Implementing the learning from Peace Studies 2017 - White Ribbon Day


This article is an extract of a speech given at a White Ribbon Day function in Hamilton'. Superintendent Peter Greaney, Division 2, Western Region, Warrnambool

Between June and September this year I travelled to Bangkok and attended the Peace Studies Centre at the Chulalongkorn University on a Rotary International Peace and Conflict studies fellowship. There I studied with 23 fellows representing 19 countries. The fellows included a medical doctor, psychologists, university professors, aid workers, and lawyers, NGO and United Nations employees and a police Inspector from Kenya. Often the subject of domestic violence was discussed and I learnt about the hardships women face across the world. 

Wendy from Guatemala, an Action Aid worker, spoke about the hardships women face in her country and the difficulties faced in even achieving basic educational levels. Diana, from Brazil, who works for an organisation called ‘Fight for Peace’ talked to me about her work in the slums of Brazil, which are controlled by gangs and her struggles to turn the tide of violence against women and violence in general. She is a very brave woman, who works in an area where even the police fear to tread. Abiola, a University Professor from Nigeria, is working towards changing the lives of woman in her country, especially those returning to their villages, after being abducted by the terrorist organisation Boko Haram.  Eva, a medical doctor working for Caritas, provides free medical care to Afghan women who have resettled in Austria under a refuge program. The women on the program outnumbered the men 15 to 8. The men on the program are also doing some great work, but I must admit the women are doing it better, which I am sure is no surprise to many of you. White Ribbon Australia’s purpose is, “Engaging men to make women’s safety a man’s issue too.”

We men must do more.

As part of the Peace and Conflict Studies program we travelled to Cambodia for an eight day field trip. During a four year period between 1975 and 1978 two million people were killed in Cambodia. It is estimated that one million were killed by the Khmer Rouge and another million starved to death. A visit to the Killing Fields is an experience I will never forget. The systematic killing of babies and children in the presence of their mothers is something that I just cannot comprehend. I recently watched a movie titled. “At First They Killed my Father”. It tells the story of a seven year girl and her siblings forced firstly into child labour working in the fields after their father was killed by Khmer Rouge soldiers. The young girl was identified as being strong willed and as such was trained as a child soldier. Cambodia is rebuilding but all around there is evidence of the struggles women and children face.

So what do we need to do?  Another book I have read on the Killings Fields of Cambodia tells the story of Seng (Sam) Kok Ung and his struggles under the Khmer Rouge. Especially his struggles to protect his family under very difficult circumstances:

He says, “In the end, I can say I am not a perfect human being. None of us are. But I just try to do the best I can with what I know. We need to care for each other, we need to look after our neighbours and friends and develop the bond of community so that, in the end, we do what we can to make the world a better place for all of us.

International Men’s Day is recognised on 19 November. There are six pillars of International Men’s Day, three of which are very relevant as we work towards ending violence against women.  They are:

  • To promote positive male role models,
  • To improve gender relations and promote gender equality, and
  • To create a safer, better world, where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential.

As Sam Ung advises, “We must do what we can to make the world a better place for us all”.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could disband my Family Violence Team, there was no need to have White Ribbon Day’s because we won the battle and eliminated violence against women.  That is what we must aim for.

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