English: There, here and over there. Basically, in a sense, to mean restless. A collection of thoughts, musings and ramblings...

Friday, November 26, 2010

My JCI Life

My JCI life. Only a year's worth of pics and activities, but it feels like we have gone so far since the beginning of the year :) Most productive year ever in my JCI history


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The White Ribbon Day Campaign

When I first found out about the White Ribbon Day campaign in 2007, it never crossed my mind that one day I too will be leading such a campaign in my own hometown. I bought my first white ribbon and a wristband while I was on holiday in Queensland, Australia with the ladies of the family (my mum, sister, my daughter, niece and nephew). At that time, I was still in denial over the abusiveness evident in my relationship, I was still confused about what actually constitutes abuse. It was only later that I realised (after much soul searching) that abuse and violence does not just cover physical abuse, but also emotional and verbal. I have also come to know that many people are still disillusioned of this fact.

The White Ribbon is a symbol of hope for a world where women and girls can live free from the fear of violence. Wearing the ribbon is about challenging the acceptability of violence by getting men involved, helping women to break the silence, and encouraging everyone to come together to build a better world for all.

The history of White Ribbon Day:-


The first White Ribbon Campaign was launched by a group of men in Canada after the brutal mass shooting of 14 female students at the University of Montreal.


In South Africa the National Network on Violence Against Women launched their own White Ribbon Campaign and many South African womens groups quickly adopted the White Ribbon symbol.


WOMANKIND launched the first White Ribbon Day in the UK.


The UN officially recognised 25th November as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

According to WAO's (Malaysian Women's Aid Organisation) website, almost 40% of Malaysian women are estimated to have experienced domestic abuse, a very high percentage which means that approximately one in every two women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

The idea about doing something significant on White Ribbon Day started last year, but the problem is finding people who were committed enough to work towards pulling off this campaign. At that time I was living on the tiny island of Labuan, where the opportunities were not that big enough to launch anything significant. Then I moved to Kota Kinabalu, where I found like-minded people in JCI Intan who are about as committed as I am about the cause. The time seemed right at last.

So why the White Ribbon Day campaign?
Easy, personal experience. Having encountered personally some painful obstacles in the process of breaking free from the imprisonment of my previous life, I decided it was time to do something. It is only too easy to just sit back, and complain about the things that are wrong with the world. But will complaining passively do anything good? Not that I know of. There is only so much governments can do for it's citizens. The rest, we do what we can. That is the power of being an NGO, finding problems that are not being addressed by the government and helping bridge the gap. The JCI Creed states: That service to humanity is the best work of life, while the JCI Mission is To provide development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change. Key word here - positive change. The message is clear: We can be the change we want to see in the world. So why not start now? Combine like-minded and committed people into an organisation and ta-dah, you got yourself a working committee and anything is possible :) That is probably the opportunity they are referring to.

To me, the important part of this campaign is about raising awareness. The problem is figuring out how. Is it enough to hand out flyers and sell white ribbons? So I seeked the advice of Sabah Women Action Resources Group (SAWO) president, Winnie Yee. She had a great deal of advice to give me, which I am so grateful for. However, when the first ideas started forming my head, I actually felt a stab of fear. It seems like so much work. What do I know about running a campaign? About leading the way to create positive change? Nothing much. What I do know however, is that it takes personal experience to fuel passion for a cause. At first I wanted to have a screening of a movie with a domestic violence theme, but unfortunately there was not enough time to source for a good one, and get the necessary paperwork done such as screening rights. But in the end, it was all good as we still managed to run two contests - jingle-writing and t-shirt designing, hold a flea market and an open forum.

I somehow feel like my campaign this year barely made a dent in the scheme of things, and still a lot of work needs to be done before this campaign truly makes an impact. But this is only the beginning, and already there is some form of basis for follow-up action. Could be another campaign, say for next year. At the moment, one of the steps I am considering taking is to to form a whole new White Ribbon Organisation, just like Kinabalu Pink Ribbon, rather than having the activities run by another NGO that focuses on leadership. That way, we can recruit people who truly believe in and are committed to the cause. For one thing, the White Ribbon campaign requires men to be at the forefront and JCI Intan is a ladies-only chapter of Junior Chamber International. Another thing is the age limit of JCI members.

