A Qatar-based beauty queen has joined a new global initiative to raise awareness about domestic violence against women.
Over the next two weeks, Mexican expat Yezenia Navarro is collaborating with the UN on an international campaign called “Orange the World.”
Navarro is the founder of an NGO called Queens Without Scars (QWS). She said she started the group to shed light on abuse after she became a victim herself.
The group was founded in 2014, the same year Navarro gained fame after becoming first runner up in the Mrs. Universe pageant.
According to QWS’s Facebook page, the name comes from Navarro’s belief that all women should be treated like queens. One post explains:
“Makeup was never designed to cover up the marks caused by violence, it wasn’t meant to hide the pain or cover up fear.
Makeup was designed to exalt the beauty in a woman and correct small imperfections. Nothing more.”
As part of the Orange campaign, which kicked off on Nov. 25, the global community is working to raise money to end violence against women and girls worldwide.
The campaign was launched on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on Human Rights Day (Dec. 10).
No more scars
Currently, Navarro’s NGO is funded by sponsors, volunteers and sometimes herself.
Over the past two years, QWS has grown to include more than 20 ambassadors worldwide from countries like Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Australia, South Korea, Pakistan, Cambodia, Bulgaria, Ireland and the Netherlands.
On what compelled her to start the group, Navarro said:
“I’m a survivor myself and I know how important it is to let the victims know that someone cares, that they’re not alone.
To empower women and children, share my time and my testimony with them, hopefully this will encourage them to stand up, break the silence and seek help.”
Another motivating factor was the tragic death of three of her friends due to violence.
And “one of the worst experiences was when I visited a shelter house for girls aged five to 18 years old, who were victims of rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence,” she added.
Violence in Qatar
Qatar’s laws do not specifically outlaw domestic violence, though draft legislation has long been in the works.
Currently, cases of spousal and child abuse are covered under general assault laws, which experts say hinders investigations into violence that takes place in the home.
Meanwhile, the number of domestic violence cases is perceived to be rising here.
In September 2012, the Qatar Foundation for Protection of Women and Children recorded an average of nearly four cases of abuse daily.
Two years later, a government report found that 16 percent of men and 7 percent of women living here believe a husband is justified in “hitting or beating” their wives in certain circumstances.
This is namely if the woman leaves the house without telling her spouse or if she neglects the couple’s children.
The view that wife-beating is acceptable was highest among young males between the ages of 15 and 19.
Navarro said she hopes to see not only girls and women taking part in the Orange campaign, but also boys and men.
“Violence against women is a men’s issue! The end of violence against women and girls begins with men and boys. We want to educate children on this topic and encourage men to stand up,” she said.
In terms of her goals for QWS, she added:
“Building a shelter house for victims is one of my biggest dreams! I expect to see more public figures supporting QWS and this cause in the coming years.”