South West Pacific President Siew Yong Gnanalingam has for many years championed the cause of preventing VAWG. At the 2012 SISWP Conference, President Siew Yong proposed a synchronized cross-Federation Project dedicated to the Elimination of Violence against Women. She invited all SISWP clubs to “Walk the Talk” to create greater awareness on the subject of Violence against Women in all countries of the federation.
During the “16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence” from 25th November until 10th December walks occurred throughout the Federation to educate and advocate that violence in any form must not be tolerated by any country, community or home. It is the right of every woman and girl to have a safe, peaceful and secure environment, be in her home, school, a relationship, a public place, work place or her community.
President Siew Yong stressed that it is the responsibility of every Soroptimist to speak out against perpetrators of gender-based violence on behalf of the victim/survivors of violence. Women and girls who suffer from abuse, rape and violence must feel and sense support from us and the society at large to give them courage to stand up to the abuse and report crimes of violence against them.
She challenged all Soroptimists of SISWP to gather and lead our communities to “Walk the Talk: to say “No to Violence against Women and Girls” at a club, region or country level, where appropriate.
Together we can be the global voice that is loud and clear on this subject, which is insidious and must be eliminated. A society cannot say there is equality if gender based violence exists. Like the plague, let’s wipe it out from the face of the earth.”
Dozens of clubs across the Federation participated to raise awareness and work within their communities to end violence against women and girls.
The highlight of the Walk the Talk project was the inspirational walk by three women which traversed the length of Malaysia. “From Perlis to Sabah, we have succeeded” is a line from the lyrics of an old patriotic Malaysian song which was the inspiration for an idea of an impactful walk for the Malaysian “Walk The Talk – Stop Violence Against Women” campaign.
In Malaysia, The Walk was officially launched in Arau, a town in Perlis by the Crown Prince of the Perlis royal household and his wife and daughter on 22nd November. It was a grand launch with about 800 walkers accompanied by a police band. It set the tone for the next seven city walks in Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Seremban, Johor Bahru, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, which were organised by the clubs in each of the cities. The walk from Perlis to Johor Bahru, approximately 850 kms, was accomplished by two of the three SI women (the third Soroptimist fell ill halfway through). This has earned the two women, both over 50 and grandmothers, an entry in the Malaysian Book of Records!
The walk was completed in Sabah with a city walk with about 100 walkers from the Kota Kinabalu airport to the city centre, some six kms away on 9th December. The walk had created tremendous awareness of the need for people to speak up and do more to prevent and eliminate violence against women. The profile of SI in Malaysia was certainly raised as the organiser of the walk and our connection to the theme “Stop Violence Against Women”, through the city walks and media publicity including a news item on BBC and CNN. There were free slots airing a public awareness advertisement on several TV stations on the subject of “Violence Against Women”. Funding to organise the walk came from the Malaysian Ministry of Women and a corporate sponsor, The Body Shop. The sale of T shirts helped to raise funds for SI clubs and SIROM to further the cause through workshops for relevant groups. The Ministry of Women has offered SIROM further funding for such workshops throughout the country. All in all it was a successful inaugural event for “Walk the Talk” to Stop Violence Against Women.
SI Westland held their Walk the Talk at the local square on December 8th. They had live jazz music, and Kapahaka (Maori action songs) performed by the local school students. The Girl Guides provided a sausage sizzle. The oldest walker was 96 years old. Many participants achieved 10km. One of the members encouraged the local Girl Guides to participate.
Soroptimists in Mongolia hiked through the snow to Bogd Khan mountain to support the “Walk the Talk” campaign. Afterwards they visited the shelter house for the Centre against Violence, all making a personal donation to the Centre. SI Ulaan Baatar member Gerelchimeg is a women’s doctor and she spoke to the girls and women in the Centre about health care, sex and STDs. The girls performed a theatrical number for us about domestic violence.
The busy streets of Ba came to a standstill on Saturday December 1st as more than 100 women, children and men marched in their Walk the Talk. The march was organized by SI Ba and SI Lautoka, and Ba Women’s forum, consisting of various women’s clubs who joined to support the cause. Ba Town Administrator, Mr Arun Prasad joined the group which carried banners and placards denouncing gender violence. All those who participated in the march in Ba were provided with refreshments by SI Ba and according to SI Ba President, Ms Dorine Charan the turnout and support from the public was very pleasing.
Meanwhile SI Sigatoka achieved this awareness by organizing a silent march through Sigatoka town on December 8. SI Sigatoka President, Ashni Sharma reported that the guest speakers were the Crime Officer from the Police Department Henry Steele, the Court Officer Sigatoka Tuliana Naivaluwaqa and Reshmi Lal of Women’s Crisis Centre, Nadi. “It has turned out to be a very successful programme and we are very passionate about this cause.” President Sharma stressed.
Several clubs reported feedback from members of the public who had seen the walks.
SI Griffith: One of the men who was asked to feature in the advertisements started researching the topic of violence against women in our society after he was featured in the paper. He was shocked by the extent of hidden violence in our community and has become a real “flag bearer” in relation to this issue.
SI Deniliquin: A young lady with two children approached our members and announced she had just left a relationship which involved continuous violence. The woman’s voice was shaky as she told her story in front of her children. We were thanked for advocating against violence and encouraged to continue doing so.