Peace and Disarmament

Back to listSep 4, 2007

SGI-New Zealand Young Women's VOV Aotearoa Wins the 2007 Sonja Davies Award

On September 4, 2007, the SGI-New Zealand young women's division (YWD) won that country's 2007 Sonja Davies Peace Award in recognition of their achievements and efforts in promoting Victory Over Violence (VOV), a grassroots effort to help teenagers identify the causes of violence in their lives and communities and foster a culture of peace in their homes, schools and society at large. The award comprises a sculpture titled "Peace Rose" and a grant of NZ$2,500. The award will enable the VOV Aotearoa (New Zealand) team to train more facilitators so that they can take the program to six more schools in the coming year. The prize money will also be used for additional resources such as a website, DVDs and workbooks.

Sonja Davies (1923-2005) was a well-known public figure in New Zealand and a tireless activist for the rights of workers, women and children for peace. The Sonja Davies Peace Award was established as a tribute to her life and work on the occasion of her 80th birthday in 2003 in order to promote women's initiatives that advance the cause of peace and foster women leaders for peace.

Some 100 people attended the conferral in Wellington, New Zealand, organized by the New Horizons for Women Trust. A teacher at Reporoa College in Rotorua City remarked that as a result of having the VOV course included in their curriculum, bullying at her school has decreased and students' attitudes toward learning improved. Rosemary Barrington, one of the award's founders and former chancellor of Victoria University in Wellington, introduced the achievements of the SGI-New Zealand YWD and expressed her appreciation as well as her expectations for their continued efforts.

Melanie Gregg, a leader of the SGI-New Zealand VOV activities, received a certificate and the peace award sculpture. Ms. Gregg remarked that upholding the Buddhist principle of respect for all life, including one's own life, and becoming a person who can give hope to others are central to the VOV courses that the YWD are coordinating. In accepting the award, she stated, "The aim of VOV is to create a culture of non-violence in schools and the community. This award is an endorsement of everyone's hard work and contributions to the betterment of their communities."

Professor Barrington (foreground, 2nd from right) presents award to SGI-New Zealand's Melanie Gregg (foreground, 3rd from right)

VOV Aotearoa began three years ago at Reporoa College near the town of Rotororua in New Zealand. The VOV initiative and course materials were created by the SGI-USA youth division in 1999 as a response to growing concerns over the rise of youth-related violence. [Adapted from an SGI-New Zealand report and an article in the September 26, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photographs courtesy of SGI-New Zealand]