Don’t Tell Me How To Dress Exhibit at Gateway Mall

1 March 2019
UNFPA Philippines Representative Iori Kato joined by Ms Victoria Garchitorena, Chair of SPARK, Ms. Diane Romero of the J. Amado Araneta Foundation, Ambassador of Sweden Harald Fries, and Ms. Jill Javiniar Angat Buhay of the Office of the Vice President at the Don’t Tell Me How To Dress Exhibit at Gateway Mall

Message of UNFPA Philippines Representative Iori Kato 

Don’t Tell Me How To Dress Exhibit at Gateway Mall



Thank you very much for inviting me to represent the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Philippines in joining the Ambassador of Sweden H.E. Harald Fries, Ms Victoria Garchitorena, Chair of SPARK, Mme. Ms. Diane Romero of the J. Amado Araneta Foundation, Ms. Jill Javiniar Angat Buhay of the Office of the Vice President and all of you in this auspicious ceremony of launching the “Don’t Tell Me How To Dress” Exhibit here.

This “Don’t Tell Me How To Dress” Exhibit has migrated from our United Nations office building in Mandaluyong City where UNFPA, together with another UN agency UN Women, hosted this powerful exhibit from January 25th till last night.

It was a very moving experience for us to organize this exhibit.  As you can see, this exhibit showcases those clothes that the survivors of sexual violence were wearing when they were harassed or assaulted.

The stories vary from an infant who was abused by her family member, a girl student who was molested in a public bus, to a career working woman who was sexually harassed at her workplace.

Look at these clothes.  They don’t speak.  They don’t shout.  They are silent.  But they will surely speak to your heart, shake your heart, break your heart, when you see them. Look at them.  So normal.  So usual.  Nothing special.  And yet, they fell victims to sexual violence and harassment.  It could have been you.  It could have been your sister, your daughter, your mother, your wife, your friend.  It could have been anyone.

We spoke with those visitors who came to the exhibit that UNFPA organized at the UN office building, and also read those messages that the visitors left in our log book.  Some visitors could not even finish going through all the clothes displayed there, because they were so distraught with the heartbreaking stories of the victims and survivors.  Violence can leave a huge scar on the life of the victim/survivor, physically and mentally.

The bottom line of this exhibit is, it profoundly challenges the idea - a wrong misconception - that sexual assault is a woman’s fault because of what she wears.

We say “No”.  Sexual assault and harassment is never, never, the woman’s fault.  Women should enjoy the liberty of choosing whatever they like to wear as long as it is legal.

We say “Stop”.  Stop the victim-blaming.  Stop this culture of silence and impunity.  And instead let’s put the blame on those who should be blamed, the perpetrators, and let’s help bring justice.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here together we are hoping that this event will ignite and sustain social dialogues to transform the culture and norms that tolerates and condone sexual violence and harassment.  And we then translate the words into actions - we all can, and must, play a role in ending violence against women and children.

As a parent, for example, we should be a role model for our children and exemplify what healthy relationships look like and feel like. As a friend, we can help someone to get out of an abusive relationship by being supportive and caring. As a neighbor or as an office co-worker, we can speak up when we witness disrespect or harassment towards women and children, and defend such victims. As a citizen, we should ask ourselves if this is the world that we would like to leave behind for our next generation.

I remember the day when I first met with His Excellency Ambassador Fries of Sweden at his office last year, when both of us, as men, pledged to each other, Let’s do something together to show to the world that there are men like us who despise violence against women and children and are committed to ending gender-based violence.  And we believe that there are so many more men like us out there who think like us, who don’t want to be associated with those men who commit violence against women and children.  We are #HeForShe.  

Here today I renew my commitment.  And I would like to invite all of you too to commit yourselves to doing anything and everything you could to create a society around you where every woman and every child can live free from violence, intimidation or abuse.  No more.  No more violence at home, in neighborhood, in a bus or train, at school, at the office, anywhere.  No more violence.  With no exception, leaving no one behind.  In order for all of us to truly fulfil our potential and enjoy prosperity, healthy lives and dignity, we must end violence and promote a culture of mutual respect and peace.  And I believe we can do it, if we work on it together starting today.

Maraming salamat po!