Nearly one in three women are victims of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Webster University is involved in a campaign seeking to make a difference.
After the U.S. women’s soccer team won the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, people in the stands started chanting, “Equal pay! Equal Pay!” The chant was to bring attention to the disparity in pay between men’s and women’s soccer.
On March 6, 2020, Chancellor Elizabeth Stroble attended an event that paired soccer and gender equality once more.
Webster University is working to promote the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network’s (ARDN) Red Card Campaign. The global campaign’s goal is to end violence and discrimination against women and girls.
ARDN President and CEO Djibril Diallo said ARDN focused on gender equality, one of 17 of the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, because it is a fundamental human right. He said we still live in a world where no country treats its women as well as its men.
To achieve this goal, ARDN employed the use of sports and culture.
“So if you go from the premise that a violence against women has become a major concern of our time … then you use the convening power of sport and culture to make sure that we have zero tolerance towards all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls,” Diallo said.
In soccer, “a red card signifies a serious infraction of the rules,” according to a press release by ARDN.
“What stands out for me personally about the Red Card Campaign is the way the symbolism of raising a red card … helps to speak globally about the importance of making a commitment to address the most serious violations of fundamental human rights,” Stroble wrote in an email to The Journal.
Webster initially partnered with ARDN in 2017 and became involved in a campaign to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, according to Stroble. She said this included Webster hosting a World AIDS Day event on Dec. 1, 2017.
Diallo said Webster University was a perfect choice for a partner, in part, because of its global reach. The Red Card Campaign, along with the Sustainable Development Goals, strives to reach a community of global citizens, according to Diallo.
Along with this, Diallo said Stroble’s leadership encouraged a partnership with the university.
“We have, in the chancellor, a leader who is really open to the world,” Diallo said, “who has shown to the world that she will bring the world to Webster University and bring Webster University to the world.”
Now, Stroble said she co-chairs the higher education initiatives for ARDN and attends weekly video conferences.
Webster’s involvement in ARDN initiatives has only increased during the Red Card Campaign, according to Stroble, despite events having to go virtual due to COVID-19. According to a fact sheet by the UN, 30% of women will face physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
“The Red Card campaign has provided even greater opportunity to build engagement among Webster campuses, faculty, staff, and students to strengthen our knowledge about the forms that gender-based violence and discrimination take globally and how best to address,” Stroble wrote.
Stroble said Webster’s engagement includes promoting the Red Card Campaign at the 2020 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conference and taking part in ARDN’s Women of the Diaspora Summits.
Diallo said these summits highlight other areas of the Sustainable Development Goals and how they intersect with gender equality.
Stroble co-moderated the third Women of the Diaspora conference which focused on mental health and COVID-19.
Clementina Acedo, the director of Webster University’s Geneva Campus, served as a panelist for the first Women of the Diaspora summit. This summit focused on gender and race-based discrimination.
Acedo served as the director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s International Bureau of Education between 2007 and 2014 before becoming director of the Geneva campus. During the summit, Acedo focused on inequalities in education.
“I think that education is key for development, is key for our societies being more just, but also more successful in terms of integrating different populations … It’s important for equality between men and women. It’s important to eradicate poverty. So, all these are issues that really brought me to education,” Acedo said.
Stroble said Webster University was founded to offer higher education to women.
“A commitment to expanding opportunities for girls and women, and thus for communities and families and countries, is part of our historic and ongoing character,” Stroble wrote.
Stroble said the university has used watch parties and social media to promote the campaign. According to Acedo, Webster students at the Geneva campus have promoted the Red Card Campaign using social media.
“I think students are doing a great job. They are sending these to all the students they know, so that’s a good way,” Acedo said. “I think it’s even more powerful when it’s done by students and directing the campaign to students than if it was done by us. So I’m very pleased to see that.”
Acedo said it is exciting to see how aware young people are of global issues. For Diallo, working with the youth on these issues is very important. He said the creativity and enthusiasm of the youth can become an “entry point” for engaging in initiatives like the Red Card Campaign.
“We tend to think about things and then come in to the youth and tell them, ‘Okay, this is good for you, and then you should apply it.’ That should not be the case,” Diallo said. “We need to make sure that there is real genuine partnership with the youth in meaningful relationships with the youth. So you’ll have an intergenerational dialogue.”
Stroble said there are opportunities to get students involved in promoting the Red Card Campaign at Webster. She said she hopes to work with organizations like Webster Leads and the Student Government Association in the future.
“As ARDN events evolve and we build more involvement across the Webster community, more of us will no doubt identify ways to learn and apply our learning more fully as global citizens,” Stroble wrote.
Diallo said Webster has been involved in promoting the Red Card Campaign in many other ways as well. He said the university has rolled out the campaign not only among its international campuses but has reached out to partner campuses as well. Along with this, Diallo said Webster has created materials to use when promoting the campaign, including a short video.
Acedo encouraged students and faculty to participate in the Red Card Campaign and attend virtual summits. She said the summits highlight very important topics and bring in interesting and diverse speakers. Acedo highlighted another way for people to be involved.
“Keep pledging for the Red Card Campaign to end violence and discrimination against women,” Acedo said.
According to Diallo, the Red Card Pledge has already collected thousands of signatures. The goal is to reach 1 million pledges by the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup. Along with Webster, Diallo said ARDN is also working with the U.S.’s National Council of Negro Women, the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth in Ethiopia and multiple groups within the United Nations.
“I am confident that this goal can be achieved because of the momentum provided by the virtual summits and the county-by-country Red Card launches that have begun in the past [six] months,” Stroble wrote.
For Diallo, signing the pledge is only the first step. He said that by signing the red card, you are making a commitment to take action and have conversations with others about gender-based discrimination and violence with others.
“By giving a red card, to all forms of discrimination and violence, we can engage conversations. We can engage actions to deal with gender-based violence, no matter what it is,” Diallo said. “… The answer is that we should not say, ‘Can’t be done, won’t be done. That gender-based violence has been here since the dawn of humanity and it will be here when we leave this earth.’ That is unacceptable. We should have zero tolerance for that.”
Students who want to sign the Red Card Pledge can go to Red Card Pledge.