When I was 18, I remember talking my way out of a rape situation - yes, I’d put myself at risk by hitchhiking late at night in a capital city in a different culture.
I argued, cried and made it really plain I would make one hell of a racket, scratch, bite and scream, and they backed off and I got back to my hostel - and once the adrenaline died down, I cried.
It didn’t happen, it didn’t stop me travelling and exploring - but for quite a while I blamed myself.
Violence against women and girls is NOT our fault.
But if we don’t help each other, then that is something we can genuinely regret.
Thanks to Zonta for supporting this.
Safe women and girls is key to a safe community.
Wellington is proud of its status as a WHO safe community. We gained safe community status in 2005 and were reaccredited in 2012. Wellington is a strong, resilient city because of our strong physical and electronic communities. It is up to us as a group, as a community and as individuals to continue this work.
We can help keep women and girls safe through important formal events like today, and by putting good money into lighting and Capital Hosts ( the new Walkwise) and by small acts like getting to know our neighbours and offering friendship. Never underestimate the power of a cup of tea, and a kind phone call.
Safe communities are healthy communities. Safe communities are ones where you know your neighbours. Communities that work together on projects, like we are today. Safer streets are busy with people - eyes on the street make our city safer. The benefits are social, we feel better. And they are financial, a safe and lively city attracts new residents and new jobs. When women don’t live in fear they can love, live, work and create.
Everyone benefits from a world free from violence against women and girls.
The benefits are shared by all: Safer streets for all, healthier relationships for all - men and women, parents and children, workmates. More resilient communities for all.
This is everyone’s responsibility.
Relationships are key. Zonta works with Women’s Refuge, Wellington City Council, our Police, National Council of Women, Teen Parent Schools and Ministry of Women’s Affairs and others. This is a complex issue that affects all of us so we must work together to solve it.
We can all influence those around us, and saving just one life, preventing just one woman from being the victim of violence would make the campaign worthwhile. Council has responsibility for our design of public spaces, our CCTV, our lighting - and our attitude.
To maintain our status as a people friendly, safe Capital, we must continue to value cultural and gender diversity, we must maintain strong personal relationships and not tolerate bullying, threats or blaming the victim, and maintain an environment where people connect, and share ideas and experiences - and have friends.
There is NO downside to ending violence against women. It is the rarest of goals where absolutely everyone wins. It is economically viable, socially acceptable and crosses political ideologies. I am proud to be a part of the initiative to end all violence against women and girls.
The desire to help others is universal. I admire and applaud the passion, commitment and enthusiasm of Zonta and the volunteers who give their time to make a difference - in someone else’s life, to our communities or to people they will never meet.
Thank you Zonta. Wellington is a safer city because of the work you do.
The speech delivered may vary from this text.