Sunday, 29 November 2015

Violence Against Women: Baza Says NO!!

Wednesday was International Day to End Violence Against Women. Despite being a proud feminist, it’s never been a big ‘event’ in my life, like Daffodil Day or Remembrance Day, so I put on my shoes and scarf and went to school as usual.

However, El Día Internacional Contra la Violencia de Género is a pet project of the deputy headmistress. Loli is a tiny, motherly woman who reminds me of a more smiley Professor McGonagall, and when Loli wants something to happen, it happens. With recruited student labour, Loli orchestrated a whole-school assembly commemorating Spain’s 54 victims of domestic violence and violence against women this year. As one student read out the name of every victim, one by one, another student laid a card with their name on a homemade floor poster of purple and white, while a third placed a lit candle on a second purple floor mat in the pattern of the symbol for the Day to End Violence Against Women.  This was followed by two students singing ‘Jueves’ (‘Thursday’), which was written for the 2004 Madrid terrorist bombings, accompanied on the piano by Bernard, one of my Year 11 students who studies at the music conservatorium next to the school.

Outside in the sports arena, various class groups were taking it in turns to run laps of the school yard to a total of 48 kilometres over the whole day – one kilometre for every adult victim. I joined one of my classes for a few laps just as Jiminez Montoya, another high school backing onto our sports area, released a bunch of white balloons in memory of the victims. Meanwhile, the Year 9s from Jose de Mora went to Plaza Mayor during 4th period for a service with the town. Later that afternoon one of my girls handed me one of the knitted white symbols they were handing out in Plaza Mayor to pin to my scarf.

While I appreciate the importance of the occasion – as an educated adult woman, it’s hard not to – but I’ve never lived in a place that afforded the International Day to End Violence Against Women its due worth. What’s even sadder is that Australia has even more victims of domestic violence for 2015 than Spain does, and our population is half of theirs. But this year’s Australian of the Year is Rosie Batty, our most recognised survivor of domestic violence, so maybe we’re getting somewhere.

Those candles for the 54 victims continued to burn in the school’s vestibule all afternoon, as a mark of respect. And as I walked home through Plaza Mayor that evening, I saw this hanging from the town hall:

I get mixed messages in Australia sometimes, but Baza certainly says no.

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