The Clothesline Project comes to UH Hilo; creativity addresses violence against women

The painting of t-shirts provides a vehicle for women to express their emotions.

By Lara Hughes.

T-shirts with slogans in paint: "Love shouldn't hurt," "Love her don't hurt her."
T-shirts on display on the Campus Center Plaza at UH Hilo.
Kaitlyn Byrd painting slogan on a shirt.
Accounting major Kaitlyn Byrd paints a shirt.

Colorful t-shirts with emotional messages were hung on a clothesline in the Campus Center Plaza at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on Monday. The plaza was the setting for The Clothesline Project, where passersby were invited to express their feelings about violence against women by painting a t-shirt and hanging it up for display. The UH Hilo Women’s Center sponsored the event.

The Clothesline Project is a program started in 1990 in Cape Cod, Mass., whose purpose is to address the issue of violence against women. With the support of many people, it has since spread worldwide. The Clothesline Project has over 100 registered participating locations scheduled to hold events. The events are currently taking place in countries including Lebanon, Canada, Israel, Africa and New Zealand.

Allison Pham paints a shirt with a slogan.
Student Allison Pham, majoring in marketing and on exchange from New Jersey, paints a shirt during the Clothesline Project at UH Hilo.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, 30 percent of women who have been in a relationship affirm they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner. Up to 38 percent of all murders of females are reportedly committed by intimate partners.

Lehua McClung, a coordinator at UH Hilo’s Women’s Center and an alumna of UH Hilo, organized the event. She graduated in 2014 with a bachelor of arts in communications and a certificate in teaching English as a second language. McClung also is the first recipient of the university’s new certificate in global engagement.

McClung is now a graduate student at the School for International Training Graduate Institute in Vermont and is completing her practicum at the UH Hilo Women’s Center. She is working toward a master of arts in international education and hopes to lead the Women’s Center to focus on local and global issues affecting women.

Melinda Alles, Lehua McClung, and Esther Takeuchi.
Organizers of the UH Hilo Clothesline Project (l-r) Melinda Alles, majoring in political science and accounting; Lehua McClung, Women’s Center; and Esther Takeuchi, majoring in communications.

McClung expressed the importance of the help she received setting up the event in an email interview saying, “This would not be possible without my team.” UH Hilo students and Women’s Center advocates Danielle Marrufo, Esther Takeuchi and Melinda Alles were there in support.

For the project, organizers had a variety of shirts and painting supplies available; students and others walking through the plaza were invited to decorate a t-shirt. When a shirt was finished, it was hung on a clothesline to be viewed by others.

McClung says, “The shirts provide a vehicle for women to express their emotions.” It serves as a form of testimony addressing the problem of violence against women. The t-shirts decorated at the Campus Center on Monday are on display for one week.

McClung adds, “I am hoping that this event can bring some form of healing to victims. Let them know that they are not alone. We are here to help.”

She feels that through education, awareness and support, a community can become stronger.

Next semester she is looking forward to incorporating other issues affecting women worldwide to the compendium.


About the author of this story: Lara Hughes is a junior at UH Hilo majoring in business administration. She is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor. 

-UH Hilo Stories