One of todays panels was, It Is Time To Act: Preventing Gender-Based Violence by Strongly Supporting Gender Equality and Mutual Respect among School-age Children, Boys and Girls. It Is Time to Act provided a panel of women who are trying to prevent gender based violence by speaking up and providing an outlet for youth today who are victims of GBV.
Sarah B. Aron of the Children’s AID Society of NYC, spoke about GBV in the US, especially NY and how the message of violence is still strong with todays youth. She mentioned that primary and secondary prevention programs need to run concurrently. Sarah stated that 9.4% of teens report being hit and/or slapped, and have reported experiencing physical violence. An important note she mentioned was that when teens are asked about the percentages of physical violence they answer 70-90%, which is higher than records show, but could allude that physical violence between teens is highly under reported. Sarah mentioned national and NY based programs, and/or organizations that are there to help combat domestic violence among teens, and that change is possible when we provide trainings, services, and prevention programs.
Terri Lee, an intern with Women Beyond Survival, spoke about how media portrays male superiority and female inferiority. This false messaging is unacceptable for women and girls, and could cause females to lose the ability to defend themselves. Terri is a rape victim who wants other women and girls to know how important it is to stand up to their perpetrators just as she did. This incidence of violence changed the course of her life. She mentioned that her own daughters have faced injustices which is heartbreaking for her to acknowledge. Terri stated that we can’t live in a bubble, we can try out best to do this, but it will not help in the long run. Terri has written a beautiful song titled “Rise Up” and she shared this song with the audience. She mentioned that writing has helped her to share her message by informing others to not sit and wait for change, that we are the change and we need to stand up for ourselves. The last thing that Terri stated was, “you can’t take away our self respect and our dignity, we are all of equal value.”
Nicole Zivkovic, a 9th Grade student, discussed her work with violence against women in Croatia. Nicole mentioned how difficult it is in this region after a four year war left the country unstable, as well as an increase in alcoholism and violence. She mentioned that abuse has become so normalized within the country that it is hard for the individuals to see the extent of how wrong it actually is. One of the biggest problems for women is men not being able or open enough with women in higher positions. Abuse reports within the country are underreported, yet still high. Nicole did state that women in the Balkans are taking leadership roles and traditions have been changing. She hopes that one day the main focus of campaigns will not be gender, but their ideals.
Ya’arah Pinhas of the Manhattan Multicultural Counseling’s Summer Youth Program spoke about leading instruction on gender at the international camp this past summer. Ya’arah mentioned the issue with females still having to sit in the back of buses in Israel and that they have no choice in the matter. One interesting point she had was that Israel is a democratic state, yet the states laws are not upheld. It is important to understand the issue of violence and how the children have been affected through witnessing it and in turn repeating these acts or crimes. Ya’arah shared her mother’s struggles by talking about her parents divorce, and that women have to gain a divorce through a religious court. She stated women are ignored during the court proceedings, which is to make them feel agitated and embarrassed.
All of the women on this panel showed incredible strength by sharing their stories and efforts to combat violence against women and girls. Their voices provide an outlet for those who are either afraid or can’t speak for themselves any longer.