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ZONTA says no to violence against women 16 days’s of activism against gender based violence

Zonta International is a leading global organisation of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy. It envisions a world in which women’s rights are recognised as human rights and every woman is able to achieve her full potential. In such a world, women have access to all resources, are represented in decision making positions on an equal basis with men and no woman lives in fear of violence. Under the umbrella of Zonta International, the Zonta Club Kathmandu was established in 2012 and has been working with the same vision and objective as outlined by the international body. Nepal is the 64th country to have been officially chartered as Zonta Club Kathmandu, Nepal. Zonta Club Kathmandu is a legally registered NGO in Kathmandu and the Club is represented by 40 members from diverse backgrounds comprising of social activists, bankers, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, architects, business leaders and professionals.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence and Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women is one of the main focus areas of the Club. This year Zonta Club Kathmandu has picked the slogan – Raise Your Voice – which encourages women and young girls to break out of the shackles of silence and speak out. It also encourages males to raise their voices and change traditional mindset. The Club organised two programmes this year. The first programme was targeted towards the youth on November 30 with an objective to raise awareness and advocate on violence against the youth especially with regard to women and girls. The programme was conducted at St. Mary’s High School. The audience comprised of around 1000 students and teachers from both government and private schools.

The main objective of Zonta Club Kathmandu is to make the young aware of the issue. The programme incorporated visual mediums through a portrayal of a dance drama and a skit was used to reinforce the message and raise awareness on the depth of violence prevalent in society. The visual presentations were choreographed by renowned celebrity artistes Mithila Sharma and Deeya Maskey. Three guest speakers expressed their views on the topic of violence against women. They were Bandana Rana, Dil Bhushan Pathak and Nikita Chandak.

The second programme was held on December 10 at Hotel Annapurna where six speakers from the region spoke about violence against women in relation to women’s empowerment and shared their experiences with an audience that comprised of students, bureaucrats, bankers, NGO and INGO officials, diplomats, homemakers, women activists, educational institutions and the business fraternity. The speakers were:

In Conversation With The President, Shreejana Rana

What is the reason for Zonta taking up the 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence?

For almost 100 years Zonta has taken different approaches to achieve a world free of gender based violence. This international campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. It is a campaign that fits very well with Zonta International’s vision of a world in which women’s rights are recognised as human rights and every woman is able to achieve her full potential. Global estimates published by WHO indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. I would say that the question is not why Zonta has the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. The question is why doesn’t anyone else?

What was your learning from last year’s campaign? And what did you achieve?

I learned that you need people willing to take responsibility and see things through, to make things happen. If you find the right people, such as my fellow Zontians in Zonta Club Kathmandu, or organisations such as UN Women Nepal, to help you and there is little you cannot do. Also, there are many people who want to help but they cannot find an organisation or person that will help them to help others. We found that often Zonta Club Kathmandu could be that organisation.
We at Zonta Club Kathmandu take a multi-faceted approach to the campaign to raise awareness and fight violence against women. We joined hands with the National Information Commission Nepal and the UN Women Nepal. We took responsibility for distributing their booklet in Nepali and English on women’s rights in Nepal. Another project is a practical but desperately needed one. Basic sanitation and hygiene are a fundamental need. The lack of toilets in schools and public areas leave girls and women vulnerable to rape and assault. Sulabh Sauchalaya is an Indian initiative for environmentally friendly and cost effective toilets. We support the construction of these toilets in schools and communities.

This year you had initiated several programs to address Gender based Violence- Can you tell us a little more about it?

Our initiative from last year – the distribution of booklets in Nepali and English (and soon other local languages) on women’s rights in Nepal continues, as does our support for the construction of Sulabh Sauchalyas in schools and communities.
This year our focus has been on the young. A few days ago Zonta Club Kathmandu organised a programme aimed at the youth of today. The goal was to raise awareness and advocacy on violence against youth, especially girls and including women. The programme was held at St Mary’s High School. The audience comprised of a 1000 students and teachers from both government and private schools.

Your personal thinking on how these issues can be further addressed in Nepal?

It is not enough for us to have good intentions, to feel the sorrow and pain of the women and girls who are abused. We at Zonta are committed to not only acting but also following through and taking responsibility for our work. Social change is not easy. Nor is it usually quick. We need legislation from our government. But we also need to change the way we think about these issues. Each of us has a powerful role to play. If we change the attitude and actions of just one person, ourselves, we have made an incredible start. If we carry this forward so that we influence the thinking of our family, friends and community, we will generate the momentum that will change our world.