“…hurtful words are such that pierce the heart and weigh the soul.”

There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds. Both you and I for sure have come across moments where our emotions are crippled and hope is shattered by words of cruelty. Words seems to take the character of a weapon to manipulate one’s thinking in order to condemn their behavior which would ultimately cause emotional breakdowns and poor self- esteem in many people. You could even be a victim of verbal abuse if you live alone because if your self-talk, the voice in your head, diminishes you or your belief in yourself in any way, then you subject yourself to verbal abuse when you allow your inner critic to put you down. No one, anywhere, is immune to verbal abuse. Name calling, putting down, hurling insults, making “fun”, harsh criticism, and one-upmanship and so on can seem to be the “norm”. But in the context of a relationship and combined with manipulation and denial it becomes very dangerous and damaging to anyone.

In Sri Lanka, women face the threat of verbal abuse at work, at home, at school, on the road, or walking through a park, and lasts with nothing to prevent it. In fact defending one’s self against abusive comments puts women in a position to be judged as misbehaving and they are often expected to ignore verbal harassment taken place in the streets. In most societies objectifying women is often misinterpreted to be a sign of masculinity. In such way women are much prone to be harassed verbally as serious as they are prone to physical abuse.

In Sri Lanka, cases of verbal abuse against women are seldom discussed or taken action against. The society as a whole lacks an adequate idea about adverse effects caused by verbal harassment against women. Where the topic physical abuse receives a paramount status for discussion, consequences of verbal abuse against women are often left unaddressed.

Bearing the thought of how Sri Lankan women face the incurable threat of verbal abuse, RCKDU took an initiative to raise awareness with regard to the consequences of verbal abuse against women and why verbal abuse should be condemned and prevented. Project EMPOWER was the ultimate movement to create awareness that as much as physical abuse, verbal abuse too is an incurable epidemic in the society. Withholding, countering, discounting, verbal abuse disguised as jokes, blocking & diverting, accusing & blaming, judging & criticizing, trivializing, undermining, threatening, name calling, forgetting, ordering, denial, abusive anger, all these amount to verbal harassment and carry gravity to afflict women as much as physical abuse does.

The Club’s intended to remind the society that women are strong, courageous, intelligent, inventive, thriving and words shouldn’t be used as a tool to undermine them or manipulate them in an abusive manner. Hence empowering women to stand against verbal abuse, to promote self-love by building self-esteem was the ultimate goal of project “EMPOWER”.

Social media has become a powerful tool for igniting new movements from generations’ long conversations. Online hash tags and tech-ins, tweets, blog posts and inventive use of new media have forced attention on interpersonal violence issues including rape-kits, street harassment and domestic violence. As much as these online movements focus on major issues obviously visible in the society RCKDU this time focused about yet another major issue though prevalent but invisible or neglected in the current society.

The specialty of this project was that it was carried out solely via Facebook and Instagram throughout the month of November. The participants (men and women) were to upload a self-portrait photograph (selfie) with a common description and were to tag their other friends on Facebook in order to carry out the same act as a movement for awareness. In addition to that, posts which contained various facts on verbal abuse such as causes and consequences were posted and shared via the Facebook page “EMPOWER”.

A popular modern day cliché –“selfies” were the driving force of “EMPOWER”. The club’s intent of putting it to good use on social media to capture the attention of the public made a great impact on raising awareness about “verbal abuse against women” that is taking place in our society.

Another important feature of “EMPOWER” was that RCKDU was able to collaboratively carry out this project with the participation of influential celebrities in the modern day. The present generation is more willing to follow the path of the inspirational characters. They give a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation. Bearing this in mind RCKDU took the initiative to join many eminent figures in the field of sports, cinema, art, entrepreneurship, in Sri Lanka. They too took part in this movement by either posting a short video clip sharing their personal views and experiences on “verbal abuse”, or a self-portrait with a description on their personal views why verbal abuse against women should be condemned.

Our principle goal was to remind the general public that ladies are solid, gallant, insightful, imaginative, and flourishing and words can’t undermine her. Thus words should not be used in an abusive way to jeopardize their way of thinking or behaving but in a way to empower them; to highlight their true potential and not their insecurities.

By “likes”, “shares” of posts on Facebook and Instagram that exceeded hundreds in number, and the appreciations,support received by many inspiring characters and fellow rotaractors, it is safe to say that, as a young set of Rotaractors we succeeded in raising awareness among general public.
EMPOWER, to a great extent, was able to inculcate in young minds that verbal abuse has grave consequences just like other forms of abuse and we should be mindful in using our words to express judgment.

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