Organizations in Syracuse have joined forces in an international effort to bring awareness to gender-based violence. The 16-day effort by the Near East Foundation and its partners, Planned Parenthood, Vera House and New Feminists for Justice, led from International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Nov. 25th) until Human Rights Day (Dec. 10th). They seek to advocate for positive change.
The NEF’s Senior Leader in Gender and Protection, Shannon Mouillesseaux, says the movement calls attention not only to violence against women.
“When we think of gender-based violence we have a tendency to focus on women, but it’s not only women. It’s also men; it’s also young girls and boys; it’s transgender individuals. Within that as well, the more marginalized that you are as an individual or as a group, the more likely you are to be at risk of gender-based violence.”
For example, she says 61% of bi-sexual women, and 50% of lesbians are sexually assaulted compared to 35% of heterosexual women.
The movement has recently been focusing on how their message intertwines with the national debate about health care. Planned Parenthood’s Health Equity Coalition Coordinator Gina Iliev says the safety and security of women often needs to come first.
“We also know that if families aren’t safe, if women aren’t safe, then children may have issues in school. We know that if families don’t have access to safe housing, that health care is going to be farther down on that list.”
Iliev adds the issues are tied together and require responses specific to local communities.
“We work with a number of groups … about increasing participation and economic empowerment of women here in Syracuse. And we do do it by community-led effort, where we will go into a community and mold our programming around what that particular community needs versus what we think.”
Mouillesseaux says she’s encouraged by the number of people becoming aware of the campaign and coming out to support the cause. She says the recent flood of sexual harassment allegations against prominent people in politics and entertainment has drawn even more attention to this previously taboo issue.
“By bringing attention to it, it’s forcing us to kind of look inward and recognize there’s a problem. I think we’ve viewed our culture for a long time as having evolved into this point of equality, but were not yet there. And I think this is surfacing that.”
Their next awareness event will feature the Brown-Skinned Band and other musical acts at Funk ‘N Waffles, Saturday, December 9th at 2 p.m. to raise money for the campaign. A panel discussion on the “Me Too movement” will also be held Monday December 11th at 7:00 p.m. at the Art Rage Gallery.