#HearMeToo: Stand in solidarity with survivors to end violence against women and girls

The United Nations provides a platform for survivors of violence and advocates to share personal stories to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

Survivors must be heard, believed and supported, and new action is needed more than ever to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

That was the key message underscored through deeply personal and powerful stories shared at the regional commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women at the United Nations’ regional hub in Bangkok today.

As the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence kicked off at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), storytellers and participants at the event hosted under the theme, Orange the World: #HearMeToo, called for standing in solidarity with survivors, advocates and women’s rights defenders working to address violence against women.

Worldwide, on average, one in three women experiences some form of violence or abuse during her lifetime. In many countries, that figure is considerably higher. Far too often, survivors do not speak out or seek help, out of fear or shame that they often face from family, friends, employers, schools, police and communities. But that is changing.

In her remarks, Ms. Anna-Karin Jatfors, Regional Director a.i., UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific said: “We stand by the many women across Asia and the Pacific whose voices have been silenced for too long and those who found courage to break the silence. We are honouring the survivors, activists, and women’s rights advocates who have been bravely telling their stories to prevent and end violence against women. This is a call to listen to and believe survivors, to end the culture of silence and impunity, and to respectfully put the survivors at the centre of our responses. It is a strong call to law enforcement to hold perpetrators accountable and prioritize the safety and wellbeing of survivors at all times.”

“The global #MeToo movement is transforming silence into action, turning more and more survivors into advocates, truly speaking truth to power,” noted Mr. Björn Andersson, Regional Director, UNFPA Asia and the Pacific Regional Office. “We are hearing from women who were previously afraid to speak up, women who were long silenced by powerful men and workplaces, women who did not feel they could ever be heard. In our region and around the world, we see that violence against women can be exposed and addressed, we see that genuine change is taking place.”

The E.Quality Talks event in Bangkok brought together a prominent panel including Cindy Sirinya Bishop, the model, TV host, actress and creator of the #DontTellMeHowToDress campaign; Wipaphan Wongsawang, artist and founder of the ThaiConsent movement; lawyer Busayapa Srisompong, founder of SHero; LGBTIQ activist Chitsanupong Nithiwana; the young feminist artist Kamolros Wonguthum; and Watcharapon Kukaewkasem, a migrant women’s rights advocate and social worker.

“If there was ever a time in our history when we needed women to stand up for their rights, that time is now,” said Cindy Bishop, whose #DontTellMeHowToDress exhibition delivers a strong message by displaying the clothes that survivors and victims of violence wore when they were assaulted. “The title of #DontTellMeHowToDress refers to the fact that far too often women who experience sexual harassment and violence are accused of having ‘asked for it’ thanks to dressing in ‘a certain way.’ We’re using the exhibition to tackle damaging stereotypes of all types that blame victims, using creative approaches. Blaming victims for the violence that happens to them has gone on for too long. We must be clear that responsibility for violence lies with those who commit violence, or we will fail to put an end to violence against women.”

The storytellers shared their experiences of violence – at the hands of strangers, family members and intimate partners– recounting how they eventually felt compelled to share their experiences openly in order to bring about greater awareness, motivating governments and civil society alike into recognising that violence against women is a crisis that requires important conversations across all of society. This requires creating ‘a new normal’ where violence is never acceptable, never excusable, and should never be kept silent.

Today’s event was attended by over 100 representatives of UN agencies, the diplomatic community, Thai government officials, civil society organisations and the media.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, which mobilizes governments and public alike, is commemorated by the UN under the Secretary-General's campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women by 2030.

The public are invited to Orange their profile picture on Facebook and other social media platforms, and to show support and spread the word using the hashtags #HearMeToo, #orangetheworld and #16days.

Important note:
The #DontTellMeHowToDress exhibition is on display on the Ground Floor of the United Nations building, UNESCAP, 76 Rajdamnern Nok, Bangkok, through December 10, 2018.

The E.Quality Talks event will be repeated, this time in Thai language (with English simultaneous translation) and will display the art exhibition, “ThaiConsent”, at the Alliance Francaise, 179 Witthayu (Wireless) Road, Bangkok, on December 4 at 6:00 pm. Media and others who wish to attend this event can RSVP via Aijamal Duishebaeva/UN Women, contact information provided above.