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July 22, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Weekly Rant – An Education

Theory became reality for me after I completed my Development Studies paper ‘Gender Race and Development’ last semester. I had recently returned from a 2012 University exchange in Fiji, and during my time there, had befriended Joy, a women’s rights activist in Suva. She was passionately involved with the ‘One Billion Rising in the Pacific’ movement – a campaign dedicated to putting an end to domestic violence against women of the Pacific. This was just the beginning of our friendship, during which I would later learn the irony of the life she led; a powerful advocate for women’s rights was herself a victim of the evil she fought against. Over my semester there I witnessed first-hand evidence of the topics from my textbooks.

For our last major assignment, I decided to draw from my experiences and write about Fiji, a country I could now closely relate to. In one section I wrote about the fact that three out of five women in Fiji will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, but failed to make the connection between what I had put on paper and what my friend was experiencing at the time. Like many other Pacific-Island women, she too was on the receiving end of psychological and physical abuse from her husband. It was just last month that she finally gained the courage to leave him and order a divorce.

Tragically, her brave actions in standing up to her husband led him to commit the worst offence; Joy was murdered on June 27, exactly a month after she had told me she was having trouble trying to leave him.

Although it was a realisation that came too late, her sudden passing has opened my eyes up to what is going on right here in New Zealand. Did you know that this month the Women’s Refuge campaign against domestic violence is taking place? I didn’t until recently. In their brochure they talk about how to identify the most common telltale signs of domestic violence (Joy’s case ticked all the boxes). I found it shocking that even in New Zealand, ten women are murdered every year by a member of their family. It makes me wary to think of the various other domestic-violence statistics I have yet to stumble across.

The point of this story, though, is that just because our classes end, it does not mean the issues do too. Use your knowledge and apply it to the real world, no matter what field of study you are passionate about. I know that I could have done more for Joy but I didn’t. Issues we learn about in class need to be taken seriously, and as educated individuals, we need to be the ones who are applying the knowledge that we have. I hope that reading this has not left you feeling sad, but rather empowered. Head to your classes this semester armed with an understanding that we have a responsibility to make change in this world, and every morsel of knowledge will make you more capable to do so.

Have a voice and use it.

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