One of the issues I wanted to raise from the campaign is the definition of abuse. Is it violence where I had a disagreement with my spouse over something, I argued and he slapped me or hit me that my nose hurt? Or when he held me down for no reason and tries to choke me with his bare hands? It just seems so trivial compared to women who have been hit, punched and kicked to the point of having broken bones and are bleeding. Is it abuse to be pushed and shoved, and have your personal belongings destroyed?

Is it abuse when a man loudly picks a fight with his significant other in public to embarass her? Victims choose to ignore this with excuses like, 'No, I made him angry', 'It was just a little push'. Some statements that make me angry are the ones who are observers, who come up with little gems like 'He's your husband, what can you do? Work harder for it' or 'Don't do ...... anymore, stop provoking him'. I was happy to have SAWO on event day with an exhibition that explains on these points.

And of course, the issue I wanted to raise awareness on was the help available to victims of violence. However, the open forum was intended not just for victims, but the public as a whole. The idea is to expand the number of knowledgeable individuals who can be a point of reference for people who are experiencing abuse. Afterall, violence could happen to anyone. It could be your sister, your mother, your friend. It could also happen to you. I have been in the shoes of someone who was lost and didn't know her options. Government websites are practically useless in letting you know what you need to know. So, how does the general public even know? Do a lot of people know what happens once you lodge a police report on domestic violence? It was by a stroke of luck that I got to know of Mama Anne Keyworth's (of Bukit Harapan) work from a colleague who was interested in the campaign. Until then, I had not even realised that Bukit Harapan was more than just a home for special children. Her input on the psychological effects was something that I had wanted to know for sometime. Her ability to adjust to the level of audience was amazing, as one of the problems we had was getting mostly teenagers for the forum due to some reason or another. We also had the benefit of having 2 notable speakers for the forum - ASP Erny Yusnida and George Ng. ASP Erny being the head of the department of Bahagian Siasatan Jenayah Seksual Wanita & Kanak-kanak Sabah, Polis Di Raja Malaysia was very knowledgable of her subject and was able to present in such an amusing way that really captures the attention of the audience. George Ng is a lawyer who is also very much active in NGOs, being a Rotarian and legal adviser for several societies. It was also by luck that I was able to at last find a moderator in Professor Victor Lee, after many many heartwrenching days of finding one.

I have read some people commenting that women are making too much noise about abuse to women when abuse happens to men as well. Yes, I agree that it is true. Especially cases where children are involved. But bear in mind that there are some abuses that are typically female-oriented, for example rape and human trafficking. There are also the double standards on successful women, and the age-old perception that women belong at home and to their husbands. Sounds very 1920s and something like that, but it is still prevalent in today's society.

While there were some hard times in running this campaign, there were the upsides as well. I truly feel blessed for my growing network of people, whom I would not have known if not for the existence of this campaign. I feel so thankful for the response of many, especially the generous sponsors such as Megalong mall, Glory Studio and Cili Padi Events who helped turned this campaign from a dull and blah event to a spectacular one. I am also so grateful for the White Ribbon Ambassadors, who helped in many ways, from their enthusiasm, contributing their great looks and quotes, to finding me further contacts. White Ribbon Ambassadors are men and boys who have pledged to never commit, excuse or be silent about violence against women. The key to this pledge is not being silent. White Ribbon Ambassadors take an active stand against violence against women in many unique ways - some big, some small.
Last but not least, I will never forget the dedication and commitment of my organising committee whoworked hard to ensure the success of this campaign. Without them I would have been so lost.

From running this campaign, I feel like I have gained so much, and the experience has been invaluable. So, am I ready to continue to work hard to spread the message? Oh yeah. Bring it on!!!

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