Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, The Zonta International, a globally acclaimed service organisation, has launched its '16 Days of Activism' campaign on Friday against gender-based violence.

Starting from November 25, the campaign will feature several events and activities on eradicating violence against women and girls in society and advancing women's rights, continuing till December 10, the International Human Rights Day.

Six Zonta Clubs in Dhaka and Chattogram organised a rally at the Gulshan Society Lake Park in the capital on Friday afternoon to kick off the activism programmes, which was joined by the distinguished and eminent Zontians to celebrate their unity against gender-based violence.

Under the leadership of ZTN Nilufer Zafarullah, District 25 Area 2, Chair Advocacy Committee - executives and members of all six Zonta clubs joined the event and celebrated the unity wearing orange dresses, paraded the park in a procession - including Zonta District 25 Lieutenant Governor Dr Zareen Delawar Hussain, Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka's President Tehmina Enayet, Zonta Club of Dhaka I President Shamim Ara Hossain, Dhaka II President Sheila Banu, Dhaka III President Nusrat Haque, Dhaka IV Rehana Kamal, Zonta Club of Chittagong President Mortuza Begum, Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka Advocacy Chair and former President Nehreen Rahman Tootli, and other distinguished club members, to name a few.

Regarding the event, ZTN Nilufer Zafarullah, District 25 Area 2, Chair Advocacy Committee, said: "Zonta International is a service organisation, with members who are professionals and are leaders in their own capacities. Zonta stands for women's rights and advocate for gender equality, education for all and work to put an end to Child Marriage and gender-based violence. In Zonta, we believe in making the world a better place by empowering women. We find joy in doing this in a supportive community of like-minded professionals from diverse clubs and institutions."

"Zonta International observes every year on November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to launch Zonta's 16 Days of Activism which concludes on December 10, the International Human Rights Day. To initiate the activism program, six Zonta Clubs in Dhaka and Chittagong have organised this exclusive event at the Gulshan Society Lake Park on Friday," she told UNB.

"The '16 Days of Activism' campaign is a globally recognized, extremely important campaign for us, the Zonta Club members. We have been working for women's rights and advocating for gender equality, promoting education for all, and raising voices against child marriage and gender-based violence. We have supported numerous projects over the years including the 'Ashar Alo Pathshala' which we have visited last week, an acclaimed initiative that stopped a number of early marriages of adolescent girls in Kurigram, led by a young social worker named Kumar Bishwajit Barman," Tehmina Enayet, Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka's President, told UNB.

Dr Zareen Delawar Hussain, Lieutenant Governor of Zonta District 25, said: "In our society, a girl who has been sexually assaulted is often frightened to seek medical attention, social retribution, or police intervention because our medical curriculum and the societal system do not provide sufficient instruction on how to respectfully treat a girl who has been sexually assaulted. It is crucial to teach these concepts to all of our children because only then can gender-based violence be eradicated from society, and we are actively working to advocate against that violence and child marriage alongside our other projects."

Zonta Club of Dhaka II President Sheila Banu said, "Six great units of Zonta have been celebrating this campaign with different activities over the years, including the implementation of necessary advocacy plans to stop violence against women and children. We also spread awareness among adolescent girls in the educational institutions and different parts of the country, as part of this campaign."

Nawsheen Rahman, Zonta Club IV Advocacy Chairman, said: "Zonta is an international organization and it globally observes the 16-days of activism campaign every year, and we also observe this campaign in Bangladesh, maintaining the international harmony. This year, our slogan is "Build a better world for women and girls" and we believe education is the key to that. If our women and girls get educated, their families will too; and the entire Bangladesh will be enlightened through this process, which is the ultimate goal of our Zonta Clubs."

Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka Advocacy Chair and former President Nehreen Rahman Tootli said, "We observe this global campaign every year on how to stop violence against women and girls, and we perform several activities throughout our calendar year. Over the years, we have contributed to a variety of initiatives, such as the aforementioned 'Ashar Alo Pathshala' in Kurigram which we visited recently as the proud patron."

Emphasizing on the importance of education at the root level, Zonta Club of Dhaka III President Nusrat Haque said, "During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen that many adolescent girls were forced out of schools and had to sit for marriages. Our fight is against these kinds of situations and we want our girls to be empowered with education."

Echoing that, Tehmina Enayet expressed gratitude to the government on behalf of the Zontians, for implementing access to education for women across the country. "The danger of child marriage must be totally eliminated and all girls should pursue education and build a sense of identity, and I want to thank our honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her bold and significant policies which are constantly eliminating the barriers for women in the society," she said.

As part of the campaign activities during this yearly campaign, the Zonta Clubs of Dhaka and Chittagong will host several events including a rickshaw pullers rally and tree plantation in Baridhara park on Monday, a special radio program on Tuesday which will be joined by Nehreen Rahman Tootli and Tehmina Enayet, a special procession with placards and banners on the roadside of the Gulshan Avenue front side of Azad Mosque on next Saturday.

On Sunday, the members will visit the Zonta Club's flagship partner school Sporsho's Children's Day event, in which visually challenged students will have a reading session through the Braille Book sponsored by Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka. The club members will be exchanging views on topics including early child marriage and "Good Touch -Bad Touch" with the students and then participate in a cultural show with the children.

On Tuesday, there will be several events including a video screening session with the children of Zonta Club Greater Dhaka members at its President's residence at the capital's Baridhara. The session will screen videos on climate change, early child Marriage, and sexual abuse with younger girls in Bangladesh, followed by a candlelight rally by club members.

The series of events will come to an end on December 9, Friday, with a special art workshop by two eminent artists and 10 students of Mayer Doa School, on the theme of early child marriage and the rights of girl children in society at the same venue.

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