There was a day in middle school that changed me forever. I was in my social studies class at my school in Toronto and had just spent twenty minutes venting to my teacher about how unfair and unjust the world was. I don’t remember what started the conversation, but what he told me still rings in my ear today.
“Are you finished complaining and pointing out what’s wrong with the world?” he asked.
I stared blankly at him. “Yes, but someone should….”
“Stop right there,” he said. “Who is ‘someone’? If you’re going to sit there and complain about the world, why don’t you be the change you want to see?”
“Me? But I’m only one girl!”
“One person is all it takes.”
I remember being silent on the drive back home after that lesson. I was so frustrated! I was complaining about big global issues and my teacher wanted me to do something about it. The thought was intimidating.
Ever since that day, whenever I see something I don’t like, I ask myself, “what can I do to make a change?’ It is that very same thought that led me to my first general meeting of Soroptimist Kuwait.
I had joined many other local and global societies in the past, all of which (to me) mostly fell short in their implementation and action plans. But my first meeting with these ladies took my breath away. I can say for sure that it was the first time in my life, of all the places I had been, where I stood in a room full of professional and educated women whose only goal was to empower each other and others within the community. You could feel it just by sitting and observing the women in the room. By the end of the night these women became my sisters and I am forever in awe of the accomplishments we are able to achieve together.
Soroptimist Kuwait is a branch of Soroptimist International, which works with international networks and partners, such as the United Nations and its agencies, the Commonwealth, and the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, to ensure that the needs of women and girls are represented in global policy and agenda-setting.
For almost a century, Soroptomisits globally have been working to Eliminate Violence Against Women (EVAW) and girls and ensure women’s participation in conflict resolution. They have participated in several efforts including building shelters, aiding victims of violence, providing counseling services, lobbying for improved prevention programs and policies as well as raising awareness.
In Kuwait, Soroptimist has successfully carried out the ‘Orange Campaign’ since 2016, which aims to generate awareness on gender based violence. Through this campaign, Soroptimist Kuwait has developed a yearly survey for both genders to measure this phenomenon with over 700 participants in 2017/2018. The results of these surveys have been published in the form of educational brochures that display the data and educate the public on the UN’s definitions of violence.
That, among many other actions taken under the EVAW initiative, which was led mostly through social media, having been supported by men and women together, ended the year 2018 with the ‘Orange Pledge’ to help raise women from the ashes of violence.
It is disappointing when people undermine the importance of such initiatives. The fight for women’s rights globally is the core of all the changes that we aim for within our local and global communities. The subject of violence against women is a conversation that involves every member of the community, men and women alike. We need to raise boys who understand and respect the rights of women and girls who know their rights so that together, they will grow into men and women who bring equality and security to the world.
In the movie Pay It Forward written by Catherine Hyde, we see how the actions of one person, however simple, can cause a ripple effect in changing a community. That is what we need to implement ourselves on an individual level every single day.
In the movie, the main character, Trevor, is faced with an interesting assignment: to think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favour not back, but forward – repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. Trevor’s efforts to make good on his idea bring a revolution not only in the lives of himself, his mother and his physically and emotionally scarred teacher, but in those of an ever-widening circle of people completely unknown to him.
Like Trevor, we can bring change to our communities by doing simple deeds that speak up against violence. The first step is to raise awareness of the definition of gender based violence and break the silence on its existence. There is so much we can do to protect and empower women close to us by advocating for the creation of resources and shelters through our government to provide safe asylums for those who are affected by these crimes so that we can help them heal and build empowered lives.
So many women suffer in silence either because they are afraid, have nowhere to turn to or, more shockingly, are unaware that they are subjected to abuse for lack of awareness.
In 2018 Soroptimist Kuwait has achieved its goals in raising local awareness on the issue and aim to begin a year of taking action in 2019. Join us in breaking the silence. Like Trevor, start with your own circle of people. Do one thing each day that can improve the situation of girls and women. No action is too small. When our women heal, our communities will prosper.< Back