Thirty-five percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. As part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence — an international campaign that aims to inspire action and end violence against women and girls around the world — the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley, along with members of the local community, displayed the SCV Red Dress Project Oct. 16 during the Child & Family Center’s Purple Palooza Walk.
At the local level, Zonta clubs across the world have organized activities and events as part of the 2021 Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign, which focuses on the service and advocacy actions of Zonta clubs and districts to prevent and end violence against women and girls in their local communities.
“As the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, instances of gender-based violence are on the rise. Now, more than ever, it is essential that we work together to end violence against women and girls,” said Zonta International President Sharon Langenbeck, a member of the Zonta Club of SCV. “Through the Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign, Zonta clubs around the world are uniting to raise their voices to bring awareness to this issue and advocate on behalf of gender-based violence survivors.”
Each year during the 16 Days of Activism campaign, which runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, Zonta International encourages its clubs to participate in advocacy efforts that focus on prevention, protection and prosecution.
The SCV Red Dress Project was inspired by the original REDress Project. The first year the SCV club displayed the red dresses was in 2016. It was created to advocate and to share the awareness of domestic violence within the community.
The REDress Project was created by Canadian artist Jamie Black in 2010. She initiated this project in response to the missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic in Canada and the United States.
At one of her art exhibits at a college in Thunder Bay, Ontario, she hung about 100 red dresses around the campus, both indoors and out, as part of The REDress Project. Black said the dresses are empty to represent death and absence. She chose the color red because it signifies many different things. It’s the color of love, and also spilled blood. It has meanings of both the positive and the negative aspects of being an aboriginal woman in Canada.
Red Dress Day has been commemorated on May 5 annually since 2017 in Montana. Red Dress Day is one of many campaigns that have started to call attention to disproportionate rates of violence against Indigenous women.
In 2016, the Zonta Club of SCV decided that this should be the new project for the club. It became a joint effort with the Domestic Violence Center of SCV, the SCV Sheriff’s Station, and the city of Santa Clarita. The red dresses were displayed around the SCV for two weeks during the 16 days of activism. (Nov. 25-Dec. 10) The club has decided to display them throughout the year, so the awareness of the project won’t be limited to the two weeks.
The club started with six dresses to represent the lives lost between 2015 and 2016. Then a seventh life was lost in 2017, so another dress was added. Plus, that year, a young man was the eighth life that was lost, so the club added a red sweater in his honor. The seven dresses and the sweater are hung up in trees in various locations throughout the city, where they are exposed to the weather and animated in the wind to represent the lives lost.
The club is scheduled to display the project several times this fall at the Saugus Swap Meet and on Nov. 23 at City Hall. For the full schedule, visit www.SCVZonta.org/advocacy.