this effort is still in its infancy. Many good men are still reluctant to speak up and step up to join in the effort put an end to this scourge due to the taboo nature of the issue and peer pressure.
Some more hardcore women’s rights activists would argue that this is akin to getting in bed with the enemy but the reality is that violence against women is so ingrained in the social structures of most cultures and bound up in masculine identities that if men do not support a sea change in attitudes and actions, any effort is doomed to be less than effective.
Getting men to play an active role in ending violence against women is not, as some might suspect, shifting control over the issue back to men. If anything, this may ensure that future generations will never know gender-based violence. By enlisting the help of good, decent, non-violent men who are upstanding members of society and who are of good character where women and children are concerned, we may yet be successful in our bid to influence the attitudes of younger men and growing boys towards a respectful, positive relationship with women and girls.
This principle of the importance of male involvement and male role models is the bedrock of what The Pixel Project aims to do through our upcoming Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that will kick off on World Human Rights Day 2010. In this Age of Celebrity where famous men are more often than not exposed for their violence towards women, we have assembled a group of prominent men including a Nobel Laureate, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a superstar Environmentalist to become global celebrity male role models.
They are the uber role model, if you like – larger-than-life proof that men can be both successful and non-violent. They are the antidote to the violence that saturates today’s global entertainment, sports and politics where violence against women is used for profit or power-grabbing.
So who are these prominent Male Role Models? Well, they are part of an exclusive hidden one million pixel collage that will be revealed as the global audience from San Francisco to Sydney donates $1 per pixel.
Think of it as a huge virtual jigsaw puzzle at the end of which $1 million will be raised to be shared between the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Malaysia’s Women’s Aid Organisation.
So take your pledge here at www.thepixelproject.net to buy pixels. Your name will be included in our Pixel Pledge Honour Roll to count you in. You can then fulfil your pledge to join our official Donor Honour Roll Call on World Human Rights Day on December 10 when our pixel donation system goes live. All it takes is just $5 or $10 and you will be part of one of the world’s biggest efforts to end violence against women.
Remember: Every action, no matter how small, counts.
It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.
– Regina Yau, Founder and President, The Pixel Project