Tomorrow (8th March), we’ll be celebrating International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and mobilising action for gender parity.
This is a special day for us at RUN. We started almost four years ago with what is now our Hiking to Heal programme – a weekly hike for adult female refugees. Today, although our programmes have expanded to include male refugees, we still have a special focus on women (67% of our adult participants in 2018 were female).
Our focus on women is not only connected to our commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 5 of Gender Equality, but also because of the real needs that we’ve identified in the refugee community in Hong Kong. In times and places of crisis, women and girls are often the most vulnerable – they are more likely to experience sexual and gender-based violence and exploitation along their journey. In addition, 53% of our women participants are alone without family or alone with their children.
RUN is the only NGO in Hong Kong that provides regular sports activities for women refugees. Female refugees often find it harder to access sport than male refugees due to barriers such as religion, cultural values, past experience of sexual violence, cost of transportation, and duties associated with childcare. With support from organisations such as the Kering Foundation, whose mission is to combat violence against women and improve the lives of women, we have been able to amplify our voice to raise awareness about gender inequality, particularly as it relates to refugees.
This year’s IWD theme #BalanceForBetter celebrates women’s achievements and calls for a more gender-balanced world. In the lead up to this special day, our female participants will attend a professional multi-cultural dance class that celebrates their strength and resilience. Elise* from Central Africa says, “When I first joined RUN, I could not even run half a lap. When we went to hike, I wanted to turn back. For International Women’s Day I will celebrate myself. Now I am healthy. I am integrating into society. I run on my own. I am proud of myself.”
In addition to events focused on our female participants, we recognise that gender equality is just as much of a men’s issue, and on 8th March, we will be hosting a group of 60 mixed gender refugees to discuss gender equality and current barriers in their lives, followed by a movie screening of the Oscar-winning movie Black Panther. Reflecting about how the role of gender has shaped her experiences, Camille* from South Asia says, “In my home country, I did not have the same opportunities that boys like my brother had to study or work. In my culture, parents believe that it is better to invest in boys. Later, when I was married, I was abused by my new family, but I was always afraid to stand up for myself or to speak out. Now with RUN, I have found my voice. I am proud of myself. I didn’t know what I was capable of before. Women shouldn’t just be behind someone, they should have the confidence to step forward.”
Achieving gender equality will take a collective effort from all of us, and there is still much work to be done. This International Women’s Day, will you join us in committing to challenging gender inequalities by making a donation to support a female refugee?
- HK$180 will cover the transportation and a meal for a mother to participate in one race
- HK$1,440 will cover transportation and meals for a child to join our childcare programme for one year while his/her mother hikes with us
- HK$3,000 will cover a mother’s transportation and participation in our Hiking to Heal programme for one year
* Names have been changed