November 25th was International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Missed it? Maybe that’s not surprising. A Google search on the name results in only 312,000 hits, a relatively small number in our always-online world. (Searching the keywords “Kim Kardashian,” in contrast, yields up 21.4 million hits!)
This UN-sponsored event started in 1999 as a way to organize activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem globally. And it’s a huge problem; according to the UN, 35% of women and girls experience some form of physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime, with up to seven in ten women facing this abuse in some countries.
What can we do?
Well, the good news is that many Junior Leagues are already involved.
In addition to the specific initiatives we have written about recently on what Leagues are doing to address human trafficking – an important driver of violence against women – as well as domestic violence, many other Leagues are doing great work that often goes unnoticed outside of their own communities.
What is interesting, however, is how long some Leagues have been involved in this fight as well as the variety of innovative programs they and community partners have put in place over the years.
In the late 1980s, for example, the Junior League of Miami decided to use a budget surplus of $100,000 in support of women and child victims of domestic violence. JLM thought big, and using their initial surplus as seed money, bought an apartment complex to serve as a transitional housing and support center for victims of domestic violence that continues today as Inn Transition, a public-private partnership between JLM and Miami-Dade County.
In the early 1990s, the Silent Witness National Initiative – which began as the Junior League of St. Paul’s Silent Witnesses initiative – was credited with contributing to the addition of the Violence Against Women Act provisions to the 1994 Crime Bill. The national initiative drew the participation of more than 100 Leagues in all four Junior League countries, and events included marches, exhibits, and demonstrations.
In 1994, the Junior League of Birmingham joined with YWCA Central Alabama to launch Children in Crisis, which works with children and teens who have witnessed domestic violence in their homes. CIC offers weekly support groups to address topics such as how to be safe in an unsafe home, self-esteem and anger management.
Another example is International Women’s House. Founded in 1995 by the Junior League of DeKalb County with a coalition of community partners, IWH’s mission is to provide services to immigrant and refugee women and their children who have survived domestic violence, to support the breaking of the cycle of domestic violence through education and empowerment, and to increase awareness of domestic violence in immigrant and refugee communities.
In 1999, the Junior League of Plano (now the Junior League of Collin County) brought more than 150 community leaders together for a workshop called “Key to a Safer Community: Reducing Family Violence.” That one-day event led to a broader League initiative called The Collin County Council on Family Violence (CCCFV), which facilitates a partnership of local agencies working collaboratively to eliminate and respond to family violence in the community.
These are great examples…but they are by no means the only ones.
Which brings us back to International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
As UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon said, in announcing this year’s activities, “We all have a role to play, and I urge you to play yours. If we stand together in homes, communities, countries and internationally, we can challenge discrimination and impunity and put a stop to the mindsets and customs that encourage, ignore or tolerate the global disgrace of violence against women and girls.”
We couldn’t agree more!