Addressing the elephant in the room
The youth campaign against gender-based violence
“It’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room, but often we don’t notice problems around us, even if they are the size of an elephant,” says Beka Berikashvili, one of the organizers of a campaign that focuses on gender-based violence and the HIV/AIDS problem in Georgia.
The group kicked of a youth contest fittingly entitled ‘The Elephant in The Room’ to highlight these challenges and to help raise awareness among Georgian youths.
The youth contest is being held within the framework of the global campaign ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence’, which originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. Over 3,700 organizations in approximately 164 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaign since 1991.
The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organizing strategy for establishing a link between local and international work to end violence against women, providing a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies and demonstrate the solidarity of women around the world. The efforts include events that counter violence against women and those that help create tools to pressure governments to implement promises to eliminate this type of abuse.
The global theme for the 2011 campaign is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!
From December 1 to December 10, a group of young people will present flash mobs and performances in Tbilisi’s streets, as well as create their own articles and slogans connected with gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS.
“Domestic violence, rape and militarism ruin the lives of many women,” said Gvantsa Kordzakhia, 21, one of the participants of the campaign and a team leader. “Because of many stereotypes, a lot of women prefer to keep silent in Georgia and do not report their problems,” said Kordzahia.
According to Geostat, the national statistics office in Georgia, 184 women and 23 men were registered as victims of domestic violence in Georgia this year.
National research on domestic violence against women conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) demonstrates that 6.9% of women acknowledged experiencing physical violence, of whom 2.6% experienced moderate and 4.3% severe physical violence; 3.9% of women reported having experienced sexual violence, and 2.3% of women claimed to have experienced both sexual and physical violence.
The research showed that among women who were, or had been married, one in every eleven had faced physical violence and 34.7% had been severely injured multiple times. In addition, 2.7% of women who had children admitted to experiencing physical violence during their pregnancy.
Kordzakhia explained that they have spelled out the main problems that trouble women in Georgia. “Messages against gender-based violence were written on stickers, and then put on the sky lanterns which carried them up into the sky. In this way, we destroyed problems symbolically”, she added.
The timing for The Elephant in the Room campaign is also symbolic in other ways: November 25 is International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10 is International Human Rights Day. The campaigners picked this period in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.
This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including November 29 - International Women Human Rights Defenders Day; December 1 - World AIDS Day; and December 6 - the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
The contest will identify two winners from ten groups on December 12. One of them will be announced by the jury, another by the number of Facebook likes. The jury will rate the relevance of the topic, the creativity, as well as the presentation and quality of the activity. The winning team will receive Net books and the second place group will receive iPods.
According to Beka Berikashvili, the participating teams are motivated and will do their best to show positive results. One of the most significant facts about the contest is that men are also involved in the activities.
Team leader Nestan Bostoghanashvili, 21, looks forward to knowing the outcome of the contest. “Our goal is to make people understand that gender-based violence is a serious issue in Georgia and it’s worth thinking about it,” she told Georgia Today.
The contest is organized by the UNFPA Georgia Country Office in partnership with the International Center on Conflict and Negotiation (ICCN), the Georgian Youth Development and Education Association (GYDEA) and the Caucasus Social Marketing Association (CSMA).
By Nino Gelashvili