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Committee on the Status of Women announces third place winner of the 2023 Women’s History Essay Contest

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Lacie Binongial. Photo Courtesy: County of Kaua‘i

The Kaua‘i Committee on the Status of Women is proud to announce four students placing top honors in the 2023 Women’s History Essay Contest. Third place was awarded to Kapa‘a High School 2023 graduate, Lacie Binongial.

“We mahalo Lacie for her essay on gender equity and justice,” said Essay Committee Chair Nicole Cristobal. “The theme ʻYour silence will not protect you’ from Audre Lorde reminds us that it is important to speak up and out against injustices toward women, māhū and all people. Lacie’s essay provided a strong perspective from the younger generation of how we can right many of our societal wrongs. She is an example of a leader who has the skills, intellect and heart necessary to make our world more pono.”

Lacie has always had a love for writing. Studious by heart her passions include reading, writing, and tutoring. When she’s not being scholarly, she enjoys spending time with her animals, Akira and Yumi. Lacie is a very determined and strong minded individual with big dreams of one day being a voice for those that have no voice. Lacie graduated from Kapa‘a High School and will be attending Brown University in Rhode Island in the Fall. She intends on studying law with hopes of one day practicing human rights law.

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In celebration of Women’s History Month the committee opened the contest from January to March, to all Kaua‘i public, private, charter and home-school high school students. This year’s essay contest theme was, “Your silence will not protect you,” which is a famous quote by American civil rights leader, Audre Lorde, who dedicated her life to confronting racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia through community organizing, writing, and teaching. Entrants were asked to submit a one-page essay answering the question, “What is a social justice issue that impacts girls and/or genders non-conforming persons, and what are potential solutions?”

Cash prizes were awarded to the top three students, and an additional student named Honorable Mention. This is the third in a four-part series highlighting the students who wrote the winning essays. The remaining entrant will be featured in a subsequent story.

Lacie Binongial’s essay, “Gender-based Violence,” is featured below:

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We were all sitting around the school bench one afternoon when the question was posed:

“What would you do if men disappeared for a day?” The question was absurd, and it was supposed to propose absurd results. We laughed for a bit when people began to list answers like “Well class would be canceled since my professor is a man!” However, the air chilled and the laughter stopped when one of my friends quietly responded, “I would take a walk outside without fear.” Women and non-conforming individuals experience large amounts of gender-based violence, on both a public and domestic scale.

Violence against women and non-conforming individuals describes gender-based discrimination that results in physical, sexual, or mental harm and occurs within public or private environments. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women worldwide has been subjected to either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Furthermore, almost half of all gender non-conforming people have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lives. Gender-based violence commonly occurs within public or domestic settings. Public violence details intentional harm in public areas, such as schools, roads, and workplaces. Domestic violence is defined as violence that occurs within a person’s domestic circle, such as their spouse, family members, or other relatives.

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The solution is not preparing women and non-conforming individuals; it is to educate those who enact such violence. We are constantly told many things to prevent us from being “a victim.” It always goes like this: don’t go out when it’s late, always go out with someone, never wear headphones when walking alone, share your location with someone, don’t wear a ponytail, etc. But we cannot end gender violence by telling women and non-conforming individuals to “be more careful.” Instead, we need to focus on education and perspective. The World Health Organization created a plan titled RESPECT, each of these letters stands for an initiative needed to end violence against women and non-conforming individuals: Relationship skills strengthening; Empowerment of women; Services ensured; Poverty reduced; Enabling environments created; Child and adolescent abuse prevented; and Transformed attitudes, beliefs, and norms. All of these strategies in combination would work to alleviate the issue of gender-based violence, however, these plans would take many decades until a change is evident.

The first step to ending gender-based violence is a simple one, yet it is often ignored: listening to survivors. Often, we can be quick to dismiss the experiences of others, especially when it involves incriminating someone we once thought highly of. For example, when celebrities are called out for sexual assault and violence, the survivor is often discredited and accused of “faking it.” Instead of telling women and gender non-conforming people that they can’t ever walk alone, we need to focus on educating the public to recognize that these are legitimate issues. If we as a society do not acknowledge that gender-based violence does happen and affects millions each year, then solving this issue will be near impossible.

Ultimately, the path to ending violence against women is a long one, but with the right steps and perspective, we can make daily life less dangerous for women and non-conforming people. Gender-based violence is a common issue that countless women and non-binary individuals will likely experience. Yet, in 2023, we are still blaming victims for the trauma they had no consent over. If we want to set a good example for the next generation, we first need to support survivors and educate the public on the prevalence of this issue. I want to live in a world where I can walk outside alone, without fearing for my life.

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