WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On April 5, Navajo Nation First Lady Phefelia Nez and Second Lady Dottie Lizer joined Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and advocacy groups in proclaiming the month of April as “Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Awareness Month.”
The proclamation, signed at the Office of the President and Vice President, recognizes the devastating impact that sexual assault and sexual harassment has on Navajo people and recognizes that the crimes of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment cause undeniable and ongoing harm to Diné families and communities.
“Sexual assault and harassment impact far too many of our Native women. It’s important that we support one another, especially when an accusation is made – it’s critical that we address and investigate those situations to their fullest extent,” First Lady Nez said.
The proclamation also directs divisions, departments, and programs under the Executive Branch to implement sexual harassment training for Navajo Nation employees, to ensure that workers are knowledgeable and aware of what constitutes inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
“It’s a very serious problem when one in two Native American women have experienced sexual violence. We need to begin paying more attention to these issues and let it be known that we are not going to stand for any type of violence against our Navajo women. We need to stand together and let our voices be heard,” Second Lady Lizer stated.
“Sexual assaults threaten every community across the country, including the Navajo Nation, and each of us plays a role in protecting those we love, including our grandparents, parents, spouses, daughters, and sons. During this month, we must commit ourselves to end sexual violence and to support all survivors. When we are actively involved, we can prevent sexual violence across the Navajo Nation. The first step is increasing education and awareness. Together, we can begin the healing process and restore Hozhó and balance. It’s time for all of us to take action to create a safer environment for all,” said President Nez.
The proclamation also recognizes that these problems also affect Navajo women, children and the LGBTQ community at high rates.
“Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Awareness Month calls attention to the fact that sexual violence is widespread and impacts every person in the community. It harms our communities and kinship; therefore, prevention must be a priority to confront the devastating statistics,” said Vice President Lizer.
Council Delegates Amber Kanazbah Crotty and Charlaine Tso of the 24th Navajo Nation Council also attended the signing ceremony and voiced their support for the proclamation and for bringing an end to sexual assaults and harassment on the Navajo Nation. Crotty has remained a strong advocate for many issues including sexual assault prevention and continues to advocate for more resources for survivors of these offenses.
During the ceremony, Nez announced that the Nez-Lizer Administration has selected Deannah Neswood-Gishey to serve as the Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services. She currently serves as the Program Manager for the Department of Self Reliance under the division and previously served as the director of Tribal Social Services with the Gila River Indian Community. Neswood-Gishey is a veteran of the U.S. Army and Arizona National Guard and was honorably discharged from both branches of military.
Nez said her appointment is a prime example of a Navajo Nation employee who worked hard and worked her way up in the Division of Social Services. She began working with the division as a social worker in 1993. Her appointment will be subject to confirmation by the Navajo Nation Council.
In addition, the Office of the President and Vice President is seeking candidates to serve on the Navajo Nation Women’s Commission. More information about the position is available at (928) 871-7000.
Information provided by Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President
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