It is a truly great honour to be invited by UN Women and the Swiss Foreign Ministry to showcase our chatbot Sophia at the UN’s interactive exhibition in Beijing “Small actions, big changes: Be the light in the dark.” This was made possible by the Swiss Embassy in China, which invited us to participate in the Beijing Exhibition and showcase Switzerland’s efforts to end violence against women. The exhibition will run from 25 November 2022, which is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to December 10, 2022, which is International Human Rights Day. (Check out Sophia’s visual journey to Beijing below)
It is critical to prioritise the need for a global collective effort to end VAWG by taking into account global figures of gender-based violence against women and girls ;
- Globally about 1 in 3 of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. (WHO 2021)
- More than five women or girls were killed every hour by intimate partners or other family members in 2021 (UN Women 2022)
- 1 in 2 women report direct or indirect experiences of violence since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. (UN Women 2021)
- In China, about 40% of women experience domestic violence. Additionally, about 10% of murders in China are a result of intimate partner violence. (Borgen Magazin)
OPENING CEREMONY IN BEIJING
The Beijing Exhibition virtual event was inaugurated by Marie Ariel, UN Women’s country representative in China, with the theme of the 2022 UNiTE Campaign to end violence against women and girls. Marie Ariel delivered an important message from UN Secretary-General, António Guterres stating that “Violence against women is an on-going emergency in its own right” and called for global action to raise awareness, galvanise advocacy efforts, and share knowledge and innovations to end vioelnce against women once and for all (UNiTE).
Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee (UN Resident Coordinator in China) and His Excellency Wim Geerts (Kingdom of the Netherlands Ambassador to China) delivered the event keynote address, and the power to end domestic violence is in the hands of everyone on this planet. Mr. Siddarth says, “Act now to end violence against women and girls and to support survivors. We can make a difference if we work together, as men all over the world, we have a responsibility to effect change and aspire to a society that is equal for all women.” His call for men to take action and be active participants in ending VAWG is truly inspiring for everyone. Added to Mr. Siddarth’s call to action was Ambassador Wim Geerts remarks, “By increasing women in all aspects of society and leadership, we will actively create the ecosystem for equality and empower women with the institutional tools to seek justice.”
The Beijing Exhibition Curator, Li Jiete, introduced Li Xinmo, Li Xiuqin, Human Theater Project, Spring ACT, the “She’s Gone” team, Tao Aimin, and Zhou Wenjing to demonstrate concrete innovations and social advocacy in contributing to the end of VAWG. The campaign’s goal is to show support for and recognise the critical role of women’s rights organisations and civil society organisations, also known as social service organisations in China, in putting an end to violence against women today. Each exhibitor embodies the quote by Lu Xun, “A little heat, a little light, just like fireflies, creating a little light in the dark, we don’t need to wait for the torch.
INTRODUCING THE EXHIBITS
The artistry of the contributors is visible in a variety of artworks and performances at the UN Women’s Beijing Exhibition;
Tao Aimin, Untitled III – 29 wooden washboards, 2015. (In the collection of Ink Studio)
She made a series of works out of wooden washboards that she collected by the hundreds during her frequent visits to China’s countryside.
Tao Aimin, The Secret Language of Women N0.4, No.5, No. 9 – In on paper, 2008. (In the collection of Ink Studio)
Washboards were used as printing blocks to make rubbing impressions on xuan paper. As a result, she engages in traditionally male-dominated arts such as calligraphy, woodblock prints, and epigraphic studies. She also wrote in Nüshu, a syllabic script invented by women in Hunan’s Jiangyong County.
Li Xiuqin, 2016 Touch · Knock – Conceptual image (Artist Collection)
The radical word is composed of 955 characters in the Chinese Dictionary (female). Derogatory words such as “rape,” “slave,” “envy,” “whoring,” and “greedy” account for 18.6% of them. The artist combines the Chinese radical for women with braille. The development of the Chinese language reveals the gender bias that exists in this civilization’s collective consciousness.
Zhou Wenjing, 2021 Red Series No. 3 – Plaster installation (Artist Collection)
Bleeding is one of the most common experiences a woman’s body has, yet it has an aesthetic that is full of contradictions. The paradox makes us question whether there is a perfect female body and how much physical pain women must endure in their lifetime.
Li Xinmo’s collection includes The Mirror of Trauma (photography) from 2013, The Story of Beijing (film poster) from 2015, Net (performance art) from 2022, and Wedding Bed (photography) from 2022 (performance art).
Covers image and live performances to bring the VAWG directly to the audience
Keren Yehezkeli Goldstein, Adi Levy, Roy Dahan’s collection shows 2021 She’s Gone (Original clothes of murdered women)
Brings the audience the raw image and surreal experiences of VAWG murdered victims’ personal clothing.
Spring ACT – “Sophia” – Front-line Service Providers – “A light in the Dark”
“Sophia” – The World’s First Digital Champion for Survivors of Domestic Violence and now officially speaks Chinese both in written chat form and video messages.
CALL TO ACTION
Let us band together for the next 16 days as activists in the United Nations’ campaign to UNITE to END Violence Against Women! To prevent violence against women and girls and to oppose the erosion of women’s rights, we must mobilise our society and community to participate in activism. Together, we can strengthen the voices of women’s rights movements working to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls around the world. This is the time to honour and recognise women’s movements and their leadership in the 16 Days of Activism, as well as in the prevention and abolition of violence against women and girls in general.
In the words of Rhiana Spring (ACT Founder and Director) – “Small actions from each one of us can create huge changes, believe me! Join us in being the light in the dark for survivors everywhere. It needs each and every one of us.”
– written by Simon Sundaraj Kuehn