Putting an end to violence against women

16-day Orange Campaign in Dubai returns to encourage women to speak up against abuse and alter society’s attitude towards them

Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News
People visit stall put up by the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children at The Walk, JBR, to listen to an audio track about domestic violence and participate in online discussions.
Gulf News

Dubai: The second ‘Orange’ Campaign to mark the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women began on Thursday, sending a strong message to the society about how women need to be treated with respect.

The Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC) relaunched the 16-day campaign under the slogan “Build Yourself”, to inspire a culture that rejects violence against women and girls, said Afra Al Basti, director-general of the foundation.

“We need to see a change of attitude towards women and girls worldwide and increase our efforts against these acts of violence by focusing on prevention and educating our society on how to pick up signs of physical and mental abuse. It’s a problem that affects us as a community and not only as an individual,” she told Gulf News in an interview.

The campaign will bring back the interactive experience of conversing with a female subjected to violence, but in addition, it will also be raising the volume by introducing special performances designed around gender-based violence.

“We have reintroduced our interactive platform, which will feature broken mirrors showing how a woman’s low self-esteem can make her more vulnerable to the abuser. Those who visit the container will get to walk into a dark space, shut their eyes and listen to a story told by a woman, who has experienced abuse and witness a live performance of a man emotionally and physically abusing a woman, while sharing a message of a woman finding the courage to walk away from an abusive relationship,” she said.

She said the initiative will help raise more awareness about various types of violence against women, be it physical, emotional, verbal, sexual or financial, and inspire our community and policymakers to take action.

“Knowing your options can make a difference to how these abused women respond to violence. They need to know about the resources available and our community needs to know how they can assist to bring awareness on this important topic.”

Last year, over 5,000 people visited the activation at The Walk, JBR, she said, with some who were brave enough to finally share their own personal stories of abuse and seek the help they needed

“This is the kind of reaction we were looking for and keep on encouraging women not to be ashamed and consider to look for support systems.”

It also gave men and women new insights on the subject as they walked out of the container touched by the audio clip they listened to, she added.

Going forward, she said, DFWAC has helped over 435 women subjected to various types of violence and exploitation by providing them emergency shelter.

“About 98 per cent of these women reported being victims of emotional and verbal abuse and 57 per cent of the abused women we received last year reported to have experienced physical abuse.

“Last year, an estimated 80 per cent among these depressed women were exposed to domestic abuse by their partner,” she said.

The public events of the campaign is taking place till Saturday at The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence, and from December 8 to 10 at The Kite Beach, from 10am till 10pm.

How to end the scourge?

Gulf News spoke to social influencers on the topic, on how violence against women can be eliminated.

Mina Liccione, comedian, arts professor, co-founder of Dubomedy and Funny Girls MENA:

It’s important for women who are being abused to know they are not alone and that there is hope and help, said Liccione.

“Fear can be paralysing; without knowing there is love and support waiting for [the women] at the end of the tunnel, it’s even more difficult to break free of it.”

There are three ways to help women build themselves, Liccione said — through mind, body and spirit.

“If women are told enough times that they are worthless, they will eventually believe it. Abuse comes in many shapes and forms. When our spirit is broken, it is hard to carry on. It’s important for women to find peace of mind through meditation, yoga, journaling or prayer,” she said.

Learning something new and getting trained in a skill that can help earn a living can be both empowering and exciting, she added. “Women often stay in bad situations because they fear they don’t have the skills or means to be independent.”

It is important for women to spend time taking care of themselves, she added. “Eating healthy and staying fit is crucial for both self-esteem and physical strength. Every woman should take a self-defence course to be able to protect herself.”

Safia Bari, director, Special Needs Future Development Centre

When women are [made to feel] unequal and unsafe, they cannot fully participate in society, said Bari. Only when everyone is safe in public and private can women, men, children, families, homes, neighbourhoods, workplaces, communities, institutions, economies, ecosystems, and nations truly thrive, she added.

“Violence against women is preventable ... We don’t need to create a new vaccine or a new technology, we just need to act. We can start in our homes and schools by teaching children to respect boys and girls. We can demand enforcement of laws that protect women and punish offenders. We can speak up in our workplaces, fraternities, congregations, and schools. Social media can be used as a powerful tool to challenge bullying and promote human rights. The power to change the world for women, for girls, for everyone, is in our hands.”

 

Events

  • November 25: Illumination of iconic landmarks in the colour orange including The Burj Al Arab and The InterContinental Dubai Festival City.
  • November 24-26: Two public events to be held at The Walk, JBR, and from December 8 to 10 at The Kite Beach from 10am to 10pm.
  • An interactive platform conversing with a female victim subjected to violence to highlight core issues while maintaining appropriate cultural sensitivity. Various performing arts designed around violence against women at The Walk, JBR, and the Kite Beach.
  • An inspiring social media campaign will come into force encouraging online discussions #SpeakUpae
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