Sunday, 24 November 2013

Zonta says NO to violence against women

Every week at least one Australian women dies from domestic violence.

To me, that's an astonishing statistic. Like the rest of the world, approximately 1/3rd of Australian women will report at least one incident of domestic violence. Something has to change. Women deserve to live with safety and respect. 

And so it is with excitement ..... and honour .... and pride ... and humility ....and and and .... I was given the privilege of planning our contribution to changing this horror situation.

This week Zonta said NO to violence against women here in Canberra. And I believe we did it in the most powerful way possible .... by sharing our message with impressionable 14 year old boys.

So all my convention planning had to go on hold for a couple of weeks, whilst I went out and planned this:

Clubs all over the world are currently delivering an enormous variety of Zonta says NO events - linked to the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25. Go to the Zonta says NO website and watch all the stories start to appear. For now, here's a quick glimpse into my club's event.

Here in Canberra, a fortuitous meeting at the CSW 57 Briefing started it all off. It was over drinks and nibbley things I bumped into Stephen - the Australian National Co-ordinator for the White Ribbon Ambassadors. Next thing you know - we're putting on a show!

I asked Stephen my favourite question: if you could have your way, what would this event be? Stephen had the best answer: go to Namadgi High School, where one of the teachers, Matt, is also an Ambassador, and run an interactive, participatory, learning event with the young male students. 

Lots of emails, lots of committee meetings and finally on Monday, 18 November I found myself in here:

Matt making magic managing the Monday morning male menagerie

Over three hours, the boys explored topics such as:

  • What does it mean to be a man?
  • What do they think a woman is looking for in a man?
  • What happens to lead people into being violent?
 The boys explored Sting's ideas about what it means to be a man

Interspersed between these workshop pieces, the boys were given lots of opportunities for movement and releasing their energy.

Alistair, Ambassador and from ACT Men's Centre and Faye, Zonta Club of Canberra Breakfast - play air arm wrestling
Alistair wrangles with one of the kids
 We were blessed with on-the-spot portable BBQ magic from the Rotary Club of Tuggeranong

Zonta Club of Canberra Breakfast do their best work: supervising
Not being a parent, I wasn't really sure what the kids would be like. I kinda knew they would eat a lot - but they kids must have been hollow! They munched through 150 sausages and a morning tea designed for twice the number of people.

The Rotary chaps have their production line methodology all worked out.
In running this event, we were very careful about appearances - we wanted to make sure the Zontians did not stand behind the cake stall, while the men did all the carrying heavy stuff around. The Zontians participated in the workshop, were part of the group discussions - and of course we were an equal partner in the organisation.

Stephen, White Ribbon Campaign, opens the day - all the pink shirted Zonta ladies are WAAAY OVER THERE...
Matt designed a beautiful, insightful program - he slowly led the boys deeper and deeper into the topic. Taking them finally, to an explicit conversation of violence against women, set against the White Ribbon advertisements and other videos acknowledging the need for more respect in our world.

This advertisement is a reenactment of an actual conversation ex-White Ribbon Chair, Andrew O'Keeffe overhead in a pub.

I was deeply impressed that we didn't have to tell anything to these kids - deep down they knew.  I like to think what this event did was confirm their thinking about how how to live an honorable life, no matter where they end up, no matter what life they will live. Despite how rough and tumble these boys come across right now, I know for certain that many of these boys 'get it'.

So how did it end?  Take a look:

Don't adjust your set - I put in some blurry bits to try prevent identity of the boys

That's all that needs to be said.

We're making a difference in Canberra and in the world.

This will be an annual event in our calendar from now on, as we slowly expand this into a new education program for Canberra schools.

Emma knows what we're doing - I love this photo of her!
What are you doing for Nov 25 - Zonta say NO Campaign? Share you story and inspire us all with your ideas. Individually each of our actions may feel like a drop in the ocean, but together they create the waves of change.

I admit - I am yet to type up the full story including the ideas the boys shared at the workshop. I wanted to share these photos with you to acknowledge Nov 25. So keep your eyes on Zonta says NO where we will post our report.

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