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Right colour choices

Fay Volatabu
Monday, November 26, 2012

THE 2013 Budget is out and everyone is analysing and seeing whether they had an equal share of the national cake.

In the last couple of years I have come to realise that no matter how hard you scream. If the powers that be have made up their mind about something, it is quite difficult to make them listen when you have the red flag up. It is more easier to get their attention when you have the white flag up. I learnt a long time ago that the white flag does not mean surrender but a truce.

In Fiji right now part of the problem is that we are busy waving red flags at each other and in the process of waving flags we realise that sometimes all we need is to change the colour of the flag.

It is amazing what colours can do. A friend of mine was going through the colour wheel to help out her mother in painting their family home. As each wanted a colour to suit their mood and personality perhaps, I thought to myself that even in the simple act of choosing a colour scheme for your room or for your home, there is a lot of political discussion. In a home when a couple fight red is the predominant colour but if we only chose blue to be cool and calm or white to be passive or at peace then we might be able to solve the problems caused by yellow (competiton and jealousy) and green (greed or selfishness).

If we made a conscious effort to be aware of the colours we choose then we might not be so black or sad and in mourning all the time.

I know that you are probably thinking what is this woman talking about. Is it the budget or is it colours?

Well it's both actually.

The budget has come out and with it all the debate about how much money should have been given to this sector or that sector and, yes, we have the right to be angry or be critical but don't you think we could spend more time holding a truce and not being critical but take time to understand why decisions are being made, so we need to hold the white flag.

My point is that we need to choose the right attitude or symbolically the right colours if we have to be effective.

Certain colours reflect particular activities.

The blue ribbon, the yellow ribbon, the red ribbon and the pink ribbon. All these colours indicate a feeling an issue and an action. White as I had mentioned earlier often reflects a truce and this could be seen as a desire to move forward through collaboration.

It is also used to indicate a very important action that involve men in our various communities throughout the world. The colour white or the wearing of the white ribbon or the white ribbon campaign (WRC) is the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women (VAW). In over 55 countries, campaigns are led by both men and women, even though the focus is on educating men and boys. In some countries it is a general public education effort focused on ending violence against women.

This was started in 1991 when a handful of men in Canada decided they had a responsibility to urge men to speak out about VAM. Wearing a white ribbon would be a symbol of men's opposition to violence against women. With only six weeks of preparation, 100,000 men across Canada wore a white ribbon, while many others were drawn into discussion and debate.

This is not just a rhetoric or debate but what this means is that wearing a white ribbon is a personal pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls. Wearing a white ribbon is a way of saying, "Our future has no violence against women".

The main goal of WRC is ending violence against women in all its forms. This is accomplished in five ways:

p Challenging everyone to speak out, and think about their own beliefs, language and actions;

p Educating young people, especially young men and boys, on the issue through the educational resources we produce;

p Raising public awareness of the issue;

p Working in partnership with women's organisations, the corporate sector, the media and other partners to create a future with no violence against women; and

p Supporting WRCs around with our experience, resources and networks.

In Canada WRC runs its campaign from November 25 (the International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women) until December 6, Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Other countries support 16 Days of Action from November 25 until December 10. In Fiji this is referred to as the 15 days of activism and different organisations have programs to highlight the need to eliminate violence against women. Women's organisations in Fiji hold workshops, marches and debates on the issue.

There are many forms of violence but the most widespread problems are physical violence against spouses and girlfriends (from hitting right up to murder) and sexual violence (usually committed by a boyfriend, husband, trusted adult, or family member.) There is also emotional abuse — sexual harassment at work or on the street, stalking, jokes that demean women, and controlling behaviour. In some countries violence occurs in the form of genital mutilation of girls and trafficking of girls and young women into prostitution.

Although ending men's violence against women is the focus of the WRC, there is concern also about all forms of violence especially about violence against children, bullying, sexual harrassment in all forms of relationships, especially during times of disaster and conflict.

The challenge though is making people aware of the violence committed by some men against women which have long been socially acceptable and is deeply rooted in beliefs of men's superiority and of men's right to control the lives of "their" women.

The founders of WRC believe that by remaining silent about these things, we allow other men to continue to negatively control our work, schools and homes.

The good news is that more and more men and boys want to make a difference. Caring men are tired of the sexism that hurts the women around them. Caring men are also concerned with the impact of this violence on the lives of men and boys and their goal is for all men and boys to be involved in a campaign devoted to creating a future without violence against women.

Although the ribbon started as a symbol of men's opposition to violence against women, in many schools and communities both males and females wear the ribbon.

For men, it is a personal pledge, for women a show of support that men and boys have a role and responsibility in ending violence against women.

Are you interested in joining the WRC?

Let us all start waving the white flag and start working together to end violence.We need you the men in our communities and I appeal to you to shame the men who are still using their power and strength to bully, victimise and hurt the vulnerable members of our community by joining the campaign.

* Fay Volatabu is the general secretary for the National Council of Women Fiji. Email: or

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