UH Hilo 2016 Clothesline Project brings awareness about domestic violence

The public event encourages students to hand paint t-shirts with messages to heighten awareness and provide support for survivors and victims of violence against women.

By Lara Hughes.

Juvette Kahawai stands next to a t-shirt with the words "You is IMPORTANT."
Above, UH Hilo student Juvette Kahawaii, at the UH Hilo Clothesline Project, shows a t-shirt with a famous quote from the The Help, a novel written by Kathryn Stockett: “You is important.” Below, Kahawaii, Shanelle Elizabeth, and Brenda Burch create their messages.


Students gathered last month at the Campus Center Plaza, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, to support each other and paint inspiring t-shirts for the annual Clothesline Project. The National Clothesline Project started on Cape Cod, MA, in 1990 to address the issue of violence against women. The annual event encourages people to append hand-painted t-shirts from clotheslines, displayed in a public area, to heighten awareness and provide support for sufferers, survivors and victims of violence against women. The project is held each year world-wide.

The Oct. 26 UH Hilo event was organized by Lehua McClung of the UH Hilo Women’s Center. McClung is the coordinator for the center and a diversity initiative specialist.

This is the second year she has chaired the Clothesline Project at UH Hilo.

“We like to do this annually because it brings about education and awareness of domestic violence,” McClung says. “There are a lot of women, and men as well, in the community that do experience domestic violence. I feel that it’s important to put this event on, knowing that students have a place to go to, as well as community resources and partners that they can go to, for support.”

Four women standing for photo, three wearing t-shirts with words "It's all about the V"
Lehua McClung (left) and her Women’s Center team.

Students were free to stop at a stocked table of art supplies on the plaza and design a message on a shirt. They were invited to talk with each other, or paint in silent reflection.

Students who attended the event also offered their support to others.

Brenda Burch stands next to t-shirt with the words "love me."
Brenda Burch

Brenda Burch is a student who has been active in multiple campus clubs and is a leader in the UH Hilo community. She is also a survivor of domestic abuse.

“I feel it’s important for everybody to have a support system, and this is important to me because I am a survivor of DV (domestic violence),” says Burch. “Me being able to create my story through a shirt will maybe help somebody else that isn’t strong enough to speak up about it.”

Two of Burch’s friends were also present: Juvette Kahawaii and Shanelle Elizabeth.

Kahawaii is a business administration major and student leader of various groups and on-campus organizations. She painted and displayed a shirt with Burch.

“This shows those who are in need of help, that there is a support system out there for them,” explains Kahawaii. “Sometimes it’s just hard to sit back and watch someone go through that. This is allowing me to share my words of affirmation with domestic violence abuse survivors.”

Shanelle Elizabeth stands next to t-shirt with the words "#love one 1 another"
Shanelle Elizabeth

Elizabeth is involved with the Student Activities Council at UH Hilo.

“I think this event is important for people who are also not victims of domestic violence, because it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in your community,” says Elizabeth. “Just seeing how the community comes together to put on an event like this, it makes everyone feel loved. It lets everyone know that someone’s there for you.”

The three women were among various members of the student body whose messages on t-shirts adorned the plaza.

Several organizations were present to show their encouragement.

The new LGBTQ+ Center’s coordinator, Laura Sherwood, had a booth at the event to help show her support.

“Nobody deserves to be in any form of domestic violence,” says Sherwood. “I hope to raise awareness and get people involved. We still have a lot of violence against women in our nation.”


About the author of this story: Lara Hughes (senior, business administration) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories.