By Debra Bartholomew
He refused to wear an orange tee shirt that day.
That day. November 25, 2021. The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is an occasion for governments, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations to raise public awareness of violence against women. It has been observed on November 25 each year since 2000.
As in previous years, this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women launches 16 days of activism to be concluded December 10, 2021 — the day that commemorates the International Human Rights Day. Several public events are being coordinated and iconic buildings and landmarks will be ‘oranged’ to recall the need for a violence-free future.
“Nearly 1 in 3 women have been abused in their lifetime. In times of crises, the numbers rise, as seen during the Covid-19 pandemic and recent humanitarian crises, conflicts, and climate disasters. A new report from UN Women, based on data from 13 countries since the pandemic, shows that 2 in 3 women reported that they or a woman they know experienced some form of violence and are more likely to face food insecurity. Only 1 in 10 women said that victims would go to the police for help.”
While pervasive, gender-based violence is not inevitable. It can and must be prevented. Stopping this violence starts with believing survivors, adopting comprehensive and inclusive approaches that tackle the root causes, transform harmful social norms, and empower women and girls. With survivor-centred essential services across policing, justice, health, and social sectors, and sufficient financing for the women’s rights agenda, we can end gender-based violence.”
To raise awareness, the theme for this year was selected as Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!
But why orange? Orange represents a brighter future free of violence towards women and girls.
But why was it important for him, my younger son, to wear an orange tee? Was his support that important to the cause? After all, it wasn’t about male empowerment. His school, Queen’s Royal College, an all-boy school, was actually throwing an
active campaign of awareness and education of its young men and the country. And yet, he chose to remain unseen, blended into the blue…previously Royal, still Royal, but now, enhanced orange by activism. He didn’t want to be uncomfortable.
And then my worst fears were realised.
He didn’t “support the cause”. He didn’t understand the issue. In his mind, was there even an issue? I tried to speak out, speak to educate him, but I was afraid. Ashamed. I’d shielded him, protected him from my ‘past’….how could I now make this a part of our present?
But worse, how do I educate him about my own ordeal without surrendering my strength in the process? How do I relinquish my control to enlighten him without appearing weak in his eyes?
And yet, this was never, at this moment about me. Not about my apparent weakness. This was about educating him about managing emotions.
About accepting imperfection. About acknowledging limitations. About seeing worth in womanhood. About championing girls and women.
But more importantly, it was about not staying quiet. It was about choosing to do what was right over what was comfortable, even if that meant wearing a seemingly silly orange jersey.
And to appreciate that even though he may think that he was but just one….
That one voice was not just what it takes, but that one voice, added with another, then another….becomes a huge roar!
And our apology exchange proved to be a wonderful oasis for understanding to grow.
And I watched him change into his orange tee shirt. And boom!